City Clerk, a Thorpe ally, provides copy of letter on day it’s due instead of only mailing it as she did three times, previously
“She was very accommodating, this time.” – Recall organizer Kathy Cabrera
160 days to collect 9,511 signatures of registered Antioch voters.
By Allen Payton
After being served with recall papers on Tuesday for abusing her position to benefit political ally, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, City Clerk Ellie Householder approved the petition for his recall in a letter to organizer Kathy Cabrera, today, Thursday, December 2, 2021. It was the 10th day since the fourth version of the petition was submitted, which is the legal limit. Unlike with her previous three letters rejecting Thorpe’s recall petition, this time Householder didn’t just send it by certified mail delaying the signature gathering by two more days, she also left a copy for the organizers at her office in City Hall. (See related articles here and here)
That allows signature gathering to begin, today. Organizers now have 160 days to collect 9,511 signatures of registered Antioch voters. Cabrera and Lindsey Amezcua, who is also helping lead the recall to remove Householder from the Antioch School Board, were the first to sign their names to Thorpe’s recall petition. Any registered voter in Antioch can sign the petition and help gather signatures. Approved Thorpe recall petition
What took the County Clerk two days to do for Householder’s recall from the school board, took her and the Thorpe recall organizers almost two months to complete. The petition for the mayor’s recall was first submitted to the city clerk on Oct. 11th. (See related articles here and here)
“She was very accommodating, this time,” Cabrera said about Householder.
“The recall of Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe is ready to move ahead into the signature gathering phase,” Cabrera stated. “Signature gathering events are planned for this Saturday and Sunday.”
“This is bigger than anyone’s own personal views,” she continued. “The group of proponents and supporters are committed and have begun collecting the 9,511 signatures required to put the recall of Lamar Thorpe on the ballot.”
“We will follow the recall process and let the Antioch citizens’ voices be heard,” Cabrera added. “We believe the residents of Antioch deserve better as too many good people in City Hall, Antioch residents and Antioch businesses are leaving under Mayor Thorpe’s tenure.”
The mayor had the opportunity to provide a response which would have been printed on each petition copy. But he chose not to. Efforts to reach Thorpe for comment were unsuccessful prior to publication time.
The recall organizers will hold their first official signing event during the annual Holiday Delites celebration in historic, downtown Rivertown on Saturday. Following is the schedule they provided for this weekend:
Saturday 12/4/21 10am to 5pm
Rivertown Treasure Chest on G Street
Sunday 12/5/21 10am to 2pm Bluerock Starbucks – This will be a drive-up signing event.
Please check back later for any updates to this report.Read More
Made threats against Jewish community; used online account name “Adolf Hitler”; had assault rifle, ammunition, camouflage fatigues and Nazi paraphernalia
By Bobbi Mauler, Executive Assistant, Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney
The Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton announced today that a jury has found Ross Farca of Concord, guilty of four felony charges and a misdemeanor hate crime relating to Farca’s June 4, 2019, possession of an assault weapon recovered after Facra posted anti-Semitic mass murder threats on an online gaming platform. (See related article)
“Ross Farca’s criminality disrupted the lives of countless members of the Jewish faith within our community,” Becton said. “Hate crimes and threats of this magnitude will not be tolerated.”
Farca used his account with the screen name “Adolf Hitler” and a reference to the 6 million people killed during the Holocaust and boasted he intended to copy another synagogue shooter and then kill responding law enforcement. During the search of Farca’s residence, Concord Police seized an assault rifle, along with 13 ammunition magazines, ammunition, camouflage fatigues, and Nazi paraphernalia.
In addition to the firearms and hate crime convictions, Farca was convicted of two counts of criminal threats made towards the lead investigating officer during the course of a follow up search of Farca’s residence on October 8, 2019.
“Mr. Farca is a serious danger to members of the Jewish faith,” said trial prosecutor Amber White. “I commend the quick investigative efforts of law enforcement to track the online activity back to Farca and thank the members of the jury for weighing the evidence and finding Mr. Farca responsible.”
Farca, at one time out on bail, was returned to custody where he remained for the duration of the case after the prosecution successfully argued Farca posed an ongoing threat to community safety. Now convicted, Farca is scheduled to be sentenced on December 29, 2021.Read More
“It was the best job in the world, helping people and solving problems.”– Jim Frazier
Currently serves most of East County
By Allen Payton
In addition to posting his letter of resignation, at 12:32 pm Wednesday, he tweeted, “It has been a joy and a privilege to represent District 11. I extend my sincerest appreciation to each of you. Thank you all.” Frazier posted a similar comment on his Facebook page, writing, “It has been a joy and a privilege to represent District 11. I extend my sincerest appreciation and love for an incredible 9 years of service. Thank you all.”
