Tag Archive for: San Diego County

DA Weekly News Update with DA Summer Stephan 05-02-24

In this week’s DA News, District Attorney Summer Stephan talks about the 38th Annual Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony and how crimes against police officers often involve domestic violence crimes.

DA, 14 Mayors Work to Place Public Safety Initiative on the Ballot

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan was joined today by the mayors from cities across San Diego County as well as business leaders, crime victims and other concerned citizens in an effort to inform the public and boost signature gathering to place the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act on the November ballot. The measure would make communities, businesses, and streets safer and healthier by restoring the rule of law, holding repeat retail thieves and fentanyl dealers better accountable, and incentivizing individuals who are addicted and homeless to accept life-saving treatment.

The following mayors are all supporting the signature gathering effort: Vista Mayor John Franklin, Escondido Mayor Dane White, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, National City Mayor Ron Morrison, Chula Vista Mayor John McCann, San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones, La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis, Santee Mayor John Minto, Oceanside Mayor Esther Sanchez, Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, Carlsbad Mayor Keith Blackburn, Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner, Encinitas Mayor Tony Kranz, and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus.


“This is a balanced, commonsense initiative that addresses the fentanyl crisis by going after drug dealers who are killing our loved ones and imposes stronger penalties for repeat offenders of organized retail theft, which is hurting far too many families and local businesses,” said DA Stephan. “We need responsible reform that allows judges to incentivize life-saving treatment for those struggling with severe addiction, holds repeat offenders accountable but also gives first, second, and even third chances for those who commit theft or possess hard drugs to be treated for addiction or mental illness. Voters should have the opportunity to debate and weigh in on this important initiative.”

The measure has collected more than 360,000 signatures from California voters to place it on the November ballot, but nearly 550,000 valid signatures are needed.

The ballot measure is designed to fix the unintended consequences and harmful impacts of Proposition 47, which passed in 2014 and— for example— made retail theft under $950 and drug possession of methamphetamine and fentanyl into misdemeanors no matter how many times the crime is repeated.

“Neighborhood markets are the lifeblood of our communities,” said Neighborhood Market Association President Arkan Somo. “Proposition 47 unleashed a tidal wave of theft and violence that harms our small business owners, their employees and families, and most importantly, our customers. This proposed ballot measure will give law enforcement the tools it needs to keep all of us safe. “

Unintended Consequences of Prop 47 and current laws include:

  • Homelessness increased 51% in California while decreasing 11% in states with more balanced laws.
  • Homeless individuals in San Diego County are dying of drug overdoses at a rate 118 times higher than the general public.
  • Overdose deaths from illicit fentanyl have more than tripled, claiming more young lives in San Diego County than any other cause.
  • Organized retail theft has exploded, resulting in massive economic losses, losses of jobs caused by store closures, and losses of essential goods for struggling neighborhoods.
  • Fentanyl dealers who cause overdose deaths generally receive minimal consequences under the law.
  • Drug Courts that offer effective treatment have lost their ability to incentivize those who commit crimes driven by addiction to engage in treatment.

A recent survey showed that more than 85% of voters across every political party and each demographic support reforming Proposition 47.

“This initiative is a balanced approach that gives our justice system the tools they need to protect our communities from criminals while also providing an opportunity for people suffering from addiction to get back on their feet,” said Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey. “Current policies have contributed to the rise in crime and homelessness throughout the state over the past decade, but this initiative will help reverse those trends and make California a safe place to live and do business once again.”

“As a retired San Diego Police Officer and Detective with 29 years of law enforcement experience, I possess a firsthand understanding of the adverse effects of Proposition 47 on the lives of Californians,” Santee Mayor John Minto said. “This initiative is a crucial step towards addressing the rising challenges of homelessness, drug addiction, and theft that plague our communities. Californians, including the residents of Santee, are demanding relief from the escalating lawlessness that has driven up the cost of goods statewide.”

Oceanside Mayor and retired public defender Esther Sanchez said, “The unintended consequences of Prop 47 took out the highly successful drug court program, leading to increased drug addiction and crime and in effect tying the hands of law enforcement protecting our neighborhoods and businesses. This citizens’ initiative gives back tools our communities need to help residents, many times family members, face their addictions and crimes while offering support and a path toward a life with positive options, such as family reunification, a home and jobs.”

The Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act would allow for stronger penalties for those engaged in the trafficking of hard drugs or for repeat offenders of retail theft. It will still give first and second chances for those who commit theft and possess hard drugs to be treated with a misdemeanor. However, on the third conviction, there’s a requirement that drug treatment be completed to earn a misdemeanor or be held accountable for a felony creating a new category of “Treatment Mandated Felony.” A fourth conviction results in a felony crime.

This initiative will also allow aggregation of multiple thefts to reach the $950 threshold to charge a felony theft so that those that are gaming the system can be stopped. The initiative addresses the fentanyl crisis by allowing harsher penalties fentanyl drug dealers whose actions lead to overdose deaths.

Signature gathering for the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act will take place in the coming weeks across the county and the public is encouraged to seek out opportunities to sign the petition.

