Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: Richmond Police Department

Why I’m Running For DA

My friends’ first question is not why am I running for DA. The first question is “have you lost your mind?”  No, I have not lost my mind.  I know who I am and I know why I’m running.  So here it is.

No Police Accountability

Exhibit ACourt-Appointed-Investigators-Report-on-City-of Oakland’s Response to Allegations of Officer Sexual Misconduct.  This scathing report exposes the total lack of accountability we have in Alameda County for police misconduct. It is particularly disturbing because OPD is under a consent decree that requires the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Commander to inform the DA of possible criminal conduct by officers. Yet, neither the City Attorney nor the District Attorney have taken any responsibility to enforce this provision of the Consent Decree. This persistent problem has cost our City millions of dollars.

Our DA says she had no knowledge of the investigation of police sexual exploitation going on right under her nose. The Court’s report verifies this claim. Nancy O’Malley had no idea that sex trafficking by the police was happening in Alameda County. It has been reported that two investigators in her office were part of the problem. She says she was completely unaware of the ongoing investigation until she read about it in the newspaper. To me, that is a gross dereliction of duty on her part.

When Officer Brendan O’Brien killed himself in September 2015 and left a note, he was still under suspicion of killing his wife. The question is why the DA did not ask “what’s in the suicide note?

Courtesy: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

The Court report leaves no doubt that various members of OPD, certainly including former Chief Sean Whent, the Internal Affairs Division and CID Commanders engaged in obstruction of justice. When asked if she intended to investigate anyone for obstruction of justice, DA O’Malley said flatly “no.” Surely, this is why OPD felt completely comfortable covering up these crimes. There simply is no history of accountability for police officers in Alameda County.

“Is this because I was little?”

The Court finds that OPD did not properly investigate because of “an implicit but evident bias against the victim.” The report says “put simply, CID and IAD wrote off this victim.” Regrettably, I observed a similar bias in the DA’s response. While our County’s female leaders did not come right out and blame the victim, no one acted like they gave a damn about Jasmine. It was as if her exploitation was not taken seriously. Ultimately, the DA left Jasmine to languish in a Florida jail for 17 days.

Sept. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

When DA O’Malley famously announced “I would charge these officers but I don’t have a witness,” Jasmine was facing a felony and 15 years in prison. She was tricked into going to Florida in the first place by the Richmond Police Department.

The fact is the Richmond police sent DA O’Malley’s star witness across the country. Richmond PD placed Jasmine in a situation where she was held against her will, assaulted and arrested because she wanted to come home.  If I were the DA, I would absolutely demand a thorough investigation of possible witness tampering. I would absolutely do everything in my power to hold whomever sent my witness to Florida accountable. More importantly, I would do everything in my power to bring her home. The same bias that OPD exhibited was obvious in the DA’s response to Jasmine’s incarceration in Florida – they wrote her off.

No Criminal Justice Reform

In 2014, Proposition 47 passed in Alameda County by almost 74% of the voters. We recognize that we cannot solve our problems by locking everyone up. DA O’Malley vigorously opposed Proposition 47.  She called it “a frightening fraud with irrevocable and far-reaching consequences.” How can we expect her to implement legislation she considers “a frightening fraud?”

In 2012, California voters passed realignment legislation to reduce the numbers of people in prisons and bring them home. The measure, Proposition 36, passed in Alameda County with 78.6% of the vote.  Yet, in 2016, DA O’Malley proposed to spend only $1.72 million of her $73 million budget on re-entry services.

In 2015, the DA’s office prosecuted almost 41,000 adults and 1001 juveniles.  Ninety-three percent (93%) of the adult cases reviewed for charging resulted in some type of prosecution. So, if you get arrested in Alameda County, there is a 93% chance that you will be prosecuted for something. In contrast, Homeless Court meets six times a year and helps about 300 people a year.

The vast majority of the prosecutions (59% – almost 29,000 cases) were for misdemeanor crimes. The misdemeanor numbers include thousands of women arrested for prostitution. In 2015, the Safety Net Program – a program to create a safety plan for at-risk and high-risk victims of commercial sexual exploitation – only reviewed 83 cases.

The New Jim Crow in Alameda County

In 2015, almost 1500 juvenile cases were presented to the DA. Of those 1,001 (67%) resulted in prosecutions. Felony arrests of African-American kids were a startling rate of 25 per 1,000 compared to 2.3 per 1,000 for White kids. Only 112 kids were referred to a restorative justice program. Only 80 kids participated in our Collaborative Mental Health Court. In 2014, Alameda was one of only 9 counties in the State where the DA only charged Black or Latino kids as adults. “The New Jim Crow” is alive and well in Alameda County.

