3.19.2014

Arcata fatal stabbing case reassigned from Firpo to Gallegos

Arcata fatal stabbing case reassigned from Firpo to Gallegos - The Times-Standard
POSTED: 03/18/2014 12:57:34 PM PDT3 COMMENTS
UPDATED: 03/18/2014 01:09:57 PM PDT

Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos said today that he has reassigned the Douglas Anderson-Jordet fatal stabbing case from Deputy District Attorney Elan Firpo to himself.

Gallegos said his decision had “nothing to do” with Firpo's handling of the case or the quality of her work, but due to the case being used for other purposes by two of Firpo's fellow candidates in the upcoming district attorney election.

”It was my own inner sense of justice for everyone involved and my disappointment that some would use this case for political purposes instead of trying to seek justice,” Gallegos said.

Firpo said she had requested Gallegos to reassign her from the case for the same reason.

”To ensure this campaign is not conflated with a political campaign and that decisions are based on evidence and the rule of the law to ensure justice for both the victims and the defendants, I have asked that the case be reassigned,” Firpo wrote in a text message.

Anderson-Jordet, a 50-year old chef and Arcata resident, was killed in the early morning hours of Nov. 25 in Arcata after an altercation with three Arcata residents, which resulted in him being fatally stabbed once in the chest. In a plea agreement with the district attorney's office, Anderson-Jordet's killer -- 35-year-old Juan Joseph Ferrer -- pleaded no contest to the charge of involuntary manslaughter, for which he would serve a maximum four-year jail sentence and pay up to $10,000 in restitution fees to Anderson-Jordet's family.

District attorney candidates Arnie Klein and Allan Dollison have both issued press releases in the last month scrutinizing the plea deal and Firpo's handling of the case.

As Gallegos is not seeking reelection, he said he should be the one to carry out the rest of the case.

”I am responsible for all of the decisions in my office and the one person that is not making a decision based on political motivations one way or another,” Gallegos said. “I am used to the hue and cry of politics.”
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Gallegos reassigns Firpo from Arcata fatal stabbing case; DA will not challenge killer's plea deal - Will Houston/The Times-Standard

POSTED: 03/19/2014 02:19:30 AM PDT0 COMMENTS
UPDATED: 03/19/2014 11:00:55 AM PDT

Gallegos reassigns Firpo from Arcata fatal stabbing case; DA will not challenge killer's plea deal

Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos said in an interview Tuesday that he has reassigned the Douglas Anderson-Jordet fatal stabbing case from Deputy District Attorney Elan Firpo to himself.

Gallegos said his decision had “nothing to do” with Firpo's handling of the case or the quality of her work, but said it was because the case is being used for other purposes by two of Firpo's fellow candidates in the upcoming district attorney election.

”It was my own inner sense of justice for everyone involved and my disappointment that some would use this case for political purposes instead of trying to seek justice,” Gallegos said.

Firpo said she had requested Gallegos to reassign her from the case for the same reason.

”To ensure this campaign is not conflated with a political campaign and that decisions are based on evidence and the rule of the law to ensure justice for both the victims and the defendants, I have asked that the case be reassigned,” Firpo wrote in a text message.

Anderson-Jordet, a 50-year old chef and Arcata resident, was killed in the early morning hours of last Nov. 25 in Arcata after an altercation with three Arcata residents, which resulted in him being fatally stabbed once in the chest. In a plea agreement with the district attorney's office, Anderson-Jordet's killer -- 35-year-old Juan Joseph Ferrer -- pleaded no contest to the charge of involuntary manslaughter, for which he would serve a maximum four-year jail sentence and pay up to $10,000 in restitution fees to Anderson-Jordet's family.

Donna Johnson, Anderson-Jordet's sister, said her family has sent several emails and letters to the district attorney's office asking them to vacate the plea deal and bring Ferrer to trial.

”We have tried to work with (Firpo) and Gallegos, and he was giving us the same answer,” Johnson said. “We were told that this plea deal was the best we can get against him.”

Anderson-Jordet's brother, Donald Anderson, said he and his family “aren't happy” about the plea deal, and said that “we didn't feel like everything has been heard.”

”There has been some discrepancies about what we heard when we wrote to them and what we're being told by the district attorney's office,” Anderson said. “We were told it was one way, and now it's another.”

Gallegos said he has corresponded with the family and understands their grief, but said that he will not challenge the plea deal as “the legal system does not aspire to accomplish the individual aspirations of victims or their families.”