DA Reminds Students to Report Suspected Abuse in Schools

As a new school year begins across the county, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan is reminding parents, teachers and students of a DA website where they can report suspected sexual or physical abuse directly to the District Attorney’s Office. The online reporting system is an additional tool for the public. Once a report is made, members of the DA Student Safety in Schools Systems Task Force will evaluate and investigate the claim. If appropriate, law enforcement will be notified so they can investigate the allegations and families will be connected with trauma-informed resources and support.

“Every student in San Diego County deserves to have a safe and healthy educational environment, free of sexual and physical abuse,” said DA Stephan. “But when that kind of abuse does happen, it’s critical that students, parents and teachers have a trusted way to report it and that those reports don’t fall through the cracks.”

The DA’s Student Safety in School Systems Task Force:

  • Welcomes and receives submissions from any member of the public who is concerned about the safety of students in a school system.
  • Referrals can be reported here on the DA’s public website.
  • Assists any member of the public who is navigating multiple agencies and departments when an incident involving a child has occurred in a school setting
  • Reduces the public’s confusion by giving them direct access to the District Attorney’s Office so allegations and complaints can be tracked.
  • Cross references allegations and complaints with law enforcement, Child Welfare Services, and educational institutions and programs where appropriate.
  • Refers members of the public to services that may be available to those experiencing trauma as a result of an incident that has taken place within a school system.
  • Offers and provides outreach and training to the public on issues and concerns surrounding possible physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by an adult or minor on a student in an educational setting.
  • Criminally prosecutes those who fail to comply with mandated reporting laws where the evidence of such failure is sufficient. Criminally prosecute those who commit physical or sexual abuse if the facts and the law supports it.

Note: This task force does not serve as a substitute for a mandated reporter’s duty to report abuse.  Mandated reporters still must follow their duties under the law to report to the proper authorities under the Penal Code.

Rather, recognizing that gaps existed between the multiple agencies and systems that address abuse, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office created the reporting system in 2019.

The District Attorney’s Office also works closely with school districts across the county to remind mandated reporters of their responsibilities.

“Mandated reporters must make a report when there is any reasonable suspicion of abuse, based on facts,” DA Stephan said. “Mandated reporters typically won’t see the actual sexual abuse, but they often notice “grooming behaviors” that accompany or precede the sexual abuse.”

WATCH: Video Public Service Announcements to report suspected abuse in schools: Video 1, Video 2, Video 3.

NakedWines.com Settles Consumer Protection Lawsuit

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that Nakedwines.com, Inc. settled a consumer protection lawsuit alleging that Naked Wines violated provisions of California’s Automatic Renewal Laws. As part of the settlement, Naked Wines entered into an injunction prohibiting future violations of renewal laws and, without admitting liability, agreed to pay $650,000 in civil penalties and costs.

The lawsuit was filed in San Diego Superior Court by the District Attorneys for San Diego, Alameda, Napa, Shasta, and Sonoma counties. The prosecution team alleged that Naked Wine’s “Wine Angel” program failed to adequately inform consumers that they were enrolling in a subscription that would charge $40 a month that members could use to purchase select wines. The prosecution team also alleged that the company’s “Wine Genie” product – an automatically-renewing monthly subscription for pre-selected wine shipments – similarly failed to comply with automatic renewal laws. In addition, the complaint alleges that both programs’ post-payment acknowledgments did not have all the requisite disclosures mandated under the law, and that their cancelation processes failed to supply an easy-to-use mechanism to stop recurring charges.

“California’s strict automatic renewal laws are designed to ensure that consumers are not misled when signing-up for subscription-based services or product deliveries,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “This is another example of our consumer protection team working successfully with their counterparts across the state to achieve compliance with these important laws.”

The settlement is the latest in which the San Diego County District Attorney has participated as part of its ongoing effort to ensure that businesses offering automatically renewing subscriptions or shipments of product comply strictly with the state’s automatic renewal laws.  Further, since July, amendments to the law require that merchants offering automatically renewing subscriptions or shipments of product online must now make certain that:

  • Consumers can cancel online.
  • Consumers who wish to cancel online have access to a prominently displayed direct link in the customer account or a pre-formatted email that the consumer can use to cancel.
  • The consumer can cancel immediately.
  • Companies can no longer require consumers to engage further steps, such as answering questions or completing surveys as a condition of cancelation, or otherwise make it difficult to complete the cancelation process.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor entered a final court judgment on the parties’ stipulated settlement on October 6, 2022.

Naked Wines cooperated with the prosecution team and has taken steps to ensure its web disclosures and processes comply with California’s Automatic Renewal Laws.

Deputy District Attorney Stephen M. Spinella with the Consumer Protection Unit handled this case for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

16 Deputy DAs Honored by Board of Supervisors

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan joined the County’s Board of Supervisors to honor 16 Deputy DAs for their outstanding work and commitment to public safety. Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer declared Tuesday, August 16, 2022, “Prosecutors’ Day” in San Diego County and presented proclamations to each of the individuals being honored.

