Fact Check: D.A. Says the Media Did It
April 19, 2011
by Will Carless
Voice of San Diego
"I think you, the collective media,
have made it all about elected
officials," District Attorney Bonnie
Dumanis told us in an interview
about the focus of her Public
Integrity Unit. Determination:
Analysis: In 2007, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis set up a
Public Integrity Unit with much fanfare. Four years later, it had
seemingly gone quiet. I decided to take a look back at the
unit's work and found that it had prosecuted just three elected
officials, only one of which resulted in punitive action — a
While reporting the story, a spokesman for Dumanis sent me
a list of 88 public integrity cases the D.A.'s office had
prosecuted since 2008. The list was largely comprised of rank-
and-file employees such as a police officer, a rec center
employee and even lawyers.
In an interview, Dumanis claimed that the unit had been set up
to investigate and prosecute any and all public employees —
not just elected officials. Dumanis said reporters had
misconstrued the purpose of the Public Integrity Unit, limiting
its role to the prosecution of elected officials and not including
all the public employees investigated by her office.
"I think you, the collective media, have made it all about
elected officials, that's who you're interested in these days,"
But if the media has construed the role of the unit that way, it's
because Dumanis defined the team that way four years ago.
At the 2007 press conference where she announced the
creation of the unit and in the her office's corresponding press
release, Dumanis' message was crystal clear: The team would
be focused on investigating corruption among elected
officials, candidates and campaign officials...
Walker said he couldn't remember if Dumanis had expanded
on what exactly constituted a "public integrity" case at the
Further, Walker pointed to a statement from the press release
he authored in 2007, which quotes Dumanis as saying: "The
people have the right to expect that their public officials will
not privately and illegally benefit from their public positions
and from the public treasury."
...Walker's press release from the time only expands into
specifics beyond the phrase "public officials" in its first
sentence. It reads:
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis
today announced the formation of a Public Integrity Unit
to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct among
elected officials, candidates for office and campaign
officials in San Diego County.
...We're calling this statement Huckster Propaganda. That's
because the statement is not only inaccurate, but it's
reasonable to believe that Dumanis knew it was inaccurate but
made the statement anyway to attempt to gain an advantage
in the story I was writing about the Public Integrity Unit.
How can we account for the bizarre
saga of the Public Integrity Unit?
Was Dumanis protecting herself politically from Patrick
O'Toole, the George W. Bush-era US Attorney in San
Diego. If she hadn't given him the opportunity to act on
his extreme political agenda, I'm betting he would have
run against her with support from the far right. She
gave him some rope, and he obligingly self-destructed.
But in December 2010, the PIU seems to have been
unofficially reconstituted for the sake of certain
individuals connected to Tri-City Medical Center (see
The Public Integrity Unit: is it back?
December 26, 2010
The Public Integrity Unit was officially disbanded,
but seems to be continuing its work in a new
bizarre prosecution by Bonnie Dumanis.
The conflicts on the Tri-City Hospital board have
spilled over from civil court to criminal court.
See all posts re Tri-City Healthcare
The Public Integrity Unit in the San Diego district attorney's office
may have been officially disbanded, but the same names
(Dumanis and Leon Schorr--see photo) are popping up in a bizarre
new prosecution that seems every bit as political as two notorious
Chula Vista cases. Patrick O'Toole, the head of the unit, still works
at the DA's office, but no longer appears on the DA's website. The
Public Integrity Unit was embarrassed by the acquittal of Chula
Vista councilman Steve Castaneda and the strange case of a
Chula Vista employee who was charged with five felonies for taking
two hours off work.
"...[A] local law professor said Sterling's alleged vote-swapping
deal in late May closely resembled what occurs in Washington,
D.C., every day. He cited an example of congressional Republicans
refusing to support presidential initiatives until after tax cuts were
extended. What is the difference, the professor asked, between this
very public vote-swapping and what Sterling said in the restaurant?"
OCEANSIDE: Sterling pleads not guilty to felony charge
By PAUL SISSON
North County Times - Californian
December 16, 2010
Tri-City Medical Center Director Kathleen Sterling pleaded not guilty
Thursday to a felony vote-swapping charge in Vista Superior Court.
On Nov. 19, the San Diego County district attorney's office charged
Sterling with soliciting a bribe and a misdemeanor count of
wrongful influence. She appeared, as scheduled, for arraignment
Thursday, represented by a court-appointed attorney.
Stating that the hospital director was not considered a flight risk,
Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr did not request bail. Sterling is
scheduled for another administrative court date Jan. 3.
Sterling declined to comment on the court proceedings during the
hearing. Later in the day, her colleagues voted 4-1, with Director
Cyril Kellett abstaining, to again censure Sterling. This time, the
censure regarded statements Sterling made at a hospital meeting
Dec. 4. Those statements included suggesting that fellow board
members "take the brown shirt and wear it" after they accused her
of, and censured her for, calling board members "Nazis" at a
On Thursday night, board members called for Sterling to resign in
light of the censures and felony charge.
Sterling said in a telephone interview Wednesday that she's not
"I'm not going to resign," she said. "This is nothing more than
political bullying at its highest. Why not find out what is really
underneath all of it?"
In court, Schorr, the deputy district attorney, said it was Sterling's
statements at a May 26 dinner meeting with two fellow board
members and a hospital administrator that led to the felony charge
against her. Hospital Director George Coulter, board Chairwoman
RoseMarie Reno and Casey Fatch, the hospital's chief operations
officer, testified at a public hearing July 15 that Sterling offered to
support unspecified future board business in exchange for being
made vice chairwoman of the hospital board and chairwoman of
the hospital's Human Resources Committee.
"Both positions have elevated personal power on the board and
result in personal financial benefits," Schorr said in court. "Ms.
Sterling's demands were offered in exchange for procedural votes
on board matters."
If convicted of a felony, Sterling would no longer be able to serve on
the Tri-City board.
Schorr said the misdemeanor charge of undue influence relates to
a vote Sterling made during a formal sanctions hearing July 15. At
the hearing, the board voted to strip Sterling of the stipends she
received for attending hospital meetings. Sterling voted against that
item even though the board's attorney told her she could be
breaking a law that forbids elected officials from influencing
decisions that could affect them financially.
"Ms. Sterling disregarded the advice and voted on issues that had
a direct economic impact on her," Schorr said.
After the initial complaints against Sterling were filed, a local law
professor said Sterling's alleged vote-swapping deal in late May
closely resembled what occurs in Washington, D.C., every day. He
cited an example of congressional Republicans refusing to
support presidential initiatives until after tax cuts were extended.
What is the difference, the professor asked, between this very
public vote-swapping and what Sterling said in the restaurant?
Standing in the hallway outside the courtroom Thursday, Schorr
declined to comment on the workings of Congress...
San Diego District Attorney
March 1, 2007
New Public Integrity
Scrutiny of Local
and Public Officials
San Diego County District
Attorney Bonnie M.
announced the formation
of a Public Integrity Unit to
investigate allegations of
among elected officials,
candidates for office and
campaign officials in San
Diego County. For the
first time, the DA’s Office
is using the Criminal
Grand Jury as an
investigative tool to look
into charges of
corruption, becoming one
of the first counties in
California to do so.
