TS - Dikeman shaping up to be law enforcement's DA

Dikeman shaping up to be law enforcement's DA

James Tressler The Times-Standard
Tuesday, December 23, 2003 -

EUREKA -- Worth Dikeman says he only wants to be Humboldt County district attorney if his boss, Paul Gallegos, is recalled in March.

But whether he really wants the job or not, it appears the veteran prosecutor is mounting a vigorous campaign, one that is already looking to get strong backing from the law enforcement community.

Several area law enforcement officials, both active and retired, showed up at Dikeman's campaign kickoff press conference at the Eureka Inn Monday.

"You wait and see -- law enforcement's going to get behind Dikeman," said Steve Knight, a lieutenant with the Sheriff's Department who said he was at the press conference strictly as a private citizen. "He's probably the best DA in this county."

Other law enforcement officials at Monday's press conference included detectives Dave Parris and Kevin Lawson with the Eureka Police Department, Deputy District Attorney Heather Gimle, retired District Attorney investigator Dave Walker and Paul Hagan, an environmental prosecutor with the District Attorney's Office.

In his speech, Dikeman reiterated much of what he already said when he filed last week. He touted his quarter century of experience as a prosecutor, and then reaffirmed his support for Gallegos. Dikeman said he's only running in the event that if Gallegos is recalled in the March election, someone whom he feels is qualified will be on the ballot as a successor.

"I'm that person," Dikeman said.

Dikeman added he will seek support from law enforcement, but declined to speculate on whether such actions would help or harm his boss.

Already the two largest law enforcement unions in the county, the Humboldt Deputy Sheriff's Organization and the Eureka Peace Officers Association, have publicly supported the recall. These unions criticize Gallegos as being "soft on crime," accusing him of mishandling several high-profile cases in his first year in office -- criticisms Gallegos has denounced.

Perhaps showing the shrewdness that has earned him nearly universal respect from law enforcement, Dikeman carefully stepped around questions regarding Gallegos' policies and focused his remarks on the need to have a viable back-up candidate should the recall succeed.

For instance, Dikeman declined to comment on how he would handle the district attorney's controversial lawsuit against Pacific Lumber Co., saying the matter is before the court and he doesn't want to say anything that would jeopardize the case. Dikeman was equally reticent when asked his opinion of Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen, whose association with cult figure Jim Jones in the 1970s, as well as his recent short-lived run for U.S. Senate, made him a favorite target of recall supporters.

"He's the assistant district attorney -- and he's my boss," Dikeman said.

Another reporter asked Dikeman to assess Gloria Albin Sheets, a former prosecutor who was laid off from the District Attorney's Office earlier this year and who is running against Gallegos.

Dikeman described Albin Sheets, with whom he worked throughout her nearly nine years with the office, as a nice person and a competent attorney, but added he has many more years as a prosecutor than his former colleague.

Asked about Albin Sheets' comment that morale has dropped in the office since Gallegos took over, Dikeman said, "My morale is fine."

Dikeman emphasized his role as "a very reluctant candidate," a phrase he used when he entered the race last week. He said he doesn't want the campaign to interfere with his duties as prosecutor, and said if the recall fails, he'll gladly return to his role as "a foot soldier" in the office.

"I never wanted to get into politics," Dikeman said, summing up his candidacy. "But it needed to be done and it needed to be done for the right reason."

If he is elected, Dikeman said his first priority would be to patch up relations with law enforcement, relations that quickly became rocky when Gallegos took office in January. Law enforcement officials present at the press conference stayed behind afterward to shake hands with Dikeman and offer their support.

"We are excited Worth's running, we believe he'd do an excellent job," Parris said.

Arcata attorney Steven A. Schectman, a recall candidate who also says he supports Gallegos, is on vacation out of the area for the Christmas holidays.

Albin Sheets on Monday said she can understand why Dikeman is getting a lot of support from law enforcement, saying Dikeman's earned his reputation as a top-notch prosecutor. However, Albin Sheets said she's also getting some law enforcement support.

"Anything positive anyone says about Worth -- they're right," Albin Sheets said. "He is an excellent prosecutor who has a lot of respect in the community. The only difference I see between him and me is he is supporting Gallegos and I'm not."