Commentary: Garrett Hamilton the Latest Yolo DA to Throw Mud in the DA’s Race

Hundreds of people assemble in 2014 in front of the old Woodland Courthouse on the five-year anniversary of Mr. Dev’s conviction

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – If Supervising Deputy DA Garrett Hamilton wants to sing the praises of his boss, Jeff Reisig, for being “quite literally the most innovative DA in the country,” a lot of people might question that opinion, but, hey, that’s his business.

If it is true that “district attorneys around California and the nation look to him for leadership,” you might think that would be a strong enough record to run on without resorting to gutter-level attacks on his opponent over basically nothing.

But that’s not what is going on.  Instead, a few weeks ago Reisig’s campaign, in a paid political ad on Facebook, attacked challenger Cynthia Rodriguez apparently for accepting a couple of donations from people or families who had been accused of or convicted of committing certain crimes.

Guilt by association?  Based on this, Reisig’s campaign attacked Rodriguez for “Campaigning for Criminals” and that she “is getting thousands of dollars in campaign funding connected to convicted sex offenders and child rapists seeking a soft on crime district attorney.”

“I have seen comments both ways about some of the challenger’s donations. In court, and in politics, we learn when we ask questions,” Garrett Hamilton writes in an attack letter on Rodriguez.  He writes, “I encourage Yolo County voters to ask, “Why is Sanjay Dev trying to change the D.A.?””

I too think voters should ask a critical question—but it would be a little different.  My question would go like this: If Jeff Reisig really is the “most innovative DA in the country” and has such a strong record, why do you need to attack your opponent over a $500 contribution from Ajay Dev’s brother?

Hamilton charges, “My concern is that he wants a new D.A. because Reisig is defending Dev’s brother’s long rape sentence in current habeas litigation. Not the attorney general, the district attorney. Much post-conviction habeas litigation in California is now handled by the district attorneys.”

He adds, “If Dev gets a new D.A. he may feel that a D.A. to whom he gave money would drop the fight and let his rapist brother out of prison. This is an important question to ask before you go to the ballot box.”

Long-time readers know that the Vanguard has been covering the Ajay Dev case since 2009 and the Vanguard fully believes—with strong evidence—that Ajay Dev was wrongly convicted by Jeff Reisig and the Yolo County DA’s office.

There was sufficient evidence to support this possibility, so that nearly three years ago the Yolo County court granted Dev an evidentiary hearing in his Habeas case, as mentioned by Hamilton.

The DA’s office under Reisig has fought the evidence every step of the way, and the case has stalled after Deputy DA Ryan Couzens dug up a bunch of immaterial dirt during an evidentiary hearing.

The key evidence presented so far was an enhanced audio of the pretext phone call showing that the original jury heard a false translation that seemed to implicate Dev.

As testified to in court, Judge Fall erred in allowing the complaining witness to translate that section of the recording.  Most importantly, Ajay Dev did not say “you had sex with me when you were 18,” but rather, “if that [is] so why did you come with me since 18 years?”

Moreover, six witnesses have come forward to say that the alleged victim admitted in contemporaneous time to the trial to fabricating the story.

As written in the Habeas petition, “post-conviction investigation has shown that in determining whether (the AV) should be believed, the jury did not have the full story, or anything even close.”

The alleged victim (AV) “admitted to at least six different people that the sexual allegations were not true.”

Instead, “the new evidence presented and discussed in the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus shows that prior to trial, (the AV) repeatedly admitted to family and friends that she lied about the allegations. Jurors deciding if (the AV) lied never heard this evidence, or any of the other new evidence establishing that (the AV) was simply not credible.”

And what has the “most innovative” DA done about these revelations?  Delay, block and obfuscate.

Sanjay Dev told the Vanguard that he never realized how dirty politics could be and expressed sorrow that he and his family have become part of it.

All he wanted was a fair shake from the DA for his brother—which he has never felt he has gotten from this DA.

Five hundred dollars is hardly enough to influence the actions of a DA, let alone knock off the sitting DA.

But Ajay Dev is of course not alone.  An appellate court last month overturned the murder conviction of Justin Gonzalez, who was directly prosecuted by Jeff Reisig.

Reisig is accused of withholding evidence from the defense in that case.