His announcement dispels the rumors that Frazier, who moved from Oakley to Fairfield a few years ago, would run for supervisor in Solano County, State Senate or Congress, if Rep. John Garamendi was going to retire. But the Assemblyman, was first elected to the Assembly in 2012 following his time on the Oakley City Council, could have served one more term, since members of the state legislature can only serve a total of 12 years in either the Assembly or State Senate or a combination of both, due to term limits in Proposition 28 passed by voters in 2012.
When reached for comment Frazier said, “it’s time to move on and I have a strong urge to get back into the transportation sector, pursue my passion, and help people achieve their goals in transportation.”
“It was the best job in the world, helping people and solving problems,” he continued. I’ve served for 14 years in public service. It’s time to move on.”
Asked about the rumors he might run for another office, Frazier laughed and said, “nobody asked me.”
The press release reads: Jim Frazier resignation ltr 12-02-21
“California State Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Fairfield) today announced his resignation from the California State Assembly, District 11, effective December 31, 2021. Mr. Frazier will be seeking new opportunities in the field of transportation.
Assemblymember Frazier said, “This is the best job that I have ever had. I have enjoyed serving the State of California and the 11th Assembly District and greatly appreciate the confidence that my constituents have shown in me over the last nine years. I am proud of the many successes that we achieved together. My future plans are to put to use my passion and experience in the transportation sector, explore new career opportunities and spend additional time with family and friends.”
Mr. Frazier was elected to the California State Assembly, District 11 in November of 2012. The 11th District encompasses portions of Solano, Contra Costa and Sacramento counties and includes the following cities, towns, and areas: Antioch, Bethel Island, Birds Landing, Brentwood, Byron, Collinsville, Discovery Bay, Fairfield, Isleton, Knightsen, Locke, Oakley, Pittsburg (partial), Rio Vista, Suisun City, Travis Air Force Base, Vacaville and Walnut Grove.
Assemblymember Frazier currently serves as Chair of the powerful Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, providing oversight of open meeting laws, Offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Controller, and State Treasurer, State holidays, seals, and official acts, emergency services, Outdoor Advertising Act (billboards), alcohol, gaming, horse racing, the State Lottery, and tobacco. He has been an advocate for enhanced unemployment and disability policy as chairman of Select Committee on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. As a key member of the Assembly Veteran’s Committee, he supported legislation to improve lives of veterans. Mr. Frazier oversaw and helped coordinate state public works activities while serving as the Assembly Speaker’s appointee to the State Public Works Board. Mr. Frazier previously served as chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, overseeing transportation infrastructure managing $2.3T in annual commerce, and promoting system improvements and job creation.
Additional key accomplishments:
- Delivered numerous improvements to transportation infrastructure across high-speed rail, highways, and public transportation, securing $30B in total transportation funding and $5.2B for highly impactful SB1 infrastructure project.
- Fostered legislation to obtain $1.2B in funding for special needs population, supporting and overseeing series of hearings throughout the State of California, evaluating the mission and effectiveness of relevant state agencies.
- Established reputation as champion for California Delta, serving as key member of Delta Protection Commission focused on protecting fish and wildlife, safeguarding farmers, and ensuring continuous environmental and economic viability of delta by promoting water conservation, improved water quality, and improved management of land use and development.
- Secured $12 million to remove abandoned and derelict commercial marine vessels throughout the Delta region through the 2021 State Budget.
- Secured funding for Special Olympics for 6 years, including $20M funding through the 2021 State Budget.
- Secured funding for Solano First 5 in the amount of $2 million to create a Fairfield First 5 Center through the 2021 State Budget.
- Secured $500,000 for East Contra Costa Fire Protection District’s training program.
- Authored legislation for a Veteran Designation of CA Driver’s License to recognize military service, resulting in hundreds of thousands of additional dollars for Veterans.
Mr. Frazier’s was recognized with many awards during his Assembly career. His accomplishments include (partial list): 2018, Legislator of the Year from the California State Commanders Veterans Council, 2017 California Transportation Foundation Elected Official of the Year, Director’s Special Recognition for Infrastructure Advocacy by American Society of Civil Engineers, 2016 Special Olympics Volunteer of the Year, 2016 AMVETS Legislator of the Year, 2015 Decoding Dyslexia: Assemblymember of the Year, 2015 California Transportation Foundation: Elected Official of the Year, 2015 Small Business Legislator of the year by California Small Business Association (CSBA) and California Small Business Roundtable (CSBR), 2015 CA Waterfowl Association, Grant Kenyon Award, Legislator of the Year, Appreciation Award: Sikh Communities of Napa and Solano Counties and Fairfield- Suisun Unified School District.
