Jeff Rosen’s Brash Challenge to Unseat   District Attorney Dolores Carr

Former District Attorney George Kennedy says that he has mellowed out in retirement. Sitting beachside in Santa Cruz where he now lives, a strong breeze tossing his newly longish hair, he looks very much the part of the retiree, not so much the fearsome four-term district attorney.

Kennedy was the first person outside of his family that Assistant DA Jeff Rosen consulted with over his decision to run against his boss, District Attorney Dolores Carr. And though Kennedy has traded his wing-tips for flip-flops, he agreed to jump into the fray on Rosen’s behalf.

“I know about the two of them from supervising both of them,” he says. “Jeff is very intelligent. I know that Jeff is the one more likely to run the office in selfless public interest. If you ask him a question, you’re going to get a straight answer.”

Nevertheless, he does not speak ill of his successor. Kennedy claims that as his hair grew out, so did his old firebrand nature. “I think it’s in really bad taste to go negative on her,” he says.

It’s tough getting insiders to discuss the race. “It’s too difficult for me. I have to be mindful of discussing anything negative about my boss,” says Karen Sinunu-Towery, the assistant DA whom Carr beat in 2006. Sinunu-Towery then adds hurriedly, “I’m not saying I would say something negative. It’s very difficult.”

Richard Alexander, a personal-injury lawyer, longtime Carr supporter and 1984 president of the Santa Clara Bar Association, thinks he knows a thing or two about being American. He lines the walls of his polished office off St. James Park with prints of John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence and carries a walletful of fake $2 bills with the same image, which he says he likes to give out to people.

“I have challenged judges,” he points out, “and Rosen says that’s un-American?” He then goes quiet, leaning forward in his chair, glowering. “I want Mr. Rosen to know that is a tawdry, slime-quality lie for which he owes Carr and every lawyer in this country a sincere apology.“He leans back again. “To throw mud because he has the Mercury on its propaganda campaign. I don’t think Carr’s been given a fair shake at all.”

Like Alexander, Carr supporters bristle uniformly at the treatment she’s gotten in the daily newspaper. William Larsen, a retired special assistant district attorney, was particularly angry with a Scott Herhold opinion column that detailed the cost of Carr’s county vehicle, a $37,000 Acura he described as too extravagant to be paid for with taxpayer money.

“That was about as low as it gets,” says Larsen. “Oh, Dolores, she’s got to have this polished wood gear-shift knob. I wanted to send an email that said, ‘Why don’t you take the gear shift knob and shove it up your ass?’”

The disadvantage that Carr has is that even if all the allegations leveled at her are not worth taking seriously, the talking points she marshals are just not as sexy as Rosen’s charges of scandal and misconduct. She says she’s a good manager. She says she’s better equipped to make the $4 million worth of budget cuts her office faces. She says she already knows she can do this without any layoffs. Her supporters say that’s what people should concentrate on.

“The budget thing is almost a full-time job,” says retired Assistant District Attorney Al Weger. “I think Dolores is more capable of doing that.”

“These are tough times as it relates to financial resources in government, and Dolores has managed to maintain the level of service that keeps us safe,” says James Campagna, vice president of the Sheriff’s Advisory Board and owner of Plaza Loans. “Jeff Rosen’s support runs as thin as disgruntled employees. He’s a low-level employee in the office. He’s never managed anybody.”

Kennedy says he’s unconcerned.

“When I first became a DA, I got tremendous help,” says Kennedy. “I know he will too.”

As for Rosen, he continues to plug away with the words of his own father still ringing in his ears when he told his parents his plans to run. “He said, ‘Well, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,’” says Rosen.

“I said, ‘Dad, I could win.’ He said, ‘Oh, no, of course you could win, of course.’”

He certainly has a lot riding on it. If the office is a chilly environment now, one can only wonder what a future as an unsuccessful challenger could be like.

Read the complete story at Metroactive.

