Commentary: Now DA and Law Enforcement Attack Johansson on the Flag Salute?

A few days after bringing up unproven allegations from an 11-year-old incident involving the DA challenger’s children, supporters of DA Jeff Reisig, who appears locked in an unexpectedly fierce fight for reelection, are now attacking DA Candidate Dean Johansson for… refusing the Pledge of Allegiance.

In the letter, written by 17 purported veterans, most of them law enforcement, all of them men, they write in a letter in the Enterprise: “As veterans in Yolo County law enforcement and elsewhere, we respectfully ask why District Attorney candidate Dean Johansson will not say the Pledge of Allegiance.”

They explain: “In a Woodland campaign debate, Mr. Johansson refused to say the Pledge during the opening ceremony. We appreciate people’s views on the Pledge may differ. Some choose not to utter the words ‘under God,’ and a private person’s choice not to say the Pledge at all is their business. Mr. Johansson, however, is now a candidate for public office and the Pledge raises relevant issues.”

Or does it?

As one person wrote: “This is particularly troubling for me because I have attended the Friends Meeting House with Dean and if there are people out there who are attacking Dean for what I would assume would be Dean’s religious beliefs, that is reaching a new level of unacceptable that I thought this campaign had already exhausted.”

Quakers as a rule DON’T “take oaths in court or take any kind of loyalty oath or pledge of allegiance.”

Of course, then again, what is interesting for me is not only that this has become an issue, but who has signed the letter.

First you have Supervisor Matt Rexroad.  Supervisor Rexroad, a veteran, has also been an outspoken supporter of incumbent Jeff Reisig.

More interesting are some of the police and one of the Deputy DAs on the list.

You have Steve Ramos.  Sgt. Ramos of the Davis Police Department was one of the three police officers involved in the Picnic Day incident.  He was the officer who was in the rear passenger seat that seemed to trigger the melee.

Then you have Gary Richter.  Mr. Richter has been a controversial member of YONET (Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team) for a number of years and was at the centerpiece of the Paul Fullerton case and other matters.

Finally there is Ryan Couzens – who has emerged as a lightning rod in this campaign.  Mr. Couzens not is only is a Supervising Deputy DA but has been the right hand man for Jeff Reisig in this election.  It was his letters to the Johansson campaign last week that were at the center of the campaign sign issue and possible legal threats.

Moreover, Ryan Couzens has been notorious for years in his courtroom antics.  Many of these courtroom antics have been captured on the Vanguard over the years.   Last year in a column, I wrote, “Why focus on Mr. Couzens?  We have been covering the courts for eight years – and he is the deputy DA that is most over-the-top, not only in his prosecutions, but in his demeanor and arguments.”

We take you to the case of the Kalah family from 2011.

The police and Prosecutor Ryan Couzens had conducted six months of surveillance on a compound owned by several generations of an Asian family in West Sacramento.  They were suspected of being gang members who were selling drugs to fund their criminal enterprise.  However, when authorities raided the property, the results were less than impressive.  Police found pills that turned out to be caffeine pills, powder that turned out to be Ibuprofen, and 1.4 grams of methamphetamine.

But that didn’t stop Mr. Couzens from prosecuting three generations of an Asian family on drug dealing and gang charges that put them in jeopardy of decades in prison.  By the time the case got to closing arguments, charges were dismissed against one of the elders and two others would be acquitted, with a hung jury on the two younger members (with acquittals on the gang charges).

In our eight years of covering the courts, this was one of the most overcharged cases which involved considerable public expense.

But Mr. Couzens doubled down on the use of felony and gang charges in this case, launching into a manifesto during his closing remarks.

He called this a gang that was selling drugs (the jury acquitted the family on gang charges).

He said that it is irrelevant that Sacramento or Stockton would charge this crime as a misdemeanor.  He said that it is on them, and their problem.  He said this is Yolo County and we do things differently here.