An avid supporter of non-profits, Mr. Frazier was a Founder and Vice President of the Friends of Oakley Community Foundation from 2007 until 2013. A dedicated volunteer, Mr. Frazier served on the Boys and Girls Club Advisory Board, a Board of Director member for Impact Teen Drivers and dearest to his heart, he has been a volunteer with Special Olympics since 2005.”Read More
Traci Austin allegedly aided in submission of more than 40 fraudulent tax returns and hosted “tax school” at which she taught prospective tax preparers how to compose fraudulent tax returns
Could face three years in prison and a $100,000 fine
By U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Northern California, U.S. Department of Justice
OAKLAND – A federal criminal complaint unsealed today charges Traci Austin with aiding and assisting in the preparation of fraudulent tax returns, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, and IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Mark H. Pearson.
The complaint describes Austin, 44, of Brentwood, CA, as the owner of a tax return preparation business called Emeryville Tax Services (“ETS”). According to the complaint, Austin prepared materially false and fraudulent tax returns for her clients by including false and/or inflated Schedule A expenses, false and/or inflated Schedule C income and expenses, and false dependents. By doing this, Austin fraudulently reduced her clients’ taxable income and tax liability, thereby resulting in larger refunds for the client and higher return preparation fee income for Austin. The investigation has revealed that Austin allegedly assisted in the preparation of at least 42 fraudulent tax returns and an estimated tax loss of well over $697,000 to the federal government.
In addition to the false and fraudulent tax return preparation scheme, the complaint also alleges that since 2016, Austin has hosted a “Tax School” through ETS and charged a fee of at least $200 for students to attend the tax school. According to the complaint, the goal of the tax school was to hire the attendees as preparers for ETS and prepare tax returns for ETS clients as well as the attendees’ own clients. During the tax school, Austin allegedly instructed prospective tax preparers how to fraudulently manipulate tax returns to generate the maximum tax refund, and thus the maximum tax preparation fee by listing fictitious side businesses under Schedule C and fake business expenses on Schedule A, for example, the complaint describes how Austin taught her students how she created a fictitious dog grooming business for a client, created a fictitious profit and loss statement for the fake business, and how she instructed the client to print out some photos of dogs to support the idea of her fictitious business.
Austin is charged with aiding and assisting in the preparation of false and fraudulent federal income tax returns, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2).
The charges in the complaint are merely allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
If convicted, Austin faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $100,000 fine; however, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Austin made her initial federal court appearance this morning before United States Magistrate Judge Kandis A. Westmore. Austin remains out of custody and her next scheduled appearance is at 10 a.m., on February 24, 2022, for a status conference before Magistrate Judge Westmore.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Abraham Fine is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Kay Konopaske and Helen Yee. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.
Only one proposed map to be presented by district staff, attorney and only one public hearing will be held; wards aren’t required to be equal in size, can have a 5% population deviation from average, so they can match the Supervisors’ new map; Trustees Walters, Sandoval committed to an independent redistricting body/commission during their 2020 campaigns; Sandoval will request it at Dec. 8 meeting; Board President Li offers to consider one after process is completed; deadline is Feb. 28, 2022
By Allen Payton
During their meeting on Nov. 10, the Contra Costa Community College District (4CD) Board of Trustees received a presentation about Ward Equalization Based on the 2020 Census. The process will begin during a public hearing at their Dec. 8 meeting, with one map presented by District staff and attorney, and must be completed by the end of February. However, there will be no online mapping tool for the public to use to submit proposed, alternative maps, like the Board of Supervisors and some cities like Antioch and Brentwood have offered. 111021-4CD Trustee Area Redistricting presentation
According to the 2020 Census, the population of the District is now 1,165,927 a growth of 116,902 since 2010. That results in an average ward population of 233,186. Ward 5 has experienced the greatest population growth in the previous decade and is now 7.1% over average. Although state education code requires the population of each ward be equal “as nearly as may be”, according to 4CD staff the wards can legally have a population deviation from one to the other as great as 10%, just like the Board of Supervisors are allowed. Their final map has a total deviation of 9.77%. (See related article)
The 2011 ward map splits a variety of cities, including Pinole in West County, Martinez and Concord in Central County, and Pittsburg, Antioch and Brentwood in East County. Concord, Pleasant Hill, Pacheco and portions of Martinez and Pittsburg are included in Ward 2 The map includes Clayton and portions of Antioch and Brentwood with Danville, San Ramon, Blackhawk and Camino Tassajara in the Ward 4. Alamo is included in Ward 2 with Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda, as well as Hercules, Rodeo and Crockett, and portions of Pinole and Martinez.