32 Comments

  1. Jeff Rosen has done nothing that Carr hasnt done, and for my self personally although I did try on more than one occasion to contact Jeff Rosen about my experience at the DA’s office which has been pure torture, pain, degradation, and to date a complete waste of photo copies, energy and tears, I have not made contact. If anyone citizen of this country The USA was subjected to what I have been than there is a huge problem. Everyone can blame Sean Webby, for reporting to the Mercury and hes a thus and so for pointig out what it is that was brought to his attention, dont kill the messenger. I personally wrote to Dolores Carr on the issues I had, went to Internal affairs, the independent police auditor, wrote to various other agencies and guess what my experience and opinion based solely on the fact that my elected official Carr has chosen not to address what goes on or does not go on in her office is a shame and a stain on the justice system that needs to end. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. If you think it cant happen to you too, at a drop of the hat THINK AGAIN!

    • Good Sarcasm.  Thanks for keeping the Friday funnies alive and well.  Although, I still find it hard to believe John McEnery, IV, lost his courageous battle to pancreatic cancer.

  2. As a nonpartisan, disinterested 3rd party who will be asked to vote for one of these two candidates, I find it interesting that Carr’s supporters are mad at the Mercury’s coverage of her yet they do not seem to question the FACTS in the articles, only that the stories are “negative.” 

    There’s nothing wrong with a “negative” report if it’s accurate, and those facts, on their own, seem to raise legitimate questions about the DA’s ethics and professional judgment. I’m no fan of the Murky Noose, but other than that blowhard Herhold’s cheap shot about Carr’s wooden gear shift, I think the issues they’ve raised about the DA are legitimate topics for the campaign.

    Rosen, on the other hand, seems to base his campaign not on his abilities, but simply the fact that he’s not Dolores Carr. What does this guy have to offer? Can he run a large staff? Can he handle the budget cuts? Besides being president of his Temple (BFD), I don’t see a lot of administrative experience that seems relevant to running the DA’s office.

    Either way, it’s not a great choice for voters.

    • The stories are not “accurate.”  They are “spin.”  The accurate fact is that her husband got involved as a security consultant on a case which was ultimately charged by the DA’s Office.  She missed the potential conflict of interest – a mistake on her part.  She apologized for it, and acknowledged that she is not perfect.  That does not make her evil – it makes her human.  Also, it is not “accurate” that she gave a special deal to her contributor.  She fielded calls from defense attorneys regarding cases, as DA’s have done since time immemorial.  Finally, she papered a judge who has a demonstrable bias against the DA’s Office, and who released a convicted child molester that a jury from this community had recognized as a threat to children – without giving the DA a chance to retry the case.  And this same judge had been involved in other screwy rulings that the entire DA’s Office has recognized for years.  Papering that judge is what a DA – sworn to protect the community – should be doing.  Had this not been an election year, Rosen and the newspapers would have had nothing to say about it – just as they have had nothing to say on the numerous occasions when other parties have papered judges.  Had this not been an election year, the entire DA’s Office would have applauded the decision.  California Penal Code Section 170.6 codifies the right to paper a judge.  Saying that a law codified in an American state (California) by an American legislature is “un-American” (which is what Rosen called it) is not “accurate.”  It’s “spin.”  What also makes these stories “spin” is that they leave out “accurate” facts that hurt Rosen.  For example, it is an “accurate” fact that Rosen – who is running on a platform of ethics – was cited for prosecutorial misconduct by a California Court of Appeals.  That’s P-R-O-S-E-C-U-T-O-R-I-A-L   M-I-S-C-O-N-D-U-C-T,  a B-R-E-A-C-H   O-F   E-T-H-I-C-S.  The Merc does not write about what happened in that case, even though it keeps saying the word “ethics” over and over again as if the correct choice in this campaign were a foregone conclusion.  It is also an “accurate” fact that Rosen has been taking financial contributions from bail bond companies.  That’s a potential financial conflict of interest.  It also is an “accurate” fact that the Merc, after hiring a big law firm to prevent reprinting of its articles, looked the other way when Rosen did the same, did not charge him for it, and did not report their donation as a campaign contribution.  This from a major metropolitan newspaper with presumable aspirations of journalistic integrity and independence.  Not reporting these things is not “accurate.”  It is “spin.”  So the problem is not “negative” reporting, it is reporting with an agenda.  The problem is not whether the reporting is mean and nasty – it is that the reporting is done with an eye toward achieving a certain result by misleading the public.  And ultimately, the problem is Rosen’s outsized ambition, as well as his ability to tell himself and others that his ambition is really “idealism” and a concern for “justice.”  If Rosen really were concerned about effective administration of justice in these troubled times, he would not have fractured the office as he has done.  He says it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  That may make him and his supporters misty-eyed, but I don’t see the analogy.  What Rosen and his cronies are engaged in is not love, it is blind ambition and hatred towards an incumbent who is perhaps un-savvy, occasionally bumbling and inept, but ultimately well-intentioned and certainly not corrupt.  A mutiny motivated by personal ambition should not have pretenses of idealism when the office should be united against another common enemy – the scourge of crime in our community.  I don’t know about “love,” but it’s definitely not better to have hated and lost than never to have hated at all.  The reality is, I actually hope Rosen gets what he wants – because neither he nor his supporters are careful about what they are wishing for.

