Originally published May 24, 2018 at 12:20 pm
Billionaire George Soros is backing an admitted plagiarist in a district attorney’s race in northern California, funding campaign literature that describes her as a candidate of “integrity.” Hers is just one of multiple DA races in which Soros is trying influence the election’s outcome.
The Los Angeles Times reported Soros has dropped over $2.7 million in California DA races this election cycle, and since 2014 has spent more than $16 million in 17 county races in other states. His chosen candidates have won 13 of them.
“Wealthy donors are spending millions of dollars to back would-be prosecutors who want to reduce incarceration, crack down on police misconduct and revamp a bail system they contend unfairly imprisons poor people before trial,” according to The Times.
Soros has waded into the Contra Costa County DA’s race to the tune of $275,000 backing interim Democrat DA Diana Becton.
In addition to supporting Becton, the self-described philanthropist has intervened in the DA contests in San Diego County spending $1.5 million, according to San Diego Tribune, and Sacramento County with another $375,000, The Sacramento Bee is reporting.
Becton, 66, was chosen as Contra Costa County’s interim DA last September among five applicants to the position, in a narrow 3-2 vote by the county’s board of supervisors.
The choice by the board of supervisors came despite the revelation that the former judge plagiarized significant portions of her application and unlike other candidates, including Contra Costa County District Attorneys’ Association endorsed Paul Graves, has no prosecutorial experience.
Becton is the county’s first female and African American district attorney, which Soros made a top selling point in a recent mailer sent to voters throughout the county ahead of the June 5 election to decide who will take up the seat for a full term.
The piece describes Becton as someone with “experience, integrity, and progressive values.”
The East Bay Times reported in Becton’s plagiarized application to become interim DA that she “took more than 100 words from a widely publicized letter written by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, regarding criminal justice reform.”
She also cut and pasted portions from neighboring Alameda County’s District Attorney’s website regarding the issue of community development.
Do you think Soros is seeking to undermine traditional American values?
Other text came word-for-word from a March 1994 issue of Harvard Business Review. Even a direct quote from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech made it into her application, which read, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was an heir.”
In all, at least seven portions of her application were plagiarized from others’ words, which were chronicled in an anonymous letter sent to multiple media outlets.
Last September, Becton described her actions to the board of supervisors as a “mistake,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“I drew liberally from all kinds of sources because I wanted to lift certain issues up,” she said. “I recognize that I should have used quotation marks when I used words of other people, and I didn’t do that. I own the mistake.”
“That is the same kind of leadership and transparency and accountability that I will bring to the district attorney’s office,” Becton added.
The editorial board for the East Bay Times backed Graves over Becton earlier this month, citing her plagiarism, in part.
“It’s the sort of plagiarism that’s unacceptable from a high school student, much less the county’s most powerful law enforcement official. But, to this day, Becton still doesn’t fully comprehend what she did wrong,” the editors wrote.
Her “mistake” is surprising, given her experience as a judge, and being a law school and college gradate. The proper citation of sources is central to the legal craft.
Aron DeFerrari — president of Contra Costa County District Attorneys’ Association — told The Western Journal he thought Becton would no longer be under consideration for the position after admitting to plagiarism.
“There is no way they can appoint somebody who plagiarized her application,” he recalled thinking at the time.
His group had endorsed Graves for the appointment and is supporting his candidacy in the election.
Graves, a Republican, is a current Contra Costa County prosecutor, who oversaw the Homicide Unit and now oversees the Family Violence Unit.
“The biggest compliment you can pay a prosecutor is to call him a grinder,” said Deferrari, who serves with Graves in the DA’s office. “Paul is a straight up grinder. There is a reason for that. This job is important. This job takes a lot of time and effort. You don’t do this job well between 8:30 to five, four or five days a week.”
“Paul Graves has demonstrated that commitment to victims of crime and he’s done so for the last 22 years,” DeFerrari added. “He is the only candidate in this election that has done that. It’s how he has earned the respect and support of every law enforcement agency in this County.”
