Response on District Attorney Race

 

Judge Richard Bartalini (Ret.) presented his case for electing Nancy O’Malley (incumbent) for Alameda County District Attorney June 5. To his commentary (“O’Malley Still Right for District Attorney,” May 10) I offer this rebuttal.

First, this is not a “re-election.” 2018 is the first time in 53 years Alameda County has had a choice as to who our District Attorney (DA) will be. As far as the democratic process goes, the June 5 election is a momentous event.

O’Malley has worked in the DA’s office for some 30 years. For eight of those years she has been the DA. Bartalini cited O’Malley’s recent “fairness” by her dismissal of 6,000 old marijuana cases. She had to. Marijuana is now legal. O’Malley was an active agent in the “war on drugs” during her 30-year tenure in the DA’s office and was instrumental in the arrest and conviction of those she must now release.

Bartalini attempts to dismiss O’Malley’s challenger (Pamela Price) stating she has “never been a prosecutor.” In addition to Price being an exceptionally accomplished civil rights attorney, she has had a successful career as a trial lawyer. Price has tried more cases than the incumbent and has argued more cases in both the U.S. and California Supreme Courts. To this record add the many times Price has argued before the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal. In addition, there are many judges on the Alameda County Superior Court bench who never practiced criminal law, yet they sentence people to jail every day.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was never even a judge before being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, nor was the great Justice Louis Brandeis or California’s Earl Warren. Thurgood Marshall had never been a judge prior to President John F. Kennedy appointing him to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeal.

It’s disingenuous to say that Price “will only pursue felony cases,” as if everyone else by “implication” will go scot free. Currently, our criminal justice system over-criminalizes and decimates communities of color and the poor. This has been happening the entire time the incumbent has been a part of the DA office.

O’Malley opposed Proposition 47, the initiative that reduced the classification of most “non-serious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor. During much of her tenure, the only minors she prosecuted as adults were — no surprise — black and brown. 

Price’s platform will reform the system in order to deliver justice to our communities so that we can experience that peace we so desperately desire. Without justice, there is no peace. In quick summary, Price has a platform which includes ending mass incarceration, eliminating the death penalty, protecting immigrant communities, holding the police accountable and reducing gun violence.

Most concerning, however is to hear a former judge dismiss O’Malley’s taking of $10,000 from the Fremont Police Union as a “mistake,” and simply an “error in judgment.” The money was taken at the same time she was investigating the union president for the fatal shooting of an innocent, pregnant, 16-year-old Latina. 

Two weeks after receipt of the donation, the officers involved in the death were exonerated. If this were a “mistake” or “lapse in judgment,” it could be rectified by returning the money. To date, this has not happened. 

The incumbent has also taken a $1,000 contribution from a nonprofit organization in violation of IRS law, and thousands from a developer, James Tong, who was later fined $650,000 for skirting environmental-protection laws.

This is not a lapse of judgment nor isolated events. This is a pattern of behavior that suggests corruption and points to what is nationally recognized as a two-tiered justice system. Ordinary people who commit petty, nonviolent crimes rot for decades in inhumane prisons. Political leaders in high offices who commit serious felonies receive full-scale immunity.

No one can deny that there’s a lot wrong with our justice system. But we will never be on the path to progress if those on the inside, including O’Malley, look the other way, and — most importantly — we allow them to do so. After 53 years, it’s time for a change and we finally have a choice.