The San Diego County Board of Supervisors honored five prosecutors from the District Attorney's office with proclamations recognizing their outstanding contributions to public safety over the past year. The proclamations were announced at Tuesday morning’s board meeting.
“I’m very proud of the outstanding work of these Deputy District Attorneys,” DA Bonnie Dumanis said. “They truly represent the dedication and quality of our entire prosecutorial team.”
The Deputy District Attorneys honored by the Board for their commitment to public safety include:
DDA David Grapilon
DDA Grapilon prosecuted three gang murder cases, which occurred in 2003, 2004 and 2005. The murders in the case of the People v. Valdez went cold for many years until 2009, when a break in the case came. One of the gang members admitted to Sheriff’s Deputies that he was the driver in each of the murders and that Valdez was the shooter. In prosecuting the case against Valdez, DDA Grapilon survived speedy trial motions, the deliberate lies of cooperating defendants, inconsistent witness statements, inconclusive DNA evidence and various other hurdles. In the end, Valdez was convicted of two of the murders in this incredibly challenging prosecution. This successful investigation and prosecution, which took more than seven years to complete, is directly attributed to the leadership, knowledge and tenacity demonstrated by DDA Grapilon.
DDA Marisa Di Tillio
DDA Di Tillio successfully prosecuted three big cases this year including the heartbreaking case of the People v. Babin and Barrowclough, in which the two defendants were charged with the torture of their 5-year-old nephew Daniel, who came into their home as a foster child. Daniel was not allowed to eat and was handcuffed to the bed if he was caught “stealing” food. They would pour water on him, smear feces on him, not permit him to use the restroom and physically assault him. Daniel’s plight was discovered by cousin came to stay with the family and found the conditions Daniel was forced to endure. The cousin took Daniel from the house and called the police – thus saving Daniel’s life. The defendants were found guilty and sentenced to prison.
In the People v. Fabiani, the defendant was at the beach all day with his 4-year-old son Valentino. On the way home, he crashed the car, landing on its side down an embankment. The defendant undid Valentino’s seatbelt and he fell to the pavement 10 feet below, hitting his head. Valentino died from his injuries. The defendant fled the scene and was not arrested for almost two days. After a hard fought and highly contentious trial, the defendant was found guilty of hit-and-run causing death and he was sentenced to prison.
Finally, in the People v. Burney, the defendant inexplicably shot and killed her 74-year-old great aunt. The defendant had a history of mental health issues and claimed she was in a delusional state during the killing. She also pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. In the end, the defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder. Trying any one of these cases over the past year would be a tremendous grind, but DDA Di Tillio tried all three of them, obtaining justice for the most vulnerable of victims.
DDA Michelle Ialeggio
In the People v. Trahan, Lee Trahan and his wife Jessica went through fertility treatments and suffered two miscarriages before they became pregnant with twins. Willow and Keegan were born six weeks premature on March 17, 2012. The twins went home after spending two weeks in the neonatal intensive-care unit. The couple’s home then became a place of abuse. Willow suffered a strange bruise on her abdomen and two weeks later was dead after suffering a brain contusion, skull fracture and head injuries suggestive of abusive head trauma. Lee Trahan was convicted of assault of a child resulting in death and voluntary manslaughter. The mother, Jessica, was convicted of child abuse. Trial work of this caliber is the norm for DDA Ialeggio, who tried many other back-to-back cases during the year including physical child abuse, as well as complex child molestation cases involving child witnesses.
DDA Scott Pirrello
The defendant in the People v. Tran was the uncle in a large close-knit family who molested many of his nieces, nephews, and cousins when they were between the ages of 6 and 13. The molestations came to light when one victim came forward causing several other cousins to describe similar activity by the defendant. As the case developed, the entire family rallied behind the defendant and pressured the victims to deny the allegations and not cooperate with the prosecution. During the 22 months of prosecution, DDA Pirrello dealt with recanting victims, family members who testified on behalf of the defendant and lied about the initial victim, who twice attempted suicide, and zero forensic evidence. After two trials, Tran was convicted and was sentenced to 180 years-to-life in prison after the jury convicted him.
DDA Kristie Nikoletich
DDA Nikoletich prosecuted a number of serious cases this year including murders, shootings and gang violence. The murder cases included a transient who was threatening patrons in a local bar in the case of the People v. Leiper. He was convicted of murder after he attacked a victim in a parking lot, stabbing him in the stomach. The next case arose from a fist fight between rival gang members in People v. Ellis. As the fight began, the defendant pulled a knife and stabbed the victim to death. The case was complicated because the defendant claimed he acted in self-defense when confronted by the rival gang member victim. DDA Nikoletich also prosecuted two gang shootings with guilty verdicts in each. The People v. Taylor first involved a Lincoln Park gang member who shot up a neighborhood, firing down the street at four fleeing children and our victim. In the second case, the People v. Roberts, the defendant shot the victim, who was 3-months pregnant, believing she had told others that he had killed one of her friends. Both mom and baby survived and the defendant was convicted of premeditated attempted murder and all gang and gun allegations.