“The people have the
right to expect that their
public officials will not
privately and illegally
benefit from their public
positions and from the
public treasury,” DA
Dumanis said. “Protecting
and vindicating this right
is one of the most
important priorities in the
District Attorney’s Office,
and the Public Integrity
Unit ensures that this is
...The DA’s Office will be
vigilant in keeping the
proceedings secret and
prosecuting any witness
who lies under oath.
DA Dumanis also
announced today that
she will no longer
candidates, except in
“I will not allow our
office to be used as a
Public integrity work
is difficult enough
possibility of having
or impaired by
The District Attorney's
Office will conduct
educational outreach to
candidates and campaign
officials if they request it,
but will not offer advisory
Not So Black and White
Voice of San Diego
October 19, 2007
Paul Levikow, a spokesman for District Attorney Bonnie
Dumanis, called me back just now and explained why Dumanis
didn't contradict herself by endorsing her lieutenant for the
city attorney's post.
He said that she said, orally, during a press conference in
February that she would endorse candidates for the City
Attorney's Office, judge races, the sheriff and attorney
"She said specifically she would endorse in all offices that
have a direct effect on her office and the administering of
justice," Levikow said.
This caveat was not reflected in the DA's press release that
-- SCOTT LEWIS
'Cept When I Do
October 19, 2007
by Scott Lewis
Voice of San Diego
Following up on the
contention from the District
Attorney's Office that
Bonnie Dumanis declared
she would not endorse
candidates for public office
-- only to clarify that she
would actually endorse
candidates for sheriff, city
attorney, attorney general
and judicial posts -- I
decided to go watch her
press conference from the
This is the entirety of her
prepared remarks about
not endorsing political
To underscore the
unbiased and transparent
mission of this office, I am
announcing today that I will
no longer personally
endorse political candidates
except in unusual
circumstances. In the past, I
have endorsed political
candidates where I felt it
was in the public's best
interest. However, public
integrity work is difficult
enough without the
possibility of having our
motives questioned or
impaired by politics. So let
me be clear: I will not allow
this office to be used as a
pawn during political
campaigns or allow the
incorrect perception that we
are anything other than
Except in unusual
circumstances, we will not
against a candidate during
a campaign season. We will
wait until after the election
Seeing that she did not, in
fact, mention at all this
huge caveat that she
would, in fact, endorse
candidates for all the
positions wherein her
opinion on the matter may
at all be relevant, I called
her spokesman Paul
Levikow back to ask what
the deal was.
He said that those, in fact,
were the entire contents of
her prepared remarks that
day and that after her
speech, while taking
questions from the press,
she clarified that she would
actually be endorsing
He wondered why I wasn't
there to hear it.
"The Public Integrity Unit
is part of the DA’s Special Operations Division which
already oversees public corruption cases.
"Prosecutors Patrick O’Toole and Leon Schorr are taking the
lead with these investigations. Schorr is a seasoned Deputy
District Attorney whose public integrity expertise was honed
during 2006 when he was sent to work with the California
Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento.
"O’Toole was a federal prosecutor for more than 20 years
and served as the U.S. Attorney in San Diego."
from Bonnie Dumanis' "On the Record"
The Secret World of Judicial
By WILL CARLESS Voice of San Diego
Feb. 13, 2008
On Oct. 17, William Gentry, Jr., a local prosecutor
with the District Attorney's Office, announced he
was running for election as city attorney against the
incumbent Democrat, Mike Aguirre. Gentry had the
support of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who
wrote a gushing letter to local lawyers urging them
to back him in the race.
"I'm in this to win and 100 percent committed to it,"
Gentry told The San Diego Union-Tribune the day he
entered the race.
But three months later, despite raising more money
than any other candidate, Gentry suddenly dropped
out of the race. After a fellow Republican, Superior
Court Judge Jan Goldsmith, decided to run against
Aguirre, Gentry said he didn't want to split the vote
against Aguirre and urged his supporters to vote for
A week later, Gentry had a new
gig. He was appointed as a
Superior Court judge by
Republican Gov. Arnold
The move raised eyebrows in the local legal and
political communities, with many pontificating that
Gentry's appointment was a trade-off for dropping
out of the race against Aguirre and clearing the way
And a number of local attorneys, who spoke
anonymously because they could appear in front of
Judge Gentry, questioned whether the former
district attorney was the best qualified of several
local lawyers sitting on a waiting list for Superior
But the screening and appointment process
undergone by Gentry, and all other prospective
judges, is shrouded in secrecy, leaving details of
nominations, including the rating given to applicants
by an independent commission and the number of
potential rivals for each judgeship, outside of public
"We'll never ever know whether this was an
inducement to leave," said Steve Erie, a
political science professor at University of
California, San Diego. "But the timing of it
raises eyebrows. It's like remarriage after a
divorce. The timing is awkward, the timing
is unseemly -- that it's occurring so shortly
Gentry said there's no connection between
his leaving the race and his appointment. He
said he applied to the Governor's Office two
years ago and had long cleared the vetting
process to become a judge when he
decided to have a stab at the city attorney's
job. The governor's judicial appointments
secretary, Sharon Majors-Lewis, who used
to be a San Diego district attorney herself,
said Gentry was chosen purely because of
his outstanding qualifications. Before being
appointed, Gentry joined the San Diego
District Attorney's Office in 1998, and he is
an Iraq War veteran.
"He's absolutely got the qualifications
necessary to be a judge, not to mention his
community service involvements and so
forth," Majors-Lewis said. "If he didn't have
the qualifications, he could not have been
considered or appointed."
Becoming an appointed Superior Court
judge in San Diego begins with an
application to the Governor's Office.
The Governor's Office sends each
application to a committee in San Diego, the
Judicial Selection Advisory Committee. The
identity of the members of that group is
secret, as is the number of people on the
committee and the process by which they
assess the applications sent to them. A
number of members of the local legal and
political communities said District Attorney
Bonnie Dumanis is a member of the
committee, but the Governor's Office would
not answer any questions about the group.
After its own team has vetted the
applicants, the Governor's Office passes
applications it approves of to an
independent state Bar commission that's
tasked with assessing the qualifications of
potential judges: The Commission on
Judicial Nominees Evaluation, known as the
The JNE Commission, which is made up of
active members of the state Bar, former
members of the judiciary and members of
the public, then begins an exhaustive
assessment of each candidate's
qualifications. That includes canvassing
present and former colleagues and
acquaintances of the applicant and
gathering feedback on everything from the
aspiring judge's temperament, to their
character, to their record as an attorney.
Those meetings take place behind locked
doors. Every document that's viewed in the
meetings is shredded. William Kopeny, the
current chairman of the commission, said if
a non-commission member enters the
meeting to change the air conditioning, the
meeting stops until the non-member leaves.
And almost every single element of the JNE
Commission's evaluation of each candidate
is strictly confidential. Releasing information
from the commission to the media or
anyone else is a misdemeanor, Kopeny said.