He admitted to the jury that he is very aggressive about gangs and crimes.  He said the same for his office.

He admitted that they did not find evidence of a huge drug operation.  That they only found 1.4 grams of meth.

But he said that if he allowed “specks of methamphetamine” to go unchecked, if we allow a fledgling gang to go unchecked, just because it is a fledgling operation, that “that’s throwing in the towel.”

The DA’s race should be about the future direction of the District Attorney’s office and, instead of having a robust but civil debate, we have had the DA and his surrogates launch a 20-year-old attack against Johansson for what transpired in Tulare County when he was a deputy DA, an 11-year-old attack for something that may or may not have occurred in his home, and an attack for not pledging to the flag, when his religion precludes it.

For those wondering about all of this – this demonstrates the character of the DA.  This is reminiscent of the closing days of the 2006 campaign between Jeff Reisig and Pat Lenzi, when an automobile accident became fodder for attacks against Ms. Lenzi.

Is this really what we want – petty political attacks – or would we prefer robust but clean debate over policy?

—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

    In the letter, written by 17 purported veterans, most of them law enforcement, all of them men

    Interesting that this point was included.

    Much of the cause of violent gang crime can be attributed to the lack of strong and law-abiding male role-models in these young men’s lives.

    It is also very clear that the ideological/political divide in this country is increasingly filtered by gender… with liberals opining for more matriarchal forms of social governance and conservatives preferring a more patriarchal system.

    From my perspective law enforcement (and the military) should remain a patriarchal system.  Turning them into a college campus would be a big mistake.

    The late Joseph Campbell notes that most successful cultures recognized feminine and masculine attributes and their application in daily life.  The most important being childhood development: with the early years being focused on the nurturing and unconditional love of a mother, and the later years before launch into adulthood being one of tough love, expectations for behavior and logical consequences for bad behavior.

    Johansson has a history of parenting problems with his children.  While I certainly understand the challenges of parenting, this history is indicative of a lack of the right stuff we should expect in a DA.  And voters should consider the risks for making a mistake here… putting an unqualified, weak and flawed candidate into the DA position will result in more victims of crime.

    1. David Greenwald

      When I wrote the piece, I pondered as to whether or not the line about “all of them men” was too subtle and whether I should expound upon the point. Fortunately, Jeff stepped up and made my point for me, so it looks like the point got across.

  2. Eric Gelber

    To many, the Pledge is a form of forced patriotism, coerced loyalty. It’s historical origins are far from noble. An attack on an individual for refusing to recite the Pledge demonstrates a disrespect for the freedom to dissent that is among our most basic values.

    1. Ken A

      It is true that “the freedom to dissent that is among our most basic values” so Johansson should be proud of his actions and happy that a bunch of “purported” veterans pointed this out.

      P.S. To David any evidence that some of these guys are not really veterans (if not why call them “purported veterans)? Would pointing out that a Republican has never saluted the Isis flag also be called an “attack”?

        1. Tia Will


          One can always exclude the “under God” part.”

          Or one can always exert one’s First Amendment right to speak or to remain silent. I have chosen silence since the Viet Nam war. I honor the pledge by standing, I just do not choose to say it. Even as I served the country as a GMO. Yes, I served, and these signers flashing their patriotism as a political weapon do not speak for me.

        2. Keith O

          That’s good for you, people have their right for their reasons for voting for or against any candidate.  I’m sure this little tidbit will sway some people’s decisions.

          Interesting that “justice for all” is also part of the Pledge that I would think anyone running for DA would want to recite.

  3. Tia Will

    In keeping with the substantive issues:

    he said that if he allowed “specks of methamphetamine” to go unchecked”

    I see wasteful practices, inconsistency of thought, public endangerment, and vindictiveness in the current DA’s office under Jeff Reisig.