In which cities the current board members live will be taken into consideration. Ward 2 Trustee Dr. Judy Walters lives in Martinez, and Ward 5 Trustee Fernando Sandoval, a Pittsburg resident, were elected last year. Ward 1 Trustee and Richmond resident, John Marquez, Ward 3 Trustee Rebecca Barrett who also lives in Martinez and Ward 4 Trustee Andy Li, a San Ramon resident, are up for election, next year.
According to the staff report on the Nov. 10th presentation, “Pursuant to Education Code Section 5019.5, following each decennial federal census, and using population figures as validated by the Demographic Research Unit of the Department of Finance as a basis, the governing board of each school district or community college district in which trustee areas have been established, and in which each trustee is elected by the residents of the area the trustee represents, shall adjust the boundaries of any or all of the trustee areas of the district such that the population of each is, as nearly as may be, the same proportion of the total population of the district as each of the other areas. 4CD must update ward boundaries as needed to achieve this equalization by February 28, 2022. The attached presentation is informational and represents the first phase of this process.”
Since there was nothing mentioning the districts ward equalization process on the 4CD website, several questions were asked of Executive Vice Chancellor Mojdeh Mezhdizadeh, in charge of the redistricting process, and District PIO Timothy Leong.
Q. Will there be an online mapping tool for the public to use to submit proposed maps on the district’s website, as other agencies, including Contra Costa County and the Cities of Antioch and Brentwood, as well as the state are offering.?
A. The process you are referring to are related to municipality actions being done in compliance with the Fair Maps Act, which are to be followed when cities and counties address the redistricting challenge following the 2020 Census. Community college districts are governed by different legal standards, specifically Education Code section 5019.5.
That code also reads:
“(a)(1) The population of each area is, as nearly as may be, the same proportion of the total population of the district as the ratio that the number of governing board members elected from the area bears to the total number of members of the governing board.
(2) The population of each area is, as nearly as may be, the same proportion of the total population of the district as each of the other areas.
(b) The boundaries of the trustee areas shall be adjusted by the governing board of each school district or community college district, in accordance with subdivision (a), before the first day of March of the year following the year in which the results of each decennial census are released. If the governing board fails to adjust the boundaries before the first day of March of the year following the year in which the results of each decennial census are released, the county committee on school district organization shall do so before the 30th day of April of the same year.”
Q. Will there be a hearing schedule for the public to participate in the process?
A. A public hearing on redistricting will be scheduled at the Governing Board’s December 8, 2021, meeting, to obtain community input on the District’s draft redistricting recommendation. In addition, a proposed draft map will be shared and described at this meeting.
Q. The presentation during the Nov. 10th board meeting and the staff report reads, “4CD must update ward boundaries as needed to achieve this equalization by February 28, 2022” and the “presentation is informational and represents the first phase of this process.” What is that process going to beand when, please? When will the next board meeting be held? It doesn’t show on the Board Docs webpage.
A. The presentation at the November 10, 2021, Governing Board meeting, was the first phase of the redistricting process. Since that meeting, 4CD research staff, under the direction of legal counsel, have been analyzing the 2020 Census information and are finalizing a draft recommendation to adjust the five wards in order to meet the population balance and proportions as required by Education Code. This will be presented at the December 8, 2021, Governing Board meeting.
Q. Why doesn’t the board simply use the same map approved by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors? While I recognize there is a small portion of the county on the south end, east of San Ramon and Camino Tassajara is outside of the district. That would not change the deviation percentage much.
A. The development of supervisorial wards were done at a different time and separately from those of the 4CD trustees. The processes are also governed by different legal requirements. The College District is in the process of following applicable laws to meet the needs of its constituency.
Q. But why would that preclude the board from offering an online mapping tool for the public to use to submit proposed maps for consideration?
A. The opportunity for community input on 4CD’s redistricting process and proposal will be available during the Governing Board’s December 8, 2021, meeting. I understand you submitted a proposed redistricting map to the Board of Supervisors, and if you wish for our trustees to consider that map, I would recommend you submit it to Pat Kaya firstname.lastname@example.org December 3, 2021, so that it can be considered.
