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Deputy prosecutor Victoria Shanahan to challenge D.A. Jill Ravitch

By PAUL PAYNE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office is once again a hotbed of political dissent.

Deputy prosecutor Victoria Shanahan announced Wednesday night she will challenge her boss, District Attorney Jill Ravitch, in the June election.

The move was reminiscent of Ravitch’s own path to elected office that began about eight years ago. She ran unsuccessfully against then-District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua in 2006 before defeating him in 2010.

Attorney Victoria Shanahan, center, receives applause while announcing her candidacy for District Attorney on Wednesday at Cellars of Sonoma in Santa Rosa. (Conner Jay / PD)

Attorney Victoria Shanahan, center, receives applause while announcing her candidacy for District Attorney on Wednesday at Cellars of Sonoma in Santa Rosa. (Conner Jay / PD)

Now comes Shanahan, an ex-Mendocino County chief deputy prosecutor hired by Passalacqua in 2007, who will face similar long odds in unseating the one-term incumbent. Ravitch has won endorsements from the five-member Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Steve Freitas and is amassing funds in a campaign war chest.

But Shanahan told a gathering of supporters, including senior prosecutors, sheriff’s detectives and criminal attorneys, that she felt compelled to give it a shot.

She said Ravitch has been an ineffective leader in her $205,000-a-year job, is unwilling to listen to criticism and must be replaced.

“Sonoma County deserves more than broken promises,” she told a crowd of about 100 people at Cellars of Sonoma in downtown Santa Rosa. “It deserves more than failed leadership … and compromised public safety.”

Some backers who voted for Ravitch in 2010 said they, too, were concerned about the direction in which the district attorney was going. Santa Rosa defense attorney Chris Andrian, who attended Shanahan’s campaign kickoff, said the fact that senior prosecutors and homicide detectives are complaining gives him pause.

“What they’re telling me, I can’t just blow off,” Andrian said. “These are people I respect. They are the heavy lifters.”

Shanahan, 44, a registered Democrat and Cloverdale resident, is married to Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Shanahan and has two children.

She bills herself as an “anti-politician,” counting on grass-roots support and endorsements from labor groups. The 250-member Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff’s Association has yet to pick a candidate in the race, but its president, T.J. Van Bebber Jr., was at Wednesday’s event.

He said a decision on an endorsement could come in two or three months.

“We want to get out and listen to what’s being said,” he said.

Shanahan didn’t get into specific criticisms of Ravitch, saying she merely wanted to announce her candidacy. But she promised an “issues-based campaign” to include future public forums or debates.

Political watchers said Ravitch isn’t particularly vulnerable. She’s respected as a top trial lawyer and has had no major public relations disasters.

However, detractors said she’s not necessarily a good manager. Some have accused her of cronyism for hiring political supporters and for excessive turnover at her Family Justice Center, which has had three leaders in less than two years. Others said she lacks transparency and is more concerned about reelection than running an office with 110 employees and a more than $20 million budget.

Most recently, her office has come under fire by crime victims who said they weren’t consulted on plea bargains.

Ravitch said in a written statement she’s proud of her record and looks forward to “a spirited and civil debate.”

“I welcome all candidates to the race,” Ravitch said in the written statement.

Shanahan was raised in Willits and graduated from Sonoma State University with a degree in environmental studies. She had a short career as a chemist at Net Pacific Inc. before attending Empire College School of Law, graduating in 2001.

She was hired by the late Mendocino County District Attorney Norm Vroman in 2002 and handled a broad range of cases before being promoted to management. Shanahan left about seven years ago after accepting a job offer from Passalacqua.

She was assigned to domestic violence, sexual assault and vehicular homicide cases, prosecuting Windsor resident Ryan Karr, who killed five family members in a fiery rear-end crash on Highway 101 in 2007. He was convicted by a jury and sentenced to four years in prison.

She was later transferred to the gang unit, where she handled the prosecution of Fernando Mendoza, charged with the 2009 slaying of rival Luis Suarez on a Santa Rosa street. Mendoza was convicted after a five-week trial and sentenced to life behind bars.

More recently, Shanahan has been assigned to review and file charges in a special court to resolve felony cases. She said her trial and management experience have prepared her to become the county’s top law enforcement officer.





12 Responses to “Deputy prosecutor Victoria Shanahan to challenge D.A. Jill Ravitch”

  1. Beth says:

    Ratvich is for Ratvich and nobody else. Talk to her about something and see how well she listens. She hears only what she wants to hear; if it doesn’t fit her agenda, it doesn’t matter.

