State of the District Attorney's office 2016
The following is District Attorney Rosen's State of the District Attorney's Office he delivered before the Santa Clara County, Board of Supervisors on February 24th.
The mission of the District Attorney’s Office is to vigorously pursue justice in a way that is fair, and treats everyone equally and with respect.
Why do we emphasize that justice must be pursued, and must be pursued with vigor? Does justice just happen – like gravity, like the seasons changing, like children growing older, like a new Iphone coming out every year, or the Giants winning the World Series every other? Can justice occur reliably and regularly without special effort or intention? Do criminals decide to hold themselves accountable? Do crime victims automatically get restitution?
Perhaps, some people think that justice just happens – criminals are arrested, prosecutors present evidence, juries convict, judges sentence. We know this is not case. We know that justice does not happen by itself. Justice is not like gravity. In fact, without the vigorous pursuit of justice, injustice would be the norm, would be like gravity. It is only through our collective efforts, that we defy gravity, that we defy the norm of most civilizations, and achieve justice.
What’s another way of saying “vigorously pursue” - “getting after it.” Here are a few examples of those who “got after it,” who achieved justice for the People in 2015.
In 2015, the Family Violence Unit got after it
as they implemented a new process to make it easier for domestic violence victims to obtain and modify criminal court protective orders, which saves lives.
The Child Abduction Unit got after it and recovered 32 children, more than twice as many as the year before.
In one case, Deputy District Attorney James Cahan, along with DA Investigators Desiree Thompson, Jaime Gauthier, Michael Whittington and Christine Macias were instrumental in recovering a father’s baby daughter, and returning her to him, after she had been abducted from Merced and brought to San Jose.
The Community Prosecutors got after it and did an outstanding job of building bridges to residents in high crime neighborhoods.
Alisha Shane and Angela Alvarado worked in the Burbank/Buena Vista area and shut down massage parlors that served as fronts for Human Trafficking. In downtown San Jose, Josue Fuentes tackled fraud against immigrants and helped organize a Mothers’ Group to improve the neighborhood. Tina Nunes-Ober helped push our county’s truancy rates down to among the lowest in the state. And, of course, Johnny Gogo was everywhere – combatting graffiti, juvenile crime and taking guns off the streets.
The Sexual Assault Team got after it – 43 jury trials, resulting in 39 convictions, four hangs, and no acquittals.
In October, Katrina Ohde got an as charged guilty verdict in a child molestation case with three victims and 12 counts. Immediately following this verdict, she began another trial, and got an as charged guilty verdict on 18 count of child molestation.
In People v. Alkhas, Alaleh Kianerci secured a felony conviction against chiropractor who sexually assaulted a teenage patient during an examination. Defendant was remanded after the trial. One of the jurors sent Alaleh the following email,
“I just wanted to thank you for the great job you did. You were organized, precise, and competent. It is nice to see people of your caliber working for the public good.”
Our Economics Crimes Team continued to get after it.
The Team cracked down on real estate and insurance fraudsters, companies that ripped off consumers through false advertising, scam artists who targeted the elderly, environmental polluters, identity thieves, auto thieves and corrupt bail bond agents. Grant funding from the state fuels most of our Economic Crimes prosecutions and our outstanding results have led to merit based increases in grant funding to our Office.
I received the following letter from a dentist in Palo Alto:
“This is a short note extending our appreciation to your department for the excellent work and service Deputy District Attorney Victor Chen provided our dental office …following our discovery of fraud. In May 2013, we learned that our long-time bookkeeper, Ms. Mary Dindic, was committing credit card fraud and forgery …
DDA Chen treated our embezzlement like a million dollar case. Quite frankly, we were surprised to see the amount of attention our situation received ... He was thorough in his assimilation of the reports and binders of evidence we provided. He did not miss a single important detail …
DDA Chen sent a strong message that economic crimes are not tolerated in Santa Clara County … regardless of the dollar amount involved. It is encouraging to know that there are district attorneys of Mr. Chen’s caliber devoting their careers to protecting the public. All in all, this has been the best possible outcome from our unfortunate situation and we are indebted to Mr. Chen for his outstanding efforts on our behalf.”
