By Scott Ragsdale
Our Yolo county courts need constructive change. Dean Johansson will bring our courts an experienced and reasoned application of the law that will make us all safer. There are many supporters of Reisig who, as former employees, police officers and some citizens, see a hard-working DA that is reforming. I see it differently. Much of what amounts to support for Reisig is cultural anxiety – that change will be more work.
We won’t be able to abdicate our obligation to make society work for more people to law enforcement. Having Dean Johansson as District Attorney will mean we will have to face those we don’t know and don’t understand with greater inclusion. It will mean more services – less jail. More real diversion, less conviction and less bail.
Dean will exact no less punishment from those who are criminals and is very aware of his responsibility to assure the safety and security of crime victims. Electing Dean Johansson does not mean that individuals or groups that commit crimes that harm persons will avoid sentencing. Dean believes in prosecution, as he was a former prosecutor. Our Yolo County needs to treat criminals as such, re-formable as such and nuisances as such.
Reisig and our legal system have been trained by decades of 3-strike/War on Drugs policy and that is going to take work by everyone to unwind. The current DA’s office seems to be trying to justify this legacy, one that transparency won’t abide. We need law enforcement policy and practice that convicts swiftly, protect all voices and helps reconstruct lives on all sides. We need a new DA.
I have personally witnessed the punitive application of law enforcement in our Yolo County courts. In the Summer 2012, Tom Zolot, a friend and UCD student, was one of 12 charged with up to 11 years in prison and a share of a $1 million fine. The students protested U.S. Bank and UCD’s program requiring financial aid students to do business with U.S. Bank. The DA’s charges were seen widely as retribution for tuition hike protests which peaked with the criminal pepper spraying.
The examining attorney in the 2011 Pepper Spray report that found that the DA’s office is “profoundly chummy” with the UCD police, and that in this case the police were not subject to the laws they enforce. My friend Tom found this out personally when the DA’s office used its power to make sure everyone who might protest financial indoctrination and damaging financial opportunism would face jail time.
Recently U.S. Bank paid the federal government $613 million to settle an international money laundering suit. The suit alleged that a friend of our US government backed, and questionably elected, Honduran president Hernandez who laundered drug trafficking and foreign bribery proceeds through U.S. Bank accounts for decades.
U.S. Bank has paid fines for mortgage-backed security fraud and other transgressions. That’s who our DA chooses to defend while our young people are convicted. Tom pleaded guilty to misdemeanor and performed public service – to get out from under his multi-year jail time and $100,000 charges.
2017, the Picnic Day 5 are in court. So am I. Deputy DA Ryan Couzens uses the threat of drug and gun offenses to soften up the defendants (there were no guns or drugs involved). The defendants were not an ongoing threat to society or police. The highly touted restorative justice program offered was taken. The RJ program is a bargain if more court means legal fees and loss of your job
The internal law enforcement review of the Picnic Day 5 incident reported that the Davis police deferred to the DA and did not present conflicting evidence that would likely have cast doubt about the culpability of the defendants. Note that restorative justice mean that, until the defendants complete the court-prescribed restorative process and that is satisfied – the defendants are guilty as charged. This does not feel restorative to me.
The Banker’s Dozen and the Picnic Day 5 are very public. In each case the DA would not back down from conviction. Most convictions are not covered by our media. Most convictions are pleas and a vastly disproportionate number are made by people who don’t attend League of Women’s voter DA candidate debates like the one held on April 18 at the Woodland Community Center. Those underrepresented who did attend suggested that the DA’s office expresses a racist application of the law. The statistics bear them out.
We have the fortunate opportunity to vote for Dean Johansson who is a keen legal mind and who is a willing public servant. We need reform and reform can be a lot to ask from a community and region that thinks of itself as progressive and even egalitarian. What we have done is abide by a practice of law that is discriminatory because it’s easier. What we have done is systematize exclusion. In response, many enforcement practices have sanitized and streamlined the incarceration (if you can’t pay bail you wait for your court date in jail) of those that are having a hard time making their place or are just plain disliked. We need to give our law enforcement responsive leadership that can make constructive change and move toward justice and protection for all.