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Parsing Passalacqua’s response

No one gets to cross-examine Stephan Passalacqua. He isn’t talking.

Stephan Passalacqua PD FILE/2006

And that’s sure familiar.

A pattern developed during my years as night city editor. Passalacqua routinely called me late in the evening, long after the courthouse reporter had given up and gone home, writing that the district attorney hadn’t respond to interview requests on whatever story we were pursuing. Passalacqua always had some prepared talking points, which he read, then repeated regardless of the follow-up question. He’d chuckle, assure me he wasn’t saying going to say anything more and hang up.

Passalacqua essentially did the same thing with the case of Miguel Sanchez, the 83-year-old Cloverdale man who was struck by a hit-and-run driver and died four days later – two days after prosecutors cut a deal to close the case, and just a few days before his term ended. Passalacqua ducked interview requests from reporters pursuing the story for a week before submitting a Close to Home column on Wednesday that tried to pin the blame on a political foe.

Since we can’t cross examine the former district attorney, let’s read between the lines of his Close to Home column. Passalacqua says a firewall of assistants and chief deputies separated him from cases involving his brother, the defense attorney in the Sanchez case. OK, so who specifically was responsible for making those decisions? He didn’t say.

Instead, he implied that it was Bud McMahon, even attributing The Press Democrat. He called McMahon’s judgment “inexcusable” and suggested “disciplinary action.” But all that’s been reported is that McMahon made a phone call to the Cloverdale police after the case was closed. So far, no one is willing to say who handled the case or who made the decision to settle before police finished their investigation, before the Sanchez family was consulted and without determining the extent of Sanchez’s injuries.

For the uninitiated, McMahon supported Jill Ravitch in each of the past two elections. McMahon was assigned to the juvenile courts under Passalacqua; now he’s interim chief deputy district attorney. If he handled the Sanchez case, maybe he shouldn’t be chief deputy. But if Passalacqua went to court with such flimsy evidence, the case would never get to trial.

– Jim Sweeney





14 Responses to “Parsing Passalacqua’s response”

  1. Julie Gray says:

    I am doubtful Jill Give us the answer

  2. What happened in the investigation of Albert Leday’s shooting death? This story went silent too. Did Little MR P clean that one up just before leaving office, as well? What does our local chapter of the ACLU say on that? MR. P is not politicking with you anymore—maybe you should start screaming NOW!! The Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Mark Fuston, who on June 1st 2010 killed unarmed Albert Mike Leday Jr., 49, after a high speed chase, has been involved in three of the 11 officer-involved shootings that the sheriff’s office has recorded this decade-—2 of them fatal.

    These guys acted like they knew their superiors had their back––nothing was scrutinized––their stories were taken as scripture, no need to check dispatches, no need to look into things further. They’re above the Law. They’re Cowboys, boys and girls! Good ‘ol boys. YEP, Golly! Jill, can we look into this one TOO?

  3. coral says:

    This may be a great opportunity for Ravitch to become ‘super ethical D A of the year’. I urge Ravitch to hang out the dirty laundry and have no fear
    Total transparency and don’t let any body at the hall of justice off the hook.

  4. A Rap on Passalacqua: Feel the Power, feel the Corruption, small town turns big, needs new Direction, no more Good ‘ol Boy Connections–ohhhh—-ohhhh—-ahhhhh—ahhhh–mmmmm–mmmm.

  5. Karma says:

    please dont give Stephan any ideas about going north, we dont need any more bs or lies up this way, hes done enough damage.

    as for the poster who said essentially to quit bashing Passalaquas, you must be related to either Mitch or them, because if you grew up in this area and went to school with these people, you would really know what they are made of….

  6. Hot Sauce says:

    The most unethical, deceitful, dirty ring of rogue law enforcement in the state of California. With Passalacqua running this side show, doing anything for a conviction, cases under his his grips should be reevaluated. I bet half of his convictions are BS. He should be ordered to pay restitution and sentenced to some authentic community service! I’d love to be on a juror deciding on his criminal deeds… one can only dream. This rabbit hole goes much deeper then most can comprehend.