According to his website, Graves is endorsed by over a dozen police officers’ organizations, as well as a plethora of local officials, from city council members to multiple judges.
Paul Graves Speaks Out Against George Soros Trying to Buy Contra Costa District Attorney’s Race http://eastcountytoday.net/paul-graves-speaks-out-against-george-soros-trying-to-buy-contra-costa-district-attorneys-race/ …
Becton puts Sen. Harris at the top of her endorsements list followed by various Democratic members of Congress, mayors, government and non-government labor unions, and city council members, but support from the law enforcement community is all but absent.
DeFerrari told The Journal there is a reason law enforcement groups are backing Graves over Becton.
“Her actions and her lack of commitment to this job, from the moment she submitted her application to the place we are standing today, have not earned our respect as criminal prosecutors,” said DeFarrari. “This job requires absolute commitment to fighting for victims of crime each and every day and not just Monday through Friday.”
A review of Becton’s calendar obtained by a public records request by a Graves supporter shows the interim DA spent a substantial amount of time away from the office during her first six months in office, particularly for someone with no prosecutorial experience.
Just weeks after being sworn in as DA in late September, Becton traveled to Atlanta for a National Association of Women Judges convention, missing three work days.
She then traveled from there to Virginia for the Women in Power and Politics event the following week. In late October, the former judge went to an event at Stanford University. In November, Becton was out of the office for two days to participate in a “Fair and Just Prosecution” event focused on rolling back the “tough on crime” approach to law enforcement.
In a statement endorsing Becton, the Soros aligned Real Justice PAC indicated this will be top priority of the candidate.
“If elected she will make history as the prosecutor who took on mass incarceration by pushing through much needed bail reform, restorative justice programs, and an end to racial disparities in charging and sentencing,” said the group’s co-founder Shaun King.
The DA took vacation from Nov. 23 – 30, as well as Dec. 26 and Dec. 29 to Jan. 2, 2018, missing another six work days.
A review of the key card access to the Contra Costa Country DA office, also obtained through a public records request, showed that Becton did not come to her office a single weekend during her first six months in office from Oct. 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.
However, Graves was in the office over a dozen weekend days. Paul Thompson, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County, noted it is common for prosecutors to work weekends in the lead up to a trial.
“If we’re in trial, which happens for the typical trial attorney 6-15 weeks out of the year…weekly work hours double, meaning that we’re working nights and weekends,” he said.
Scott Alonso, the Public Information Officer for the Contra Costa County DA’s office told The Western Journal just because Becton is not physically in the office, it does not mean she is not working.
“She works long hours inside the office and outside the office,” he said. “With this type of work, she’s on call 24-7. She’s in constant daily communication with her attorneys and with members of her leadership team.”
DeFerrari fears Becton is more interested in the position than the work it entails.
“You want somebody who wants to do the job,” he said, “not just somebody who wants to have the job.”
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Candidates for the Contra Costa County District Attorney will speak from 6:00-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29 at Los Medanos College. The Candidates Forum, sponsored by the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley, will be held in the college’s Recital Hall, 2700 East Leland Road in Pittsburg.
Candidates Diana Becton, Paul Graves and Lawrence Strauss will give a brief opening statement followed by prepared questions from the Chamber and screened questions from the audience. Questions will focus on current issues, such as the management of the District Attorney’s Office, public safety, and concerns of the business community. Gail Murray, longtime League member and former Walnut Creek mayor and BART Board member, will be the moderator.
The meeting is open to the public, but reservations are requested at mypittsburgchamber.org.
The League of Women Voters and the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce are jointly sponsoring the event to inform and educate voters. Neither the nonpartisan League nor the Pittsburg Chamber is endorsing any candidate.
This Saturday is Clean Slate Day in Antioch that allows individuals to apply for and receive a reduction or dismissal of a prior conviction. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office and Antioch Police Department are co-hosting Saturday’s event.