Past and present commission members said
there are very good reasons why the
information gathered on each applicant is
kept confidential. To accurately assess each
candidate's eligibility, the commission relies
on frank and honest feedback from people
who know that candidate well and who may
have a close relationship to them. The
commission would not get that sort of frank
information if journalists and members of
the public were allowed to pick through the
feedback they collate, the commission
"If participating lawyers thought their
information was going to be vetted in
public, they would be loath to pass it on,"
said Diane Karpman, a legal ethicist and
former member of the JNE Commission.
Once the commission has considered each
candidate, it awards them one of four
ratings: Extremely well qualified, well
qualified, qualified or not qualified. This
rating is sent to the Governor's Office.
Theoretically, the governor can still appoint
someone who has been rated "not
qualified" by the JNE Commission. If that
happens, the state Bar can choose to make
public the fact that they rated the
governor's appointee as such but the
governor appointed them anyway.
But the state Bar doesn't have to say
One former commissioner said the bar could
choose to keep quiet about an unqualified
appointee in order to protect the governor
Gentry's rating by the JNE Commission isn't
public information. Assuming he was
considered by the commission as qualified
to be a judge, there is no public record
whether he was rated as merely qualified,
or well qualified or extremely well qualified.
Kopeny said Gentry, or any other
applicant's rating, can be made public by
the Governor's Office if they chose to do so.
But the governor's officials don't have to
say anything if they don't want to. A
spokeswoman for the Governor's Office said
anything related to the JNE Commission is
confidential, and that the office could not
release Gentry's rating.
And, in theory, the governor doesn't have
to answer to anyone when it comes to his
judicial appointments. Because the
appointments are, by nature, political,
Kopeny said it's the governor's prerogative
to appoint whomever he wants, whenever
he wants, for whatever reason.
"The governor's supposed to use political
considerations. That's the reason some
people vote for him, so that he'll appoint
people who are of a like mind or that he'll
appoint people who will, in some way, serve
the political party that he's a member of,"
For his part, Aguirre said there's no doubt
Gentry's judicial appointment was made to
further the ambitions of the Republican
Party to knock him out of office.
"If any of my friends who are Republicans
want to be appointed judges, this is the
time to announce your candidacy for city
attorney," he said.
DA Office: We're Now a Political Pawn
Voice of San Diego
October 19, 2007
Whoa! What's this? District Attorney Bonnie
Dumanis is endorsing Bill Gentry in the race
for city attorney.
First of all, I guess we can stop calling Gentry a
D.A. Bonnie Dumanis: Who says I won't endorse?
But I can't be the only one who remembers Dumanis'
declaration in February that she wouldn’t endorse
candidates for public office.
She made the announcement at the same time she
announced the formation of the Public Integrity Unit.
Here's that press release she sent out:
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M.
Dumanis today announced the formation of a
Public Integrity Unit to investigate
allegations of criminal misconduct among
elected officials, candidates for office and
campaign officials in San Diego County. For
the first time, the DA’s Office is using the
Criminal Grand Jury as an investigative tool
to look into charges of corruption, becoming
one of the first counties in California to do
DA Dumanis also announced today that she
will no longer personally endorse political
candidates, except in unusual
circumstances. "I will not allow our office to
be used as a pawn during political
campaigns," Dumanis said.
Apparently, this is one of those unusual circumstances
where the office can, indeed, be used as a political
Hat tip to our Café San Diego host today, Charles La
Bella. It's not often that we break news in the Café.
-- SCOTT LEWIS
From Press Release from Bonnie Dumanis' office, also
March 1, 2007:
:...Dumanis also announced today that she will no longer
personally endorse political candidates, except in
unusual circumstances. “I will not allow our office to be
used as a pawn during political campaigns,” Dumanis
said. "Public integrity work is difficult enough without
the possibility of having our motives questioned or
impaired by politics...."
Paul Nieto, Mike Madigan,
Laurie Madigan, Sunroad
Who controls Bill Kolander
and Bonnie Dumanis?
#1 07-22-2006, 12:47 AM
Forming Buds Join Date: Mar 2006
San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis
The gal sits on the board of governors at the california
state bar now.
San Francisco, July 13, 2006
Five attorneys, including San Diego District Attorney
Bonnie Dumanis, have been chosen to serve three-
year terms on the State Bar’s Board of Governors, it
was announced Thursday.
Dumanis, 54, is a former superior court judge who won
the district attorney’s primary race in 2002 over one of
her competitors in this year’s board of governors race,
City Attorney Mike Aguirre. She has been on the boards
of the San Diego County Bar Association and the
Lawyers Club of San Diego.
Publication: San Diego Business Journal
Author: Broderick, Pat
New In Town: Midge Costanza, a former assistant to
President Carter, has joined District Attorney Bonnie M.
Dumanis' office as a public affairs officer.
Costanza, 72, will be assigned to the communications
and community relations division with an emphasis on
The story the U-T does not want
you to read -Dumanis and Chula
by Pat Flannery
Blog of San Diego
Here is a video of a letter being presented to the
Chula Vista City Council on December 18, 2007. Activist
Sonny Chandler, on behalf of a civic group called the
"Chula Vista Better Government Association", called
upon the Council to conduct an investigation into
official corruption in Chula Vista. The letter was also
sent to the State Attorney General and to the U.S.
Attorney on December 7, 2007 asking that they:
" ... conduct an investigation to determine if there are
conflicts of interests, abuses of power and
prosecutorial misconduct involving John Moot, Chula
Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox and the local District Attorney’s
office. For the reasons listed below, we are not
confident that the District Attorney’s office or the City’s
Board of Ethics can perform a fair and impartial
investigation into these matters.
We further request that you investigate a potential
conspiracy involving former Chula Vista City
Councilmember John Moot, the office of District
Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, local land developer Jim
Pieri and Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox to deprive
Chula Vista voters of good government by abusing
their positions and power to improperly influence and
intimidate elected officials and community groups on
behalf of the proposed condominium high rise."
It makes interesting reading, especially the parts about
Bonnie Dumanis and Pat O'Toole. The civic group
suspects that Dumanis and O'Toole may have filed
bogus charges against Chula Vista City Councilmember
Steve Castaneda, at the behest of a well-connected
Chula Vista developer named Jim Pieri, who apparently
wanted "someone more likely to approve his projects"
on the City Council. A natural reaction for an ambitious
The group reports that Pieri contributed $15,050 to the
Lincoln Club of San Diego County during Cox's
campaign who in turn contributed $51,000 to Cox. Yep,
that's how it works.
I was also informed that the U-T refused to run the
story, despite the fact that the "Chula Vista Better
Government Association" did all the work. It compiled
these 334 pages of back up material and obviously did
its research. This story should be the kind of juicy
political yarn any red-blooded newspaper would love to
run. And it is all documented.
Pieri is now leasing office space to the DA in Chula
Vista at $71,328 per month. That's a pretty nice lease.
Here it is. Interesting how Dumanis ended up renting
I have a feeling we have not heard the last of this story.
I wonder why the U-T did not want you to read it. Are
they protecting Dumanis? Well, here it is anyway, all 334
pages of it.
Let this case serve as
a cautionary tale to
all prosecutors who
handle cases which
Duke lacrosse D.A.
guilty of ‘deceit’
June 16, 2007: A disciplinary
committee ruled Durham, N.
