Commentary: DA Reisig Suddenly Vulnerable in 2010?

reisigIt seems like not long ago, I was sitting down and handicapping the races for 2010 and the general conclusion was that District Attorney Jeff Reisig would probably escape without serious challenge.  It seemed he built up enough protection and that no one would be particularly eager to challenge him.  The sense is at this point however that Mr. Reisig is much more vulnerable than one might think and a credible challenger could emerge with a good shot of knocking him off.

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.

There is little doubt that the establishment will line up again behind Mr. Reisig, but he has in many ways polarized the law enforcement community behind the scenes.  He has conducted a rather thorough housecleaning of department, clearing out many deputies who had been loyal to him and did so in a way to produce a number of enemies of those who had actually backed him.

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

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. No wonder

    Don’t know who that candidate would be, but it was clear going into the previous election what kind of DA Reisig would be. It is clear from his political affiliations and statements, that he would focus not so much on justice, but being the harshest DA possible. This is typical of Republican candidates and their ‘tough on crime’ stances, rather than looking at root causes of crime and trying to fix those root causes. This is why there is no such thing as a non-partisan race. You get the ideology you elect.

  2. Disgusted

    Years ago, when I was a young adult, the DA in Yolo County was looked upon with great respect. It wasn’t until Henderson and Reisig came into the picture that this all changed. We need to restore this position.

  3. Anon

    I never cared for Henderson, who was caught in a DUI, and tried a high profile case with evidence so questionable, the judge threw it out. Later, it turned out Henderson has tried the wrong person for the crime. Reisig was Henderson’s protege, which gave me great pause, but I was willing to give Reisig a chance. So far, I have not been particularly impressed w Reisig.

  4. Bill M.

    Henderson still gets payback from Reisig. Henderson retired and now gets to double dip from the tax payers, since Reisig pays him huge fees to come back and do cases. Same political two-step, favor for favor, I owe you – you owe me; the truth, justice or tax payers don’t matter. A real shame for those who do not see it.

  5. Hopeful even now

    Well, I sure hope someone does step up to run against him in 2010. It will be tough going for whoever it is, but a solid and credible candidate has a shot, especially if Reisig keeps up the behavior we are seeing. I expect his staff may not support him, even if they fear him. You just need the right person to run.

  6. Gyre

    There’s actually several who could do it. They’ve just got to be ready to roll the dice, pony up $, and be good with the fact that they don’t have much time. Any dem will kick Reisig’s rear in Davis. His strength (if any) probably lies in West Sac.. Woodland would be a serious toss-up. Hard to tell in the unincorporated areas.

  7. makes sense

    I know Jeff, I like Jeff, although I don’t always agree with him. I’m not really in the loop I have no idea who, or if anyone, is planning on running. All that being said I think Provenza would make it a great race for DA if he decided to run. I base this opinion on Jim’s resume and electoral record of winning 2 for 2.

    Oh, and I really am on a first name basis with both these guys.

  8. Yolo Fair after march

    I think Woodland has its great things, the diversity, the culture, the history and the home town feel. But i hate to break it to you, everyone knows about what happened today. I jetted to the fair after the march, and that gossip feed was buzzing.

    It is one thing to disagree with the call for an independent investigation (perfectly valid) but do not use our towns positive qualities as an excuse to fend of any critique of it. I do not applaud Woodland during the county fair, i’ve been doing that everyday. Lets not try to spin the issue and try to portray it as something that has tarnished Woodlands glory.

    Better yet. I loved the fair and I loved the March today. Good people having fun at the fair, and good people coming together to solve problems.

    Yolo fair attendee (AKA. Matt Rexroad, from a reliable source), dont be silly.

  9. Mary H.

    I love Woodland and this is one of the best small towns left. Matt is a good guy who is in a tough situation. He knows if he speaks out against the DA he will have to pay a political price. It sickens me what the DA is doing to Yolo but, let’s not let him turn everyone against each other. Doing that only makes the real bad guys stronger.

  10. makes sense

    I know Matt Rexroad, Matt Rexroad is a friend of mine, and believe me, your no Matt Rexroad. Let’s not put words into his mouth. He posts by name and can defend himself quite well.

  11. Matt Rexroad Fan-2010

    Why would an event be held in Woodland on Saturday night during the weekend of the Yolo County Fair?

    Why wouldn’t it? Why is the District Attorney being sued for obstruction of Justice? Why is the sky blue? Why did Matt Rexroad endorse District Attorney Jeff Reisig? Ketchup or Catsup?

    There are perfectly good explanations for every actions-it only takes critical thinking.

    Your #1 Woodland Fan,

  12. Whats up

    the 378 years imposed on Dev for repeatedly raping his “daughter” was done by a Judge, not the DA. Guilt of Mr. Dev was determined by a jury, not the DA. The gang banger who was shot was shot in self defense by a Deputy Sheriff, not the DA. Skaggs was fired for criminal conduct Skaggs did. How, in you people’s whacko world, is any of this the fault of the DA?

  13. foque2

    It won’t take much to beat Reisig in an election now, He has played the people of Yolo County for fool’s! Who in their right minds would want him in office again? BOZO THE CLOWN could represent the people MUCH better than Reisig has! Reisig should see the jig is up and bow out gracefully before BOZO gets into town!

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