The event is open to the public. Residents can register for Saturday through Code for America at www.clearmyrecord.org
“Clean Slate Day will help remove barriers for members of our community trying to get a fresh start. With this partnership, we are able to assist hundreds seeking legal assistance,” stated Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton. “Prior convictions can leave a lasting mark on an individual’s record and life. We must continue to seek opportunities to bring law enforcement and the legal community together with the community to ease tensions and clear old convictions.” Becton initially organized a Clean Slate Day in Richmond, California when she served as a Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge in 2016.
The Clean Slate Program operates throughout the entire year and is managed by the Public Defender’s Office. Individuals can contact the program at 925-335-8150 for questions about seeking Proposition 47 relief, record sealing, legal advice and dismissals of convictions. Residents can also register on an ongoing basis for the Clean Slate Program through Code for America at www.clearmyrecord.org.
“Far too many people face barriers in accessing employment, housing, and education because of a prior criminal record. Having one’s record expunged can have a transformative effect by making it easier for individuals to reintegrate back into their communities,” said Robin Lipetzky, Chief Public Defender. “Our Clean Slate team specializes in assisting people with clearing their records and giving them a second chance at life.”
This is the first event co-hosted with a law enforcement agency. Clean Slate Day starts at 10:00 a.m. and ends at 2:00 p.m. at Antioch Middle School.
“This event helps our community heal and thrive,” conveyed Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks. “We must work to reduce recidivism and assist individuals in navigating the criminal justice system.”
Other community partners offering services on Saturday will include the following organizations: Bay Area Legal Aid, Rubicon Programs, Contra Costa Reentry Network, and the Safe Return Project.
By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office
The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office announced today that Patrick Morseman of Vallejo was charged with four felonies for unlawful sex acts involving two inmates at the West County Detention Facility. Morseman was a Deputy with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office and was assigned to the West County Detention Facility on the date the incidents occurred.
Morseman’s charges are specified penal code violations for sexual activity with a detainee in a jail. Morseman is charged with having unlawful oral copulation and sexual intercourse with the inmates in a jail cell during his shift on March 31.
Morseman was initially arrested by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office on April 4 and released on $100,000 bail. The District Attorney’s Office requested that bail be set at $200,000.
Pursuant to state law, the identities of the victims will not be released as this is a sex crimes case. The victims in this case were offered victim assistance services by the District Attorney’s Office.
Morseman is facing a possible maximum sentence of five years in state prison. Arraignment is scheduled for a later date.
Case Information: People v. Morseman, Docket Number 02-327516-7
Also charged with attempted lewd acts with a child and online enticement of a child
On Friday April 20, 2018, Andrew Lund, a 36-year-old Vallejo elementary school teacher, was formally charged by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office with possession of child pornography, arranging to meet a minor for sex, enticing a minor online, sending harmful material to a minor and attempted lewd acts with a child.
Between April 7, 2018 and April 17, 2018, Lund communicated with an undercover police officer, believing he was talking with a 14-year-old girl. Lund sent harmful material to the undercover officer, with the intent that it be seen by a minor and made arrangements to meet the minor in Concord, California for sex.
On April 19, 2018, a search warrant was executed at Lund’s residence in Vallejo. Investigators seized electronics from his home, and after an initial review, determined at least one item contained child pornography. Lund was arrested during the service of the search warrant. Lund as booked at the Contra Costa County Detention Facility in Martinez and he is being held on $3 million bail.
Investigators immediately notified the administration at Glen Cove Elementary School. Additional electronic devices were seized from Lund’s classroom and office at the school pursuant to a search warrant. Lund currently serves as a teacher supervisor for the school and teaches two classes a day to fifth graders.
Lund will make his initial appearance in front of the Honorable Christopher Bowen on Monday April 23, 2018 at 8:45 a.m. in Martinez. Lund remains in the custody of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy District Attorney Jay Melaas is the lead prosecutor on behalf of the People in this case.