“This recognition by our Board of Supervisors of the excellence in ethical prosecution that these Deputy District Attorneys demonstrated is very meaningful to our entire team, and reinforces our commitment to pursuing fair and equal justice for all, protecting victims and keeping our neighborhoods safe,” said DA Summer Stephan.

The awardees selected by the Deputy District Attorneys Association, led by Association President Ben Barlow, are Lisa Weinreb, Jessica Coto, Dan Owens, Peter Quon, Flavio Nominati, Zach Wallace, Miriam Hemming, Leon Schorr, Karl Husoe, Scott Pirrello, Jill Lindbergh, Jennifer Reischl, Justine Santiago, Jared Coleman, David Grapilon and Damon Mosler.

There are currently 327 Deputy District Attorneys employed by the DA’s Office and the Office files more than 40,000 criminal cases each year.

The prosecutors were honored for their following contributions:

DDA Lisa Weinreb is the 2021 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association’s Charles Nickel Award for Excellence in Training, Public Policy or Legal Education given to a prosecutor whose professional excellence and contributions have had significant local or statewide impact in the area of public policy, legislation, training, or education in the criminal justice arena.  DDA Weinreb, as Chief of the Juvenile Division, helped create the Juvenile Diversion Initiative, a first of its kind program that provides San Diego County youth with expanded alternatives to charging, detention, and probation utilizing restorative justice principles allowing victims to have a role in repairing the hard done to them through offender accountability.  The initiative aims to reduce incarceration of our community’s youth and provide the support necessary to move past youthful indiscretions and make a positive change for the individual and the community.  DDA Weinreb worked directly with community support services to provide programs and rehabilitation rather than prosecution for youthful offenders through collaboration with the Juvenile Court, the Public Defender’s Office, the Probation Department, Behavioral Health Services, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Children’s Initiative, and the National Conflict Resolution Center.  DDA Weinreb embodies what it means to be a modern prosecutor through her knowledge of the law, passion for victims’ rights and commitment to public safety, and her leadership ensured this coalition of support for the community’s youth would be successful.


DDA Damon Mosler (retired) is the 2021 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association’s George “Woody” Clarke Award for Prosecutorial Excellence given to an outstanding prosecutor whose contributions in a particular subject matter area of the law promoted justice, fairness, and equality in the prosecution of cases with an important and sustaining impact on the legal community as a whole during the last year or over the course of an entire career.  DDA Mosler rose through the ranks as a trial prosecutor on the Central prelim team, South Bay misdemeanor and felony trial teams, the Juvenile Division in the JUDGE (“Jurisdictions United for Drug & Gang Enforcement”) Unit, the Superior Court Division, and the South Bay JUDGE Unit.  In 2003, DDA Mosler was selected to create an operational plan for a new Narcotics Division in order to combat the rising toll of damage caused by the narcotics epidemic and became its first Chief due to his relevant knowledge, reputation for integrity, and organizational skills.  DDA Mosler was “present at the creation” demonstrating his expertise in the use of confidential informants, wiretaps, and asset forfeiture proceedings; trained prosecutors and law enforcement in-house, statewide, and nationally; and received numerous awards.  DDA Mosler likewise served as Chief of the Special Operations and Chief of Economic Crimes and is widely recognized as a great manager, inspiring leader, strategic problem solver, and, most importantly, an ethical guidepost to many.


DDA Dan Owens and DDA Peter Quon are the 2020 recipients of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association’s George “Woody” Clarke Award for Prosecutorial Excellence given to an outstanding prosecutor whose contributions in a particular subject matter area of the law promoted justice, fairness, and equality in the prosecution of cases with an important and sustaining impact on the legal community as a whole during the last year or over the course of an entire career.  DDA Owens was the prosecutor assigned to the case of People v. Jeremiah Owens and Christopher White in which two men tried to abduct a 15-year-old girl in broad daylight outside a residence above Grandview Beach in Encinitas before she fought back and thwarted the sexual assault and attempted kidnapping.  Given this brazen attempt, DDA Owens invoked a section of the California Constitution that allowed the court to find there was sufficient evidence that both defendants posed such a substantial danger to the community and the victim herself that they should be held in custody without bail and could not be released pending trial.  DDA Owens laid the groundwork for the appellate victories to come by drafting and filing excellent motions, developing a persuasive evidentiary record for the court, and arguing aggressively.  DDA Quon, an accomplished, brilliant appellate prosecutor with decades of experience as a Deputy Attorney General handling writs and appeals, joined DDA Owens on the case and the two prosecutors worked together over two years to ensure this novel constitutional issue of statewide importance became settled legal precedent.  DDA Quon led the long odyssey of legal research and brief writing while strategizing with DDA Owens who prepared and delivered the oral arguments before the Fourth District Court of Appeals and, ultimately, the California Supreme Court. DDA Quon and other appellate gurus mooted DDA Owens numerous times throughout the journey to March 3, 2020, for the final arguments in the Supreme Court chamber.  As a direct result of DDA Quon’s guidance and coaching, DDA Owens made the argument that resulted in a unanimous published opinion of In re White upholding the trial court’s no bail order and setting a clear roadmap for how courts statewide must carefully balance the interests of the accused with the rights of crime victims and public safety.  Deputy DA Quon passed away recently and his family is gratified by this special acknowledgment. Peter was an icon in the legal community and left a legacy of mentoring generations of  Asian lawyers.