  7. Dan Delgado says:

    Shame,
    You’re kidding, right. On the eve of Passalacqua’s departure from office, a horrific case involving his brother as defense counsel is settled before the police investigation is complete and then for a week he refuses to return the PD’s phone calls. How did anyone but Passalacqua bring this upon himself?

  8. Joe says:

    Lets face it! Sonoma Cty has one of the most corrupt and immoral legal sytems in the state, and California has never been known as a stellar American judicial state!

    There is an old saying in this county that says basically “cases are decided not on the law, the Constitution or the facts, but who the parties are”.

    In other words, it is not the law and ethics or morality of the nation that decides cases but something called THE GOOD OLE BOY method.

    This Good Ole Boy system of law enforcement and justice has been in this county forever and yet the PD nor anyone else has ever truthfully investigated the courts, judges, depts etc. Half of our judges are not fit for the office they hold! Your chances of getting a fair and impartial hearing under the laws of the USA are somewhere between slim and none, especially if it is you vs. a good ole boy!

    Lets face it, Sonoma Cty has never met the standards or expectations of the citizens of this nation!

  9. Shame on the Press Democrat says:

    Shame on the PD. This was an accident! Many lives were affected, Mr. Sanchez died, a juvenille will live the rest of his life with that horrific day and the poor choice he made by driving off and not stopping at the scene of the accident. Why has this been turned into some dramatic bashing of Stephan Passalacqua once again? Why does the Press Democrat continue to take any chance they can to slander the former DA and his family members at expense of the families involved in this matter. Disgusting reporting once again from the Press Democrat aka The National Enquirer. How about reporting REAL news?

  10. Justice Finally says:

    Finally, some justice in this community. Gone are the “cover up days” of Passalacqua and his clan. Thank you Mr. Sweeney for stepping up to the plate and calling it like it is. Trust me folks, there are remaining coals burning at the DA’s office. But one thing I know for sure, we have a DA that won’t put up with this garbage. She follows the law and holds members of her team to the same standards. If there are any current DA’s that think it will be “business as usual” you are in for a rude awakening and likely out looking for a new job.

    And for you Mr. Passalacqua, you can operate like you normally do, but your gig is up. We know who you are, and your services in Sonoma County are no longer needed. Perhaps a region south of here may have use for your conduct. But Sonoma County has closed this chapter of INJUSTICE in Sonoma County. Good bye to you, Sir.

    And finally to Jill… please remain strong and do what you do best, and do the right thing. Never mind what the popular vote is- just give us justice!

  11. Graeme Wellington says:

    There may be some hope yet for the Press Democrat. I don’t think I’ve ever read such an honest and straight-forward account in 45 years of reading the Press Democrat.

    The good guys have been frustrated for a long time with Passalacqua. We could have used this kind of help a long time ago. As frustrating and impossible as our system is, we still strive to do the right thing, but sometimes must exhaust all the other possibilities first.

  12. truth in news says:

    McMahon was punished for his support of Ravitch. Now Passalacqua is trying to throw dirt on his name too! The people of Sonoma County showed Passalacqua what we thought of him in the last election. This inability to confront his mistakes and learn from them is why he is looking for a new job.

  13. Dan Delgado says:

    I really can’t believe Passalacqua has the nerve to blame the PD for sensatioanlistic coverage when he refused to return your telephone calls. What did he expect? Did he think we would all be nice little boys and girls and sit quietly accepting whatever little morsles he decided to toss us, if any? I am sick of these public officials hiding behind confidentiality laws (are you listening Kathy Neville and Veronica Ferguson?) when their own corruption or incompetence is the focus. I have to hand it to the Ravitch supporters. I had my doubts that Passalacqua was as corrupt as the campaign suggested. I have no doubts now.

  14. Dave Madigan says:

    Why is there secrecy in this case at this point? The suspect’s name has been published. The victim’s name has been published. It appears that the secrecy in this case is protecting the prosecutor in charge of the case.

    I am glad that Jill Ravitch is looking into the case now. It does bother me that when she was first asked to do this, she declined. It was only after public outcry that she agreed to investigate.

    The Press Democrat has not sensationalized this case. The lack of candor by the District Attorney’s office has raised questions and caused problems.