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  2. Matt Reilly says:

    It is sad that a poor lady had to go through this in our county. In the case of State of California v. Arnold Luz case is just one recent example of how cases are being mismanaged, and victims are not being served, by the current District Attorney administration under Jill Ravitch. In this case a member of District Attorney management violated the victims’ rights by plea bargaining the case and dismissing charges that ultimately allowed the judge to give the defendant probation. This was all done without advising the victim or allowing their voices to be heard in court. The victim had to learn about this violation by reading the newspaper. The judge in this case acknowledged that the victims rights were violated. The mismanagement of this case undoubtedly caused further trauma to the victim

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  3. Q213 says:

    Ravitch has done a good job of hiding the true performance of her office. Start sitting in court once in awhile and see the cases being dismissed or pled with little consequence. Talk to victims who report they were never contacted when a plea bargain was entered. Talk to the cops who are seeing provable cases not being filed. Talk to defense attorneys whose clients benefit from the disorganized office. Ravitch doesnt have the people skills to lead the office, but she has become a great politician who speaks in half truths and has created a great veil across her office. Thank goodness there is a challenger who will challeng e Ravitch’s touted accomplishments and give Sonoma County a dose of truth for a change.

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  4. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Remember this. Passalacqua, before going out of office hired people to mess with Ravitch’s ability to hire her own people. He was not a nice guy in any sense of the word. From my perspective Ravitch is doing a good job and treats the employees under her with respect.

    Then there is the conflict of interest with Shanahan married to a Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy. Not to my liking at all if she is the head of the department and making decisions that will affect that department.

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  5. Sick of them all says:

    Seriously sick of them all. SICK of them all.

    And our water btw is the HIGHEST in the nation! Did anyone get their bill yet? OMFG!

    xposting this to
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/californiastatepolitics/480133328749293

    (on the right/indie side of CA)

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  6. Graeme Wellington says:

    I think Ravich’s success and ability speaks for itself. I don’t see that level of talent or potential in Mrs. Shanahan. There has to be a lot of money behind this challenge. It’s not a challenge to seriously take the office. It’s a method to tear down, not build up something better. Passalacqua and his cronies are determined to inherit the wind.

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  7. Q213 says:

    Dont stick your head in the sand Jill and think everything is going to be okay. You spent the better part of your first term taking apart the office / morale yet you dont think there is a problem with your troops. You have also lost supporters who believed in you enough that they donated to your camp during tough economic times (Thats called a clue). The good news is you will be able to hire alot of your less than qualified friends when you get re-elected since your true heavy hitters will be hitting the road. Good luck Sonoma County!!

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  8. Q213 says:

    Observer

    Huh?

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  9. Hot Sauce says:

    Great info Observer!

    1) Conflict of interest anyone? – “Shanahan, 44, a registered Democrat and Cloverdale resident, is married to Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Shanahan and has two children.

    This just screams conflict of interest, how convenient for the wife of a Sonoma County deputy to make sure they get their convictions huh? Am I implying she would do such a thing… no. However, it’s to close to risk. You don’t put a fox in a hen-house and “keep your fingers crossed” Nothing happens.

    2) Fact – “The County of Sonoma is so relentlessly corrupt it transcends conspiracy. It’s reflexive. It’s culture.” Even more reason to eliminate conflicts of interest such as pointed out above.

    3) “It deserves more than failed leadership … and compromised public safety.” ~ Shanahan. Failed leadership is using dirty and unconstitutional tactics to win cases, not to mention attorneys who are actually in bed with them. Attorneys who make deals with the prosecution knowing darn well it will be catastrophic to their clients case, basically handing their “client” to the wolves after they have collected the money.

    Just take Andrian’s comment from above as a shining example “Santa Rosa defense attorney Chris Andrian, who attended Shanahan’s campaign kickoff, said the fact that senior prosecutors and homicide detectives are complaining gives him pause.

    “What they’re telling me, I can’t just blow off,” Andrian said. “These are people I respect. They are the heavy lifters.”

    What ARE they telling you Mr. Andrian? WHY do you “respect” them? HOW are they “heavy lifters”? (possible answer) – Don’t bite the hand that fattens your bank account? It sounds pretty easy to take the retainer fee and then bolo the clients case. Sounds like a symbiotic relationship to me.

    4) “Shanahan didn’t get into specific criticisms of Ravitch, saying she merely wanted to announce her candidacy.” Wait…. what’s this quote mean then Shanahan? “It deserves more than failed leadership … and compromised public safety.”? Bashing without facts already???