DDA Flavio Nominati is the 2021 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association Outstanding Achievement Award, 7 Years or Less in the Office. This past years, DDA Nominati obtained guilty verdicts and achieved justice for victims in three serious felony cases. In the trial of People v. Johnathan Eggers, the defendant was charged with Carjacking, Robbery, and Assault by Means Likely to Produce Great Bodily Injury. There, the defendant stealthily approached the victim from behind with his co-perpetrator who hit the victim in the head with a pistol while a co-defendant tased the victim.  As the victim fell to the ground, unconscious, the defendant took his car keys and drove off in the victim’s car. DDA Nominati then tried a case of People v. Paige where the charges included kidnapping with intent to commit rape, attempted forcible rape, and assault with intent to commit rape. During the beginning of COVID-19 quarantine the Victim was walking back from work on the San Diego City College campus. The Defendant emerged from an alcove where he was hiding, grabbed her, and pulled her into an alcove which was off the walkway. Defendant continued striking her and tried to take off her pants. He kneed victim’s face and started sexually assaulted her. Fortunately, a janitor heard the victim’s screams and the defendant fled. Finally, in People v. Milton Rodgers the defendant fired a gun on several different instances in a residential area, across El Cajon Blvd, near downtown/Golden Hill area, at a residence (bullet was five feet away from the victim’s head while he watched TV inside his living room), and at another victim’s car as she drove through North Park. DDA Nominati secured guilty verdicts for each victim in these cases and as result each defendant is serving a significant prison sentence as a result of these violent acts crimes.


DDA Zach Wallace is the 2021 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association Outstanding Achievement Award, 7 Years or Less in the Office. In his short time in the office, DDA Wallace has excelled in handling complex cases, including robbery, assault, carjacking, arson, human trafficking, and sexual assault cases. In People v. Rafo, Zach successfully tried a multi-victim sexual assault case in which the defendant preyed upon vulnerable and fragile victims. The defendant convinced his victims to get in his car and then drove them to remote locations. When his victims tried to escape, he would violently beat them, threaten to kill them, and sexually assault them.  A jury found the defendant guilty of forcible rape, forcible sodomy, assault with intent to commit rape, assault with a deadly weapon, three counts of assault with intent to commit great bodily injury among other charges. The defendant who is now serving a life sentence in state prison. DDA Wallace’s experience and talents also led him to be a natural choice for the SAK (Sexual Assault Kit) project to review and prosecute any cases that are potentially issuable such as a 2003 forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, and forcible sodomy case where the defendant drove alongside a 17-year-old girl, offered her a ride, pointed a gun at her, and demanded she get into the car where he sexually assaulted her. DNA was collected back in 2003 but wasn’t tested.  Through the SART kit testing in the SAK project, the defendant was linked to our case based on similar incidents in LA and prosecuted.  Finally, DDA Wallace also filed a 2014 case where a 51-year-old man molested a 13-year-old girl. The DNA evidence was never tested until the SAK Project which proved the conduct victim had alleged did in fact occur. Zach has shown a true passion for bringing justice to the perpetrators of Sexual Assault in our County and ensuring these victims obtain the justice they deserve.


DDA Miriam Hemming is the 2021 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association Outstanding Achievement Award, 7 Years or Less in the Office. DDA Hemming is an outstanding attorney, who is already handling some of the most serious and complex cases in the DA’s office. This past year she worked with the Gang Task Force to identify a gang responsible for several murders and shootings. In total, from this investigation 9 gang members have been charged with 12 shootings, including 6 murders in both juvenile and adult court.  Also, in 2021 DDA Hemming tried one of the most challenging and complex cases to go to trial since the COVID pandemic.  In her case, the defendant went looking of the victim at a hotel.  He found the victim as she exited the hotel elevator.  The defendant pistol whipped the victim, grabbed the victim by the throat, and as the fight spilled into another hotel room, pointed the gun at the victim’s head and fired, missing the victim by inches.  Almost all the civilian witness, including the victim were uncooperative. After a messy and complex trial, Miriam convicted the defendant, who already had a strike prior, of Assault with a Semi-automatic firearm, Shooting at an Inhabited Dwelling. He was sentenced by the Court to a lengthy prison as a result of his criminal conduct and violent history. DDA Hemming’s efforts have made a profound impact on the community as she works to hold those individuals who participate in gang violence accountable under the law.