  3. Reader,
    Rosen is taking lots of money from bail bonds companies. I think he’s got a bit of a conflict of interest in dong this don’t you?

    • How is that any different from a DA candidate accepting contributions from defense attorneys? That seems to be one of the ethical challenges faced by Carr, doing a deal for the client of one of her attorney-contributors.

      • Reader,
        Lance is dead on in his statement. Carr didn’t do any deal for a friend, the guy accused was properly prosecuted.

        No, I don’t think Rosen taking money from the “bail bonds groups,” equates to DA Carr taking money from friends and colleagues who believe in her leadership.

        I think Rosen exploiting victims of violent crime to win the race is disgusting. Every time the media does an article on the race they re-victimize my friend’s children and widow thanks to Rosen using this murder to his advantage. He really should be deeply ashamed of himself. Thank God for Karma!

      • If there’s any evidence that Carr worked out a deal for one of her campaign contributors, it has yet to be presented in the local media.  All we’ve heard is some innuendo pertaining to her having answered her phone, and discovering that a defense attorney who contributed to her campaign was on the line.

        I read what I gather was the extended version of this article in the current edition of The Metro, and it confirmed me in my decision to vote to re-elect Carr.

        • Carr’s explanation is that she regularly responds to defense lawyers regarding specific cases.  However, she has been asked at two (at least) different debates to give an example of a time when she got involved in a similar manner on behalf of a defendant represented by the public defender’s office (i.e., not by a campaign contributor).  Each time, she ignored the question, falling back on her talking point that the result was fair for that particular defendant.  Clearly, she has no such example to offer, as only a campaign contributor would expect this District Attorney to involve herself in a misdemeanor case.

        • You’re missing the point.  There’s no evidence she got involved in the cases here.  Just a lot of innuendo that perhaps she might have, since the defense attorneys in question were contributors to her campaign, and got concessions they desired.  As if the DA’s office doesn’t make concessions, and various other compromises, with defense attorneys every single darn day (several times per, in fact).

          If we assume she is completely ethical and totally incorruptible, the statistical likelihood that she could run the office for four years, without any of her defense attorney campaign contributors ever getting a beneficial decision in one of their various cases, still hovers around zero.

        • Kevin, we have not just evidence, but undisputed facts, by Carr’s admission (http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_13665332?IADID=Search-www.mercurynews.com-www.mercurynews.com).  Carr herself said that she called the Deputy D.A. handling the case to “follow up” on whether the charge would be reduced.

          Did she straight out order her deputy to lower the charges?  No, but when your boss “follows up” on a matter, the message is pretty clear to anyone who wants to retain a supervisory position in her office that you better move the case in the direction she’s suggesting.

          Does her conduct constitute a quid pro quo?  No, but it tarnishes the office and sends a signal to defendants that you can get a better deal (including a deal that goes against the written policy of the D.A.‘s office (i.e., to disregard immigration consequences in plea bargains) if you hire a lawyer with ties to Carr.

          Does that change your view of her conduct?

