Q & A With the Next DA

The Two Rivers Tribune posed four questions to the four candidates for the Humboldt County District Attorney seat. The primary election will be held on June 3, 2014.

Allan Dollison

Allan Dollison

Statistics show the crime rate in Humboldt County has increased. As the District Attorney, how will you work through your office and in the courtroom to reduce the crime rate and improve public safety?

Crime is out of control and that is due to a number of factors. First and foremost, I will work to fix the funding, staffing and resources of the office.  The office has not been turning in a budget and they rely upon the Board of Supervisors to do that important function. With more prosecutors, proper handling of the cases will occur and that will have an impact on crime. Make no mistake about it. This is the number one issue in the campaign. No candidate will fix the office without addressing this problem.

What will you do to reduce the number of cases dropped by the District Attorney’s Office?

When a DA is charging a case, they are saying that they can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. With too many cases to handle, some cases are prioritized over others. Recently we learned, they dropped a provable Cocaine charge case against the individual that 8 months later killed the Catholic priest. Had he been on Felony probation, the jail would have to have held him. Some cases victims no longer desire prosecutions. I will work to end the “Let’s make a deal” culture that exists in the office to just move cases along.

Are you willing to use county resources to enforce tribal court orders banishing drug dealers and sex offenders from Humboldt County Indian reservations? Why or why not?

We must work together with the Tribal Court to respect their decisions, and sovereignty and help them enforce those orders, where we can. This would largely be a law enforcement and not a DA’s office function. However, I would commit to those cases where there is concurrent jurisdiction (i.e. cases that are proceeding in both the Tribal Court and the State Court) that the Court emplace sentencing terms to follow the Tribal Court orders. That would go a long way to enforcing those orders.

What will you prioritize when dealing with the large amount of marijuana cases in the county?

Law enforcement looks at Marijuana cases from many perspectives. Asset forfeiture is one of their primary reasons. I would focus the office’s attention on large industrial grows, cartel grows on public lands and environmentally damaging grows. I would use the office’s consumer and environmental prosecutor to bring actions that would hold the growers who are causing damage financially responsible. Our beautiful environment is why we have tourism. If we destroy that by growing marijuana, then we will lose our most precious and vital resource that we have.

Maggie Fleming

Maggie Fleming

Statistics show the crime rate in Humboldt County has increased. As the District Attorney, how will you work through your office and in the courtroom to reduce the crime rate and improve public safety?

Public safety improves when the DA’s Office brings knowledge, skill and dedication to the job every day.  That is how I have always worked in my 25 years as a prosecutor and that is the kind of DA’s Office I would build.  As DA I will focus on those committing serious and violent crimes and repeat offenders. I will require that they plead to an appropriate sentence or the case will proceed to trial.  For those committing crime due to drug addiction, I will seek drug treatment as part of sentencing.  Treating addiction has been shown to reduce crime.

What will you do to reduce the number of cases dropped by the District Attorney’s Office?

Efficient handling of cases requires timely evaluation and  communication between the DA’s Office and others in the process, including victims, law enforcement agencies and defense attorneys.  I will take a hands-on role in case evaluation.  I have a history of honest, respectful communication with other parties to the process – I will maintain these practices and build an office that does the same.  Law enforcement agencies and the public will be given clear reasons for the decisions of the DA’s Office on each case.  Communication between the DA and law enforcement will improve the work of both.

Are you willing to use county resources to enforce tribal court orders banishing drug dealers and sex offenders from Humboldt County Indian reservations? Why or why not?

Yes, to the fullest extent allowed by law. One option to enforce a tribal court order is to include a “stay away” order as part of a criminal case handled by the Superior Court.  A stay away order can be part of sentencing when drug dealing is a problem for a particular area.  For example, for people convicted of drug activity at the Arcata Plaza, I have successfully argued that the terms of probation require that they not go within 100 yards of the Plaza.  I would seek such orders in cooperation with the tribal court.

What will you prioritize when dealing with the large amount of marijuana cases in the county?

