San Diego’s interim District Attorney Summer Stephan received an award from Crime Victims United as their Southern California District Attorney of the Year on Monday.
Stephan was appointed to the position by the County Board of Supervisors in June 2017, following the resignation of long-time District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who stepped down to consider running for District 4 Supervisor.
It was a controversial appointment, as local advocacy groups urging the appointment of a person pledging not to run for the office in 2018. High-level positions in the County in recent years have been filled by appointments of deputies of those they are replacing, giving them the advantages of incumbency.
Not noted in the local coverage of Stephan’s award was the campaign being led by the awarding group to place a measure on the ballot rolling back portions of criminal justice reforms enacted by the legislature and California voters in recent years.
Those reforms include AB 10, which moved some state prisoners into county jails, Prop 47 which turned some felonies into misdemeanors, Prop 57 which allows some prisoners to petition for early parole.
Supporters of rolling back California’s criminal reforms have used small upticks in the crime rate to make their case, despite the fact both property and violent offenses remain at levels not seen since the 1960’s.
Just shy of 60% of California voters approved Proposition 47 in 2014; Proposition 57 passed with more than 64% support.
From CBS/San Francisco:
“In many ways, I see this initiative as a desire to revert back to the failed policies of the past,” Lenore Anderson said, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, which organized a 2014 campaign reducing penalties for certain drug and property crimes.
She cites studies by public policy institutes and academic researchers in arguing that most lengthy prison sentences could be reduced by up to 25 percent without significantly increasing crime, freeing money for programs to further reduce criminal behavior.
Stephan is being challenged in the upcoming June 5 election by Geneviève Jones-Wright, a public defender, with support from progressive groups around the region. The Jones-Wright campaign has made support of criminal justice and bail reform a central tenet.
The interim DA has been criticized as being racist for calling out Jones-Wright’s rising profile as “a Kardashian effect” in a Union-Tribune article.
Apparently, Stephan was talking about the video of her African-American challenger being pulled over and racially profiled by SDPD. As campaign consultant Eva Posner put it on Facebook:
She thinks that video of a black woman terrified for her life is an attention-getting mechanism.
Let’s be clear: Stephan and her supporters have equated the fact that people of color film themselves to increase their chances of surviving a police encounter to a sex tape.
I went looking yesterday to see if, perchance, the San Diego County District Attorney’s office had anything to say about their boss’ remarks and was pleasantly surprised to find this: [I was blocked from seeing their communications posted on Twitter]
UPDATE: A nice person from the DA’s Office reached out to me and said he didn’t know what happened and was sorry.
Monday’s awards ceremony, held on the West steps of the State Capitol, was disrupted as Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert spoke by demonstrators chanting “Stephon Clark” and “$13,000.”
From the Los Angeles Times:
Speaking over the protesters, Schubert did not address Clark’s case or take questions. She pledged only to represent victims and help people get back on track, whether through school or youth intervention programs.
“I will always stand with victims,” she said at the event hosted by Crime Victims United of California. “I will always do what’s right, and I will always follow the facts of the law.”
In the audience, a handful of protesters held a banner with Clark’s photo, shouting, “Clark was a victim” and “Why are you protecting cops?”
Twenty-two year old Clark was shot in the back and side in his grandmother’s backyard March 18, 2018, by police offices who thought the white cell phone he was holding looked like a gun. The officers, who spotted the deceased while following up on a call about vandalism, waited five minutes after shooting Clark before approaching and handcuffing him, then muted the audio on their body cams.
The shooting sparked weeks of protest in Sacramento, including one where a Sheriff Department vehicle ran over local activist Wanda Cleveland.
In the days following the shooting, the Sacramento DA, who is running for re-election this year, received $13,000 in campaign donations from two local law enforcement unions. Both unions and the DA’s campaign said the timing of the donations was just a coincidence.
Another County of San Diego incumbent, Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk Ernest J. Dronenburg, is now the subject of a sworn complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) filed by his opponent Matt Strabone.
The complaint alleges Dronenburg violated California Government Code Section 84203, requiring a campaign to report any contributions of $1,000 or more it receives during the 90-day period preceding the date of the election within 24 hours.
On April 4, the Republican Party of San Diego County made a contribution of $5,000 to Dronenburg’s campaign (as can be seen here), but Dronenburg did not report the contribution within 24 hours of receipt as required by law.
Strabone’s campaign issued a statement:
“I am deeply disappointed in my opponent’s callous disregard for campaign disclosure laws and the underlying purpose behind them: to ensure that our elections are conducted in a fair and transparent way. He has spent most of his adult life in political office and is certainly aware of the reporting requirements, so I can only wonder at what he may be trying to hide by ignoring them. This is just another example of the need for change in the Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk’s office, and if I’m elected transparency and adherence to the law will never be taken for granted.”
Trust me, Dronenburg knows better. He just doesn’t care.
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