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Monday, March 12, 2007

Disparate Treatment by the DA's Office

We have spent much time talking about both the Davis Police Department and Yolo County District Attorney's Office's over-pursuit of relatively minor cases and prosecution to the point of almost absurdity. In some of these cases, we have evidence that the deputy district attorney assigned to the case actually thought it better that the case be dropped rather than charges followed and was told that they not only had to pursue the case but obtain a conviction. These type of cases are pursued generally against people in a lower socio-economic class and minority defendants.

However, increasingly I have learned about the opposite problem--the failure of the Davis Police Department and the Yolo County District Attorney's office to pursue charges and a case against "upscale" and "affluent" defendants involved in a variety of what appear to be much more serious crimes.

While most of these stories only represent anecdotal evidence, An old professor of mine used to say data is actually many anecdotes when put together that form a systematic pattern.

A reader relates a case of road rage that happened several years ago where an individual, also a Davis resident, ended up following the person home, seeing where they lived and then speeding off. However, later that night they returned dumping a can or two of gasoline on the garage and setting the house on fire.

Only quick action by a neighbor helped alert the family to the fire and prevented it from becoming bigger and it ended up only causing superficial damage to the garage and the front of the home.

The individual described the man and his case to the police, but very little happened for over a year. Finally they had arrested a suspect. Apparently he had bragged to a friend about what he'd done, and the friend turned him in. It also turned out that he was not a nice guy. At the time of his arrest, he was on probation for having beaten up his girlfriend, and I was told by the police that he was also suspected of torching another man's car.

So of course the District Attorney's Office aggressively pursued this case like they did Buzayan's or Khalid Berny's, right? Wrong!

On the contrary, the District Attorney's office moved on this case at a glacial pace. Court dates were scheduled, subpoenas sent, vacation time from work arranged, only to have delays and postponements time after time. The Deputy District Attorney left the department and a new one took over. Shortly thereafter, the defendant pled guilty to reduced charges. Then for another eight months, the same sort of postponements and delays happened with the sentencing hearing.

Why is there such disparate treatment? Why is a person with a history and a record allowed to skate? Well, for starters, he's the member of a very wealthy and influential El Macero family.

So why is it then that the District Attorney's Office pursues some cases to the teeth--minor cases such as a man who allegedly allows his goats to run at large or a small parking lot accident resulting in $800 damage to the vehicle, but will not pursue a case of road rage that leads to arson against a perpetrator who has a history of this sort of violence? In fact, this case seems very close to the firebombing case involving another family in Davis--who happen to be gay--that the police perhaps haven't aggressively pursued.

A few years back there was a vandalism crime against a gay individual in Davis, he had eggs thrown at his vehicle and another black family's home. This was in October of 2003. By August of 2004, hate crime charges were dropped.

According to the August 18, 2004 Davis Enterprise:

"Yolo County District Attorney David Henderson appeared in court Tuesday to formally drop hate crime enhancement charges against a Davis youth accused of vandalizing the car of a local gay man and the home of a black family in an October incident.
Henderson cited insufficient evidence to prosecute the case with the hate crime enhancement. The 17-year-old still faces one felony count and five misdemeanor counts of vandalism.

Four youths reportedly shouted racist and bigoted remarks as they threw more than 120 eggs at five vehicles and one house in the early morning hours of Oct. 26. One car was owned by... an openly gay UC Davis lab assistant; another vehicle is owned by a black family. The house is owned by a black family."

A little further back from that, I know of an individual who was allegedly supplying minors, often as young as junior high school age (if not younger) with marijuana out of their home and the police would not follow through on repeated complaints from residents.

For whatever reason, the District Attorney's office over-pursues and over-prosecutes some crime but not others. This inconsistency is a bit perplexing in light of their overall refusal to drop charges in cases that clearly did not warrant charges to begin with, while failing to pursue cases that do. We have heard of cases, and in fact seen it in writing, where the District Attorney's Office or their deputy acknowledges that the reason for prosecution is because of an impending lawsuit. And yet, we also see now where the District Attorney's office fails to follow through on other seemingly more serious cases when the individuals involved may be influential citizens or the children of influential citizens. This county deserves more consistent and more common-sense law enforcement than it is getting.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting