Sunday Commentary: Winters Columnist Only Tells Part of the Story on Ajay Dev

Dev’s sons join other protestors in front of the Appellate Court in October 2016

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – Here we go again.  Richard Casavecchia, a Winters Express columnist, addresses the recent attack ad by Jeff Reisig against Cynthia Rodriguez.

“I had reservations about Rodriguez before reading this ad because of an incident where she seemed to intentionally skirt the rules for her own benefit,” he writes, relating a story about her having a float with a campaign sign when the rules said, “Politics are not allowed in the parade.”

But to the issue at hand.  He writes, “On seeing the political ad, I was curious if it was accurate.”

I will focus on his discussion of the Ajay Dev case, which consumes most of his time.

He notes she received “a $500 donation [from whom], according to local media reports, is the brother of a notorious former Davis resident who was sentenced to over 378 years for 76 felony counts of rape and sexual assault of his adopted daughter. The donor confirmed to local media he is still advocating for a new trial for his brother.”

He writes, “By chance, I spoke with a member of the Jury who convicted the donor’s brother. The juror stated, ‘He terrorized his victim’ and he ‘deserved every day of the 378 years’ based on the testimony they heard.”

Casavecchia goes on to say, “Is there anything illegal about this? Emphatically, no. Criminals and relatives of criminals are allowed to make political donations. Even those convicted of the most offensive crimes in society. It is their right under the First Amendment.”

He adds however, “I wouldn’t let these people near my daughter, in my home, or within 1,000 feet of a school but if they want to exercise their constitutional rights, I cannot fault them. I can, however, avoid associating with causes they support.”

He then said, “I think this ad was in poor taste, and not directly germane to the race. The underlying facts still raise questions.”

Especially when the columnist fails to find out the whole story.  And actually, given that he was relying on local media accounts, it would not have been hard to note that Ajay Dev has always maintained that he was wrongly convicted.

Fortunately, we don’t just have to take Dev’s word for it.  There is increasing evidence to back it up.

The reason why the matter is still pending is that the post-conviction Habeas petition filed several years ago found new evidence to support the contention that Dev was wrongly convicted.

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.”

But Casavecchia never dives into this, he simply relies on a statement from a juror who clearly believed the victim at the time, even though the AV admitted to others she was lying.

He also gets into the Pedroia case as well.

I note a letter from Terry East of Woodland in the Davis paper.  He writes, “But he has crossed the line when he attacks upstanding local families that have donated to his opponent — citing their past brush with the judicial system as evidence they are motivated to pervert the political process and weaken the justice system. This is the case with the Pedroia family and Reisig’s attack on Brett.”

East writes, “It does not matter to Reisig, and many others, that Brett has gone through the justice system, rehabilitation, and has proven to be a reliable and productive citizen. He has met the prescribed remedy for his mistake.”

East makes a good point—and Reisig has made it a point that he believes in rehabilitation and alternatives to prison for a lot of convicted people.

East asks, “What does this reveal about Reisig’s real intentions about criminal reform and rehabilitation? Reopening old wounds for his political gain? What does this say about his fitness to hold the office of district attorney?”

But Reisig got what he wanted—he shifted the focus from his own record over 16 years to Rodriguez taking small donations from people he could paint in a negative light.  And he knew he could count on local media to, for the most part, fail to tell the full story.

Aside from a failure to understand the full issue here, the most offensive part of Casavecchia’s column was the glib statement that he wouldn’t want these people near my daughter.

For one thing, in one of the cases mentioned, the victim was not a girl.  For another thing, in the case of Ajay Dev, because of the nature of his conviction, for the first several years of incarceration he was not allowed contact visits with his two sons.  But eventually he earned the trust of the prison staff and warden, and was able to finally have those contact visits.

I can tell you something else—I have gotten to know Ajay Dev pretty well over the last several years, and I would have no problem with him interacting with my children.

This is not a helpful column and it left out way too much information and background.  It ends up throwing more dirt rather than shedding light on the situation.

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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