Last fall it appeared that for the first time since he was elected in 2006, DA Jeff Reisig would have a challenger as Deputy DA Larry Eichele announced he would be running for DA against his boss. But in December, just as quickly as he got in, Mr. Eichele exited.
But last night, after the Yolo County ACLU Annual Meeting, a new candidate emerged.
In a packed room at the Davis library, about 50 people heard Dean Johansson announce he was running for current Yolo District Attorney Jeff Reisig’s job in the June election. He received a standing ovation.
“I’m here to declare my candidacy for Yolo County District Attorney,” said Mr. Johansson, a deputy public defender in Yolo County for about 10 years. He’s also worked as a deputy district attorney
in Sacramento and Tulare counties, and spent part of his career as a defense lawyer, working for free for indigent people and practicing civil rights law.
Mr. Johansson had been the Domestic Violence Supervisor in the Tulare County DA’s office.
“I know it will be a vertical climb. I’ve been told that it was too late to run. But I have to run because of all the human wreckage caused by the current DA,” he told the audience.
“I am tired and sickened by his over-prosecution of cases, and prosecuting cases that should not be prosecuted at all,” Mr. Johansson said. “But these are different times. Fair and just lawyers are winning DA races all over the country,” specifically citing Larry Krasner, a private defense attorney who won the DA race in Philadelphia last November as a “reform DA.” Johansson suggested he sees himself in that role in Yolo County – a reformer.
“I’ve watched in this county as the DA has circumvented the law, including charging peaceful demonstrators with felonies. I sit in a courtroom daily and see overcharged cases all the time,” he continued.
“Yolo County is the incarceration capital…we are in the top six of counties in the state in per capita incarceration rates….it’s unnecessary and costs taxpayers in Yolo County. We need justice but it needs to be fair,” he added.
In 2006, Jeff Reisig beat fellow Deputy DA Pat Lenzi by a narrow 53-47 margin in Yolo County. The two were squaring off after longtime Yolo County DA Dave Henderson announced his retirement and backed Jeff Reisig. Mr. Henderson had been first elected in 1984 when he defeated former Davis Mayor and County Supervisor Bob Black in a hotly contested race at that time.
While Mr. Johansson is a latecomer to the race, he figures to raise a number of key issues.
Vanguard data analysis shows that Yolo County is in the middle of the pack in terms of crime rate, but near the top in the state in per capita incarceration rate – much of this is due to charging policies from the DA’s office and their unwillingness to reduce charges in pleas, which has led to the highest trial rate in the state.
Recent stats out of Yolo County also show that Yolo County is charging and trying more cases per capita than elsewhere. According to the Judicial Council’s 2016 Court Statistics Report, “in 2014-15 Yolo County conducted more felony and misdemeanor jury trials per capita than every other county in the state.”
Mr. Johansson has scheduled an announcement and press conference for Thursday in front of the courthouse. The Vanguard will have more information at that time.
(Editor’s Note: Text has been clarified to reflect that this announcement occurred after the Yolo County ACLU Annual Meeting.)
—David M. Greenwald reporting