Sunday Commentary: Listening to Reisig, You Would Think He Was a Reformer

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:

  1. Galvan brothers beaten to the point of brain damage, no charges against the cops, charges against the brothers (three hung juries and a dismissal)
  2. Shooting of Luis Gutierrez – no charges against the sheriff’s deputies
  3. Pepper spray incident – no charges against Lt. Pike
  4. Brienna Holmes was thrown onto a cop car, was charged with resisting and acquitted, no charges against the cops
  5. Tasering of Tatiana Bush and Jerome Wren, no charges against the cop who was fired by DPD, charges against the couple were quickly dropped
  6. 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  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

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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. Jeff M

    There is a broken and irrational worldview present in most of the criticism of Reisig.  The same is true for much of the criticism of cops.  The critics seem incapable of reading or understanding the actual job description of a DA and police officer.

    It is as if they project their emotional turmoil over the plight of people living a life below a line of lawfulness and morality where they victimize others…onto those employees charged with a clear and simple responsibility to enforce the law.  A lack of social capital, support and service to help these people prone to law breaking is not the fault of a DA or cop.

      1. Jeff M

        I dispute several points you make as supporting an opinion that Reisig’s performance does not meet your standard.  Because the basis for your standard is social justice and not law enforcement.

        I think you also fail to give him credit for Neighborhoid Court.

        1. David Greenwald

          I simply responded to points he made.  I think you’re missing the fact that he attempted to portray himself as a reformer.

          I do fail to give him credit for Neighborhood Court more so in the context that he used it – reducing mass incarceration when he’s using NC for charges that most DAs wouldn’t file in the first place.

    1. John Hobbs

      There is a sycophantic, self deluding tone to the rants of those blindly loyal to authority for fear of losing their social capital(white privilege), support and entitlements to a nonexistent jihad by the disenfranchised.
      On topic, Dean needs to find some traction if he’s going to undo Reisig.

      1. Jeff M

        I keep thinking about your comments defending your Sacramento neighborhood saying that you feel safe “most” nights walking to the local pharmacy.

        Is your social justice crusader virtual signaling need so strong that you believe this is the standard that all other communities should accept?   Thanks to DA Reisig, in Davis and most places in Yolo County I would feel safe walking to the local pharmacy all nights.  That has nothing to do with any white privilege as I would want the same for people of all races.

        “White privilege” isn’t a real thing in any case.  Today the privileged are those with multiple generations of advanced degrees.  IMO, you should stop using that term if you want to be seen as intellectually credible and mature.


      2. Jeff M

        I do need to give you credit though for lobbing your criticism from the belly of the beast while David does so from the comfort of his exclusive community of well-off uppity liberals with their political instruments to keep the riff-raff from moving in.

        My worldview is like this.

        Build more business and homes and help diversify all neighborhoods… not the fake diversity that is part of the liberal Democrat identity politics playbook… the real diversity of income and education achievement difference.

        And add more cops and more tough on crime enforcement at the same time.

        It is ironic that you social justice types get all tripped up in your emotional rhetoric failing to see the problem with advocating more lenient crime enforcement while also lamenting the lack of diversity within neighborhoods of high and low crime outcomes.  Don’t you get the point that one negates the other?  You cannot convince your neighbor that both are acceptable at the same time.  Or maybe that is your play… secretly opine for keeping the riff-raff out while outwardly virtual signaling a good social justice warrior credential in criticism of tough law enforcement.  That actually makes some sense.  Us conservatives make an easy target for your moral grandstanding given that we are all honest, direct and factual about the topic.

    2. Tia Will


      Some points which are not irrational:

      1. Expecting laws to be applied equally to all citizens, including police.

      2. Wanting cost effective law enforcement which does not include such egregious waste as overcharging with a high acquittal rate which wastes tax dollars.

      3. Not wanting to waste tax dollars on unnecessary incarceration such as charging theft of a bag of cheese as a third strike.

      4. Wanting equally guilty parties to be treated equally not allowing the truly dangerous to continue to walk the streets. I am referencing the case of Baby Justice whose meth dealing father was allowed to walk free for months thus fathering yet another meth addicted baby in order to win a murder charge against only the mother when, by his own testimony the father was equally as guilty.

      1. Jeff M

        1. Agree. So when the jury acquits the cop involved in the shooting of the suspect, you agree that the law was applied equally, no?

        2. You are only calculating one side of the “waste” and failing to factor the cost to society for refusing to prosecute crimes only because of a potential acquittal rate.   Your advocacy here is for the DA to make judgements on which laws should be complied with and which should not.  That is a common behavior of the political left these days, but not one that is fraught with terrible consequences.  If you don’t like the law then it can be changed by law-makers but should not be the discretion of those charged with law enforcement.

        3. Simply don’t steal the cheese if you don’t want to face criminal punishment for stealing the cheese.   Or if you don’t like the 3-strikes laws, then work politically to get the laws changed.  It is not the job of law enforcement to ignore the laws on some line of morality.

        4. I don’t know enough about this case to comment other than generally that soft of crime DAs would tend to do a lot of this and tough on crime DAs like Reisig are less likely.

  2. Tia Will


    Us conservatives make an easy target for your moral grandstanding given that we are all honest, direct and factual about the topic.”

    I can’t decide if you wrote this tongue in cheek, or just assumed that we would appreciate that you wrote it under the heading: “My world view is like this”.


      1. Jeff M

        Funny use of obscure medical terms.

        Just saying that I would be honest that feeling safe walking to the pharmacy most nights would not be a good thing to gloat about.

        1. Howard P

          Actually, “illium” was a generous term…  am an engineer (little medical training), and immediately “got” the referent… didn’t need to look it up…  I would have thought of several others… also medical terms…

          Has to do with degree of insertion…

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