Our District Attorney Crime Laboratory got after it and worked over 2,300 Major Cases, 5,800 Controlled Substances Cases, and 17,600 Toxicology Cases.
In addition, the Crime Lab added a fully functional and accredited Trace Evidence Unit, one of only three in California and the only one in the Bay Area. Lastly, the purchase of robotic instruments helped increase the number of DNA cases worked to 964, and resulted in 313 DNA hits which is the most in one year. 75% of the DNA hits were for property crimes and 25% were for violent crimes including robbery, rape and murder.
The Homicide Team got after it, and got it done
Eleven trials. Eleven guilty verdicts. Chris Walsh successfully prosecuted the cold case rape and murder of a teenager that occurred in 1983.
On call homicide prosecutors responded on many occasions to murders, in-custody deaths, and officer involved shootings. Two prosecutors deserve special commendation. Carolyn Powell responded to the fatal shooting of San Jose Police Officer Michael Johnson and Lindsey Walsh responded to the murder of jail inmate Michael Tyree. Both Carolyn and Lindsey worked tirelessly and effectively on these investigations. Thank you.
The Gang Team always gets after it, and 2015 was no exception.
The Team logged 269 days in trial and completed 10 jury trials, all resulting in guilty verdicts. Of particular note, Kin Tong convicted the shot caller of the Brown Pride Kings, and sent him to prison for decades.
In November and December, Sandip Patel took back-to-back cases to the Grand Jury. In the first, the Grand Jury indicted 21 members of a violent Oakland street gang for sophisticated auto burglaries all over the Bay Area, trying to run over a Santa Clara police officer trying to arrest them, and robbing a TV news crew. In the second, the Grand Jury indicted 29 gangsters for burglarizing homes in San Jose, Union City and Hillsborough. We received several emails from local residents thanking Sandip and all the law enforcement officers for stopping these gangster burglars, including this one from Ms. Olga Vazquez,
“Thank you to all the law enforcement units that participate in the arrest of these criminals … your efforts, your work, dedication and commitment in keeping citizens safe and secure, is appreciated.”
Amir Alem got after it, followed up on an intuition, and quickly figured out that a man police arrested for a gang shooting was in fact, not the shooter, and got him released from jail. Amir reviewed hours and hours of witness interviews and video footage. Credit also goes to Gang Sudda Lance Daugherty and Gang ADA Scott Tsui for giving Amir the time and space to follow up on his intuition. Amir’s exemplary actions earned a challenge coin from me and praise from Raj Jayadev of Silicon Valley De-Bug, who said, “The fact that he acted on it with the same urgency as prosecutors apply to pursue a conviction is exactly what we want.”
Helping crime victims heal is an important component of getting after it.
In 2015, we brought Victim Services in-house, within the District Attorney’s Office. Since embedding victim advocates into the trial teams they support, we have recorded a 55% increase in new victims served per month and an increase of 250% in all services provided to crime victims compared to the previous year. Moreover, Kasey Halcon, head of our Victim Services Unit, was elected Statewide President of Victim Services Units.
Justice, justice, shall you pursue. The word “Justice” is repeated because “Justice” is multi-faceted. Justice is holding defendants accountable. Justice is also helping crime victims recover. Often, holding defendants accountable helps crime victims recover, but not always. Many times, defendants and victims are on parallel justice tracks. We must prosecute defendants and bring healing to their victims in order to have true and complete justice for our community.
As we have seen, there are many ways to vigorously pursue justice, to get after it.
Holding guilty defendants accountable, is getting after it. Exonerating innocent individuals, is getting after it. Helping crime victims put their lives back together, is getting after it. However, justice in all its forms does not happen, without vigorous pursuit, without getting after it.
Teddy Roosevelt, whose life exemplified getting after it, said
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
TR also observed that, “the best life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” All of us here are lucky to have this precious opportunity to vigorously pursue justice.
Justice, justice, let’s get after it, and get it.