C., District Attorney Mike
Nifong broke several rules of
professional conduct during
his prosecution of three Duke
University lacrosse players
falsely accused of rape.
By Susan Filan
Senior legal analyst
June. 17, 2007
While it may come as no
surprise to anyone that Mike
Nifong was swiftly and
summarily disbarred just one
day after his ethics hearing
concluded, make no mistake:
this is no small thing. For a
panel of lawyers to strip
another lawyer of his license
to practice law is a rarity
indeed. This is the legal
equivalent of a unicorn
sighting. Lawyers usually try
to understand a fellow
practitioner’s blunders and
usually reprimand their
colleague without issuing the
ultimate penalty, the death
penalty for a lawyer:
disbarment. While it is public
disgrace indeed, it also says
“you are the worst of the
worst and do not deserve to
live as a lawyer. You are not
trustworthy. The public has to
be protected from you.” Plus,
it strips Nifong of the only way
he knows to make a living.
Instead of collecting his
pension and retiring, he will
have to start from scratch. It
is a stunning fall from the
height of his power. And it is
absolutely the right thing to
do. Nifong had many chances
to escape this fate, yet he
never chose to do the right
thing. Not once.
Even when he resigned at the
eleventh hour live from the
witness stand to the surprise
of his own staff and attorneys,
he didn’t get it right. I think it
was a ploy that cost him. It
was a gross manipulation of
sympathies. Sympathy of the
public, sympathy of the bar
committee reviewing his
misconduct and perhaps even
of those who he accused. But
I think it just showed him to be
tricky. Why surprise your own
lawyers? Why wait until the
last minute, when the hearing
is virtually done, when your
testimony is almost
completed, to say what
everyone needed to hear
Nifong finally admitted he
made mistakes and violated
the Rules of Professional
Conduct under cross
examination, but claims they
were all unintentional and the
result of getting a little
“carried away.” Nifong was
trying to spare himself.
Nifong’s actions always serve
Nifong. He used the Duke
case to get re-elected, and he
resigned to try to save his law
Had he admitted he made
mistakes, dismissed all
charges in December 2006
(not just the most serious
sexual assault charges), had
he resigned earlier, perhaps
his actions would not be seen
as simply self-serving.
Nifong will be disbarred for
I believe his tears were
genuine, but I think he cried
for himself, not for the
damage he did to the public’s
confidence in the criminal
justice system, nor the
damage to the three innocent
young men whom he had
indicted, nor the damaged
reputation of Duke University
or the sport of lacrosse.
There are so many victims in
this tragic tale of shattered
lives. Not the least of whom is
Nifong’s own teenage son
who attended Friday’s hearing
at his father’s request, only to
see his father skewered on
the witness stand,
culminating in tears and
resignation. Why put your own
son through this? More of a
ploy to gain sympathy,
leniency, if not pity?
As a former prosecutor, I can
tell you that when I saw a
defendant express genuine
remorse, I felt that half my job
was done. In order to get a
person to change, they have
to understand and admit they
did something wrong. But that
is only half. The second half is
to determine the appropriate
punishment for the offense. It
was my instinct to cut
someone a break once they
admitted they were wrong.
But not if I felt the admission
came at a time, or in a
manner designed to
manipulate my sympathy. And
that is precisely how Nifong’s
announcement struck me. He
had his own lawyers
convinced that he wouldn’t
resign, and then sprung it on
everyone from the witness
stand. He couldn’t even be
forthright with his own
The possibility that Nifong
would be disbarred was real.
But it took him until the bitter
end to see what everyone
else has seen for months.
But his realization,
admissions and resignation
came much too late. When
asked whether he still
believes a crime was
committed that night, he
refused to admit that
“nothing” happened that night
in that house. He still believes
This statement supplies the
bitter evidence that he was
talking out of both sides of his
mouth. He wanted to save his
law license, but he could not
completely exonerate the
three young men whose lives
he could have destroyed.
Nifong cannot have it both
ways. He cannot cry, admit
he made mistakes, resign,
and yet still maintain that
“something” happened that
night. And expect to be
treated with mercy.
Mercifully he wasn’t treated.
Let this case serve as a
cautionary tale to all
prosecutors who handle
cases which receive media
attention. Don’t go
“Hollywood.” Remember your
job is to keep the public
informed, to try your case in
courtroom, not the press, and
to make sure those you
accuse get a fair trial. Don’t
play fast and loose with the
evidence. Play by the rules.
Prosecute mightily and fairly
in the courtroom, and speak
carefully and thoughtfully to
In April 2007, the Public Integrity Unit of San Diego District
Attorney Bonnie Dumanis began prosecuting political
opponents of Cheryl Cox. Patrick O'Toole, who had
previously been appointed as US Attorney for San Diego by
Attorney General John Ashcroft, headed the unit. O'Toole
prosecuted a staffer for mayor Steven Padilla who had
taken two hours off work in an effort to get a photograph of
Cheryl Cox with her disgraced family friend David Malcolm
at a twilight yacht party fundraiser for Cox.
The staffer was charged with five felony counts of perjury
for telling a grand jury that he filled out his leave slip from
work before rather than after he took off from his job at
the City of Chula Vista. He pled guilty to lesser charges as
part of a plea deal.
The now-dormant unit ended its active phase with a
second and final prosecution, that of Steve Castaneda,
who had run against Cheryl Cox for mayor. Castaneda was
prosecuted for allegedly lying about whether he planned to
buy a condo, even though he never bought the condo in
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, "Castaneda
was a tenant at the complex and was accused of seeking
favors, such as free rent, from Sunbow owner Ash Israni,
according to the 1,200-page grand jury transcript.
The investigation found that Castaneda paid his rent and
didn't ask for special treatment.
O'Toole told the grand jury the perjury charges are
warranted because Castaneda should be held accountable
for 'lying about the facts'; even if no crime was
uncovered...Castaneda has been vocal about O'Toole's
investigations, saying they are politically motivated. He
contended that Dumanis conspired with Chula Vista Mayor
Cheryl Cox, his political rival in the 2006 mayoral primary."
"DA unit works as quietly as it began"
"Trial and Re-election bid could coincide".
Steve Castaneda found not guilty, is reelected
The Chula Vista prosecutions
Two (out of a total of two) prosecutions by
the PIU were based on perjury charges that
were generated, not uncovered, by the unit's
needed in DA's
San Diego Union-Tribune
Letter to editor
Regarding “Case vs.
Marine's widow is
(Our Region, April 18,
When an innocent
woman is sentenced to
life in prison and, after
being locked away for
two years and four
months until it is learned
that no crime even
existed, how can the
district attorney say,
“This is how the system
is supposed to work”?
Perhaps the “system” is
OK. But the people
working it need serious
oversight. It was clear,
from the Union-Tribune
accounts of the trial,
that the District
overreached itself even
to bring the case to trial.
As it played out, the DA
charges based on
springing from lab
results that erroneously
named a cause of death,
while still not
the case on emotional
influence the jury to
convict with a life
Most frightening is the fact
that the “system” would
send a citizen away for life
on the basis of toxicology
findings that were not
corroborated. It was a
simple test; not like a DNA
work-up. It should be
routine to repeat the test
when such serious
consequences result from
Any citizen can be at risk
of this kind of
misbehavior, and we
should not accept it as
EDWARD H. PITTS
DA should remember fate of those
BY Gerry Braun
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE
April 23, 2008
In politics, you need to keep an eye on your friends as much as your
enemies – sometimes more so.