Q. Why will only one draft map be shared by staff at the Dec. 8 board meeting and not several alternatives?
A. Our recommendation to the Governing Board at the November 10, 2021, meeting, and based on past practice, was for staff to provide one map of a proposed adjustment to the ward boundaries. Trustees will have the opportunity to review the proposal at their December 8, 2021, meeting, and along with community input, can decide if it meets their approval or ask staff to make further adjustments to the proposal for review at their January 12, 2022, meeting.
Q. A very small portion of the county east of San Ramon and Camino Tassajara, is not in the 4CD, but is part of the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District. What is the population of the area of Contra Costa County not included in the district?
A. We are seeking the County’s assistance to determine the population of the county that is not covered within the 4CD service territory because we do not track that information.
Q. After reading that education code section, it appears school and college district boards must follow the same guideline as the U.S. House of Representatives in having equal population per district, with no 5% maximum deviation like the Board of Supervisors can have.
A. Legal counsel advises us that we do not follow the same standard as the House of Representatives. For example, school (districts) having a 10% and below deviation are presumptively balanced for legal purposes.
Q. In response Mezhdizadeh and Leong were asked, “does that mean a 5% deviation from average? If so, why can’t the maps created for the Board of Supervisors work for the college district?”
An additional question was sent:
Q. Referring to the code section they cited they were asked, why would that preclude the board from offering an online mapping tool for the public to use to submit proposed maps for consideration?
Two Trustees Committed to Independent Redistricting Body/Commission
During the 2020 election campaign, Ward 2 Trustee Dr. Walters said she would support an independent redistricting body to redraw districts, in response to a question from the League of Women Voters.
“After the 2020 Census is completed, districts will need to be redrawn in 2021. If elected, will you support an independent redistricting body to redraw districts? Why or why not?
Answer from Judy E. Walters: Yes, independent redistricting bodies have drawn impartial boundaries and avoid gerrymandering, or drawing district lines that benefit certain incumbent legislators and/or the political party in power.”
In response to the same question, Ward 5 Trustee Fernando Sandoval also gave his support for an independent redistricting commission.
“Answer from Fernando Sandoval: I will wholeheartedly support an independent redistricting commission to redraw districts for Contra Costa Community Colleges. Both the State of California and municipalities like the City of Berkeley and several others have passed measures to create commissions that are free of political influence. This, in turn, has ensured that the districts that are ultimately agreed upon are more representative of the communities of interest that reside there.”
Board Can Increase the Number of Trustees
That same code section also reads: “the authority to establish or abolish trustee areas, rearrange the boundaries of trustee areas, increase or decrease the number of members of the governing board, or adopt any method of electing governing board members may be exercised only as otherwise provided under this article.”
Q. Does that mean the college board can increase the number of trustees on the board and corresponding districts? If they choose to do so, does that need to occur during the redistricting process? What is the maximum number of trustees allowed on the board?
A. The Governing Board can decide to change the number of elected trustees at any time and does not have to coincide with this redistricting process. It is a completely separate topic from the post-census Redistricting process, which is the District’s main focus at this time in order to meet the February 28, 2022, deadline.
Questions for Trustees
In an email on Saturday afternoon, all five trustees were asked the following questions:
Will you support forming an independent redistricting commission of residents to assist you with the Ward Equalization, this year?
Will you also commit to basing the new boundaries on principles of:
- One person one vote with as little population deviation from one district to the other;
- Communities of Interest – such as keeping all the San Ramon Valley cities and communities together, and not including East County with the San Ramon Valley as the current Ward 4 does; and
- Splitting the larger cities, first, such as Concord, Antioch and Walnut Creek
If you choose to have ward populations with a deviation as much as 10%, recognizing a very small portion of the county is not in the college district, why not simply adopt the same map the Board of Supervisors adopted?
Would you support increasing the number of trustees and corresponding districts to seven, as the Las Positas-Chabot Community College District and Peralta Community College District have? Why or why not?
Finally, in which city do each of you live? Only President Li includes that he lives in San Ramon in his bio on the 4CD website Board page. Since that will be a consideration in redrawing the ward boundaries, that’s important for the public to know when giving input to you during the process.
Board President Li Responds
Only Board President Li responded to the Herald’s questions with the following:
“The Contra Costa Community College District (4CD) is working closely with legal counsel to ensure we administer a fair and impartial redistricting process following Education Code section 5019.5. Since 2020 Census data was released about 6 months later than usual, 4CD did not receive the final 2020 census data until the last week of September and we are required to complete our post-census redistricting process by February 28, 2022 as required by law.