Why We Have to Make A Change

We have got to change the picture of justice in Alameda County. The days when the DA can “talk the talk” and not “walk the walk” have to be over. As Adam Foss says, we need prosecutors who want to change lives, not ruin them. We need better public safety outcomes. Alameda County has the 4th highest homicide rate for young people (ages 10-24) in the State. Whatever she’s doing is not working.

Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions are about sending folks back to jail.  Since 2012, we have rejected that approach in Alameda County. We want to bring people home and rebuild families and restore our community. We want to end the horrendous racial divide that has infected our judicial system. We want to treat and teach our kids how to be kids. That’s how we need to spend our money – by investing in our people. We need Justice Done Right in Alameda County.

Prosecutorial Accountability In Action

Prosecutorial Accountability In Action

A cultural shift is happening across the country.

On Wednesday, June 14, Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson pled guilty to one felony and resigned.  Many of us started calling for his resignation and prosecution in January. It only took six (6) months for it to become reality.  Prosecutorial accountability in action!

Why Peterson Had to Go

In May, a civil grand jury recommended that Peterson be removed from office.  The grand jury relied upon the fact that Peterson misappropriated tens of thousands of dollars in campaign money.  But, Peterson has done more than steal $66,000 over the last five years. Peterson represented an old way of thinking about criminal justice that is not in line with the people who live in Contra Costa County.

Mark Peterson advocated against criminal justice reform at every turn. Voters in Contra Costa County voted overwhelmingly in favor of Prop. 36, Prop. 47 and Prop. 57. These bills all helped relieve the overburdened California prison system.  In 2012, Peterson opposed Prop. 36, which reformed California’s draconian three-strikes law. He told the Mercury News that the 3 Strikes law “gives prosecutors a powerful bargaining position.” He also opposed Prop. 47 and Prop. 57.

Peterson is both ignorant and dismissive of the structural racial inequities in the criminal justice system.  After the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson for murdering Michael Brown in Ferguson, Peterson wrote “All Lives Matter,” and argued that “crimes are perpetrated disproportionately by poor people of color.

As the District Attorney, Peterson decided to charge Black children in Contra Costa County as adults 12 times more often than white kids. While African Americans make up 9.6 percent of the total county population, they represent 41 percent of the juvenile probation population. Peterson regularly overcharged and prosecuted Black, Latino and poor women for petty theft crimes while excusing his own felonious conduct.

The Flip Side of Unequal Justice

While Peterson has showed a disdain for the people he represents and serves, he has shown favoritism to bad actors in law enforcement. He conducted the most perfunctory investigation of the Richmond police officers who were allegedly complicit in a massive sex trafficking ring.  He initially refused to prosecute any of them.

Peterson turned a blind eye to the community’s concerns about sexual exploitation and obstruction of justice. The Richmond Police Department initially denied and later admitted that it arranged to transport the 19-year-old survivor-victim witness to Florida.  Once there, she was promptly arrested, charged with a felony and incarcerated facing a possible 15-year sentence under extremely dubious circumstances.  Peterson’s office made no effort to assist me in securing her release from jail or returning her to California.

Peterson’s 2014 investigation of the murder of Richard “Pedie” Perez, an unarmed man shot by Richmond Police Officer Wally Jensen, was so flawed that the family and much of the community remains outraged that a murderer may have gotten away. There is compelling evidence that Officer Jensen initiated a physical confrontation by repeatedly tackling Pedie. Pedie was unarmed and intoxicated. After tackling Pedie, Jensen backed up, pulled his gun and shot Pedie three times, killing him.

Peterson also refused to investigate whether the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) was defrauded in connection with a $1.6 billion school construction bond program. There is compelling evidence that the WCCUSD provided contractor SGI with rent-free office space, a 10 percent markup on general contracting reimbursements and reimbursement for office furnishings, supplies and cellular service. An investigation also found that SGI received substantial increases in pay, averaging 69 percent, when 10 or 20 percent would have been reasonable.

The Michael Gressett Scandal

In 2015, Peterson rehired his friend and supporter, Deputy DA Michael Gressett. In 2008, Gressett was charged with a violent sexual assault against a female co-worker involving an ice pick and a handgun. Eventually, Contra Costa County paid $450,000 to settle the victim’s civil case for rape. She accused Gressett of sodomy and false imprisonment. The criminal case against Gressett was dismissed on a technicality. Later, the Attorney General’s office decided not to refile the criminal case because the victim had moved to Florida and refused to return to California to testify against Gressett.