That's the lesson this month for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis,
whose eagerness to be a friend to law enforcement can leave you
wondering if she still wants to be friends with the rest of us.
Dumanis, you'll recall, is such a good friend to law enforcement that
she's fighting to kick a respected judge off a case because she fears
he'll give a stiff sentence to a deputy sheriff who killed his wife.
In Oceanside, meanwhile, she's preventing the public from hearing
the 911 calls a woman made before an off-duty San Diego cop shot at
her and her son in an apparent road-rage incident.
And last week, after announcing that a lab had botched one of her
cases, leading to a wrongful murder conviction, Dumanis shrugged it
off like she was Doris Day. Que será, será. What will be, will be.
Standing by your friends and allies is an admirable quality. But could
Dumanis have forgotten how she got her job in the first place?
She was elected six years ago because the incumbent, Paul Pfingst,
put his faith in the Escondido Police Department and its inept
investigation into Stephanie Crowe's murder.
Pfingst made other mistakes, and did some good things as well. But
his undoing was his prosecution of Michael Crowe, who had
confessed to stabbing his sister only after a Guantanamo Bay-style
interrogation, and whose innocence could have been quickly
established if police had done their jobs.
It took DNA evidence the police overlooked to exonerate Michael
Voters tend to remember that sort of thing. Especially voters with
children, or with sisters, or brothers. But Pfingst was law
enforcement's friend. He ignored the holes in the case, and he paid a
Like Dumanis, he forgot how he got his job in the first place.
He was elected in 1994 because the incumbent, Ed Miller, put his faith
in the San Diego Police Department and its inept investigation of a
little girl's rape.
Miller made other mistakes as well, notably prosecuting a mildly
retarded man whom his office believed to be a brilliant criminal
mastermind, capable of torturing and molesting dozens of Sunday-
school kids (and slaughtering some large zoo animals) while their
parents worshipped nearby.
The Dale Akiki case was ludicrous, but lots of prosecutors lost their
bearings in that era of ritual-child-abuse hysteria and survived.
Miller's undoing was his prosecution of Jim Wade, the Navy man
whom police accused of raping his daughter, Alicia, ignoring her
account of the attack and evidence that a serial rapist committed an
identical crime in that same neighborhood that same week.
The police had a hunch about Wade, you see. So they put 8-year-old
Alicia in a foster home, and after more than a year of “therapy” she
began to remember the crime the way police thought it went down.
It took DNA evidence the police overlooked to exonerate Jim Wade.
But Miller was law enforcement's friend. He went with their hunch. He
paid a price.
Which brings us back to Dumanis, who last week had to drop murder
charges against Cynthia Sommer, the young mother accused of
poisoning her Marine husband for his life insurance.
Dumanis' office won a first-degree murder conviction against
Sommer last year, having put its faith in the Naval Criminal
Investigative Service and its flawed investigation into Sgt. Todd
If you didn't recall the trial, two words may jog your memory: boob job.
Yes, Sommer is the woman who, after her husband's death,
underwent breast-enhancement surgery, joined a dating service and
threw loud parties. The prosecution highlighted this behavior –
thought inappropriate for a new widow – in winning a conviction that
could have put her in prison for life.
Sommer won a new trial because of incompetent counsel, and as
prosecutors prepared for it, they conducted new tests, expecting to
duplicate the earlier finding that Todd Sommer's organs had fatally
high concentrations of arsenic.
Instead, the new tests showed no arsenic at all. Oops.
Without the arsenic – remember, there was no other evidence that
Cynthia Sommer had killed or wanted to kill her husband – the
prosecution was left with the dating service, the insurance policy and
the boob job.
Not much of a case there.
Like Michael Crowe and Jim Wade before her, Cynthia Sommer was
torn from her family because law-enforcement officers stopped
analyzing the evidence once they had developed a theory of the crime.
And like Miller and Pfingst before her, Dumanis was left holding the
Here's what Dumanis said in announcing that charges were being
dropped: Clearly, there is a huge lesson to be learned. I plan to review
the processes in my office so we never again prosecute someone we
should have known was innocent.
Actually, I just made that up.
What Dumanis really said after Sommer was freed from two years
and four months in jail was: “Today justice was done. This is how the
system is supposed to work.”
Which is true, to a point.
But Dumanis would be smart to think about that other system, the one
by which elected officials win their jobs, and are removed from them.
Steve Castaneda "not
guilty" verdict reaction
Letters to the editor: San Diego Union Tribune
April 26, 2008
The people v. the district attorney
Our family would like to thank the jurors who found
our brother, son and father, Chula Vista City
Councilman Steve Castaneda, not guilty given the
completely unsubstantiated charges leveled at him
by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. The outpouring
of support that Steve has received from friends and
family here in the greater San Diego area has been
Prior to the trial, Steve called and met with our
father concerning a deal the DA offered to drop all
the felony accounts of perjury and reduce the charge
(s) to a single minor misdemeanor. Steve asked our
father, “Dad, what should I do?” His father replied,
“Well, if you take that deal, I guess you'll be fine with
the district attorney, but you won't be fine with me.
Never admit to something you did not do!” Steve
turned the offer down with simple words uttered to
prosecutor Patrick O'Toole: “We'll see you in court.”
That part of this nearly two-year saga that has cost
Steve and the taxpayers well over $1 million seems
to be over, but not really. Steve has always said
these charges were politically motivated by a former
campaign rival, Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox, and
her husband, county Supervisor Greg Cox. You see,
Steve had the temerity to oppose a Cox for mayor of
Chula Vista. Soon after Steve announced his intent
to seek that office, Cox's long-held political allies,
lobbyists and legal special inerests began to come
out of the campaign woodwork.
Today there is no doubt the Coxes would
vehemently deny that allegation or any assertion
they were connected at all to this public calamity
that targeted Castaneda. Yet, this case has cost our
family and the taxpayers of Chula Vista and county of
San Diego dearly, and all of us deserve answers.
However, there need not be an impasse on the
relevant unanswered question of complicity by
Cheryl and Greg Cox; there is a simple fix. In at least
three articles the Union-Tribune reported a “tip” that
the DA received of wrongdoing by Castaneda that
started this entire legal debacle. Will the DA reveal
who this tipster is? What is the relationship and
credibility that this individual tipster has with the
DA? Dumanis must surely know that people in this
country have a right to face their accusers, doesn't
she? Once this individual comes out of the shadows
and is identified, we will then see if there is a
relationship between this tipster, Cheryl and Gregg
Cox and the DA.
If there is no connection, all of us, including the
Castaneda family, will sleep better at night. But if
there is, then this political and legal nightmare may
have a new destination.
Bob Castaneda is the brother of Steve Castaneda
Having attended several days of the trial of Steve
Castaneda, I find the outcome to be just as has been
described – that is, poorly researched, no evidence,
and an unfair attack on Castaneda. I do agree that
our elected officials must demonstrate an extremely
high code of ethics, but after watching what
transpired, the Public Integrity Unit needs to do
some self-examination of its ethics and motivation
before spending thousands of taxpayers' dollars
chasing rumors and innuendos.