DDA Leon Schorr is the 2021 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association Prosecutor of the Year Award. Thousands of students unwittingly used as pawns in an illegal empire, $400 million dollars defrauded from state funding over three years. $230 million dollars in recovered ill-gotten assets. 19 charter schools fraudulently controlled and operated by fraud. After a full year of intense investigation, hundreds of thousands of pages of bank, school, and financial records, DDA Schorr and his team returned a 240-page indictment after the examination of 70 witnesses at a grand jury over the course of six weeks. DDA Schorr brought charges against defendants in the largest charter school fraud prosecution ever brought to bear in the history of California. It forever changed the landscape of the charter school framework, inspired state legislation, forced school districts and administrators to reexamine their school management and protocols, and protected thousands of school children by stopping the bleeding of losing hundreds of millions of dollars of educational funding. In this charter school’s prosecution, DDA Schorr championed the cause for thousands of students, countless future pupils, caused the return of hundreds of millions of dollars, and forever changed the face of public education. As a result of his efforts, millions of dollars in restitution will be returned and finally be used for the benefit of children, as it was meant to do.


DDA Karl Husoe is the 2021 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association Outstanding Achievement Award. DDA Husoe distinguished himself through hard work and dedication on two significant cases during 2020-2021. Both cases involved unique issues of first impression where DDA Husoe had to come up with original legal arguments to complex questions of law. These cases were also complicated by procedural quagmires that DDA Husoe had to overcome. Added to the complexities of these cases, DDA Husoe orally argued these two cases in the appellate courts within weeks of each other and via remote video technology because of the pandemic. In Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court of San Diego, the defendant sought a subpoena for victim’s private Facebook communications in an attempted murder case. This case is significant, because had we not prevailed in this matter, the California Supreme Court could have forced the People to issue search warrants against our victims and witnesses at the defendant’s request. Through Karl’s hard work and dedication over a span of two years, we prevailed, and that potential frightening outcome was thwarted. Also in 2021, DDA Husoe handled People v. Aguilera, a case where the defendants were charged with robbery, carjacking, and other offenses arising from a failed drug transaction. This case was significant because it protects DDAs across the state from defense claims of Brady error simply when we are unable to obtain and disclose information known to federal law enforcement when the federal agency is not the investigating agency. After extensive briefing and oral argument, DDA Husoe convinced the Court of Appeal the refuse a lower court trial ruling and safeguarding DDAs up and down the state from frivolous claims of discovery violations. Of note, DDA Husoe continued working on these two matters at the same time that he assisted with COVID-19-related research and assistance during the height of the pandemic that required all of Appellate DDAs to be on-call 24/7. DDA Husoe’ s hard work and achievement this past year will have long lasting effect on the criminal justice landscape in California for years to come.


DDA Scot Pirrello is the 2021 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association Outstanding Achievement Award. DDA Scott Pirrello and his team spent years investigating and collaborating to solve a problem that needed a fix. DDA Pirrello created a tangible vision for elder justice and developed a task force capable of tracking down and holding accountable those responsible for scamming our elders out of billions of dollars. In 2021, the innovative Elder Justice Task Force (EJTF) officially launched in San Diego County to combat financial fraud committed on an international scale against our vulnerable elder population. EJTF is a collaborative effort that includes the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, FBI, Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office, San Diego Police Department, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and many other local law enforcement agencies.  DDA Pirrello’ s efforts enabled the San Diego District Attorney’s Office to coordinate with local law enforcement agencies, collaborate on cases in San Diego County which were related to the same scam, and then work up the cases to the point that the FBI could realize that the dots were connecting to make these relatively small individual cases in San Diego into huge Federal cases with hundreds of victims and millions of dollars in losses. One example was People v. Parore where defendant was a money courier and launderer who San Diego authorities were able to tie to nine separate victims throughout the county’s many jurisdictions where she showed up at the homes of elder victims to pick up the supposed bail money the victims thought they were paying to help their grandchildren in peril. DDA Pirrello was able to coordinate the various investigations across multiple jurisdictions resulting in a conviction of Robbery, Elder Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, and Money Laundering and a sentence in state prison. Such a result for these types of allegations was previously unthinkable. But as a result of this new innovative investigative approach and the development of the EJTF, these results will become the norm moving forward.


DDA Jessica Coto is the 2020 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association Outstanding Achievement Award. DDA Coto has shown consistent tenacity and commitment to bringing about justice in our most sensitive cases including child molest, serial rape, stalking and Sexually Violent Predators. Over the last year, she has demonstrated an expertise in cases involving defendants in positions of public trust and Sexually Violent Predators and successfully doing so under intense community pressure and media interest. In 2019 and 2020, she litigated very high profile and complex cases with successful convictions and results. In the People v. Dorado case, DDA Coto brought justice to eight victims of a serial rapist ranging in age from 22 to 58. Dorado was a complex, intoxication rape case that required both sophisticated lawyering and extraordinary compassion and time to the victims. The jury returned guilty verdicts on 20 counts of sexual assault. DDA Coto also successfully prosecuted the People v. Price case where a firefighter sexually assaulted his 17-year-old stepdaughter. DDA Coto navigated difficult victim issues and helped the victim become more empowered and achieve the justice she deserved. In People v. Herrera, DDA Coto prosecuted a special education teacher who had a sexual relationship for over a year with a 15-year-old student. DDA Coto’s careful trust building with the victim allowed the victim to disclose the full extent of the abuse. Her tenacious search for facts and partnership with detectives helped build a strong case against the defendant and corroborate the victim. After working with DDA Coto on the case, the victim feels justice is served by his conviction. DDA Coto also successfully prosecuted a case against a CWS worker who groomed and assaulted a 17-year-old client, a defendant who attacked and attempted to sexually assault the victim who was out for a run around her neighborhood with her two children (ages 2 and 4), and a defendant who broke into a home of a hearing-impaired victim, strangled, and sexually assaulted her. DDA Coto simply excels in trying the most difficult of cases that come into the office and has proven to be an exceptional courtroom advocate that compassionately supports victims on the road to justice.