How The Community Brought Him Down

Peterson’s downfall was the culmination of months of organizing and a community that “woke up.” Citizens, everyday people became aware of his actions and rejected his reasoning. First it was activists holding a public trial in front of his office in January. Peterson was “found guilty” on a 7-count indictment. To his credit, County Supervisor John Gioia stood up to represent the interests of his community and called for Peterson’s resignation.

Then it was the civil grand jury recommending his removal. Next, it was a vote of no-confidence by the prosecutors’ union. Local editorial boards called for his resignation. Most people were absolutely appalled by the fact that Peterson intended to run for re-election.

Peterson’s resignation is a victory for the people of Contra Costa County. The community found its voice and used its voice to reject lawlessness by its chief law enforcement officer.  Peterson’s prosecution proves that law enforcement officials can be held accountable under the law.  All it takes is a will to look, speak up and act out! #Stay Tuned & StayWoke.

 

The Jasmine Freedom Trust Fund

JASMINE.V2Since May 2016, the citizens of the Bay Area have been shocked and appalled by revelations of the abuse of power by Bay Area police officers.  The accused officers are in 6 different law enforcement agencies.  The central figure caught in the eye of the storm is a teenage girl.  She says that she has worked in the Bay Area’s commercial sexual exploitation marketplace since she was 12.

On September 1, 2016, we learned that this young victim had been shipped to a so-called “rehab” facility in Florida where she was promptly arrested, charged with a felony and carted off to jail.

Three horrifying truths have emerged in this crisis of corruption: (1) her sexual exploitation was cultivated, condoned and encouraged by law enforcement officials; (2) she is not the only child caught up in the Bay Area’s network of police sexual predators; and (3) her swift transformation from rape victim to felony assailant sends a clear message to all commercially sexually exploited youth in the Bay Area that you best not say anything to anybody.

Say Goodbye to “Celeste Guap”

For months, the teenage girl who was raped and exploited by police officers was the highlight of the news.  “Celeste Guap” was everywhere – from CNN to Youtube.  Some reporters demanded answers from police officials and focused on the lack of accountability and the pervasiveness of the problem.  Others elevated “Celeste Guap” to a Kardashian-like celebrity status.  Almost every interviewer seemed to ignore the obvious facts that she was a victim who was robbed of her childhood and that she needed a lawyer bad.  The obvious came crashing into everyone’s reality with her arrest in Florida.  While some of us were standing in front of the Richmond Police Department demanding transparency and accountability in her case, her carefully orchestrated transition from victim to felon had already taken place.  As part of her criminalization, her real name, Jasmine, was revealed as well as her home address, details about her medical treatment, her arrest and her transport to the jailhouse with her hands and feet shackled together in a hobble, a device that ties a suspect’s hands to their legs.

Was It A Set-Up?

Even before the proverbial SH– hit the fan, no one in law enforcement was taking responsibility for “the brilliant idea” to send 19-year-old Jasmine to Florida for “rehab.”  The Richmond Police Department has denied any involvement in sending her to Florida.  The Alameda County District Attorney’s office responded to inquiries with a “no comment.”  The story out of Florida is that Jasmine, at 5 feet, 130 pounds, was being subdued by two security workers, both of whom are described as 6 feet tall and one weighing 230 pounds, and the other at 240 pounds.  The 6 foot, 230 pound security officer is identified as the victim of the aggravated battery felony charge.  His injury is a bite on the arm.  Jasmine was taken from the alleged rehab facility where she was allegedly detoxifying from heroin to jail, where she has been since August 29th.  She has no family there or any ties to Florida, or any reason to be there, other than someone in Bay Area law enforcement thought it would be a good idea for her to go there.  It will be very interesting to learn who persuaded Jasmine that this was a good idea and what law enforcement agency that person actually works for.

The Bracelet Freedom Fund

     BRACELET IMAGEIn 2009, Attorney Charles Bonner published a novel called The Bracelet.  It is based on a case he handled where at least four young women were kidnapped and held as sex slaves in Syracuse, New York.  The case and the story highlights the pervasiveness of sex trafficking in our country and around the world.  Jasmine has hired Attorney Charles Bonner to represent her.  Attorney Bonner insists that I assist him with the case.  Together, we have set up a freedom trust fund for Jasmine’s legal and medical expenses, and to assist any other commercially sexually exploited youth who have been preyed upon by the police or other traffickers.  We know that Jasmine is not the only one.  We know that her tragic story is not unique or unusual.  Indeed, as a former foster child who walked away from an obviously dysfunctional system, I can truly say “there for the grace of God go I!”

