Letter: Sheriff Files Complaint on Public Defender in Solano County Based on Her Wearing a BLM Mask


Solano County Deputy Alternate Public Defender Shelly Saini tirelessly and compassionately advocates for her indigent clients, who are predominantly people of color. In the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Willie McCoy, Sean Monterrosa, and so many others, Ms. Saini, a woman of South Asian descent, decided to stand in solidarity with people of color everywhere by wearing a face mask with the words ADO for Black Lives across it, ADO for Alternate Public Defender Office.

While attempting to enter the downtown Fairfield jail to visit her client on June 24, 2020, Ms. Saini was confronted by a correctional sergeant who took issue with her mask. When Ms. Saini arrived at the jail the doors were locked. She asked the sergeant if she could get inside, but he disregarded her request demanding, What’s on your face? Ms. Saini informed him it was a mask. She again asked how she could get inside, but he did not reply. Ms. Saini demonstrated the doors were locked by pulling on them. The sergeants only response was that it was open. He then questioned Ms. Saini’s reason for being there and she informed him she was there to see her client. At this time another officer inside the jail unlocked the door for her. While Ms. Saini spoke with this officer, the sergeant started to raise his voice and demanded to know who she works for. When Ms. Saini informed him she works for the county, the sergeant replied he would be filing a complaint.

The sergeant later contacted the Public Defender of Solano County, Elena D’Agustino, to voice a baseless claim that Ms. Saini’s mask amounts to political activity barred by county policy, and expressed his intent to file a formal complaint. The sergeant’s threat to file a formal complaint and direct contact with Ms. Sainis boss, simply because he disagrees with the phrase ADO for Black Lives, reflect a misguided attempt to silence Ms. Saini that will not be tolerated.

At its core the statement ADO for Black Lives is about recognizing black people are human beings and their lives have value. For one to be offended by this affirming and fundamental principle underscores how little this sergeant understands what it means to be black in America today. There is nothing political about believing a black person has the right to live. There is nothing political about believing a black child deserves to grow up without fear. There is nothing political about believing a black person deserves to live without fear that their loved ones will not return when they walk out the door in the morning. This country’s shameful history of criminalizing and dehumanizing black people persists to this day and rears its ugly head in the form of structural racism and mass incarceration. Without intentional work on the part of all of us to confront our own implicit biases, we, too, further perpetuate a criminal injustice system that devalues blacks and people of color.

Ms. Saini should be commended for her willingness to call attention to the persistence of anti-black racism and the fact that violence and discrimination continue to threaten black lives. We stand in solidarity with Ms. Saini and affirm that black lives do indeed matter.

Matthew Adler
Payvand Afzali
John Ambrosio
Anna Belesiotis
James Berg
Boris Bindman
Chelsea Bond
Pamela Boskin
Robert Boyle
Katherine Buckley
Deanne Buckman
Leslie Buentello
Ari Bulmash
Felicia Carrington
Angelina Clark
Amyra Cobb-Hampton
Ed Cohen
Crystal Coleman
Bree Durso
Yisha Fan
Nick Filloy
Alisa Freeman
David Gallegos
Jeannette Garcia
Taina Gomez
Christopher Gueco
Michael Hellman
Paula Hensley
Vivian Honsvick
Arielle Hostetler
Lauren Jacobs
Bianca Johnson
Sara Johnson
Shari King
Casey Kozoll
Tracy Krause
Angelica Leonardo
Carol Long
Thomas Maas
Kirby Madden
Vincent R. Maher
Mardin Malik
Marjaneh Maroufi
Ricardo Murillo
Jomeillia Myers
Barry Newman
Alysia Ortiz
Courtney Oxsen
Laura Petty
Jennifer Proctor
Courtney Reed
Joseph Reyes
Eboni Robinson
Daniel J. Russo
Parker Scanlon
Damian Spieckerman
Christine Start
Sean Swartz
Denisse Tanasa
Nicole Tiger
Gina Vanni
Tina Wheeler
Michi Yamamoto
Sormeh Yasaie

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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15 thoughts on “Letter: Sheriff Files Complaint on Public Defender in Solano County Based on Her Wearing a BLM Mask”

  1. Bill Marshall

    Why does this piece slightly remind me of the Wildhorse Apt ‘incident’ that was the topic du jour recently?  Not the same, by any means, but some common elements…

        1. Bill Marshall

          Methinks Matt’s tongue was ‘fully in cheek’… he may choose to either “deny or confirm”… or, he may decline to do either… any which way is cool by me…

        2. David Greenwald

          Matt’s comment is more astute than you are giving it credit for.  Not every injustice rises to the level of George Floyd.  Everyday Injustice refers to the everyday forms of injustice people face – in this case, a rank and file public defender has a sheriff file a formal complaint because she wore a mask with BLM on it to visit her clinet in holding – really?  Yeah, not exactly George Floyd, but come on. (Also I guess I should point out again – we received a copy of the letter, we didn’t write the letter ourselves).

  2. Bill Marshall

    Wonder what the reaction would be if someone showed up at a Demo ‘bean feed fund-raiser’ wearing a bright red MAGA mask… would be fun to watch from the sidelines…

  3. Robert Duggan

    The title of this article should be changed to read “Sheriff Deputy”.  The current title is very misleading and indicates the actuale Sheriff is the one filing the complaint which is not true.

    This deputy will likely face disciplinary action so let’s give the process a chance before jumping to conclusions.

  4. Alan Miller

    Since it has a hash-tag, does the hash-tag lead to the organization Black Lives Mater, or expand on the sentiment that black lives matter?

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