4CD is following a process to re-draw ward boundaries to ensure population balance and proportion as stipulated in Education Code. Other considerations presented and discussed at the Governing Board’s November 10, 2021, meeting, included ensuring compliance with the federal voter rights act, compact and contiguous areas, respecting communities of interest as much as possible, and respecting incumbency.
The questions in your November 27, 2021, email refers to your interest in obtaining support for an independent redistricting body to redraw our ward boundaries that could be consistent with ward areas similar to those recently approved by the Board of Supervisors. This was not the direction we provided staff during our November 10, 2021, public meeting.
If there was interest by the trustees to pursue this idea to completely redraw our ward boundaries and other proposals such as increasing the number of trustees, the Governing Board would place this item on a future meeting agenda so the conversation could be done publicly, and it would take place after we have rebalanced our existing wards based on populations changes outlined in the 2020 Census.
Regarding the use of a public mapping tool, the Governing Board did not feel this it was necessary to rebalancing the population as required by Education Code 5019.5. If, after the completion of the redistricting work is completed, and the Governing Board chooses to pursue the idea to completely revamp our trustee wards, a mapping tool could also be considered.”
Since he didn’t answer some of the questions, Li was asked the following, again: “If you choose to have ward populations with a deviation as much as 10%, recognizing a very small portion of the county is not in the college district, why not simply adopt the same map the Board of Supervisors adopted? Would you support increasing the number of trustees and corresponding districts to seven, as the Las Positas-Chabot Community College District and Peralta Community College District have? Why or why not?”
Four Other Board Members Asked, Again
The other four board members were sent the same questions, again asking for each of them to respond. In addition, Walters and Sandoval were specifically asked, “why didn’t you propose appointing an independent citizens commission for redistricting as you committed during your campaigns, last year?”
Sandoval Responds, Commits to Requesting Independent Commission
“The board in open session has not had a discussion on redistricting, yet because we haven’t seen the data,” Sandoval said when reached for comment. “I want to ensure the public has the opportunity to weigh in on the process and the work that will be done by district staff. That’s part of the transparency we need to have for the process.”
“I will fulfill my commitment to ask for the independent redistricting commission,” he added. “Speaking on my own behalf, I will also ask for more transparency.”
Regarding expanding the board to seven members, Sandoval said, “that’s something for the board to discuss. It isn’t something I ran on in 2016 or 2020 and was elected to do. But I’m open to having that discussion. Having seven board members is a mixed bag for several different reasons. But we have to discuss it and let the public weigh in on it.
Minutes of the November 10th board meeting was not yet available on the 4CD website as of publication time. It has been requested of Leong, Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 1. Minutes of past meetings are only available in the agenda of the next meeting. The Dec. 8 board meeting agenda is not yet posted on the 4CD’s Board Docs website. The links to the archive of board meeting videos are also not easy to find. They’re available, here: https://www.4cd.edu/gb/videos.html.
To contact each of the trustees, please see their phone and email contact information, here.
Please check back later for updates to this report.Read More
One of three suspects, two still sought
By Bobbi Mauler, Executive Assistant, Contra Costa County District Attorney
Martinez – The Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton announced today that the District Attorney’s Office has charged Philander Raymel Walton Johnson age 30, in a four-count felony complaint with Robbery, Assault with a Deadly Weapon and two counts of Carjacking for Kidnapping. The charges stem from the November 24, 2021, crime spree which began at the Ace Hardware in Blackhawk and culminated in Johnson’s arrest in San Ramon.
According to Danville Police Chief Allan Shields, Johnson was one of three suspects involved in the crimes. (See 6:23 mark of video by Chief Shields).
“This brazen crime spree is a flagrant violation of community safety,” said District Attorney Diana Becton. “My office is working in a coordinated effort with law enforcement partners throughout the Bay Area to identify perpetrators of organized retail theft. Those who engage in such criminality will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office.”
Johnson and two unidentified individuals entered the Blackhawk Ace Hardware and attempted to flee with several power tools in hand. When confronted by store staff, Johnson brandished a knife and effectuated his escape. Separated from his accomplices, Johnson proceeded into a nearby parking lot and entered the car of an unwitting motorist. Johnson held the driver at knife point and commanded the victim drive him out of the immediate area.
Johnson arrived in San Ramon, abandoning the first carjacking victim to enter a second occupied vehicle. Johnson threatened the unwitting occupant to drive him away. Law enforcement in the area were able to observe the suspicious nature of the activity and conducted a traffic stop, assisting the victim driver and apprehending Johnson.
