Attorney General Again Declines to Take on Monterrosa Investigation

While over the weekend it was reported that the president of the Vallejo Peace Officers’ Association has been suspended, having been implicated in the possibility of obstructing justice by destroying evidence in the June 2 shooting death of Sean Monterrosa at the hands of a fellow officer, thus far the Attorney General’s Office has refused to take over the investigation of the case.

In a letter dated July 27 to Oscar Bobrow, the President of the California Public Defenders Association (CPDA), the Attorney General writes  that while he understands and appreciates the concern expressed in their letter, the role of the AG’s office “in intervening in a local criminal investigation and prosecution is limited.”

He writes, “California’s 58 district attorneys are charged with investigating and prosecuting criminal cases as the elected public prosecutors for each of our counties.”

He goes on to say, “Absent a conflict of interest, abuse of discretion or other exceptional circumstances, the Department of Justice generally does not assume responsibility for investigations or prosecutions of officer involved shootings.”

The letter further notes, “We are mindful of the important policy discussions underway concerning the future handling of officer involved shootings, and we intend to be a part of crafting a solution.  However, at this time, the Department has neither the funding nor the staffing to routinely enable us to conduct independent investigations of officer involved shooting incidents throughout the State.

“Because our resources are limited, we must be selective in deploying them where necessary and appropriate,” the AG adds.

This marks yet another rejection of a request for the AG to directly handle the Monterrosa case.  Back on July 2, the Solano County DA, Krishna Abrams, attempted to recuse herself from the investigation.  In the video statement, she said was stepping back from investigating the shooting deaths of Willie McCoy and Sean Monterrosa.

The Solano County DA said, “Throughout my career as a prosecutor for over 24 years I have fought for justice for crime victims from all walks of life, supported the dedicated men and women of law enforcement, upheld the constitutional rights of those accused and sought to hold accountable those who’ve committed crimes throughout our community.”

Abrams also referenced “civil unrest” in the county since the June 2 shooting.

“Since June 2nd, there has been a great deal of civil unrest throughout Solano County,” she said.  She would add, “We understand the anger and frustration that many are feeling in our community and we strongly support the right to speak up and peacefully protest issues that are important to our community.”

Despite this, the AG declined to conduct such an investigation. In the letter on July 27, the office explained that “there is no legal basis for such an action.”  The AG’s office added that PC section 1424(a) does not require recusal unless “the evidence shows that a conflict of interest exists that would render it unlikely that the defendant would receive a fair trial.”

They cite case law that a conflict only exists where “the circumstance of a case evidence a reasonable possibility that the DA’s office may not exercise its discretionary function in an evenhanded manner.”

Second, they said that the conflict must be “so grave as to render it unlikely that (any) defendant will receive fair treatment during all portions of the criminal proceedings.”  In other words, “there must be an actual likelihood of unfair treatment.”

The AG concludes, “In this case, there is no apparent basis for finding that either element has been met.”

That refusal has been maintained, even in light of other evidence.

In the letter to Bobrow, Phillip Ferrari, the Special Assistant to the Attorney General, noted that they had “recently made a decision to deploy some of those resources by committing to perform a deep, comprehensive review of the Vallejo Police Department’s policies, operations and practices.”

Further, “We have also agreed to perform an independent investigation into allegations that evidence was destroyed that was relevant to the investigation of Mr. Monterrosa’s death.”

But they continue to refuse to do a broader and more general investigation into that death.  This despite further revelations of corruption in Vallejo.

Over the weekend, the Vanguard reported that Michael Nichelini, the union president and a lieutenant who oversees the patrol division, has been placed on administrative leave, under investigation for destroying critical evidence in the shooting of Sean Monterrosa.

“This guy is knee deep trying to misdirect the investigation,” John Burris, the attorney for Monterrosa’s family, told the Vanguard.

The AG is looking into that aspect of the case, but for reasons that remain unclear are unwilling to go further.

Ferrari would only say, “With respect to the underlying investigation into the shooting, that investigation is already being conducted by local authorities.”

The letter concludes, DA Abrams “has publicly stated that she is confident that her office can conduct a fair and thorough review of any officer involved shooting, and she has not identified a conflict of interest or any other extraordinary circumstances that would require our office to assume the responsibilities of the District Attorney’s office.”

Based on that, they decline the request to conduct the investigation.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice –

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for

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.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for