Defense Attorney for Justin Gonzalez, Keith Staten, stated to Robert Hansen of the Vanguard that there is a recording of a conversation between Yolo prosecutors and Ruby Aradoz, a defendant turned witness near the end of the trial.

Staten told the Vanguard that because of the conviction being reversed, no ruling was made by the court on the possibility of a Brady violation.

“If they said it was, then Jeff Reisig would be subject to getting disbarred,” Staten said.

Hansen notes that the DA agreed to dismiss the charge if Aradoz provided truthful testimony and cooperated with the prosecution.

“They turned her the night before prosecution evidence was over,” Staten said. “I’ve been crying about this case for a while.”

This is not an isolated incident.  And in the Dev case, for well over a decade, a likely innocent man has been sitting in prison away from his family, and, instead of giving the case an honest assessment, the DA has thrown up roadblocks and misdirection.

That’s the real record of this DA and probably why Hamilton is throwing dirt rather than shining light on his DA’s record of accomplishment.

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. Ron Glick

    “Staten told the Vanguard that because of the conviction being reversed, no ruling was made by the court on the possibility of a Brady violation.”

    Nor was it part of the appeal. So talk about smears. One attorney’s opinion yet you raise it over and over again as if it were gospel.

    Dev’s brother gives Rodriguez $500 bucks. Yawn.

    This race has more naked mud throwing than a 70’s style strip show.

    1. David Greenwald

      It was part of the appeal. The court decided that the new laws were sufficient to overturn the verdict, so they didn’t weigh in on it, but several judges during oral arguments and one in a concurring opinion expressed concern about it.

      1. Ron Glick

        Expressed concern. Wow! Call out the national guard to seize Reisig’s bar card.

        I’ve known Jeff Reisig for 30 years. I’ve met Cynthia Rodriguez. She went to a High School I taught at. People I taught with and respect have donated to her campaign. Both seem like decent people to me.

        Being D.A. is a tough job. I got called to jury duty a few years ago and my stomach literally got sick while desperately waiting to get kicked off the jury. Yet these people go in there day in and day out and deal with the most horrific acts of humanity in the interest of justice and public safety.

        Do they get it right every time? No.

        In my opinion your D.A. vote should go to the person you believe is going to best use their prosecutorial discretion in the interest of justice. Not in the easy cases like Marsh or Frost but in the cases that are tough calls where its not so obvious how to proceed based on the facts and the law.

        All this other crap about money from Dev’s brother or disbarring Jeff Reisig detracts from the serious policy debate we should be having in this election.

        I will admit that Pedroia’s donation was worth bringing up but Rodriguez disgorged the money so that was a one week story.

        What I’d like to see is serious debate about prosecutorial discretion and how its applied in Yolo County. Reisig claims to be maturing on this important part of the job. Rodriguez seem to believe its not enough or fast enough with her “To a hammer everything looks like a nail” rhetoric.

        Where people come down on this as voters is an important question worth debating. All the rest of it is sleazy distraction.



        1. David Greenwald

          “What I’d like to see is serious debate about prosecutorial discretion and how its applied in Yolo County. Reisig claims to be maturing on this important part of the job. Rodriguez seem to believe its not enough or fast enough with her “To a hammer everything looks like a nail” rhetoric.”

          I agree with you that this is what the debate should be over. I think my position would be that Reisig might claim to be changing, but there’s little evidence of that in practice. And I would argue that this line of attack demonstrates that fact. I would also argue that when Garrett Hamilton, one of the top brass in the DA’s office levels accusations such as these in the local paper, that it makes it impossible to have the kind of discussion we both believe would be best.

  2. Patty Pursell

    DA Reisig’s office does not look for the truth of the matter.  They only care about winning the case at any cost.  That is why he has to go.  In the Ajay Dev case there is more than enough evidence to show that the girl lied about the rapes.  She admits it to 6 different people that it was not true, and the tape where there was a supposed admission was enhanced to find out that there was no admission.

    If Reisig’s office cared about the truth, they would not spend so much time, effort and money trying to keep the witnesses from testifying that can verify she was lying.  This office spends too much time trying to discredit evidence rather than actually checking to see if it might be true.

    Then when someone challenges the DA, the tactic is to again use deception and misdirection in order to change the narrative.  Look closely at how the DA’s office actually handles cases.  You will find that Yolo County can do much better.

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