Commentary: Yolo and Sacramento District Attorney Races Feature Incumbents Refusing to Debate

ACLU, NLG at news conference explained DA Anne Marie Schubert won’t attend any debates at any time, at any place

By Crescenzo Vellucci

The District Attorney races in Yolo and Sacramento have heated up. And then some.

In Sacramento, the uneasy peace between Black Lives Matter Sacramento and the Sacramento Police Department boiled over last Thursday night in Sacramento – two demonstrators were arrested, jailed for hours and others were hit or threatened by batons, Tasers and other police equipment, like bikes.

The protests have been held almost non-stop since 22-year-old Stephon Clark was gunned down in Sacramento, riddled with bullets as police fired 20 rounds from just a few feet away – claiming they thought a white cell phone was a gun.

Since then, the Stephon Clark shooting has become much more than yet another cop shooting – the streets of Sacramento, from the State Capitol to City Hall to an NBA arena, have been full of demonstrators. News crews from around the world have been to the Capital City to cover the story.

The subject of the protest has become DA Anne Marie Schubert, who is being “encouraged” to fire murder charges against the city police officers who killed Stephon Clark.

But there’re other reasons for tensions – Schubert has refused to debate challenger Noah Phillips, a deputy DA in her own office.

It’s a similar situation in Yolo County with incumbent DA Jeff Reisig – who also, like Schubert in Sacramento, has never seen a “bad” cop shooting. Reisig also has been a clear no-show in several debate forums, leaving Yolo County Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson alone to talk to voters.

In Schubert’s case, she participated in every debate opportunity – about four – in 2014 when she was first running for the top prosecutor job. Now, it’s nada.

She even turned down an invite to a jointly sponsored forum with the American Civil Liberties Union and National Lawyers Guild, both legal-focused organizations, only noting that the “ACLU” is biased. It didn’t stop her four years ago – she gladly participated.

“District Attorney Schubert has not only closed her office to Sacramento residents in the wake of  Stephon Clark’s killing by law enforcement, but she has stopped responding to National Lawyers Guild and American Civil Liberties Union of Sacramento’s invitation to participate in a public forum,” said the groups, who noted they even offered Schubert an “open date” – she could pick the date she was free and the groups would accommodate here.

Again, nada.

“Now, more than ever, after the Stephon Clark killing by the Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento Sheriff Department’s hit-and-run of a demonstrator, Sacramento deserves a district attorney who views the elected office as accountable to voters. Without such accountability, Sacramento communities have no tools to ensure equitable, fair, and just decisions by their elected officials.  Sacramento needs a district attorney who is willing to have an honest and public conversation with her or his constituents, and who will show up when it counts,” said the groups.

City of Sacramento police officers pack themselves inside and outside a cruiser in aftermath of arrests at DA Office protest in Sacramento

The same criticism could be leveled at Reisig, who really hasn’t said much, leaving Johansson free to lob issue grenades on everything from Reisig’s office wasting money with stupid prosecutions, to more attention to jailing anyone for anything – especially people of color, to killing trees and spending nearly 100,000 making paper copies for the PD office when it could have been avoided.

Reisig’s decision to hide from the voters so far only casts him as a politician who won’t face the people.

Not the case with Schubert in Sacramento. Not by a long shot.

Last Thursday, Sacramento City police – who have held back from getting within a block or so of protests for the past few weeks – came out in force in a public alley behind DA Schubert’s office. Protests have been happening for weeks at the front and back entrance. The DA has even been closed from 3 p.m. on when protestors show up, numbering between 30 and 150.

This time it was different – some said it was because Schubert was inside. But at least 50 police, almost doubling sign-waving demonstrators, set up a skirmish line in military fashion and advanced on protestors for no apparent reason. In the end, two were arrested and several injured, and the police blamed it on an incident involving a car.

Black Lives Matter Sacramento disagreed and said the city police were being “dishonest about their violence toward peaceful protestors,” releasing this statement:

“On April 12, 2018, cops violently charged a peaceful protest.  During the attack, two women were violently arrested and charged with non applicable charges.  The 50 or more officers appeared to have the intention to agitate and escalate before the protest began.

“Additionally, the narrative the Sacramento Police  relayed in the recent Sac Bee article, ‘Two women arrested in Thursday’s Stephon Clark protests identified by police’ was one of false narrative and lies.  The article referenced a person jumping on, and trapping people in their cars, as a reason to arrest. This is false.

“As protesters were standing face to face with police, officers used their bikes as weapons, along with Tasers and metal batons. There were numerous instances of excessive force when officers violently pushed protesters back.  It is this type of narrative that empowers the Law Enforcement to hurt the community without exposure.

“Black Lives Matter Sacramento has organized a series of peaceful protests at District Attorney Anne Schubert’s office in hopes to connect Schubert and the community and to lift the community’s demands to charge officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet for murdering Stephon Clark.  We will continue to fight for charges to be administered and for Stephon Clark’s family to receive justice.”

BLM Sacramento released these videos:

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Dianne C Tobias

    I think it is shameful that Jeff Reisig has not attended any debate/forum during this cycle, considering he has run unopposed several times. If he is secure in his performance he should relish the opportunity to counter charges against his performance as DA with facts as, to me, the facts are pretty straight forward.

    I think he might have agreed to attend an upcoming League forum. What are the odds?

  2. Tia Will

    I agree with Dianne. If the DA believes in his policies and procedures, since his duty is to the citizens of the county, why not explain and defend those policies to the public?  Does he feel that his only route to re-election is incumbency via name recognition ?

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