DDA Jill Lindberg is the 2020 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association Outstanding Achievement Award. DDA Jill Lindberg’s Outstanding Achievement comes from her 6 years of dedicated work on the prosecution in the case of People v. Matthew Sullivan. Her work culminated with a month-long trial in March of 2020 resulting in a Murder conviction and a 16 Years to Life sentence.  Defendant in this case reported in October 2014 that his wife, Elizabeth Sullivan, and him had argued about their pending divorce and then she just left the house – not to be seen or heard from again.  A Missing Persons investigation eventually went cold until Elizabeth’s partially decomposed body washed up in San Diego two years later.  Jill and her investigative team were relentless in their pursuit of evidence and eventually developed enough forensic evidence to prove that her blood was found underneath the carpet in her old bedroom and years later a folding knife was discovered underneath thick ceiling insulation in the home’s attic containing a mixture of both defendant and Elizabeth’s DNA along with traces of blood.  At trial, Jill handled this complex case with poise despite being trailed by NBC’s Dateline filming her every move.  DDA Jill Lindberg is one of those unique prosecutors who quietly and impressively excels at everything and anything she does.


DDA Jennifer Reischl is the 2020 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association Outstanding Achievement Award.  During a four-month period, DDA Reischel successfully prosecuted multiple life-top jury trials in the Family Protection Unit.  In People v. Montelongo, the defendant shot and killed his girlfriend in the head multiple times in the middle of the day at an apartment complex pool with other families present, before he fled out of the state.  DDA Reischel worked tirelessly with law enforcement and the DA’s extraditions unit to extradite this defendant and bring him to justice here in San Diego.  DDA Reischel’s organization, attention to detail, and streamlined approached led the jury to a quick first degree murder conviction in October 2019.  One month later, in People v. Deneef, DDA Reischel received a guilty verdict for a re-trial involving a third-striker child molest of his 6-year-old stepdaughter.  DDA Reischel’s hard work and compassion for vulnerable victims resulted in a safer San Diego County.


DDA Justine Santiago is the 2020 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association Outstanding Achievement Award, 7 Years or Less in the Office.  DDA Santiago demonstrated she is an excellent young prosecutor in the Family Protection Unit, which handles some of the most difficult cases involving children, elders and other vulnerable victims.   In People v. Oliva and Welch, DDA Santiago brought justice to four child victims in a horrific child molest trial. In this case, four separate children endured years of abuse at the hands of the defendant without their mother to protect them.  As a result of DDA Santiago’s presentation, the jury convicted the defendants of every single child molest charge.  On top of that, DDA Santiago was wonderful with the victims, spending time building rapport with them and earning their trust.  DDA Santiago has demonstrated she will be a value to the DA’s Office and the San Diego community for many years to come by holding abusers accountable and protecting our most vulnerable victims.


DDA Jared Coleman is the 2020 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association Outstanding Achievement Award, 7 Years or Less in the Office.  Jared Coleman has excelled in his role as trial attorney in the Family Protection Unit., where he carries a wide variety of cases, including animal cruelty, elder abuse, domestic violence, and child molest. Jared has proven to be more than a jack-of-all-trades, but instead, a master-of-all-trades. In People v. Bach, defendant molested two children of an acquaintance over the span of a few weeks. Despite dealing with two very young and shy victims as witnesses, and a lack of corroboration beyond their testimony, Jared convicted defendant of crimes that resulted in a sentence of over 400-years-to-life. In People v. Oscar Rodas, defendant shot and killed his long-time ex-girlfriend shortly after she broke up with him. Although the murder took place at a gas station, there was only one witness to the murder – a minor female with gang ties who was very reluctant to testify. Despite this witness being “unable to remember” most of what had occurred, Jared was able to secure a first-degree murder conviction in the case. In addition to his responsibilities as a trial attorney, Jared has been the team leader of the misdemeanor trial team.


