Tuesday, September 05, 2006

They tried to tell you

Two letters to the editor, from the Arcata Eye, 2001

Gallegos is a phony

I am a Deputy District Attorney in the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office. I prosecute crimes against children. The views expressed below are my private ones, but obviously my role as a deputy d.a. is relevant here.

Terry Farmer has the whole-hearted support of every person in the District Attorney's office. He is physically, mentally and emotionally more than equal to the job, and his experience as well as judgment eclipse that of his young opponent.

The opponent's suggestion that the elected District Attorney should try cases shows that he does not understand the job, or how complex the office is. Do you hire Seiji Ozawa or Leonard Bernstein to conduct, or to play first violin? Anyone immersed a trial has no time to manage the office, and vice versa. It is impossible to do a good job as a trial lawyer and simultaneously run a complex office, and anyone serious about the job should know that.

Terry does a great job dealing with local, state and federal agencies, and in running the people who work here. And when he needs to, he does go to court. In fact, he goes farther afield than that. Recently he traveled to Vacaville Prison, attending a so-called "lifer" hearing, ensuring that the killer of a two year old girl stayed where he belonged.

The opponent has never been to a homicide scene and then watched the autopsy, drafted the search warrant, conducted a grand jury investigation, or attended weekly meetings with the police agencies of Humboldt County. He has never managed a budget as big as the District Attorney's Office budget. He has no understanding of how the office is funded, what grants we apply for, get and maintain to pay for people, technology and training. He has no relationship or experience with the numerous state, federal and local agencies the District Attorney works with, that support us and that we support. These are just a few of the things that go into the job of District Attorney, and this is the kind of experience Mr. Farmer has. The opponent does not.

The opponent's claim that he would go easy on marijuana growers is not thoughtful, and is not a promise he can keep. Remember the line from the Glenn Frye song – "You got to carry weapons, ‘cause you always carry cash"? Drug dealing means drug ripoffs. We had at least one such homicide last year. Juries are full of smart people, and when they see large amounts of cash, packaging materials, scales, records of who paid what, who owes what, and guns, they quickly figure out that it's not medical marijuana we go after-it's drug-dealing. Every dealer has a 215 card – they would be crazy not to; cards are easy to get; everyone knows that.

Whether they admit it or not, drug dealers put their neighbors at risk. Drug dealing kills, directly and indirectly. Cases are winnowed; many requests from police agencies are not prosecuted. But when the facts suggest dealing, even when the dealer tries to hide behind medical marijuana, the case goes to a jury. Of course, a lot of dealers plead guilty before trial.

Another thing – a 215 card is not a license to drive stoned, especially with kids in the car. Nor does it allow one to carry a little meth and a syringe. Or cash bad checks. Or shoplift. People who care about medical marijuana know that. Many of them, like the Humboldt Patient Resource Center, endorse Terry Farmer.

One of the public defenders buttonholed me in the courthouse hall and asked me what I thought of the race, and we discussed it:

• Paul's only criminal experience is as a defender, yes? Yes.

• If Paul is qualified at all then, it is as a defense lawyer, certainly more than as a prosecutor, yes? Yes.

• Would you hire Paul to be your boss, to be The Public Defender? (VERY STRONG NEGATIVE RESPONSE.)

• OK then, don't send him to be my boss since he's not even ready to be yours. (The defender in question is supporting Mr. Farmer.)

It is nice that the opponent wants to "give back" to his community. But it is bold for him to assert that he should start at the top. Even the boss's kid is supposed to start in the mail room and learn the business. Where the D.A. is concerned, that's good for Humboldt County.

Five years ago I started here as a Deputy DA level one (out of four, four being the highest). When I did I already had 18 years experience as a trial lawyer – seven as a prosecutor, including four as a homicide prosecutor investigating and prosecuting from the death scene, the autopsy, through trial, and then to arguing appeals in the state Supreme Court and ultimately in Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal. Then I spent 11 years as a defense lawyer and plaintiff's civil rights lawyer, doing mostly police misconduct cases. I have worked both sides of the street, and I can tell you there is a big difference. Another experienced lawyer was hired by Mr. Farmer a year after I was. He had 20 years experience, 10 as a deputy D.A.. in San Francisco, 10 as an assistant U. S. Attorney prosecuting drug cases. He too started at the bottom here. Everyone does. The opponent wants to start at the top. That's wrong, and it's not good for the people of this County.

The opponent claims he can "lead" the current deputies. He admits we are good at what we do, he says he respects us, he says we deserve civil service recognition, but he does not hear us when we endorse Mr. Farmer in this race. Most of the attorneys in the office have far more experience than the opponent does, in some cases as much as twice or even three times as much. One of us, Worth Dikeman, was chosen Prosecutor of the Year by the state's leading legal publication not long ago. Maggie Fleming was convicting killers of little girls when the opponent was barely out of law school. The office has specialized prosecutors for methamphetamine, domestic violence, juvenile justice, violence against women, child abuse, welfare fraud, to name a few. How can the opponent tell us how do to a job he has never done? Will he ask our advice? He is not listening to us now – is he supposed to be a better listener if he becomes our boss?

To make money, private lawyers pick and choose their cases, even dump clients after taking them on. The District Attorney has a broader responsibility to the community. In the public interest we must take and keep cases even when our witnesses and victims may be unsavory, or hard to understand, or unwilling to assist us. We can't just walk away when things get difficult, or expensive.

Mr.Gallegos has done just that, as described in the Eye. After taking the case, Mr. Gallegos had second thoughts about how tough it might be. Rather than carry the case, he decided the client should pay expenses. She could not, so he dropped her. That is not thinking like a public servant, even when the "public" is just one person.

The time will come for a new District Attorney. When it does, vote for one who knows the whole job, knows the County, knows the State. Pick one with the judgment, experience, and credibility to represent the County at all levels: in the office, in court, with local police, government, and business, with Sacramento, with the Federal government. Right now, that's Terry Farmer.

Andrew Isaac

Bring back the boss

We are the attorneys and investigators in the District Attorney's Office. We write to urge the reelection of District Attorney Terry Farmer.

We are proud of what we do and the reputation that we have. It didn't happen overnight and it didn't happen without Terry Farmer. Terry's opponent has no prosecutorial or administrative background. Despite this, he aspires to go from being one-half of a two-person office to head of the largest law firm in Humboldt County supervising those who experience dwarfs his own.

The enforcement of our criminal law is a serious business. Platitudes and sound bites are no substitute for results. Terry Farmer gets results. He is an innovative leader who has earned our respect and support. We urge you to vote for him on March 5.

Max Cardoza, Worth Dikeman, Rob Wade, Elizabeth Norton, Maggie Fleming, Jim Kucharek, Allen Woodworth, John Wright, Peter Martin, Gloria Albin, Allison Jackson, Eamon Fitzgerald, Wes Keat, Andrew Isaac, Nandor Vadas, Heather Gimie, Murat Ozgur, Frank Dunnick, Stacey Johnson, Paul Hagen, Jim Dawson, Eric Olson, Kathy Philp, Mike Losey, Chris Cook, Paul Blake, Scott Smith, Chris Andrews, Dave Rybarczyk, Dave Walker, Mike Stone

Humboldt County District Attorney's Office

(Anyone care to count how many of them are left? Probably on the fingers of one hand.)


  1. four Deputy DA's on the list left. and Dikeman can't be too long.

    it's a shame.

  2. Down to three. Dikeman fired.


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