Lund has previously taught in Wisconsin, Glenn County (California), Shasta County, San Diego County and Solano County.
This investigation in ongoing and includes determining if Lund acted inappropriately towards any current or former students. Anyone with information can contact Senior Inspector Darryl Holcombe at 925-957-2263 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Information regarding Lund’s employment with the Vallejo City Unified School District can contact their administrative offices at 707-556-8921.
The investigation was conducted by a multi-agency Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is managed by the San Jose Police Department. In Contra Costa County, detectives and investigators from the Walnut Creek, Martinez, San Ramon, Concord and Moraga Police Departments, the Sheriff’s Office, Contra Costa County Probation Department and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office participate in the task force. Substantial assistance was provided by the Vallejo Police Department.
Parents are encouraged to discuss online safety with their children, and can visit the website www.kidsmartz.org for further information.
Case information: People v. Lund, Dockett Number 01-185460-3
Affects 56 workers at eight care homes in Walnut Creek and Concord
Last week, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office collected $1,153,695.88 on behalf of victims of wage theft at care homes in Contra Costa County. The defendants’ companies are Abraham/Sanchez Corporation and Abraham Rest Home Inc. The California Department of Industrial Relations will distribute the money to the victims. In total, 56 workers will benefit from this action and obtain these lost wages.
The defendants paid back all minimum wage and overtime amounts. The amounts were identified by the Department of Industrial Relations Audit pursuant to the defendants’ plea agreement. The recovery of these wages brings closure to a multi-agency investigative effort led by the District Attorney’s Office that included case agents and representatives from the Department of Industrial Relations Bureau of Field Enforcement and the California Department of Insurance.
The investigation began in 2012 and 2013 following complaints at the United States Department of Labor and California Department of Industrial Relations regarding labor practices at several care homes in Contra Costa County. In November of 2013, the Department of Industrial Relations and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office conducted a joint operation at eight care homes in Walnut Creek and Concord.
According to a 2014 claycord.com article, on Sept. 17, 2014, “A multi-agency task force led by Contra Costa District Attorney Mark A. Peterson served search warrants on four residential care homes today and arrested and filed charges against the owners of several other residential care homes based on previous and separate search warrants. Four owners and 19 homes were involved in the investigations.”
The District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges on September 15, 2014. On January 20, 2016, defendants Sara Abraham and Julio Sanchez pled no contest to wage theft in violation of California Penal Code section 487 and insurance premium fraud in violation of California Insurance Code section 11880. As part of the disposition, they agreed to pay back the employees the restitution that they owed and negotiated a jail sentence.
Employees with work-related questions or complaints may contact DIR’s Call Center in English or Spanish at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734).
Case information: People v. Abraham, et. al; Docket Number 05-152162-4
Allen Payton contributed to this report.
Contra Costa County Interim District Attorney Diana Becton signed her name to a supportive amicus brief supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The amicus brief, filed on March 20, 2018, is comprised of current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials across the United States.
“Dreamers are part of our diverse and vibrant community here in Contra Costa. We must continue to build trust with all residents. Losing DACA jeopardizes community policing efforts that are proven to be effective at solving cases and helping victims of violent crime. We need individuals from all backgrounds to feel secure and safe when working with law enforcement,” said Becton.
The amicus brief underscores how important immigrants are to the fabric of any neighborhood. The brief goes on to review the critical nature of law enforcement work is strengthened by a strong connection with the immigrant community. Further, immigrants may often fear reporting crimes or seeking assistance due to their legal status.
In California there are 196,670 DACA recipients, which is the largest number of recipients in the United States. According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are an estimated 11,000 eligible individuals for DACA in Contra Costa County.
The case is Regents of University of California, et al. v. United States Department of Homeland Security, et al. (Filed September 8, 2017, 3:17-cv-05211)
The full amicus brief is available here.
The Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorneys’ Association endorses Paul Graves for District Attorney. Delivering the news, Association President Aron DeFerrari noted “Paul has the experience and integrity Contra Costa deserves in its next District Attorney.”
