Unless something drastically changes, last Wednesday night will be the only time that the public will get to hear the district attorney defend his record. Most observers felt that the audience, large as it was, was mainly partisan and that neither side likely was swayed by the performance of either candidate.
However, we have some observations that voters might not have picked up from the debate.
A comment that stood out for me by Jeff Reisig was this one: “We have put cops in jail for mistreating people, breaking the law.”
I recall only one such officer that was prosecuted and that was Sergio Alvarez. This was not a use of force case, but rather he raped and sexually assaulted women while on duty.
I am not sure exactly his point for using the case of Alvarez to argue that he has prosecuted officers for mistreating people.
Here are several cases that come to mind:
- Galvan brothers beaten to the point of brain damage, no charges against the cops, charges against the brothers (three hung juries and a dismissal)
- Shooting of Luis Gutierrez – no charges against the sheriff’s deputies
- Pepper spray incident – no charges against Lt. Pike
- Brienna Holmes was thrown onto a cop car, was charged with resisting and acquitted, no charges against the cops
- Tasering of Tatiana Bush and Jerome Wren, no charges against the cop who was fired by DPD, charges against the couple were quickly dropped
- Picnic Day – you all know about
Sergio Alvarez is a horrible a case where the officer, on duty, abused the trust of his position and used it as a way to sexually assault and rape vulnerable women that he was supposed to be protecting. But the DA going after that case doesn’t show that Mr. Reisig is willing to put cops in jail for mistreating people.
Of those cases, I think the three clearest cut case are the Galvan brothers, the shooting of Gutierrez and the pepper spraying. In no case was the DA willing to prosecute cops, even when the conduct was egregious and, in the case of the pepper spraying, where a probe revealed a clear violation of protocol and authority.
The Galvan case was particularly egregious. The two brothers were largely stopped without cause in June 2005, when they were charged with resisting arrest and battery. Ernesto Galvan was beaten into a Class-3 coma by officers during an incident that occurred on June 14, 2005 at 3:20 am in West Sacramento.
Photographs shown at trial showed Ernesto Galvan lying face down in a pool of blood.
As Ernesto Galvan sat in court, his entire head was scarred and cratered, he walks with a noticeable slump, and his speech is slurred. He has permanent brain and physical injuries.
Expert testimony from Dr. Steven Gabaeff described seven fractures in Ernesto’s skull including a nearly 5/8-inch depression of the frontal plate. Prosecutors had argued that the blows to Ernesto’s skull were the result of deflected blows, but Dr. Gabaeff said there was no way, given the force that was inflicted on Ernesto, that the blows were aimed anywhere other than his head.
Not only were the officers never charged with a crime, but the brothers were tried thrice, and almost a fourth time. The original jury hung in 2007, it was retried in early 2010, and the jury hung again. They then retried it a third time later in 2010, and the brothers were acquitted on one charge, with the jury hung on the rest of the six charges and leaning toward not guilty. The DA contemplated trying it for a fourth time, but ultimately declined to file in late 2010 under tremendous public pressure.
Jeff Reisig touts Neighborhood Court. He called this among the successful efforts that are aimed to reduce mass incarceration. Sounds good. Most people I have talked to have pretty good experience in Neighborhood Court. The problem as I have argued is they are selling it short by not using it for crimes with actual victims. Places like Fresno have long had VORPs (Victim Offender Reconciliation Programs) and other restorative processes where victims and offenders actually come together to reconcile their issues.
But for whatever good you can argue comes out of Neighborhood Court, it is not a way to reduce mass incarceration. You are talking about very low level offenses that result in fines, not jails. And, in fact, they are charging people with crimes that most jurisdictions would not even bother to charge. He is criminalizing behavior that other jurisdictions are not even bothering to criminalize.
Dean Johansson has pointed out that Yolo County leads the state in per capita trials. “Talk is cheap. We still have the highest incarceration rates in the state. Yolo is number one for trials, more trials than any other county,” said Mr. Johansson.
Jeff Reisig’s defense is they are clearing out a backlog of cases. He says that is why the trial rate is so high. The problem with that claim is the trial rate has been at the top of the state during the entire 12-year tenure of Mr. Reisig, and most defense attorneys will argue the big problem is aggressive prosecution coupled with poor offers for plea agreements.
Jeff Reisig also talked about drug court and mental health court as other ways to clear out the jails. What he failed to note is that he actually quit drug court. The entire office quit drug court because they believed the judges were allowing too many people into the program.
Mr. Reisig argued that his charging policies were in line with every other district attorney in the state. But for years, I have heard from defense attorneys who practice in both Sacramento and Yolo Counties that cases which are charged as misdemeanors everywhere else are charged as felonies in Yolo County.
A few years ago in a trial a deputy DA acknowledged it is irrelevant that Sacramento or Stockton would charge the crime as a misdemeanor. He said that it is on them, and is their problem. He said this is Yolo County and we do things differently here.
Reisig admits that he is very aggressive about gangs and crimes. He said the same for his office.
Others will point out the Yolo DA charges conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor as a felony – we have covered a few such cases.
A report from a few years ago, from the CJCJ (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice) found that Yolo County had the highest rate of juvenile direct files in the state (see https://davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Direct-File.png). While direct filing was ended by Prop. 57 – something Jeff Reisig continues to oppose – that didn’t change the facts of Reisig’s charging policies.
On Prop. 57, he argued that he was the only one who actually read the law and cited the fact that it would allow people who had weapons of mass destruction to be released. Of course, no one in the history of Yolo County has ever been so charged. And just because it is possible for such to be released does not mean a board would grant them release.
—David M. Greenwald reporting