        • Ben,

          When a defense attorney calls the DA about a case—which does happen from time to time—the DA is duty-bound to look into it and refer it to the Deputy DA who is handling the case.  The DA also may have an opinion on what the just outcome in the case should be—nothing in the strictures of ethics prevents the DA from expressing that opinion, or even urging it.  George Kennedy did this routinely.  Nobody questioned it.  The papers never wrote about it.  You say you have evidence that Dolores Carr got involved in this case.  There are umpteen cases she no doubt has been involved in where the defense attorney was a Public Defender, or was not otherwise a campaign contributor.  I’m sure she weighed in on those cases too, with her opinion on what the just outcome should be.  The fact that prior male DAs have routinely used their position to do their duties without getting stink in the press—whereas this DA is being called inept and corrupt for doing the same thing—has more than a small tinge of sexism.  You guys don’t like Carr’s decision in the De Anza case.  Who was the attorney for the suspect(s) in that case?  Someone who was a campaign contributor?  If so, I’m sure you guys would have picked up on it and run with it.  The fact that you’re silent suggests it was not.  So did Dolores Carr refuse to charge that case because she was favoring an attorney who was a campaign contributor?  Or was she just doing justice?  Or do you care?  It’s fine to look for soundbites to help your candidate get ahead, but think through it a little bit so you can at least pretend to be consistent.

        • There also is proof that Carr exercises the same discretion to recommend reduction of charges where the defense attorney is not a campaign contributor.  Since you guys in the Rosen camp are friends with the Merc, ask the Merc about a story they are investigating involving a DUI with injury case from the Burglary/Assault/Theft team in the DA’s Office.  Apparently, Carr recommended a reduction of charges to the Deputy handling the case.  The Merc is looking into it at the urging of Rosen supporters within the office because they think it can make Carr look bad.  Their angle is that Carr may have given bad legal advice to the Deputy (she didn’t).  But what that story also shows is that Carr recommended reduction of charges (which she thought was the proper outcome in that case) even though the defense was not a campaign contributor.  I’m guessing the Merc ultimately will not print the story, because it exposes your “she-only-intervenes-for-campaign-contributors” angle as a sham.  In fact, you guys should follow through on your plea to the Merc.  I dare the Merc to print the story.

        • Larry,
          Very well said, but you wouldn’t want common sense, or the facts get in the way would you?  I see this happen every election. Campaign managers and supporters crawl out of the woodwork bashing candidates with misinformation and GOSSIP. It gets really old and predictable.

          The sad part about negative campaigning, lies, and misinformation is that people buy into it. I’d hate to think Rosen would win the election not because he is qualified, but because people believe his BS but he could because he has been touting misinformation with the help of the Merc for a looong time now.

          I for one support DA Carr, and I make no bones about it. Every time I post my support for her I have to deal with Rosen’s campaign bloggers posting more BS. I got my ballot, voted for her, so now I’ll just sit back and see what happens. Good luck DA Carr, I’m rooting for you!

    • There’s no conflict if the District Attorney has a policy not to get involved in specific cases at the request of campaign contributors (unlike, say, Dolores Carr).

  4. We are lucky Carr has not hired Victor Ajlouny has interim press secretary.  Do you know this guy managed to collect 38,000 dollars from the city with Lee Price signing the contracts and the checks for a myraid of tasks never done or completed?

    Imagine Victor head of the Crime Lab, we would have the Black Dahlia case repeated every day while Victor had lamb roasts and belly dancing in the lobby of the Sheriffs Department.  Oh, that’s right, Victor is running an election for Calderon, so I guess if he is elected sheriff, money for crime scene investigations will go for Victor’s non existent community outreach programs.  As with San Jose and Berreyssa, where Ajlouny got hired for city money, the candidates and consultant who work together, steal together, right Chuck?