”My heart goes out to them,” Gallegos said. “... But our job as prosecutors is to listen and exercise compassion without sentimentality.”

As a prosecutor, Gallegos said their decisions “cannot be based on the will of the individuals,” but must be supported by “evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

”We don't represent the victims, we represent the people of the state of California,” Gallegos said.

District attorney candidates Arnie Klein and Allan Dollison have both issued press releases in the last month scrutinizing the plea deal and Firpo's handling of the case.

As Gallegos is not seeking reelection, he said he should be the one to carry out the rest of the case.

”I am responsible for all of the decisions in my office and the one person that is not making a decision based on political motivations one way or another,” Gallegos said. “I am used to the hue and cry of politics.”

Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504 or whouston@times-standard.com. Follow him on Twitter.com/Will_S_Houston.

3.16.2014

Meet your DA candidates: Allan Dollison

Allan Dollison/My Word

I am running for the district attorney of Humboldt County to make serious reforms and bring organization, management and discipline to an office that has been sorely lacking that for quite some time.

The office suffers from poor management, a lack of resources, prioritization of what resources it does have and a loss of critical grants.

The mismanagement has reached a level where the Board of Supervisors has recently had to complete the office's budget, per two members of that body. The office has lost over 10 prosecutor positions under the current incumbent. Of those are two grant positions; a dedicated attorney for child abuse and child molestation cases; a dedicated attorney in the courts for fighting hard drugs, like methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine. It kept an auto insurance fraud grant, but lost these more important ones.

I think that is wrong and I will fight to insure that important grants like those that deal with dangerous violent crime and the terrible drug problem that we have in this county are maintained and I will fight to get them back.

Lack of resources often forces controversial plea agreements where individuals are not being held fully accountable for their actions. The litany of those cases is too long to include here but our papers and media outlets routinely cover these travesties of justice.

I would effectively deal with the serious problem of arrested individuals being released in the middle of the night. That is a decision of the sheriff, and there are laws and a Supreme Court case that dictate how it is to be handled.

I would work with the sheriff to reform that policy and insure that the district attorney's office statutory and constitutional right to review a case is protected, recognizing that if you are arrested, you can only be held for 48 hours, but I would work closely with the sheriff to insure that that the midnight releases end and the community is protected.

I have been a practicing attorney for over 18 years. Fully 1/3 of that was as a senior felony prosecutor here in Humboldt County. Over that period of time, I prosecuted thousands of cases. I am proud of the work I've done as a prosecutor, and would bring that zeal to the mostly younger prosecutors who currently work in the office, under what are extremely difficult and almost impossible conditions. In just felony cases, they are being asked to carry 4 times the amount of cases as the American Bar Association recommends, that can and frequently does lead to travesties in the administration of justice.

In 2011, during a leadership change, I was selected by District Attorney Paul Gallegos over and above my three opponents to be the chief prosecutor, the No. 3 attorney in the office underneath the district attorney and the assistant district attorney.

My most difficult case was People v. Brian Fiore. What began as a violent marijuana robbery turned into a murder where the suspects led law enforcement on a dangerous chase and the passenger (Mr. Fiore was the driver) began shooting at the pursuing officers. Ultimately the jury found Mr. Fiore guilty of Murder (and eight other felonies) for killing the passenger, his friend. It was a long complex trial that lasted two months with 35 witnesses, but I brought justice for a victim who himself had been involved in serious criminal activity but did not deserve to die at the hands of Mr. Fiore, who is now serving multiple life sentences.

I am a dedicated family man and my children are being educated in the public schools of Humboldt County, while my wife works as a manager at Staples. I have served my country in the Army for a quarter century, and am a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, I have been given critical leadership positions such as commanding a battalion.

I have traveled a lot, worked and lived in other communities and have a vast network of friends and associates throughout the state that I will call on to help fix the office. I will offer a laser focus on the problems of the office and work to reform justice for all victims of crime. My first priority will be to address the dangerous staffing shortages, assign trial teams to the most serious and violent cases, develop training programs for younger attorneys, and rebuild relationships with hard-working dedicated law enforcement officers.

Meet your DA candidates: Elan Firpo

Elan Firpo/My Word

y father and grandfather were career California Highway Patrolmen, my mother in police dispatch. Dad's career brought us to Garberville. I grew up in a law enforcement family with an unwavering respect for the law.
After graduating College of the Redwoods and Cal Poly, I became a high-tech design engineer. That led to a 13-year career designing computer components, then to supervising teams of 50 engineers and, eventually, to managing facilities with 3,000 employees around the globe. Rising to executive level in the private sector, my success demanded managing major operations, motivating employees and holding them accountable so that projects ran on time and under budget.