DDA David Grapilon is the 2020 recipient of the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association’s prestigious Prosecutor of the Year award.  DDA Grapilon proved he was indispensable to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic by successfully prosecuting a high-profile murder case, while also spearheading the DA’s response to court closures by helping to implement remote court appearances.  In the case of the People v. Quintero, DDA Grapilon brought justice for the 2017 murder of victim Jesus Quiroz. The victim was a tattoo shop owner in Chula Vista who was found bound, tortured, and badly beaten to death by multiple people. The case was solved through forensic evidence left at the scene and the defendant’s own statements.  Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hit just before DDA Grapilon was set to give his closing argument in the murder trial.  Immediately thereafter, DDA Grapilon set to work using his tremendous technological skills to help get the entire San Diego criminal justice system running remotely.  DDA Grapilon worked with the courts, the Public Defender’s Office, the private defense bar, and the DA’s Office to provide remote hearings on MS Teams.  He handled the first remote appearance in the County and continued to assist all the criminal justice partners in increasing the services they are able to safely provide.  During the court closures, DDA Grapilon single-handedly responded to hundreds of requests from judges and DDAs for assistance regarding Microsoft Teams and remote hearings.  Fourteen weeks after the first court closure, DDA Grapilon was able to return to court to finish his murder trial with appropriate social distancing measures.  The jury return guilty verdicts and the defendant was held accountable for the gruesome murder he committed.  There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on our world. From his critical role in transitioning the DA’s Office and Superior Court to remote hearings, to his vital work as a prosecutor handling some of the most horrific murders in San Diego, DDA Grapilon very much earned this Prosecutor of the Year award.


DA Brings Fight Against Organized Retail Theft Rings to the National Stage

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for a virtual panel discussion on Thursday to strategize on ways to stop organized retail crime, which has spiked significantly in the past five years. This theft is perpetrated by organized criminal rings that steal large amounts of goods from businesses of all types and sizes with the intent to resell them, particularly through unregulated online marketplaces.

During the event, DA Stephan discussed the importance of building partnerships with businesses and law enforcement similar to the strong collaboration that we have in the San Diego Organized Retail Crimes Alliance (ORCA), keeping employees and shoppers safe, and closing loopholes in laws that fail to bring accountability for serial theft and organized crime.

“I appreciate the U.S. Chamber of Commerce inviting us to join them to shine a light on this public safety issue that is wreaking havoc on small and large businesses and making employees and customers feel unsafe,” DA Stephan said. “We were also able to share best practices from San Diego County on holding these organized crime rings accountable while fighting to fix outdated state and federal laws that allow the unregulated sale of stolen goods online and provide little recourse to stop repeat offenders.”

In a recent San Diego case, two thieves were prosecuted for 42 felony counts of looting, grand theft, and burglary for breaking into ULTA Beauty, Nordstrom Rack and other stores during nighttime hours.

DA Stephan has taken a tough stance against organized retail thieves and is continuing to explore additional ways to hold these criminals accountable amid high-profile smash and grabthefts across California. Stephan participated in a similar roundtable discussion earlier this summer with the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the National District Attorneys Association.

Beginning in 2019, with the passage of Californias Organized Retail Theft Law (PC 490.4), the San Diego DAs Office began a partnership with the California Highway Patrols Organized Retail Theft team of special investigators. Since that time, a number of successful prosecutions have occurred. Crews of thieves coming to San Diego from other parts of the California have been prosecuted in a single case for all crimes they committed against retail stores up and down the state.

National retail groups estimate retail theft losses to be in the tens of billions of dollars each year. Locally, San Diego County has not yet seen any of the larger smash and grab” incidents, but instead thefts are increasingly carried out by organized crews of thieves who are traveling around the state and hitting store after store of whatever they specialize in or whatever is in demand like fragrances, tools and electronics. Law enforcement is arresting some thieves who are San Diego residents but say at least half of them are not local residents and only come to San Diego to steal.

One Safe Place for Victims of Abuse

District Attorney Summer Stephan along with a broad coalition of community leaders, victim advocates, health professionals and law enforcement today announced the upcoming opening of One Safe Place—The North County Family Justice Center, in response to data that demonstrates a need for more supportive services for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, human trafficking and other crimes in northern San Diego County.

One Safe Place, located in San Marcos, provides free support services to anyone who has experienced family violence, child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, hate crimes, elder abuse, human trafficking, violent loss, or other crimes. Child and adult victims of abuse and their families can walk through the doors and receive acute crisis-care, forensic medical exams, advocacy, counseling and therapy, legal services such as restraining orders, connections to a safe shelter and housing, long term mentoring, workforce readiness, clothing, and educational opportunities all under one roof.

One Safe Place will officially open its doors to the public on July 5. At a ribbon cutting ceremony today, officials said the facility will help residents of North County who are experiencing violence and abuse to move forward with safety and dignity.

One Safe Place is made up of caring, dedicated professionals who are all coming together to protect victims from violence and abuse and prevent harm,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, whose office built and is administrating the facility. “Opening this facility has been a passion project of mine and a priority for our office. We heard the voices of victims who struggle to regain their safety, heal from trauma, find shelter and economic stability and we responded with One Safe Place in the North County where everyone is welcome, and people can find hope, healing and justice. We couldn’t have done it without our partners and the tremendous support from our County Board of Supervisors and our community.”

Watch a video about One Safe Place.

North County is home to about 1 million people who make up about a third of San Diego County’s population. Data from recent years shows north county residents are experiencing specific types of crime at a disproportionate rate compared to the rest of San Diego County:

  • 46 % of domestic violence-related murders
  • 56% of elder abuse reports

While existing service providers deliver excellent support in the region, there is little interconnectivity, and providers often operate in silos, rather than under one umbrella of victim care. Co-located professionals at One Safe Place include victim advocates, nurses, medical professionals, counselors, attorneys, housing navigators, childcare professionals, work-readiness coaches, law enforcement and more. One Safe Place is a multi-agency service center that focuses on reducing the number of times victims tell their story, the number of places victims must go for help, and increasing access to services and support for victims and their children.

