Breaking ranks

Yolo investigator blasts DA Reisig, calls gang injunction a political ploy

This guy, an unethical bully?

This guy, an unethical bully?

Photo By Larry Dalton

A Yolo County criminal investigator has accused his boss, District Attorney Jeff Reisig, of being an unethical bully and of using a controversial gang injunction in West Sacramento as a political tool.

In a scathing letter to Reisig (copied to the State Bar of California and the state attorney general’s office), veteran investigator Rick Gore accused the elected DA of retaliating against him, denying him a promotion and pay raise for not going along with what Gore calls “unethical practices.”

Gore writes, “You called me a ‘pussy’ more than once for refusing to write a disparaging letter to the news media about DDA Lenzi,” meaning Pat Lenzi, who at the time was a Yolo County deputy district attorney challenging Reisig’s 2006 election for district attorney.

In another of Gore’s many complaints, he accused Reisig of trying “to hide and conceal discoverable evidence” during a murder trial.

Much of the letter focuses on Reisig’s handling of the sweeping gang suppression tool. “After seeing this become your political benchmark, I have watched this injunction grow into something I did not want to be associated with,” Gore writes.

The timing of the letter is interesting because Yolo County prosecutors will be in court starting March 24 trying to impose a new gang injunction on the heavily Latino neighborhoods of Broderick and Bryte. The old gang injunction was tossed out by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2007 after being found to be unconstitutional (see “I am not a gang member,” SN&R News, May 3, 2007.)

While it was in force, the injunction imposed curfews and other restrictions on individuals deemed by West Sacramento police officers to be gang members—sometimes including individuals who had no history of gang-related crime.

The court found that the injunction violated the right to due process because none of the individuals subject to the new rules were given a chance to argue their side of the story in court.

Before the injunction was put in place in 2005, the DA served only one alleged gang member, Billy “The Bouncer” Wolfington, who actually lived in Sacramento, with notice that the gang injunction was being sought.

At the time, Reisig argued that Wolfington was a high-up officer in the “Broderick Boys” street gang and that he’d send word to the other gangsters, who could then contest the injunction if they chose to.

But in his letter, Gore said Reisig was lying about Wolfington. “I remember you telling me that you specifically selected Mr. Wolfington for being a less than ‘smart person,’ you said he was ‘too stupid’ to show up for court … and he would not likely tell anyone.

“You told me, very strictly, that you did not want this getting out, wanted it kept secret to ensure it would pass. … You were very concerned that if this got out and the ACLU got involved, the injunction would not pass,” Gore added.

SN&R was unable to reach Gore, who wrote in his letter that he was out on medical leave. Gore added that he had sent copies of the letter to the state bar, the Yolo County counsel, the public defender’s office, and the office of the state attorney general for investigation of what he characterized as ethical violations.

After the letter was excerpted on a local blog and the story was picked up by the Woodland Daily Democrat, Reisig refused an interview. He released a statement denying Gore’s “false and reckless allegations.”

“I have requested an independent investigation, will be fully cooperative, and look forward to the results of the investigation,” Reisig stated.

Unlike the original gang injunction, which was pushed through the courts with little notice and no organized opposition, the new injunction is being bitterly contested.

Now prosecutors have had to serve more than a dozen alleged gang members with notices of the injunction, and most have retained lawyers.

Defense attorneys argue that prosecutors haven’t even proven that the Broderick Boys exist as an organized criminal gang, or that they have created the extreme conditions that would justify such sweeping restrictions.

It’s not clear what effect, if any, Gore’s accusations will have on Reisig’s attempts to impose a new gang injunction. Gore helped to get the old injunction into place, but according to his letter, he now has deep doubts about the tactic.

“I think this injunction is being used for your political benefit and not for what it was intended.”

If the gang injunction was a political tool, it worked, getting Reisig elected as DA in 2006. For Gore though, “I regret being a part of it and it will always be viewed by me as a low point in my career.”