The timing of this case was highly suspicious in
relation to the upcoming election. What was the
motivation to hold it just two months prior to
Castaneda's campaign for re-election to the Chula
Vista City Council? The jury recognized the facts in
the case. Congratulations, Mr. Castaneda!
Regarding “DA should remember fate of those
before her” (Our Region, April 23):
I feel columnist Gerry Braun's article on DA Bonnie
Dumanis was unfair. Lets talk about the DA's
character. She forges relationships with the police,
the community and her employees and utilizes those
relationships for better communication, better
training and always the goal of justice. She works
hard. She encourages each person to always do the
right thing. Her comments to the press are
conservative and more expanded when she has
done a thorough examination of all the facts. When
any person speaks, you can ask “What were they
communicating?” or “What was the point they were
trying to make?” or you can spin it.
The end result: Dumanis is exactly the type of leader
the community wants: hard-working, reflective,
honest and true.
Deputy District Attorney
San Diego County
The people of San Diego should start connecting the
dots: Our district attorney is spinning dangerously
out of control. Few seemed concerned when she
found that the fatal shootings of three Latino men in
Vista by four deputy sheriffs within five days in 2005
It was only a matter of time before her unchecked
power and ambition would lead her to irresponsibly
prosecute and nearly destroy the lives of two other
innocent citizens. Last week, her office was
compelled to drop charges against Cynthia Sommer,
a young mother wrongly accused of killing her
husband. This week, we witnessed yet another
embarrassing moment for Dumanis with the acquittal
of Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda.
Now she refuses to be transparent in a pending
case involving the San Diego police officer accused
of shooting a mother and her 8-year-old son in an
Oceanside parking lot. She has asked us to “keep
on open mind” about the case. But, as some have
recently pointed out: Fool us once shame on you,
fool us three, four or five times, and we have a legal
and moral crisis on our hands. This has led many San
Diegans to ask: Who is next, Bonnie?
Dumander Strikes Again!
Voice of San Diego
by Andrew Donohue
May 30, 2008
Mayor Jerry Sanders' reelection campaign today
announced the endorsements of District Attorney
Bonnie Dumanis and Sheriff Bill Kolender. (Because
they so often endorse together, we at
voiceofsandiego.org generally refer to them as
"Dumander" during election season.)
The endorsements offer the mayor the support of the
two top elected law enforcement officials in the region.
They both endorsed Sanders in 2005, as well.
Dumanis, you might remember, vowed not to endorse in
political races upon the forming of her Public Integrity
Unit, which focused on prosecuting public officials.
Dumanis offered a caveat though: She would endorse
in unusual situations.
This is from her prepared remarks from that
announcement last year:
"However, public integrity work is difficult enough
without the possibility of having our motives questioned
or impaired by politics. So let me be clear: I will not allow
this office to be used as a pawn during political
campaigns or allow the incorrect perception that we are
anything other than completely objective."
Since then, she's endorsed two different candidates for
city attorney and, now, a candidate for mayor.
The endorsement in the city attorney's race caused her
just last week to decline a call to investigate City
Attorney Mike Aguirre.
No word yet on what the usual circumstance is that led
her to endorse Sanders.
Announcing Public Integrity Unit
Bonnie Dumanis, on March 1, 2007:
"If you break the law, we will prosecute you no matter
who you are...[unspoken exception: unless you are
Cheryl Cox]...[We're] going after these criminals
[elected officials]...These two men [O'Toole and Schorr]
are the generals in our fight against public
[Note: Patrick O'Toole was appointed US Attorney in San
Diego (before Carole Lam) by George Bush's first attorney
general, John Ashcroft.]
"I will not endorse candidates..."
San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis
The gal sits on the board of governors at
the california state bar now.
July 13, 2006
Five attorneys, including San Diego District
Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, have been
chosen to serve three-year terms on the
State Bar’s Board of Governors, it was
Dumanis, 54, is a former superior court
judge who won the district attorney’s
primary race in 2002 over one of her
competitors in this year’s board of
governors race, City Attorney Mike Aguirre.
She has been on the boards of the
San Diego County Bar Association and the
Lawyers Club of San Diego
San Diego Business Journal
Publication Date: 22-AUG-05
Author: Broderick, Pat
New In Town: Midge Costanza, a former
assistant to President Carter, has joined
District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis' office
as a public affairs officer.
Costanza, 72, will be assigned to the
communications and community relations
with an emphasis on crime prevention.
Photo: Bonnie Dumanis, Patrick O'Toole, Leon Schorr
Time to close DA's Public Integrity
San Diego Union Tribune
April 25, 2008
Regarding “DA's integrity-unit case ends in acquittal,
mistrial” (Our Region, April 24):
Jurors made the right decision in acquitting Chula Vista
City Councilman Steve Castaneda. Can you imagine
“thinking about something” as a crime. Time for the
district attorney's Public Integrity Unit to be dissolved
and Deputy DA Patrick O'Toole to look for another job. I
am voting to re-elect Steve Castaneda. Hang in there,
The prosecution of Kathleen Sterling is worrisome. Almost
immediately after Sterling and other Tri-City Healthcare
board members fired a group of administrators in December
2008, powerful friends of the fired individuals began asking
Dumanis to file criminal charges against members of the
board who voted in favor of the firings. Bonnie Dumanis did
not respond to the first two attempts to involve the criminal
justice system in the matter, preferring to allow the case to
make its way through the civil courts. But apparently the
third time is a charm. Does this have anything to do with the
mayoral campaign and/or efforts to change the makeup of
the Tri-City board?
D.A.'s Public Integrity Unit: Not So
Posted on April 10, 2011
by Will Carless
Voice of San Diego
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' website for her recently
announced mayoral campaign waxes lyrical about the
prosecutor's protection of the public, high conviction
rates and strong managerial and organizational skills.
Not mentioned in the list of accomplishments is the
District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit, a crack team of
lawyers Dumanis set up with much fanfare in the spring of
2007 as a weapon against San Diego's image as a den of
political iniquity and corruption.
Indeed, four years after the unit was created, San
Diegans would be forgiven for wondering whether it
actually still exists. Since the controversial — and largely
botched — prosecution of Chula Vista Councilman Steve
Castaneda in 2008, Dumanis' team of anti-corruption
lawyers has been remarkably low-profile.
Dumanis says the unit has hardly been slacking off. Her
office provided a list of 88 public integrity prosecutions
since 2007 as evidence that complaints are being
investigated. And Dumanis and her public integrity czar
Leon Schorr stressed that most of the work of the Public
Integrity Unit is investigative and doesn't necessarily
result in prosecutions.
But 85 of the 88 prosecutions listed by Dumanis involved
rank-and-file public employees, not politicians or elected
officials, who were the original stated targets of the
Public Integrity Unit. Lumped into the successes of the
unit are cases against police officers and city employees,
and for attorney misconduct.
In four years, three elected officials have been
prosecuted by Dumanis' office and, so far, only one of
those prosecutions has resulted in punitive action:
Earlier this year former Encinitas Mayor Dan Dalager was
fined $1,000 for receiving discounted kitchen appliances
from a resident he assisted while in office.
