Court-appointed lawyers and investigators defending six Santa Rosa gang members tied to a 2008 Jenner beach murder submitted bills to Sonoma County totaling more than $520,000. The money, divided among 11 attorneys and three investigators for the Asian Boyz defendants, was in addition to full-time salaries paid to some of the lawyers under contract with the county to represent poor people. The costs were driven up, in part, by the more than two years it took then-District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua to decide whether he would seek the death penalty.
Eighteen months after leaving public office, Sonoma County’s former top prosecutor has returned to the legal arena, albeit on different terms. Stephan Passalacqua, district attorney from 2003-2011, appeared in a Santa Rosa courtroom this week as the defense lawyer for a man accused of drunken driving. He’s delved into business law with a focus on real estate, wine and water issues, and picks up the occasional criminal case.
The head of Sonoma County’s new Family Justice Center on Thursday said she has been fired less than a year after she was appointed.
When Jill Ravitch bellied up to the prosecution table in the Jarrod Miller murder trial, she became the first sitting Sonoma County district attorney in three decades to take a case before a jury. Some call it refreshing, others call it grandstanding.
By most accounts from the legal community, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch has done well in her first 12 months as the county’s top law enforcement officer, and is a marked improvement over her predecessor, Stephan Passalacqua, whom she defeated in a bruising 2010 election campaign.
Sonoma County’s new district attorney, Jill Ravitch, took office just seven weeks ago and has already faced enormous budget hurdles, staff tumult and a public relations debacle. “I didn’t realize the complexity of this job until I got here,” Ravitch says.
10 PM UPDATE: A Cloverdale teenager who killed an elderly pedestrian in a hit-and-run crash was sentenced Wednesday to the equivalent of probation and temporary electronic home confinement after an emotional hearing in which the victim’s family demanded jail. “This is a rehabilitation court because we’re dealing with young people. We’re dealing with minors,” Judge Raima Ballinger said.
The two candidates in the race for Sonoma County district attorney raised a combined $577,000 in the run-up to the June election, surpassing a previous record set in their 2006 matchup by more than a third. Two-term incumbent Stephan Passalacqua won the money race but lost at the polls. Details inside.
A manslaughter charge could be forthcoming against a 17-year-old Cloverdale driver who struck a pedestrian but was allowed to plead to felony hit-and-run in the days before the victim died. A Marin County prosecutor assigned to conduct an independent review of the case said new evidence shows a manslaughter charge appears justified.
Marin County’s District Attorney has appointed a veteran of the office to take over from Sonoma County the controversial investigation and prosecution of the teenager accused in a fatal Cloverdale hit-and-run last month.