Stephanie Kang, a DAs’ Association Board Member, noted “Paul Graves is exactly the type of person who should be leading the change and reforms Contra Costa needs. Paul Graves had the courage and leadership to stand up against Mark Peterson’s misconduct and run against him even though taking a stand risked Paul’s career.”
Lauren Whalen, another Association Board Member, and lifelong Contra Costa County resident, said “Paul’s actions put Contra Costa first and we know he’ll continue to do so as District Attorney.”
Steve Bolen, an Association Board Member noted “Our prosecutors are eager for change. We embrace the idea of a fresh start and the possibilities it offers. Most importantly, we care about the safety of the residents and communities we serve. We know Paul Graves puts public safety above politics, that’s what matters to us.”
The people of Contra Costa deserve an experienced, trusted prosecutor who can provide the leadership needed to keep our communities safe. Paul Graves alone offers both that experience and integrity. He should be Contra Costa’s next District Attorney.
Worked for former CA Attorney General Kamala Harris and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf
Interim Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton today, Friday, February 2, 2018 announced the hiring of Venus D. Johnson as Assistant District Attorney. Mrs. Johnson will help shape criminal justice policy for the office, in addition to overseeing the Family Violence Prosecution units, the Community Violence Reduction Unit, and the Homicide and Gang Units. Johnson will begin her new role on Monday.
Most recently, she served as the Director of Public Safety for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. In that role, she served as a policy advisor to the mayor and co-led the Oakland Police Department’s working group responsible for creating the curriculum and teaching the second phase of procedural justice training for all sworn and professional staff. Johnson also worked with the California Partnership for Safe Communities, the Oakland Police Department, and city and community leaders to support Ceasefire, Oakland’s data driven violence reduction strategy. She also worked closely with Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth to promote those principles within the city, school district and criminal justice system.
Previously, Johnson served as the Associate Attorney General for California Attorney General, Kamala Harris. She managed the Attorney General’s executive team and served as a senior legal and policy advisor, focusing particularly on criminal justice, law enforcement, the interplay of technology and privacy as it relates to law enforcement, police and community relations, and criminal prosecutions, as well as criminal appeals, habeas proceedings, and cert petitions. Prior to that, Johnson was a Deputy Attorney General in the Attorney General’s Office of Legislative Affairs. As an expert in criminal law, she represented the Attorney General’s Office on a wide variety of matters before the California Legislature. Her duties included assisting in the development of the Attorney General’s legislative agenda and advising legislative staff and committee consultants on the technical and policy implications of proposed legislation.
Johnson began her legal career as a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in January 2006. She spent eight years as a deputy district attorney prosecuting a wide variety of misdemeanor and felony cases. She served as a member of both the Child Sexual Assault Unit, and the Strike Team — a two-person team charged with handling Oakland’s most violent and repeat offenders. Johnson also served as a member of the Officer Involved Shooting Team.
Prior to her departure from Alameda County, Johnson worked in the DNA Cold Case Unit, a two-person unit responsible for investigating and prosecuting unsolved homicide and sexual assault cases with the use of modern DNA technology. The unit was also tasked with working with local law enforcement agencies throughout Alameda County to reduce the backlog of untested sexual assault kits.
Johnson earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Government from Loyola Marymount University in 2001, and her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 2005. She previously served as a member of the Board of Directors for Holy Names High School in Oakland and is a past president of the Charles Houston Bar Association. Appointed by former Attorney General Harris, she currently serves as a member of the California Commission on Access to Justice, a state commission responsible for developing solutions to improve access to civil justice for low and moderate-income Californians.
“I am honored to join the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office,” Johnson said. “As prosecutors, we are responsible for ensuring the safety of our communities, protecting victims of crime, and ensuring the scales of justice remain fair and balanced for everyone. I look forward to working side by side with local law enforcement and our community partners as we work toward creating safer communities and a more fair and just system.”