Ultimately voters will have to decide for themselves whether an 11-year-old police report which alleges that district attorney challenger Dean Johansson abused his kids is accurate or if it should be a reason not to vote for him. Mr. Johansson has denied the allegations, they were apparently never criminally filed by the district attorney’s office at the time, and they are quite old.
Whether this was appropriate to become a campaign issue is another aspect that the voters will have to decide. For those who argue that a third party, Crime Victims United, raised the issue, Jeff Reisig issued a statement this week that in effect means he endorsed the attack piece. He used the piece to argue: “Mr. Johansson is simply not remotely qualified to be the Yolo County District Attorney.”
But let us not pretend that the group Crime Victims United is a neutral party in this. They are both a 501(c)(3) non-profit as well as a 501(c)(4) lobbying group and some have charged that their activities have been blended together.
In 2006, the group made co-endorsements in the DA’s race with both Pat Lenzi and Jeff Reisig receiving the endorsement. That was unusual because, at the time, Ms. Lenzi sat on their board. She sent out a statement on Saturday, disavowing herself from the group, where her name still appears. But Mr. Reisig is listed as a member of their advisory board. And he lists the group as endorsers of his campaign.
In the statement from Jeff Reisig, he ends by stating: “In the spirit of transparency, read the police reports, which have been legally acquired and published by Crime Victims United, for yourself.”
That leads us to another critical question – just how did the group find out about the 11-year-old police report that was apparently never filed by the district attorney’s office as a criminal complaint against Mr. Johansson?
This is a question that Mr. Johansson himself raised in his interview with the Vanguard.
“Where did they get this information? It had to be given to them by some internal source in the district attorney’s office to even know what this evidence is,” he said.
“I would like to know where this report even came from in the first place,” he stated. “Where did this report come from? Reisig’s using power to create falsehoods to demean his opponent.”
There are actually multiple levels to this to consider.
First, someone with inside knowledge would have to alert the group in the first place that these police reports existed. Police reports, unlike other documents, are not in general publicly available.
The First Amendment Coalition writes: “The California Supreme Court has held that the general public does not have a right of access to the actual physical copies of police reports.”
Under the California Public Records Act, section 6254(f), the department is required to provide to the public the following information: “the time, substance, and location of all complaints or requests for assistance received by the agency and the time and nature of the response thereto, including, to the extent the information regarding crimes alleged or committed or any other incident investigated is recorded, the time, date, and location of occurrence, [and] the time and date of the report, the name, age, and current address of the victim ….”
Agencies must also disclose to the public “[t]he full name, current address, and occupation of every individual arrested by the agency, the individual’s physical description including date of birth, color of eyes and hair, sex, height and weight, the time and date of arrest, the time and date of booking, the location of the arrest, the factual circumstances surrounding the arrest, the amount of bail set, the time and manner of release or the location where the individual is currently being held, and all charges the individual is being held upon, including any outstanding
warrants from other jurisdictions and parole or probation holds.”
But what agencies do not do is release a physical copy of the report.
So the question is, who has the report? The alleged victim could get it – but in this case, we have been told that this did not happen. A defense attorney could get it – but this was never a filed case and thus there was no defense attorney. Dean Johansson himself could probably get a copy of it, but, again, why would he do that?
The police reports that were posted suggest there are two possible sources – one is from inside the Davis Police Department where the report and supplements were created, and the other is the district attorney’s office where they were forwarded.
Mr. Reisig states that the report was legally acquired, but he doesn’t explain how they acquired it and from whom. Given what we know about this matter, it seems very likely that the organization had to have learned about this case from an inside source and received these materials from someone who did not have legal authorization to provide them.
The report is stamped: “This document contains restricted information. Distribution to unauthorized persons is prohibited. Davis Police Department.”
The report that is posted indicates it’s a “Records Controlled Document” sent to the “DA” on 11-6-07.
This raises the troubling possibility that the district attorney himself leaked this material, which we believe would represent an abuse of governmental power. There has to be a strict separation between one’s official authority and a political campaign. The district attorney cannot use his power to investigate individuals as a means to attack his opponent politically with a matter handled by his office.
If Mr. Reisig’s office investigated this matter and then turned over the records to Crime Victims United, that would represent an abuse of power.
Again, Mr. Reisig claims “in the interest of transparency” and then asserts that the documents were “legally acquired” – I think in the interest of full transparency, we need to know just how those police reports were “legally acquired” by the group that just happens to be supporting Mr. Reisig, with the DA just happening to be on their advisory board.
—David M. Greenwald reporting