    1. Waste – over charging. Each time a case is brought that cannot be won in order to achieve harsher sentencing, time and money that could be used to protect the citizens from crime are squandered. If the case is won, the taxpayers money is used to incarcerate without evidence of increased safety. ( Three strikes for a bag of cheese)

    2. Inconsistency of thought – Couzens ( under the guidance of Reisig) states that they will not let “specks of methamphetamine” go unchecked. And yet they were willing to let Frank Rees, a known methamphetamine dealer walk free in the community for months ( fact) in order to get testimony against the mother of Baby Justice ( my opinion supported by Frank Rees testimony). This despite the fact that under an agreement with social services, Frank Rees bore equal responsibility for the infant with the mother. Result? More methamphetamine addiction and another meth affected infant.

    3. Public endangerment – a known methamphetamine dealer free for months in our community. Another methamphetamine affected child on public assistance.  Time and money spent on a marijuana drug sting  and charging a cheese thief  as a third strike while dangerous criminals remain free in the community.

    4. Vindictiveness – allegations of distant child abuse which if true should have been prosecuted, not dismissed, under none other than Jeff Reisig. If there was child abuse occurring, would it not have been negligent to not pursue it at the time?  Apparently Jeff Reisig didn’t see it that way and is not bothering to explain why not. So now it is a problem when it wasn’t 11 years ago ?

    Now, mudslinging about not saying the pledge for reasons of personal conviction/religion. What statute says that there is any obligation to say the pledge ?  What code says that not saying the pledge disqualifies one from public service ?

    1. Ken A

      Why is it “mudslinging” (or an “attack”) to point out that Johansson will not say the Pledge of Allegiance if it is true?  It would only be mudslinging and an attack if every morning after playing “God Bless America” on his iPod Johansson pledged allegiance to the American flag in his living room and never missed a chance to pledge allegiance to the flag at a public meeting.

      1. Tia Will


        people have their right for their reasons for voting for or against any candidate.  I’m sure this little tidbit will sway some people’s decisions.”

        This post by Keith O is my response to your question. The men who signed this were clearly not pointing it out in order to help the campaign of Dean Johansson. They were using it as a tool of political support for Jeff Reisig, so it is clear to me that they are using it as a negative against Dean. Thus the choice of words. They allege that he refuses to pledge “liberty and justice for all”. Do they know this is the part he objects to? Have they discussed his reasons with him? Highly doubtful.

        Will it be successful ? I have no idea. But let’s not pretend that they were being neutral or in support of Dean.

  4. Tia Will


    From my perspective law enforcement (and the military) should remain a patriarchal system.  Turning them into a college campus would be a big mistake.”

    Both demeaning and in error. Being a woman makes one neither weak nor frivolous, in the workplace, the home, or the battlefield. I believe that Senator Duckworth can attest to the latter. I can attest to the former as a surgical specialist and single mother of two successful children ( science teacher and last semester of kinesiology program).

    It is not one’s gender that makes one strong. It is one’s grit, determination, and persistence.

    1. Jeff M

      Every old culture incorporates the masculine and feminine difference.  We are far past the point where anyone needs to be apologetic for disusing these differences.

      But you miss the point… David made the gender comment.  My point was about the matriarchal vs. patriarchal perspective and approach in certain systems.  They both have their place and ideally they complement each other.  However one or the other needs to dominate depending on the system.  The college campus, and education in general, has always been a matriarchal system.  There are attempts from one side of politics (that also seems to have an affinity for matriarchal approaches) to make the military and law enforcement the same.  I find that both wrong-headed and ironic given the job of law enforcement is made more difficult by the lack of patriarchal structures in modern family life for many kids, and the fact that many of these kids are saved  by pursuing a military career where they can get access to patriarchal systems and approaches.

      With all due respect to mothering… it isn’t the right approach for many social systems.

      1. David Greenwald

        “With all due respect to mothering… it isn’t the right approach for many social systems.”

        I really don’t need to respond.

      2. Tia Will


        They both have their place and ideally they complement each other.  However one or the other needs to dominate depending on the system.”

