There is a political race coming up in a few months. My boss, Tim Ward is running for re-election as Tulare County District Attorney. The challenger started his campaign by insulting myself and the staff of our entire office by stating he needs to “clean up” the office.
Something Mr Ward has been attacked over and over for is the acceptance of campaign donations; however, Mr Ward proved he would do the right thing when he directed an investigation be opened into a matter involving of significant public importance irregardless of who donated money to his campaign. Investigations are not something that can be transparent to the detriment of everything except the criminal justice process so I will not comment on anything outside of the public record as it relates to this particular matter.
This challenger is campaigning against my boss for accepting large financial donations but has no trouble accepting them on behalf of his own campaign ($15,000 from one particular business address as of his first required campaign donation disclosure). At this point we have no idea what he will do should he be faced with the same situation as Mr Ward.
It should be noted that the challenger and his supporters claim our office only began aforementioned high profile investigation as a result of his running for Office. It is a matter of public record that our office was involved in demanding a court force a board to seat a duly elected board member months prior to his announcement of the intent to run for office. The day he announced it was also reported that our office serviced a search warrant which was the first public documentation of the ongoing investigation by our office.
The challenger’s next attack on our office is a claim that the ethical prosecutors left the office stating “100 years of experience” have left (without mentioning any name other than his own). Again, this is a personal attack on the integrity those who currently work at our office.
Should he ever choose to name names I am afraid I will have to return to this topic. It won’t be pleasant for me – but needless to say I can imagine who is on his list. Those no longer with our office left as a result of their own choices – none of which had anything to do with misplaced ethics of those still here.
Since he has mentioned that he left the office “for ethical reasons” I think it is fair to consider exactly what those reasons actually were. He recently claimed to have left our office as the domestic violence homicide prosecutor. Personally I think honesty is very important for an elected official and this statement is not an honest one. Though he had been assigned as the DV homicide prosecutor he never actually took a murder case to trial in Tulare county. Shortly before resigning the challenger was in trial on an attempted murder case when the defendant decided to plead guilty. Normally this would be good news but this particular defendant had a second case involving the robbery of a separate victim. The challenger decided to dismiss the robbery case violating two office policies, 1) not discussing the case resolution with the victim prior to resolving the case, and 2) not discussing the resolution of a case on the day of (or in this case two days into) trial. Shortly after resolving this case the deputy was reassigned to the Visalia prosecution team which must have seemed to him to be a demotion as he resigned from the office within a couple of months. Which brings me back to honesty. The challenger was not the domestic violence prosecutor when he left our office as he has claimed in public forums.
Speaking of leaving the office. At the time he resigned, the challenger was set to start his first murder trial. In fact it started the Monday following his last day with our office. I know the case well as I ended up taking it to trial myself. I discovered that it was completely unprepared for trial. I had to outline the case, add witnesses necessary to a conviction, and obtain and discover notes that he had failed to request in the two weeks I had to prepare the case for trial. Fortunately the case came together and the defendant was convicted of first degree murder. What I learned then is that the challenger did not know how to prepare a major case for trial despite nine years of experience. He was provided material by myself that told him how to prepare the case for trial but he apparently did not review what he needed to do, or was just focused on getting to his new job.
According to his current bio he has prosecuted three murder trials while at the Kings County District Attorney’s office. What he omits from his bio is the fact that he apparently was the second chair, assisting as opposed to lead trial attorney. A quick google search of the cases he names will show that he did the first with an attorney who had significant seniority to him (plus her name was first in the news article) and the next two, three actually since one had to be tried twice, were with the then assistant district attorney for Kings County – now a deputy public defender.
A little about our office. We have approximately 65 attorney’s including management. There are a total of ten supervising attorneys, each with a team. Myself and one other assistant district attorney are upper management covering all of the teams, I have the bureau of special prosecutions and my counterpart has the bureau of general prosecutions. In addition we have a chief criminal deputy who we report to and who had his own responsibilities but will cover for us if either are unavailable as well as a Chief of the Bureau of Investigations (think Chief of Police). The four of us would be considered upper management along with Tim Ward our boss. Not counting our Chief Investigator we have in excess of 50 years of management experience, with a total of over 80 years of prosecutorial experience. As a group we have prosecuted well over 250 jury trials which include between us more than 60 murder trials. Should the challenger win, this experience will be lost to Tulare County.
As for Tim Ward himself, he was an army officer prior to law school. He started in this office in 1999 and has held many positions within the office with his last assignment as a trial deputy on the homicide team. As a homicide prosecutor and supervisor he took six murder cases to trial including a capital case that took place in the Jack in the Box on Mooney Boulevard. The defendant’s name in that case was Isaac Meraz. Mr Ward also had a number or other high profile cases as a deputy and supervisor. All of his murder trials resulted in first degree convictions, five of which were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and one to life in Prison with a possibility of parole in 77 years. All of Tim’s homicides cases have been upheld by the courts on appeal.
When Mr Ward was appointed assistant district attorney, a position that cannot be effectively performed while in trial, his focus turned to upper management issues such as personnel and budget. He also headed up a project to bring our office into the 21st century with electronic filing with the courts.
At this point I am brought back to another claim by the challenger, that he will “personally take cases to trial”. I find this entertaining for a couple of reasons: first because I know what his trial skills were when he left, skills that must not have improved a lot if he has yet to do a homicide on his own; and second, can you imagine a police chief who would commit himself to working cases on the front lines as a detective… Police Chiefs and District Attorneys do not have the time it takes to prepare a case for trial as their duties and responsibilities are to those people who actually do have the time. A district attorney is a leader and a manager. A district attorney sets policy, hires attorneys, works with state and federal agencies, interacts and works with our local politicians in Sacramento to insure the continued safety of our citizens by supporting proposed laws that will benefit public safety while shouting with the voice of reason against policies and laws that put people at risk (we really tried to wake people up to what Proposition 57 would do to public safety but some people just read the title and no further). As an assistant district attorney I cannot effectively do my job from the courtroom but I am going back there one last time because not to do so would be a disservice to the family of the victim as I took the case on when I was the supervisor of the homicide team.
Turning back to management and leadership, the challenger never applied to be a supervisor here in Tulare county and was never considered for such a position. He is not a supervisor in his current employment either. He doesn’t have the necessary budget experience for a multi-million dollar budget such as ours or the personnel experience to lead a staff of almost 200; deputies, investigators, IT specialists, victim advocates, support staff, witness coordinators, subpoena servers, paralegals and numerous other staff that make up our office.
Mr Ward’s successes as District Attorney have been numerous. He has expanded the number of victim advocates working with underserved communities, created a child protection team and had the leadership and foresight to create a human trafficking task force that has saved a number of children from those who were preying upon them.
I wish to conclude this evening with something for those who will be voting for the Tulare County District Attorney to consider. You are looking to hire someone for the next four years to run the office of the district attorney. Like we do when interviewing perspective attorneys you should take into consideration the experience of those who apply and vote for the one who has a proven leadership and management track record over someone who has none.
David Alavezos is a Tulare County Assistant District Attorney.