And so my heart bleeds for this child.  If your heart is touched by her ordeal, please go to the Jasmine Freedom Trust Fund and donate whatever you can for her rescue, recovery and redemption.  Help us send a message to the other victims who are still trapped and living in a nightmare of fear, addiction and exploitation that we really will not tolerate sex trafficking in our backyard.  Thank you.

The Jasmine Freedom Trust Fund is established and administered under the non-profit Bracelet Charitable Freedom Fund.  All donations are tax-deductible.

A Crisis of Corruption – Call to Action

A Crisis of Corruption – Call to Action

A broad coalition of local and state advocates are calling upon Governor Jerry Brown to issue an Executive Order directing Attorney General Kamala Harris to take jurisdiction and control over the investigations of all allegations arising out of the involvement of any member of a law enforcement agency with the rape victim identified as Celeste Guap.   

Public Safety Requires Public Trust 

SEX TRAFFICKINGWe find ourselves in the midst of a crisis in public safety. The very police officers that are charged to protect and serve the public have been exposed as engaging in a conspiracy of sex trafficking. For 8 months, local law enforcement and public officials hid this scandalous behavior from the court-appointed monitor in Oakland and the public, while taking no real action against the officers who violated the public trust.  Even today – 11 months later – there has not been a single prosecution of anyone for any violations of law.  Officers who have resigned voluntarily remain uncharged.  Certainly the list of possible offenses include statutory rape, assault with intent to commit rape, obstruction of justice, interference with a police investigation, perjury, just to name a few.

 

We believe the reason for the apparent lack of accountability under the law and to the public trust is that our local officials have a conflict of interest. Every District Attorney’s office, every City Attorney’s office and every County Counsel’s office works closely with local law enforcement on a day-to-day basis.  To ask or expect these law enforcement agencies to diligently investigate and prosecute their partner law enforcement agencies is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.  

The Call to Action

On September 1, 2016, we will issue a call to action to Governor Jerry Brown.  We believe that the alleged conduct of these law enforcement officers involves an abuse of power and a violation of the public trust that is best addressed by a single and independent law enforcement agency rather than each local law enforcement agency. Six different law enforcement agencies have been implicated to date.  What appears to a lack of communication between Oakland officials and other local law enforcement agencies is startling. It clearly suggests that our concerns about the human trafficking of our daughters, sons, sisters and brothers across county lines in the Bay Area are not being taken seriously.

 

Let us be clear that we understand that “Celeste Guap” is not the only victim of this type of police abuse, and we are not calling for increased criminalization of minors, women or men identified as sex workers in our communities. We understand and appreciate that minors and women engaged in sex work in our communities are extremely vulnerable to the abuse of power by our law enforcement agencies and that “blaming the victim” is not an appropriate response to our crisis.

 

We believe that upon direction by the Governor of California, our Attorney General has the authority to investigate, manage, interpret, prosecute or inquire about any alleged incidents of sexual misconduct by law enforcement officers with “Celeste Guap.” We believe that the Attorney General’s independent investigation of this crisis in our communities is essential to restoring public trust in our law enforcement agencies. We believe that public trust is essential to public safety. We therefore call upon Governor Brown to exercise his authority under Article V, Section 13 of the California Constitution to ensure a comprehensive and independent coordinated investigation of these incidents.

The Signatories:

 

Attorney Pamela Y. Price, Political Education Chair, Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) Richmond/Contra Costa Chapter, Member Elect, Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee

Kathleen Sullivan, President, Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) Richmond/Contra Costa Chapter

Jerilyn Stapleton, President, California NOW

Cheryl Branch, President, CALIFIA NOW

Sarai Smith-Mazariegos, Co-Founder, MISSSEY, Founder, S.H.A.D.E. Project

Cat Brooks, Co-Founder, the Oakland Anti-Police Terror Project

Leigh Davenport, the Take Back Oakland Coalition

Freddye Davis, President, NAACP Hayward/South County Chapter

Kimberly Thomas Rapp, Executive Director, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area

Mike Katz-LaCabe, the Center for Human Rights and Privacy

Nola Brantley, Founder & Former Executive Director, MISSSEY

Ben Steinberg, Community Activist, Richmond California

Sign The Petition Calling for An Independent Investigation

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