        I did not miss your point. You and I have discussed this many, many times regardless of who brought up the gender issue. I know you believe in dichotomous thinking. This leads you to believe that “one or the other needs to dominate depending on the system.” I completely disagree. I see it as entirely possible that both modes of expression can coexist equally within any system or within any individual for that matter. Your manner of thinking ( or at least how you express it) excludes this possibility.

        The college campus, and education in general, has always been a matriarchal system.”

        This is objectively false. In our own country women were systematically excluded for decades from higher education in multiple fields including almost all of the science based disciplines, medicine included. In 1979, when I entered medical school at UCD, we were considered ground breaking. Why? Because we were the first medical school ( and at that time the only medical school ) in which 50% of entering students were women. It is true that primary education existed within what you would describe as a matriarchal system. Not true beyond high school.

        1. Jeff M

          The voices in your head must cause some reading comprehension.  Either that or you like to make up stuff to argue about.

          Read what I wrote again.  Talk about dichotomous thinking!

    1. Tia Will


      Wow. That is an issue I had not thought about at all. Can you clarify what you are thinking are the possibilities? Are you aware of problems ( other than my frequent complaint that those of us with any knowledge of a subject are routinely excluded) in the jury selection process as it currently exists?

  5. Howard P

    This is silly…

    Every elected (and many public employees, at least in the past… I’ve done so twice) takes an ‘oath’ of office similar to the one prescribed by the constitution, for the president

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” [Article 2, Section 1:8]

    George Washington reportedly insisted on the word “affirm”, as he was not to “swear” to anything… biblical roots to that…

    A little more than 100 years later, the “pledge” comes into being…

    Some problems with the pledge, probably somewhat due to the socialist author’s “bent”… for many Jews, Christians and (I suspect Muslims), pledging (making an “oath”?) to an object is a problem… might be considered a ‘graven image’… less, but still a bit of a problem to ‘swear’ (pledge) an ‘oath’ of allegiance to a Country… then, in the 50’s “under God” was added, for squirrely reasons, so now atheists/agnostics have a problem.  There are problems with the other parts of the text… maybe goals, but not fruitions…

    Swiftly, I propose a new “patriotic” observance, where all say.

    On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to my Country, State, and Community, and strive for unity, liberty, and justice for all. [copyright reserved]

    Just a modest proposal…

    But, to pick up the theme from another thread, this pledge saying thing is a ‘red’ (fear of which added the words “under god”) herring… …  see definition 2.

  6. Ron

    Tia:  “In keeping with the substantive issues . . .”

    Good one.  🙂

    (Not a comment regarding you, or the questions you ask.)

    I’d be more interested in knowing what Dean specifics proposes as an alternative, and possible benefits or complications to that approach. (Too boring, for the Vanguard?)

    Not real interested in the topic of this article (once again).  Really?  The pledge, intertwined possible religious beliefs (and reactions regarding this entire non-issue)?  That’s going to influence votes, one way or another?

    Societal illness on display.

  7. PhilColeman

    An oath of office is commonplace for persons taking an official positon in the criminal justice system. Administering and responding to the oath is ceremonial or a ritual, but not a legal requirement.

    There is no legal requirement that any person in the be required to pledge, swear, affirm anything, except to tell the truth prior to being a witness in a court proceeding or Congressional hearing.

    A precedent exists where a law enforcement leader in Yolo County was never administered an oath of office. It simply “fell through the cracks” amid the flurry of receptions and hosted greeting sessions. Weeks later, this same person contacted the Office of California Attorney General, asking if his official actions were possibly illegitimate due to a failure to take the customary oath of office.

    The response received from the Deputy Attorney General was that all legal requirements for the position were fulfilled when the person was officially placed on the municipal payroll. With that possible point of argument out of the way feel free to continue swearing, pledging, affirming, and chasing large schools of red herrings.



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