2017 Staffing
Support Staff25
Student Workers7
Victim Advocate1

The Superior Court and Central Pretrial/Case Disposition Division is responsible for prosecuting some of the most challenging cases in the District Attorney’s Office, including assaults, burglaries, robberies, felony DUIs, and murders.

It is one of the largest divisions in the office and its Deputy DAs handle all felonies not assigned to a branch or to a single prosecutor during the life of the case. This division is responsible for more than 25 percent of all felony cases tried by the District Attorney’s Office.

In addition, the Superior Court Division handles pre and post-conviction mental health cases for those defendants alleged to be incompetent to stand trial and those found to be a danger to the community as a result of mental illness.

The unique combination of senior trial attorneys and junior deputies in the division helps less-experienced deputies develop the skills and knowledge necessary to become highly skilled felony trial attorneys.

The division consists of six teams: Pretrial, Case Disposition, Trials, Major Violators, DUI Homicide, Crimes Against Police Officers (CAPO), and Cold Case Homicide.


Prosecutors on this team handle a large number of serious cases. They arraign defendants charged in felony complaints, then prepare and conduct preliminary examinations in front of a judge to prove the charges based upon a probable cause standard. In doing so, the preliminary hearing Deputy DAs are liaisons between the DA’s Office, law enforcement and the victims and witnesses of crime.

The pretrial deputies also handle suppression motions, bail reviews, and miscellaneous court calendars. Occasionally, they conduct misdemeanor trials, which occur when felony charges are reduced to misdemeanors at the preliminary hearing.

Superior-CourtCase Disposition

This team works to assess felony cases in an attempt to reach fair and equitable resolutions of the cases at the earliest possible opportunity. The team encourages the immediate sentencing of defendants, where appropriate, significantly reducing costs to San Diego County taxpayers.


The trials team is responsible for prosecuting cases that are bound over by the pretrial team and serious trials that are assigned vertically from the time the case was presented by law enforcement. Those cases involve murder, attempted murder, arson and other complex felony cases.

Cases of note include:

People v. Elliott Scott Grizzle and People v. Toren Nieber and Lawrence Johnson
All three defendants with long criminal histories were convicted of first-degree murder after they invaded a home during the middle of the day and murdered the intended target. The defendants took two victims captive at gunpoint for three hours by tying them up and blindfolding them in their own home.  The defendants demanded money, marijuana and the whereabouts of the decedent.  The home was ransacked, and the decedent was shot three times when he came home. Defendant Grizzle, who was tried in March 2017, had just been released six months prior to the murder after serving nearly 25 years in state prison. During that time, he rose to high-ranking status in the Aryan Brotherhood. He was sentenced to 159 years-to-life. The other defendants were tried in August 2017. Defendant Johnson was sentenced to 38 years-to-life and Defendant Nieber to 90 years-to-life. Deputy DAs Amy Maund and Steven Schott prosecuted this case.

People v. Ismael Beltran
Ismael Beltran was living with his father, the victim, whom he murdered in 2016. Before he was killed, the victim told other family members that he was frustrated with and fearful of his son, who would not move out of the home. In October 2016, neighbors heard arguing, loud banging and calls for help from victim’s apartment. Windows and walls were shaking. As the victim repeatedly yelled for help, a neighbor called the police and defendant fled the scene. The father was stabbed 26 times on his upper torso. Beltran was convicted of first-degree murder in November 2017 and will be sentenced to 26 years-to-life in prison. Deputy DA Meredith Pro prosecuted this case.

Major Violators

This unit prosecutes criminals with extensive felony backgrounds such as serial robbers and other defendants charged with numerous felonies and who face long prison sentences. In 2017, the prosecutors in this unit closed 32 cases involving 37 defendants whose combined crimes included 53 robberies and attempted robberies, 48 residential burglaries, three carjackings and kidnappings.

Cases of note include:

People v. Gerard Gates
In June 2017, Gerard Gates was convicted of five counts of robbery while using a dangerous or deadly weapon, for a series of armed robberies in north San Diego County. The defendant had an extensive prior criminal history, including eight prior robbery convictions. In this case, Gates wore a mask and dark clothing to conceal his identity and he preyed upon people in dark places at night. The defendant’s image was captured on surveillance videos outside of restaurants and alleys, but due to his disguise, he was at large for several months. When a Good Samaritan reported a “masked man” casing the Escondido Performing Arts Center, police responded and a chase ensued. The defendant was apprehended and tied to the series of unsolved robberies. After more than a year of litigation, the defendant was convicted after a bench trial and he was sentenced to 65 years-to-life in prison. Deputy DA Lucy Yturralde prosecuted this case.

People v. Fernando and Eduardo Gil
Between September 19 and December 11, 2015, the brother defendants committed a series of residential burglaries in San Diego County. The duo lived with their mother in San Diego. During a probation search of their bedroom in December 2015, police found property stolen from numerous residential burglaries in San Diego, Chula Vista, and Imperial Beach. After further investigation, the defendants were charged with twelve residential burglaries. In February 2017, they were convicted by a jury in a Chula Vista trial. Both defendants had extensive prior criminal histories, including previous residential burglaries. Eduardo Gil received 16 years in state prison and his brother Fernando received 12 years. Deputy DA Jim Koerber prosecuted this case.