    “Political watchers said Ravitch isn’t particularly vulnerable. She’s respected as a top trial lawyer and has had no major public relations disasters.”

    5) There is monetary incentive in convictions, either convictions that are BS from the start, or punishments that far outweigh the crime, or even convictions that are based on prosecutorial theory, sold to the jury as facts and spun as factual truths.

    6) Another conflict of interest – A coroners office contracted with Sonoma County. They would want that contract renewed… who wouldn’t want guaranteed business and income? Again don’t bite the hand that feeds you! so get up on that stand and lie your *** off, and hope no one checks into your DUI and drug convictions – credibility anyone?

    It’s simple – connect the dots (relationships and contracts), follow the money, look for conflicts of interest & monopolies of power within the county and lastly… always ask WHY do they want this, how does it benefit them? Because Sonoma County is so corrupt voting for the candidates they oppose may save you should it ever be you or your family member “on the slab”

    Oh… and before you hire an attorney, you may want to contact past clients and find out how an attorney’s record can paint a completely different picture of what actually happened!

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  10. Coral says:

    Wife of the So Co Sheriff? No no and no. Way to familial and a foundation for collusion.

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  11. Emerson Burkett says:

    WOW!!! Observer, thanks for the detailed description of Sonoma County “Government”. “Government by and for The Fat Cats”.

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  12. observer says:

    Enter the challenger: an anti-politician.

    Nobody gave Marc Levine a chance against the Establishment candidate for Assembly in 2012. Levine was outspent six to one. He won.

    The Press Democrat, the house organ for the County insiders, tried to spin Levine’s victory as fallout from redistricting.

    But Levine—from Marin– won by 2000 votes in Sonoma County.

    What’s that tell us? It tells us the people who are paying the bills for one of the most corrupt County governments in California—the County of Sonoma– finally said E-NUFF.

    Which brings us back to the incumbent; then to the challenger. Our incumbent DA is capable. And bought. As in bought and paid for. Bought and paid for by the same folks who gave us the serial fiscal killings of pensions, roads, a sweetheart $500 million garbage contract and a no-public-purpose-is-served billion dollar blank check for Sonoma Clean Power.

    (A brief digression on pensions. The County of Sonoma has GREAT rank and file employees. They’re not the ones raking in huge pensions.)

    The County of Sonoma is so relentlessly corrupt it transcends conspiracy. It’s reflexive. It’s culture. Like cannibals: what do you mean it’s unseemly to eat somebody’s thigh? We’ve been doing this for generations!

    Enter the challenger. What an opportunity. Just enforce the law. Hasn’t been happening when it comes to the billion dollar fraud machine that County government has become. An opportunity to do justice to the taxpayers and ratepayers.

    It won’t take much. Just a few questions here and there. How about these to the Board of Supervisors, County Counsel, the Water Agency and the Auditor/Controller– can you explain:

    1)Why the Water Agency wasn’t investigated for its $95,000 2010 bribe the Santa Rosa City Planning Commissioner—after the FPPC fined him ( our erstwhile Assemblyman, now un-elected) for taking that bribe?

    2)Why an associate of that Planning Commissioner was paid $115,000 by the Water Agency for a no-bid/no work contract on Sonoma Clean Power?

    3) Why the Water Agency lied –in writing, on the advice of County Counsel—to deny public access to the financial analysis of Sonoma Clean Power?

    4)Why the Water Agency deliberately excluded the low cost provider of electricity in Sonoma County—Healdsburg/NCPA—from its feasibility study in 2011; excluded Healdsburg/NCPA from its solicitations to providers across the US for power contracts: even though Healdsburg/NCPA, by the Water Agency’s own public testimony, is 15% to 20% cheaper than both PG&E and Sonoma Clean Power?

    5)Why the Water Agency and Board of Supervisors took $60 million of Sonoma County tax payer and rate payer money and didn’t invest it in roads; they invested it in a no-jobs, no-CO2 reducing catastrophic failure –the precursor to Sonoma Clean Power—called Sonoma County Energy Independence?

    Dear Ms. Challenger: these questions just scratch the surface. The Supervisors, Water Agency, County Counsel, Auditor-Controller and certain other County leaders are sucking cash out of the County treasury at the behest of their true owners: a few score campaign contributors and influencers who hire and fire our public officials even while rendering up a portrait of democracy.

    What an opportunity to do some good. Just enforce the law.

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