“One Safe Place will literally be a life-saver,” said San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond. “Many victims of violence and abuse feel they don’t have anywhere to turn and continue to suffer. One Safe Place will interrupt the cycle of abuse and empower people to break free to become thriving members of society again. A lot has happened during my first three years on the Board of Supervisors, but there is nothing I’m more proud of than being a part of creating One Safe Place in San Marcos.”

More than 70 community agencies will partner with One Safe Place, many of which will be located in the expansive center. A primary partner is Palomar Health and its nationally accredited child advocacy center. Palomar Health is also placing nurses at One Safe Place who are experienced in performing forensic medical exams on individuals who have experienced intimate partner violence or other types of abuse.

“Palomar Health is honored to provide a safe space for individuals in our community that are in need,” said Kristin Gaspar, President and CEO of the Palomar Health Foundation. “Our top priority is to ensure an extraordinary patient experience to every person who walks through our doors, so they feel safe, cared for and at home. The community we are a part of deserves the time, patience, and personalized touch that healthcare should deliver.”

One Safe Place is part of the Family Justice Center Alliance. The Family Justice Center model has been identified as a best practice in the field of domestic violence intervention and prevention services by the United States Department of Justice. This model began in the City of San Diego in 2002 under the leadership of then City Attorney Casey Gwinn and has continued to thrive with current City Attorney Mara Elliott, becoming a national and international phenomenon. Community leaders say it was time to regionalize this model to serve the North County and say more such centers may be established in the future. One Safe Place- The North County Family Justice Center is unique in that it has also been designated a Trauma Recovery Center by California’s Victim Compensation Board in addition to being a nationally accredited Child Advocacy Center.

One Safe Place is located at 1050 Los Vallecitos Boulevard, San Marcos, CA  92069. Individuals can contact One Safe Place at gethope@OneSafePlaceNorth.org or at 760-290-3690. One Safe Place will be open to walk-ins beginning July 5. The facility is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to noon.

More information can be found at www.OneSafePlaceNorth.org

One Safe Place– The North County Family Justice Center

We provide free support services all under one roof to anyone who has experienced family violence, child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, hate crimes, elder abuse, human trafficking, violent loss, or other crimes. At One Safe Place—the North County Family Justice Center— we provide comprehensive help in a safe and judgment-free environment that empowers people to move forward with their lives. Visit www.OneSafePlaceNorth.org for more information.

DA Charges Juvenile Stabber with Hate Crime

Noting a rise in hate crime prosecutions and declaring that such crimes won’t be tolerated, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan today announced her office is charging the 16-year old who stabbed another teenager in the back with one count of attempt murder, and one count of assault with a deadly weapon. Both counts carry hate crime special allegations, as well as personal use of a deadly weapon and personal infliction of great bodily injuries special allegations. Accountability in juvenile court is focused on rehabilitation and is handled differently than in adult court, and includes a range of sentencing options that the court can consider.

In court today, prosecutors put no facts on the record in court today. Juvenile proceedings are confidential, and the DA is limited on what information can be released publicly. The investigation into the incident and the potential criminal acts by other individuals involved is ongoing and additional charges could be filed in the pending criminal case. DA Victim Advocates are working to support the victim’s family and ensure their safety in the aftermath of the stabbing and initial stages of the criminal prosecution.

“Multiple aspects of this incident are appalling and as our investigation moves forward, we will be sure to hold everyone accountable for whom the evidence shows committed a crime,” said DA Stephan. “We’ve seen a disturbing increase in hate crimes, with the highest number being committed against persons who are Black. Anyone who commits these crimes will be held accountable under the law and I join the community in their outrage regarding such incidents. Our office is dedicated to not only prosecuting hate crimes and holding perpetrators accountable under the law. We also educate the public on what constitutes such a crime and how to prevent them while also delivering the message that they won’t be tolerated.”

Prosecuting hate crimes is a priority for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. The DA has nearly tripled the number of hate crime cases it has prosecuted in recent years, filing 21 cases in 2020 and 30 such cases in 2021.

In 2020, in response to reports of hate-related incidents aimed at the Asian community across the nation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the District Attorney’s Office announced a new online form and hotline where the public can report suspected hate incidents and hate crimes they’ve been a victim or witness to in San Diego County. The online reporting form can be found on the District Attorney’s website here. The Hate Crimes Hotline number is 619-515-8805. Individuals submitting information about a suspected hate crime will be contacted with information about the DA’s review of the report and any action that may be taken.

The public is reminded that hate speech in and of itself often does not rise to the level of a hate crime but is relevant as it could escalate to criminal behavior Hate crimes are often preceded by hate speech. By law, a hate crime is a criminal act committed against another person that is motivated by prejudice against that person’s race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Today, the court set a readiness hearing in the case for June 6 at 8:30 a.m. in Department 6 of the Juvenile Court.