People v. Bryan Evangelisti
A series of residential burglaries and commercial robberies occurred in San Diego during a 10-day period in the winter of 2016. Homes were burglarized, cars were stolen and gas stations were robbed. Bryan Evangelisti was arrested in Arizona, and one of the stolen cars – a red Corvette – was recovered. Evangelisti, who had prior convictions for robbery and residential burglary, pleaded guilty to all charges and he was sentenced to 26 years in state prison in December of 2017. Deputy DA Jim Koerber prosecuted this case.

DUI Homicide Unit

The DUI Homicide unit launched in October 2014 thanks to a grant from the Office of Traffic Safety. This unit handles all homicides that occur in the county in which a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This unit also prosecutes some of the most serious DUI injury cases. The goal of the unit is to be actively involved at the investigations stage of the case in order to better prosecute the offenders. This requires the Deputy District Attorneys and the Investigator to be available to law enforcement at all times and to respond to the scene of the collisions.

Noteworthy cases include:

People v. Paul Alan Schenk
Paul Schenk was driving his Ford F250 on September 12, 2016, when he crossed into oncoming traffic, hitting a Nissan Altima. The driver of the Nissan was killed on impact. Schenk had his 4 and 5-year-old children – unrestrained – in the truck. One child was ejected through the rear window of the Ford and landed in the bed of the truck. The other child was partially ejected from her seat, striking the dashboard. Both of the defendant’s children were hospitalized and suffered multiple cuts and bruises.   Shenk’s blood-alcohol content registered at .29 percent. He was sentenced to six years state prison after pleading guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and child endangerment in July. Deputy DA Jessica Paugh prosecuted this case.

People v. David Dominguez Jr.
On his way to pick up his girlfriend from work in April 2017, David Dominguez hit and killed a pedestrian while under the influence of alcohol. Dominguez ran a red light and slammed into the victim, who was crossing Pacific Highway. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. Dominguez fled the scene and was caught eight hours later. He eventually pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and fleeing the scene of a crime.  He was sentenced to 11 years in state prison. Deputy DA Laura Evans prosecuted this case.

People v. Gabrielle Jones
In July 2016, Gabrielle Jones and her friend attended a concert at the Sleep Train Amphitheater, where she drank alcohol and posted photos of herself drinking on social media throughout the evening.  After the concert, Jones jumped a curb, crashed into a concrete barrier and rolled her car. The impact killed her friend, who died at the scene. Jones’ blood-alcohol level was .15 percent, about three hours after the crash. She was sentenced to 365 days custody and five years of probation after pleading guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter. Deputy DA Laura Evans prosecuted this case.

Cold Case Homicide

The Cold Case Homicide unit works to resolve unsolved homicides. Members of this team work with local law enforcement to systematically inventory all cases of unsolved homicides and missing persons that are on file with respective police agencies.

Significant cases include:

People v. Hector Mendieta
Hector Mendieta stabbed a man to death in front of bar in Escondido in 2002. The two men were on bad terms and on the night of the murder, Mendieta chased the victim down and stabbed him multiple times. The defendant fled to Mexico where he remained a fugitive for 15 years before he was brought back the United States. In 2017, Mendieta was held accountable for his crime and convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 26 years-to-life in prison. Deputy DAs Laurie Hauf and Valerie Summers prosecuted this case.

People v. Russell Taylor
In this case, a 15-year-old boy went missing in 1987 after leaving his home to collect money owed for selling candy. His body was found in flood channel, naked and mutilated. In 2016, the Cold Case Unit requested additional testing of evidence and a DNA finding was linked to defendant, Russell Taylor. Investigators created a strong evidentiary case against Taylor, who was already serving a life sentence from prior strikes from two attempted murder cases. He was arraigned in February 2017 and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in July. He is serving a sentence of life without parole. Deputy DA Valerie Summers prosecuted this case.

People v. Santiago Covarrubias
In 2007, the victim and his friend left a bar and headed to taco shop off El Cajon Boulevard. At the eatery, the victim and his friend encountered the Santiago Covarrubias and his companion. Covarrubias verbally confronted the victim, later returning to the area in search of trouble. The defendant and his companion found the victim at a nearby donut shop and Covarrubias shot him multiple times.  Grainy video prevented an early identification of the defendant and his companion. Years later, DNA from the crime scene linked the defendant’s companion, who ultimately testified at the trial. The defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder with use of a firearm and was sentenced to 50 years-to-life in prison. Deputy DA Brian Erickson prosecuted this case.

Crimes Against Police Officers

This unit handles felony cases in which defendants have committed crimes against police officers and it helps handle the special issues that arise in these types of cases. Members of this unit respond to the scene of the most serious of these cases as they happen. These crimes include violent resistance to officers, officers who are assaulted with firearms and other weapons, and other crimes against officers who are trying to perform their daily duties.