  5. Lance

    – Great analysis of DA race and Murky’s one sided political favoritism of their DA candidate

    Murky is a shell of former major metropolitan newspaper that has lost 20-30% readers because:

    – it lacks journalistic integrity,
    – frequent unethical reporting,
    – biased opinions reported as news,
    – purposely omitting unfavorable news about their political candidates and repeatly publishing false or unproven allegations aginst political opponents
    – not allowing political opponents to rebut numerous false news and opinion articles that pick and chose what is published to advance their political agendas
    – worst vindictive columnist Herhold continues with weekly political hit columns to advance his friends political agenda

    Journalist schools should use Murky’s repeated unethical reporting and biased yellow journalism as an example of why print journalism is in massive decline

    Wall Street Journal and News York Times are filling Bay Area journalist void created by Media News’ pursuit of profit over quality while many get better responsible news from 2-4 minute TV and radio local news broadcasts

    • If this race were just a Mercury News vendetta against Dolores Carr, then the other local papers would be standing with her.  But instead, all 3 local papers that have endorsed are supporting Jeff Rosen, including the Gilroy Dispatch.  Is this some broad media conspiracy?  Or could it just be that there is something to the criticism of Carr’s integrity as the DA?

        • Are you implying this is a concerted effort by the vast media kabal to support Rosen over Carr and that all of the newspapers are under the same ownership? Do you have proof of that or is it just paranoid speculation?

        • Oh,
          “Do you have proof of that or is it just paranoid speculation?” Have proof of what? I’m just asking a question. Talk about being paranoid!

        • Wow, are you wrong! Don’t know how your brain came up with that one but it says a whole lot more about your than it does about me. Hopefully you are not using your real name because I don’t think you really want anyone to know that you wrote that.

        • I was actually suggesting that you might be making an anti-Semitic remark.  Its not really that far-fetched, seeing as how this is Silicon Valley, and most of us have probably been online since the 90s…and anyone who’s been online since the 90s has certainly seen more than one or two anti-Semitic remarks posted to public forums of various sorts, over the years.

          If that’s not what you meant, great.  I wonder if one day you will deign to tell us what you meant?  Until such a day arrives, we are forced to speculate.  If you don’t like the tone of said speculation, then clarify what you meant.  Is that something you can understand?

        • Ironically, it was the guy named “Christian” that I was suggesting might be making the anti-Semitic comments, hence I’m unclear why “Oh” was even bothered.  I just assumed the aggrieved party was the one I had directed my initial remarks to, and responded on the basis of that false assumption.  Here’s a hint:  If I say to you “I think he means the Jews,” I’m not talking about you.  If I had been, I would have said “I think you’re talking about the Jews.”

          I still think I was right about “Christian.”  All those cryptic remarks about “Who owns all the newspapers?,” and an apparent unwillingness to clarify what the Hell he was getting at, sounds a lot like an anti-Semitic insinuation to me, particularly within the context of wondering why “all the newspapers” are supporting a Jewish candidate.

          But if that isn’t what “Christian” meant, then I apologize to him for that.  But really, doesn’t it behoove him to explain what he meant, so we needn’t have to speculate?

        • Kevin,
          Apology accepted. You took a leap straight off a cliff into a meaning I never intended.

          Many medias own other papers, including the Metro.

    • Journalism schools teach you should back-up your story with facts. How about some facts to go along with your tirade? Otherwise, it is just your opinion because you don’t agree with the stories as reported. Where is the Merc factually incorrect? What examples of bias? Columnists give their opinion—that is what their job is. Reporters provide news coverage. It is not necessarily incorrect or biased because you disagree with it.
      Merc has lost 20 – 30% of their readers? I doubt it but newspapers nationwide have lost readership due to the internet and due to the dumbing-down of America. People don’t have the attention span to actually read a newspaper anymore when they can have their “news” served up to them in handy, little bites that don’t use many words. Why delve into substance when you can have “news lite?”

    • All five papers that have endorsed in the DA’s race have endorsed Jeff Rosen. 
      San Jose Mercury News, Morgan Hill Times, Palo Alto Weekly, Gilroy Dispatch, Silicon Valley Metro

      Is somebody going to try to claim a connection between all of them?  Or is Rosen perhaps the better candidate?

      • Perhaps Rosen is the better candidate (although I personally don’t think so).  The fact he is known to be a Democrat, while Carr is known to be a Republican, might just have a wee little something to do with why the five local newspapers prefer Rosen.

        That admittedly wouldn’t explain why Metro endorsed Carr over Sinunu in the 2006 run-off, yet never-the-less, I don’t think its an entirely misguided theory.