Dumanis proposed the Public Integrity Unit as a new and
necessary weapon in the local prosecutorial arsenal, and
warned crooked politicians that she would be watching
them, and that they'd better behave.
Driving home the point that this was to be a unit that
would specifically target politicians, Dumanis said at the
same press conference that she would no longer be
endorsing political candidates, and that her office would
not be used as a political pawn. She later endorsed in
several important races, including the 2008 city attorney's
race, in which she backed Jan Goldsmith against Mike
Bonnie Dumanis Releases Butterflies
to Honor Crime Victims
By Matt Potter
San Diego Reader
May 4, 2011
Another mayoral hopeful, this one actually declared, is
Republican district attorney Bonnie Dumanis. On Friday,
April 15, she and her friend and political ally county sheriff
Bill Gore held a Citizens of Courage Awards Ceremony for
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. As reported by the
Union-Tribune, “dignitaries and law enforcement officials
released about 100 butterflies to honor local crime
It wasn’t mentioned that the wingding was held at the
rooftop Beach bar of downtown’s W Hotel, with
“complimentary hors d’oeuvres, a no-host bar, and an
opportunity drawing,” according to a release by the Crime
Victims Fund, which charged admission of $10 a head
(“which is waived for media representatives”) as a fund-
raiser. According to the group’s Internal Revenue Service
report for 2009, filed last November 22, it raised $41,994,
made $15,492 in grants, and spent $44,000 on unspecified
“contract services,” reporting an end-of-year deficit of
Presided over by family law attorney Meredith Levin, the
board includes Sheriff Gore; onetime GOP city attorney
candidate Leslie Devaney; former assistant chief of
police, now Qualcomm executive, Bill Maheu; San Diego
executive assistant chief of police David Ramirez; and
Phyllis Shess, a deputy district attorney under Dumanis.
In a telephone interview last week, the fund’s executive
director Patti Colston said the group’s past financial
issues had resulted from the loss of revenue it had been
receiving from a discontinued prison-labor program at
the state’s Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility on
Otay Mesa, but there are plans for future growth.
[Westin Gaslamp Quarter Hotel, 910 Broadway Circle, on
the second floor in the California Ballroom.]
|San Diego Education Report
OCEANSIDE: DA drops remaining
charge against Tri-City director
August 30, 2012
BY PAUL SISSON
Tri-City Medical Center has spent more than $120,000 in the past
year on legal fees related to its ongoing battle with Director
The San Diego County district attorney's office has
dropped a remaining misdemeanor charge of
wrongful influence against Tri-City Medical Center
Director Kathleen Sterling, who had been accused of
illegally voting on an item in which she had a
financial interest. [Maura Larkins comment: I don't
think Bonnie Dumanis has looked very hard for
conflicts of interest among local officials. In fact, it
appears that Bonnie herself might have some conflicts
of interest regarding whom she chooses to prosecute.]
District attorney Bonnie Dumanis issued a statement
Thursday saying the matter had been dismissed "in
the interest of justice" after prosecutors determined
the case wasn't strong enough to move forward.
[Maura Larkins comment: Wait a minute. Justice and
not having evidence are two different things. So which
"Our office can only proceed with a criminal case
when we believe we can prove it beyond a
reasonable doubt," Dumanis said in the statement.
"After an ongoing review of the totality of the
evidence, we've determined we can no longer meet
that legal and ethical burden."
Sterling said Thursday that she had no comment on
The embattled board member announced Aug. 14
that she would not be running for re-election in
November, citing "arduous conditions" put upon her
by a "compromised board" and hospital executives.
Sterling was charged in November 2010 with felony
vote trading, as well as a misdemeanor count of
undue influence. The felony count was dismissed
last year, but a trial was set for September on the
Another Tri-City board member, Charlene Anderson,
said Thursday that she was surprised by the district
attorney's decision to dismiss the charge, given that
Sterling had voted in front of 100 people.
"She was warned in writing and was warned two or
three times at the meeting not to vote, but she did
anyway," Anderson said.
A conviction could have kept Sterling from running
for elected office for four years. Leon Schorr, the
deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, said
earlier this month that a judge would have ultimate
discretion on the matter during sentencing.
The misdemeanor charge stemmed from an incident
on July 12, 2010, in which the Tri-City board voted on
whether Sterling should be removed from all board
committees and stop receiving reimbursement for
attending conferences in her role as a hospital
Sterling took part in the vote over the objections of
board attorney Greg Moser, who said she should
recuse herself because she had a personal financial
interest in the outcome.
Board members receive a stipend of $100 for each
committee meeting they attend.
Jan. 10, 2013
It appears that Bonnie has just scratched the surface
of corruption in schools and colleges in San Diego.
She kept hands off the people whose abuse of power
at Miracosta College cost millions, but she's going
hard on people in South Bay who were involved in
I do not believe that Bonnie is a racist.
It's just that the people in San Diego who have political
clout and are therefore untouchable are likely to be
Bonnie would NOT be in office if her PIU went after
white male Republicans. I imagine she was thrilled that
a couple of them turned up in her South Bay sweep.
Bertha Lopez Manuel Paul Yolanda Hernandez Yolanda
The big problem with Ernie Dronenburg is that he
ignores many laws, not just the one authorizing gay
Bonnie Dumanis endorsing Ernie
Posted by LGBT Weekly Commentary, Editorial March
BY JESS DURFEE
At first I thought it was a joke when I heard that
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis had endorsed the
re-election campaign of County Clerk Ernest
Dronenburg, whose one-man effort to halt marriage
equality in San Diego made ugly headlines last year.
True, Dumanis has a tendency to endorse the
candidates the Republican Party wants her to
endorse. But I figured that in this case she’d surely
put principles ahead of politics. After all, she’s a
proud member of the LGBT community and also a
beneficiary of marriage equality, having been
married to her long-time partner since 2008.
You can imagine my reaction upon discovering that
Dumanis had indeed given the Dronenburg
campaign her endorsement – an endorsement she
now refuses to rescind.
Dumanis’ support of Dronenburg is such a cynical
political act – and such a betrayal to the LGBT
community – that I urge her to reconsider, if only out
of respect for all the people whose lives were
upended by Dronenburg’s behavior. I also urge the
LGBT community to make their voices heard on this
issue. Perhaps enough pressure will force our
district attorney to do the right thing in this case.
To put Dumanis’ actions in proper context, let’s
review exactly what Dronenburg did last year. In
July, after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the
way for marriage equality in California, Dronenburg
filed a legal challenge and refused to issue marriage
licenses to LGBT couples in San Diego.
According to a report in the San Diego Reader,
Dronenburg’s legal challenge was funded by
Charles Limandri, a lawyer whose crusade against
marriage equality and on behalf of Prop. 8 has been
The result was the temporary suspension of
marriage licenses for LGBT couples in San Diego.
Some couples were forced to travel to Orange
County and elsewhere to get married. Some were
forced to put their marriage plans on hold. What
should have been an exhilarating time in local LGBT
history instead became yet another reminder of the
bigotry that still exists in some sectors of our
Finally, in the face of an enormous public outcry,
Dronenburg relented and dropped his legal efforts.