There is more to life than making good money. I heeded the call to public service instilled by my family's tradition, earned a law degree and returned to Humboldt in 2009 as a prosecutor: here, where my parents live and where I'm raising my children.

With proven executive experience and an engineer's obsession for solving problems, I will address the public safety issues of Humboldt County and manage the office of district attorney so that it works effectively and efficiently for you.

I will close the revolving door on those few who prey upon us, particularly repeat offenders that otherwise would have been imprisoned before realignment. As the only working deputy DA in this election, I have current working knowledge and experience navigating the new landscape created by the Governor's Plan that sent prisoners back to Humboldt and halved sentences.

While carrying a full case load at all times, I have also mentored summer interns, just as when I was an engineer. As district attorney, I'll establish prosecution protocols, which is management-speak for the way we prosecute ALL cases. By establishing clear guidelines for attorneys and support staff, we will prosecute as a team.

The DA must be a justice partner with other law enforcement agencies. All departments involved in public safety should coordinate our efforts to keep streets safe. My plan will bring together mental health programs, probation, social services, treatment facilities and the hard-working men and women in police organizations. By detailing one deputy DA to work with each agency, for example, we will be better able to distinguish criminals from addicts. Applying this approach to other types of cases, we bring about outcomes best suited for resolution of their impact in the community.

Marijuana grows that dry streams, damage the environment or attract violent criminals will be shut down. I advocate setting certifiable guidelines for legal 215 grows. In that way law enforcement will not come down on legal activities only to have cases thrown out in court, and growers can call on law enforcement when they're victimized.

I will optimize current resources and regain the confidence of the Board of Supervisors and the public by providing a quality work product in the form of consistent and rigorous prosecution. By putting in place proven management structures, ones that I'm very familiar with, we can improve our service to the county, attract more grant funding, and provide the supervisors with solid reasoning to support budget requests.

The broad coalition that supports this campaign is proof positive that the polarization of the DA's office will end under my watch. When the senior vice president of Green Diamond Resources and prominent environmental advocates agree on one candidate, that's a sign that we can truly rise above our differences. When two conservative Eureka City Council members and two former supervisors from the heavily Democratic Arcata's 3rd District stand together, we know that polarization can be surmounted. Humboldt constituencies who are worlds apart on passionate core issues set aside those differences to be in agreement that I exercise good judgment based solely on the facts and evidence. In a free, open society, it's essential that all sectors trust the structure and application of the law, under which we all thrive.

My candidacy refutes the wrong-headed notion that we must be combative in order to protect what we value most, or that bullying achieves results. Instead, in working together, my supporters find that all of us desire a clear impartial line in administering the law, that political persuasion curries no favor, and that I'm the candidate who has earned their trust to exercise the impartial judgment expected of the chief law enforcement officer of Humboldt County.

Yes, we can be one community working together for our common safety. I respectfully ask for your vote for district attorney to do just that.

Meet your DA candidates: Maggie Fleming

Maggie Fleming/My Word

The duty of a prosecutor is to seek justice. Justice can take many forms -- from not filing a case brought by law enforcement to pursuit of a prison sentence -- but it takes knowledge, a firm ethical foundation, and a lot of hard work to identify the right outcome in each case. I'm running for district attorney because I am the candidate who can bring these qualities to the DA's office. I have served Humboldt County for over 20 years, and I know that in order to maintain justice and keep our community safe, we need an experienced, professional, and independent district attorney.
I served as a prosecutor for over 25 years (my career started in Contra Costa County.) I have prosecuted all types of cases and over 120 jury trials. I have presented cases to four criminal grand juries and argued before the court of appeals.

Over my entire career, I have consistently demonstrated qualities that are fundamental to an ethical and effective district attorney's office. I have: 1) consistently treated everyone involved in the criminal justice system with respect; 2) worked hard and never negotiated a case without all available information in hand and knowledge of sentencing options; 3) maintained open lines of communication with defense attorneys, the survivors and victims of crime, and law enforcement agencies; 4) never shown favoritism in applying the law -- I have prosecuted attorneys and police officers, and have obtained justice for victims from all walks of life, including prostitutes and the homeless.