Johnson is pending adjudication of an unrelated shoplifting case which had previously been filed in August 2021. Johnson is in custody awaiting arraignment.
Case information: People vs Philander Johnson 01-197695-0Read More
By San Ramon Police Department
Over the holiday weekend, a very specific crime trend took place throughout the Bay Area, targeting elderly victims. Unfortunately, San Ramon was not exempt. Please take a moment to review the incidents outlined below and please, pass the information on to your friends and family as soon as possible. As always, if you see anything suspicious, call us immediately by dialing 9-1-1 or through our non-emergency line at 925-973-2779.
On Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 24), at roughly 3:30 pm, an elderly female was walking on S. Wedgewood Road near Mosaic Park when she was approached by two individuals in a white Mercedes-Benz SUV. The SUV was driven by a heavyset male (caucasian) in his 50s when a female in her mid/late 30’s (caucasian) spoke to the victim through the rear passenger window. After a short conversation, the suspect exited the vehicle and used a sleight-of-hand technique to remove the victim’s necklace and bracelets before getting back into the car and driving away.
Yesterday (Sunday, Nov. 28), at roughly 12:15 pm, an elderly female was walking along Cinnamon Ridge Road when she was approached by a female in her 30’s (Asian Indian with black hair in a ponytail). The female exited the passenger door of a newer model black BMW X3 SUV driven by an Asian-Indian male in his 30’s. During this incident, the suspect engaged the elderly victim in conversation. Again, a sleight-of-hand technique was used to remove the victim’s highly valuable watch from her wrist before the suspect got back into the vehicle and left the area.
As mentioned before, this crime trend was not specific to San Ramon. Multiple cities throughout the Bay Area had similar crimes occur over the holiday weekend. As you can see, although the suspect’s descriptions may be different, their theft methods are the same and were consistent with other thefts committed in Bay Area cities. Fortunately, there have been no injuries reported during these crimes.
Our concern is the specific targeting of elderly individuals wearing expensive jewelry and watches while out for walks by themselves. Detectives from our agency are actively pursuing investigative leads to identify those responsible for these crimes. In the meantime, please take a few moments and make sure this information is passed on to your family, friends, and loved ones. Please encourage them to walk/exercise with someone else, or if they do go out on their own, to leave their valuables at home during their daily exercise.
And always, call us immediately if you see anything suspicious!
The East County Diehards organization was established in 2012 in Oakley, Calif. The Diehards offer competitive travel softball and baseball for boys and girls. The East County Diehards are a 501c charitable organization, and donations are tax deductible.
The 12U Diehards are actively seeking corporate and individual sponsors and donations to help fund their dream of competing in Cooperstown, NY.
“We are extremely excited to compete in Cooperstown against some great teams from around the country,” said James Joachim, team manager, Diehards 12U. “Our boys are super-pumped to play in Cooperstown, home of the baseball hall of fame. We are incredibly appreciative of the very generous support we have already received.”
The Diehards 12U baseball team has its own Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/DieHards12U. You can donate directly to the Diehards 12U @ https://infoblox.benevity.org/community/fundraiser/44373. In addition, there will be several exciting events, including a Crab Feed on February 5, 2022, with the proceeds going to the Diehards Cooperstown fund.
To learn more about the Diehards organization, you can visit: https://eastcountydiehards.org.Read More
Male suspect back in custody as of Tuesday; female suspect out on bail; the other male suspect still in custody
The Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department revealed on Tuesday, Nov. 30 that, last week, they inadvertently released one of the suspects arrested for the organized retail theft at Nordstrom in Walnut Creek on Nov. 20. (See related article)
Sheriff David Livingston issued the following statement about it:
“On November 21, 2021, 32-year-old Joshua Underwood of San Francisco was booked into the Martinez Detention Facility (MDF) on charges that included robbery, conspiracy, and burglary. Due to a computer input error, Underwood was released on November 24, 2021. This afternoon, Underwood appeared in court for his arraignment. He was remanded into custody and is currently being held at MDF on the following charges: robbery, burglary, conspiracy, and organized retail theft. He is being held in lieu of $140,000 bail.”
Regarding one of the others who was arrested, on Monday, the Sheriff issued the following statement about the case:
“On November 21, Dana Dawson was booked on the following charges: robbery, conspiracy, felon in possession of a firearm, concealed weapon in her vehicle, burglary, possession of stolen property, and possession of burglary tools. The DA’s Office filed robbery, conspiracy and burglary charges. Dawson was eligible for bail which was set at $190,000. She posted bail and was released on November 25.”