His public explanations for his actions never passed
the smell test. He claimed he was merely seeking
legal “clarification,” a laughably transparent
In the past I’ve been disappointed by Dumanis’
refusal to take a principled stand against politicians
opposed to marriage equality. One example: her
2005 endorsement of Gov. Schwarzenegger ten days
after he vetoed the legislature’s marriage equality
But her Dronenburg endorsement, and her refusal
to rescind that endorsement, is so far over the line
that it cries for a response from the LGBT community
at large. If enough people speak up on this issue,
maybe she’ll actually listen.
Jess Durfee is a Democratic National Committee
member, treasurer of the LGBT Caucus of the
California Democratic Party, former chair of the San
Diego County Democratic Party and a past-president
of the San Diego Democrats for Equality.
South Bay Schools Indictments
DA Bonnie Dumanis’ Re-Election
Campaign Gets Petty
by Doug Porter
San Diego Free Press
April 18, 2014
comment by dave stutz April 18, 2014
Dumanis and her campaign manager Jennifer
Tiernny are so busy answering questions from the
FBI about how Singh was a volunteer and paid
political consultant at the same time they blew this
one. Brewer has accomplished more in his 7 + years
as a prosecutor than she has in her whole career as
a Deputy DA and Judge. He did all this without
political goals. With all the defendants rolling over
and cooperating with the FBI I understand how their
mind was elsewhere and they missed this one.
Dave Stutz is a former Deputy DA.
From Voice of San Diego:
Former Deputy District Attorney Dave Stutz, once a
friend and supporter of Dumanis, said he quit
because she blocked his efforts to investigate and
prosecute corruption. “Her political unit was a joke,”
he said. “The Castaneda case probably cost a million
dollars and never got off the ground. She has done
nothing in seven years in office in that area.” Stutz
said he became disillusioned soon after Dumanis
took office in 2003 and appointed him to do
corruption prosecutions. He cited as the last straw a
case he tried to build against a county supervisor
whom he suspected had illegally received campaign
contributions from an Indian tribe.
In a Feb. 3, 2004 grand jury proposal obtained by
voiceofsandiego.org, Stutz outlines a case of
potential campaign finance violations by the
supervisor and asks permission to proceed.“She
stopped that investigation,” Stutz said. “Before I
called or interviewed anybody I had to let her know
ahead of time. I’ve been doing this for half a
century, and I’m not going to do that.” Stutz
resigned after that, about 14 months after Dumanis
took office. Dumanis denied Stutz’s claims, saying
this of her old friend: “Dave Stutz is a big critic, but
he’s been a critic of everyone. He was a big
supporter … I don’t know” what happened to sour
him, she said.
6 years later, more proof of Bonnie
Dumanis' political prosecution of Steve
Phone Call Raises Questions About DA
Dumanis’ Chula Vista Investigations
By Amita Sharma
April 21, 2014
As Bonnie Dumanis campaigns for a fourth term as
district attorney, a prosecutor in her office and
some former elected officials in the South Bay are
raising questions about whether she blurred the
boundary between politics and law enforcement in a
high-profile case six years ago.
At issue is the prosecution of former Chula Vista
Councilman Steve Castaneda, who was accused in
2008 of lying to a grand jury. A jury acquitted him on
most charges and hung on others.
At the time, the case perplexed people in the media
and legal circles who suspected political motives.
KPBS recently learned of a phone call Dumanis
made in late 2005 that some now say could lend
credence to those suspicions.
”I received a call from Bonnie in my office, asking
me, encouraging me to support one of the
candidates who was an employee of hers in her
office and a friend,” said former Chula Vista Mayor
Steve Padilla, who needed to fill a vacant City
Council seat at the time.
The employee was Dumanis aide Jesse Navarro.
Padilla said he told Dumanis that Navarro wouldn’t
do because he needed to replace outgoing
Councilwoman Patty Davis with another female
“She was disappointed,” Padilla said. “She felt
strongly about Jesse.”
Critics have long accused Dumanis of improperly
wading into politics by endorsing candidates. But
they argue the 2005 phone call to Padilla crossed a
new line. It melded politics and prosecutor,
undercutting her credibility and raising questions
about her motives in the events that followed.
Just weeks after the call, Dumanis’ office opened an
investigation into Padilla and the rest of the Chula
Vista City Council for allegedly not attending
redevelopment corporation meetings but collecting
pay for them. No charges were filed.
The office did charge Padilla’s aide Jason Moore in
2006 with lying to a grand jury about spying on his
boss’s political opponent at a fundraising event. In
a deal with prosecutors, Moore pleaded guilty to a
That same year, Dumanis launched a probe into
whether then-Councilman Castaneda had received
special favors from a developer. A grand jury later
indicted Castaneda for perjury.
Dumanis declined a request for an interview for this
story. Her spokesman said the office cannot discuss
past or present investigations.
Former federal prosecutor Jason Forge, who is not
aligned with any of the three candidates in the
district attorney's race, said the series of inquiries
following Dumanis’ call to Padilla creates a
“If you have a prosecutor personally requesting
something that is refused and soon thereafter there
is a criminal investigation that would effectively
open up the opportunity that the prosecutor had
requested, the appearance of impropriety is that
the prosecutor is using his or her office to obtain
this benefit,” Forge said.
The chief prosecutor in all of those investigations
— Deputy District Attorney Patrick O’Toole — also
declined an interview for this story...
O’Toole said had he known about the call, at the
very least he would have recommended that
Castaneda’s lawyer, Marc Carlos, be told of the
conflict of interest. But O’Toole did not address in
his written statement why he himself didn’t tell
Carlos about the call once Padilla confirmed it. He
declined to answer that question, saying he would
not go beyond what he had put in his statement
Carlos first learned of Dumanis’ 2005 call from KPBS
“If she was trying to do something to get a political
favorite in a position of power at the expense of my
client, it clearly shows a vexatious prosecution,”
Carlos said. “It's illegal for one. And it's unethical.
It's certainly something I needed to know."
Former federal prosecutor Forge agreed. He said at
a minimum, the defense should have been informed
of Dumanis’ call to Padilla.
“That way the defense can make their own
assessment of whether they think this is a
significant conflict,” Forge said. “The defendant can
raise the issue with a judge. And then that third
party — the judge — can make a determination
about whether or not the fairness of the criminal
proceeding is affected by this conflict.”
Beyond disclosing information about the call to the
defense in the Castaneda case, there was
precedent for recusal within the district attorney's
Chula Vista investigations.
When the District Attorney's Office asked to
question Chula Vista City Councilwoman Patty
Chavez in its probe of the redevelopment
corporation, her attorney, Colin Murray, balked.
Chavez was in the middle of a re-election race and
one of her opponents was Dumanis aide Jesse
When Murray learned of Navarro’s connection to
the district attorney, he asked that Dumanis recuse
herself from the case.
“Why were these subpoenas being issued,
including one for my client, when somebody within
Bonnie Dumanis’ kitchen cabinet was running for
my client’s seat,” Murray asked. “I thought it was
The District Attorney's Office granted the request.
This story was edited by Lorie Hearn, executive
director and editor of inewsource, a KPBS media