Finally, I have recognized the fundamental role of community standards in criminal justice. Ultimately, the community as represented by juries, makes the decisions about guilt or innocence; ethical prosecutors keep this fact in the forefront when making charging decisions. True criminal justice is not driven by the political views or opinions of any individual. As DA I will give all cases brought to the office careful consideration; charged cases will be pursued with knowledge, skill and tenacity.

The district attorney's office under my supervision will be an office in which hard work, knowledge of the law, high ethical standards, professionalism, and collaboration are pervasive. I will accomplish this in part by mentoring early-career prosecutors. Humboldt County has historically attracted top-notch people to the DA's office. I believe my work and association with other prosecutors throughout the state will contribute to recruitment. I will strive to retain those people who eagerly and effectively meet the prosecutor's duty to seek justice -- which is not equivalent to seeking convictions. The Humboldt County DA's Office has also been fortunate to attract highly skilled, hard-working support staff. I will strive to attract and retain excellent staff by providing a well-organized, respectful working environment.

I will have a significant personal role in the review and management of individual cases, thereby creating consistency that increases justice and efficiency.

I will emphasize communication with the community: people will be given clear, honest and timely explanations for the actions of the district attorney's office.

I will collaborate with great energy on crime prevention. As with many societal problems, prevention of crime is much preferable to dealing with it after the fact. Through hard work and collaboration with other groups and agencies, the district attorney can have substantive roles in crime prevention. In general, incarceration of people affected by drug addiction or mental health issues does not benefit the individuals or society. As district attorney I would work with other county agencies as well as non-profits to see that these individuals receive treatment as part of sentencing. Some nearby counties (like Marin) have seen a drastic drop in recidivism using a collaborative approach that focuses on intensive treatment as an alternative to incarceration for people with mental health issues who have committed crimes.

Justice is not well-served when political considerations have influence. I believe our community has an overwhelming amount of common ground. We agree the justice system should seek to reduce the risk from people who have seriously threatened public safety. I believe community members are similarly united in their views on illegal actions that seriously damage our natural resources. I seek to create an apolitical DA's office that brings ability, hard work and the highest ethical and professional standards to the job every day.

Meet your DA candidates: Arnie Klein

Arnie Klein/My Word

During my six years as a Humboldt County deputy district attorney, I saw first-hand many of the ingrained obstacles and missed opportunities present in the district attorney's office. Two of the most egregious issues I noticed were the very outdated system and the lack of staff experience.

Humboldt DA's office is outdated and inefficient: The Humboldt County DA's Office is running on an antiquated system filled with inefficiencies and time-consuming paperwork. The workload per deputy district attorney is already unacceptably high, especially considering the average experience level currently in that office, but the 25-year-old platform they're operating on is making that load even more cumbersome.

A great deal of time is wasted, for example, on a form called Factual Statement of the Case. Staff members take more time filling this form out fully and correctly than it took to write the original police report. The fact is this form is unnecessary and just wastes valuable time -- time that could be used to actually prepare for a case.

This is one of many examples of wasted effort in the Humboldt DA's office. There are several unnecessary processes and paperwork chains bogging down the office that I will do away with as part of a larger modernization effort when I am elected district attorney.

A worrying lack of experience: Were you the best at your job when you first started? Or did you get better overtime? Experience means a lot when it comes to doing a job well. A lack of experience becomes tragic when it's present in the DA's office. High priority cases in Humboldt County aren't getting the seasoned prosecutors they should because there is a lack of experienced deputy district attorneys. We deserve better.

When the right leadership is in place, Humboldt County can have a well-rounded prosecutorial team with the experience to tackle high priority cases. Having such a team would also mean the less experienced deputy district attorneys could be mentored properly by senior staff and the DA to become better prosecutors. Mentoring has sadly been lacking in the DA's office over the last few years, and we're worse off because of it.

How best to address these problems: The most important action that can be taken in the DA's office is to increase the number of deputy district attorneys. I would bring in those with ample experience to competently prosecute high priority cases, such as the tragic murder of Rev. Eric Freed. To ensure justice and the community are served, the prosecutor handling a complex and sensitive case like that one needs to have extensive experience as both a defense attorney and a prosecutor. Cases will not be assigned based on a political priority.

When elected, I will make the DA's office the tip of the sword in leading law enforcement to prosecute. Using my experience as a defense attorney and 20 years as a deputy district attorney for four California counties, I am prepared to lead the department in a way that allows us to more efficiently and more intelligently prosecute cases.