An ABC7 News report provides more details about the mistake.
The current DA has been slow to respond to flash mob robberies, and once she responds, she’s ineffective. Given my 36 years of experience as a Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney, I know the District Attorney can do more. We need to implement these three steps immediately:
- Convene a Bay Area-wide law enforcement response to track and apprehend suspects
Contra Costa law enforcement agencies are partnered to provide mutual aid during emergency situations. This “mutual aid” concept should be employed throughout the Bay Area to strategically shut down access routes for potential retail targets to intervene and prevent crime before it happens.
The investigative and technological expertise of this team will:
- Identify the criminal syndicates who organize the smash-and-grab robberies
- Intercept the “chatter” on social media planning these events
- Share information between law enforcement agencies to quickly locate and arrest perpetrators
The ideal team to coordinate this activity is the DA/FBI Safe Streets Task Force, comprised of local, state, and federal task force agents who are partnered with prosecutors assigned to the Community Violence Reduction Unit (a unit that I created in the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office).
Given the violence involved and the value of the merchandise being stolen, the Task Force will collaborate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to charge qualifying cases under the Hobbs Act and prosecute them in federal court.
The criminal syndicates committing the smash-and-grab robberies, as well as strings of residential burglaries in Contra Costa, are mobile and active in surrounding counties. During the past four years, regional law enforcement agencies have done an impressive job of sharing information to identify the true scope of the criminality of these crews and to provide investigative support. The information supplied by this well-coordinated network provided me with the evidence required to file multiple counts following very significant organized retail theft and residential robberies. I worked with the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill Police Departments through the investigative challenges of the looting in 2020 and filed charges on a number of suspects. As District Attorney, I will continue to support this allied inter-county effort.
- Prevent the use of our freeways as crime corridors, deploy cameras
Organized shoplifting gangs have been using the regional freeway system to quickly move between targets in neighboring law enforcement jurisdictions. By the time an investigation starts at the first crime, the gang has moved on to loot another store in the next county.
Contra Costa’s Freeway Security Network has the technological capability to combat organized retail theft. The Allied Freeway Agencies have received additional funding for the Network and direction to develop a plan to augment and expand the Network county-wide in order to provide technological leads in preventing and investigating criminal syndicates involved in the violent organized retail theft.
I am proud to have originated the creation of this freeway camera system to combat freeway shootings. Since the network was installed, freeway shootings have been reduced by 90% in Contra Costa while remaining all too frequent in neighboring counties. I continue to work with law enforcement and elected leaders to propose that additional funding that Governor Newsom included in the state budget be used to incorporate additional technology to target organized retail theft into the Freeway Security Network.
- Disrupt the use of social media as a key enabler of looting
Organized retail theft would not exist without social media, which is the key element to planning and profiting from these crimes.
Looting is coordinated through social media
Social media platforms provide the means of communication which allows criminals to conspire to commit take-over robberies. These platforms are directly aiding and abetting the commission of large-scale crimes, which may result in criminal liability for the social media platforms. I will call on the social media platforms, as well as private communication platforms, to monitor and immediately report to law enforcement any communications planning a smash-and-grab robbery or the “fencing” of stolen property.
We must make it clear to technology companies that failure to monitor and report the coordination of criminal enterprise should not be a protected business activity and should instead be considered as aiding and abetting that crime.
Stolen goods are sold via online marketplaces
If a market for the merchandise that is being stolen did not exist, the criminal syndicates would have no motive to steal. While I am out talking with community members, most are surprised to learn that the merchandise that is stolen from CVS, Walgreens, Lululemon and the high-end retailers is often sold on the internet via OfferUp, LetGo, and the Facebook and Amazon Market Places.
As District Attorney, I will actively engage and educate our community members about the crime occurring in our county and ways we can work together to combat it, such as not buying merchandise off the internet that does not have a means of guaranteeing that it is not stolen merchandise. I will also work with retail stores to modify their return/exchange policies to ensure that they are not accepting the return of their own stolen merchandise.
About Mary Knox: Mary Knox was born and raised in Walnut Creek and has 36 years of experience advocating and fighting for victims, their families, and the larger community. She is a lead prosecutor in the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office, who has prosecuted and won high profile cases against some of the most notorious criminals in county history. She has broken the chokehold that criminal gangs have had on the most disadvantaged communities and has engaged in meaningful violence reduction by instituting effective strategies to reduce crime and prosecute violent criminals. Learn more about Mary at maryknox4da.com