In 2006, Jeff Reisig earned the support of the outgoing District Attorney David Henderson and along with him nearly the entire DA’s office, the entire law enforcement establishment, and most of the political establishment. Indeed, if you looked at the list of endorsements alone, you would assume that Reisig would win in a landslide. And yet, it was a hard and at times bitterly fought race against fellow Deputy DA Pat Lenzi. It was a race marked by outright lies and distortions of Ms. Lenzi’s record. But it was a race that came down to a very narrow victory for Mr. Reisig.
The lawsuit by Randy Skaggs actually represents a much deeper problem, as it shows the dark side of this man and the department he runs. In this lawsuit we catch a glimpse of the mentality that feeds Jeff Reisig–one of retaliation for disloyalty. In the case of Mr. Skaggs, it was the temerity to suggest that one cannot withhold evidence from the defense. Indeed, the Skaggs case represents the tip of the iceberg that could rush to the surface if the right case were brought to the right courtroom.
Much of that represents mere inside baseball however. The change has to come on the ground and that ground has rapidly changed with a number of cases in the recent months. One would ordinarily not believe that the shooting of Luis Gutierrez would represent a danger to the District Attorney’s Office. The shooting was of course done by the Sheriff’s Department in conjunction with the Yolo County Gang Task Force. The investigation has been performed by the Woodland Police Department.
However, the District Attorney’s ties to both the Sheriff’s Department and the gang issue itself have brought it into the limelight. However, this evening in Woodland there will be a march by the Citizens of the Yolo County Justice Coalition. The march will focus on a call for an independent investigation into the shooting of Gutierrez and will begin at 6 pm at Freeman Park, 1001 Main St. in Woodland.
Part of the target for this march will be District Attorney Reisig, but more importantly this represents an enduring coalition of people who have come together to push for change in Yolo County.
As important as the Gutierrez shooting has been the importance of the Ajay Dev case. The Gutierrez shooting has brought together a definite left coalition of Latinos, Farmworkers, Labor, and urban liberals. But the Dev case has the potential for a broader reaching impact due to the fact that Mr. Dev was so tied into the Dev establishment community.
While close friends and family members believe he was wrongfully convicted, the overriding sense from most people is that he was simply overcharged for the crimes he was accused of committing. I have had many people from Government officials to University Professors to ordinary citizens express to me a sense of outrage that this individual received a sentence of 378 for a crime where there was no physical evidence and hinged on a pretext call that seems ambiguous at best. Why he would get a longer sentence than a lot of people convicted of various murders seems overkill both in terms of the mandatory sentencing laws and in terms of prosecutorial discretion.
Certainly these cases are the only ones that have sparked question and outrage. Indeed just below the surface is the still unresolved Buzayan case that while not directly involving Reisig, involved his predecessor and support David Henderson and certainly that case impact the entire DA’s office. At that time, the case is still in the discovery phase. Will it be resolved by June of 2010, at this point that seems unlikely, but a high profile case that exposes the District Attorney’s office could make for interesting subtext to a battle in 2010.
Now the question is whether a credible candidate can emerge to challenge Reisig, one that is able to offer a reformist agenda while at the same time does not threaten the establishment or look like a mere tool to the mob. If the right candidate emerges in the next few months, Jeff Reisig could indeed be vulnerable. If not, Mr. Reisig will skate through for another four years and we will continue to get these types of cases with people wondering and questioning our legal system.
—David M. Greenwald reporting