My office will focus on large grows that cause environmental damage, those on public lands, or those involving trespassing.  In addition, I know from my experience as the prosecutor assigned to the Drug Task Force for 4 years that community members can identify ongoing criminal activity including largescale marijuana grows and dealing that causes significant problems in the community.  I will work with the tribal police in prioritizing those problem activities.

Arnie Klein

Arnie Klein

Statistics show the crime rate in Humboldt County has increased. As the District Attorney, how will you work through your office and in the courtroom to reduce the crime rate and improve public safety?

I will use the limited resources of the Humboldt DA’s office to prioritize prosecuting violent crimes like rape, murder, assault and burglary to the fullest extent of the law. I will bring in experienced prosecutors that can effectively handle such cases. (I have already reached out to a few and have received verbal commitments from them to come to Humboldt County and work in my office).

What will you do to reduce the number of cases dropped by the District Attorney’s Office?

Only low priority cases that do not pose a threat to public safety will be dropped, along with ill prepared cases that cannot be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Are you willing to use county resources to enforce tribal court orders banishing drug dealers and sex offenders from Humboldt County Indian reservations? Why or why not?

I intend to expand the tribal jurisdiction in Hoopa and other purviews so tribal judges and their own lawyers, whom I will deputize, can handle their problems on their land in the way they know the best. It makes no sense for a drunk in public from Hoopa to travel to Eureka when the case can be taken care of where the crime occurred.

What will you prioritize when dealing with the large amount of marijuana cases in the county?

With the limited resources that the Humboldt County Sherriff’s office has, prioritization of enforcement of existing laws regarding grows should be two tiered. First is trespass grows on both public and private land. Plant numbers and environmental compliance are irrelevant to tier one enforcement priorities. Second is rigorous enforcement of environmental laws in regards to agricultural use which are already on the books. I have created an environmental task force that contains a grandfather clause allowing landowners the opportunity to become compliant and will use seized money to help restore the land.

Elan Firpo

Elan Firpo

Statistics show the crime rate in Humboldt County has increased. As the District Attorney, how will you work through your office and in the courtroom to reduce the crime rate and improve public safety?

There is a small percentage of the community committing the majority of the crime.  They are repeat offenders that prey upon the rest of us, and many of them are on the streets because they are no longer eligible for prison under realignment.  As District Attorney I will not make plea deals for these repeat offenders.  They will be afforded their speedy trial rights, and if found guilty, they will remain in custody because they are a danger to public safety.  We need to use our limited jail resources wisely and contain the minority of the population that has made it more dangerous to live in Humboldt County.

What will you do to reduce the number of cases dropped by the District Attorney’s Office?

As District Attorney I will assign attorneys to work with each law enforcement agency.  This will enable us to improve communications with law enforcement so that they are able to provide us with the information and details we need to successfully prosecute the cases we file.  Additionally, I will expand our Victim/Witness advocates.  Oftentimes we are not able to prosecute a case because we are unable to locate the victims, or they are unwilling to participate.  We need the victims and the community to feel safe in working with our office to prosecute crime in our communities.

Are you willing to use county resources to enforce tribal court orders banishing drug dealers and sex offenders from Humboldt County Indian reservations? Why or why not?

Absolutely.  Again, realignment has criminals in our community committing crimes for which they know they will not be sent to prison – such as methamphetamine sales.  The tribal courts have the ability to banish drug dealers, which is a far stiffer and more meaningful deterrent than anything available to use through the regular court systems.   Assisting the tribal courts in removing criminals from their lands will send a strong message to the dealers that they are not welcome and will not be tolerated.  It is an uncommonly effective tool for dealing with crime prevention, and I am all for assisting the tribal courts with county resources with this goal.

What will you prioritize when dealing with the large amount of marijuana cases in the county?

The largest grows would be a priority for prosecution.  These grows attract criminals to the community, damage the environment and endanger the community.   In my community meeting in Hoopa on April 13, I was told that many people fear venturing into the countryside, and even hunting on their own land, because of these large and dangerous grows.  I will assign one attorney prosecutor to all of the marijuana cases, with a priority on the largest and most dangerous grows.  The marijuana isn’t the problem, the associated crime and damage is the problem, and that is where we need to focus our efforts.

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