East County Branch
The District Attorney’s East County branch is located in the City of El Cajon. The branch serves more than 20 communities and covers more than 2,000 square miles. Deputy District Attorney Michele Linley serves as the Division Chief, with Deputy District Attorney Joe McLaughlin serving as Assistant Chief. In 2018, the branch reviewed 4,064 felony cases and 12,163 misdemeanor cases, while the branch and specialized units reviewed a total number of 4,064 felony defendants and 12,163 misdemeanor defendants. Deputy DAs took 56 felony and 68 misdemeanor defendants to trial, including those tried by the branch’s Gangs, Narcotics, Sex Crimes, Economic Crimes and Family Protection Divisions. A large percentage of all cases were settled prior to trial, providing a significant cost savings to the public without sacrificing public safety.
Because of its location and proximity to Native American reservations and casinos located in East County, the branch often handles cases involving crimes committed on the reservations or arising from casino activities. Our cooperation and partnership with the tribes, their tribal councils, tribal law enforcement, and the Sheriff’s Department has enabled us to successfully investigate and prosecute these cases resulting in increased public safety on the reservations and in the casinos.
Deputy DA’s in the East County branch prosecute a wide variety of felony cases, including homicide, sexual assault, child molestation, property and financial crime, drug offenses, animal abuse and driving under the influence cases. There are specialty units within the branch that exclusively handle domestic violence, gang, narcotics and economic crimes cases. The branch also deals with cases involving drug smuggling across the international border into San Diego County.
Recognizing we are a part of the East County Community, the branch is actively involved as mentors to an East County school through a District Attorney Office program named Power League. Employees from across the branch volunteer once a week with students at the school. We act as mentors, help them enhance social skills and meet other law enforcement professionals in a positive setting.
North County Branch
The North County Branch of the District Attorney’s Office serves about 1 million residents – one-third of San Diego County’s population. Ten law enforcement agencies, including five sheriff’s substations, submit crime reports for prosecution to the North County Branch. In 2018, the branch reviewed more than 6,400 felony cases and more than 12,500 misdemeanor cases submitted for criminal prosecution.
Our three felony trial teams are staffed with accomplished veteran prosecutors who supervise and mentor junior deputy district attorneys to ensure they develop the skills and knowledge necessary to handle the most serious criminal cases. Each team works closely with law enforcement officers from the Oceanside Police Department, Carlsbad Police Department, Escondido Police Department, Sheriff’s Stations in Vista, Fallbrook, San Marcos, Encinitas (North Coastal), 4S Ranch, Valley Center and Borrego Springs, as well as federal agencies and college police departments.
The North County Branch consists of a dedicated and professional staff of 32 prosecutors, 10 investigators, two process servers, 15 paralegals, 33 support staff, three victim advocates and our branch service dog, Ollie. Together they charge and prosecute all misdemeanor and felony crimes occurring in the jurisdiction that are not handled by the vertical units of Family Protection, Gangs, Sex Crimes and Major Narcotics. These cases include everything from DUIs, theft cases, and vandalisms, to burglaries, robberies, assaults, three-strike cases, and homicides.
In our efforts to enforce the laws and seek justice for victims of crimes, staff will review about 4,000 felony cases each year, charging and prosecuting about 75 percent of the cases submitted. We also review more than 11,800 misdemeanor cases each year and prosecute about 9,000 misdemeanor offenders.
South County Branch
The South Bay Branch of the District Attorney’s Office is located in Chula Vista and serves the southern portion of San Diego County. The branch handles all misdemeanors and felonies that occur in Chula Vista, National City, Imperial Beach, Bonita, San Ysidro and Coronado. In 2018, the South Bay Branch was led by branch Chief Carlos Varela and Assistant Chiefs Anthony Campagna and James Fontaine. The branch includes Deputy District Attorneys from the Gangs, Economic Crimes, Insurance Fraud, Family Protection, Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking, and the Narcotics divisions. In 2018, the branch handled about 2,559 felony cases and 5,900 misdemeanor cases. Deputy District Attorneys took 32 felony cases and 27 misdemeanor cases to jury trial.
The South Bay branch handles unique cases because of its proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border. We work with the Department of Homeland Security to prosecute cases that involve drug smuggling, identity theft and stolen vehicles that occur at the Otay and San Ysidro Ports of Entry. The branch also prosecutes cases from R. J. Donovan State Prison and the county detention facilities in East Mesa. Deputy DA Chris Blaylock handled these difficult cases in 2018.
As part of an office-wide initiative to combat human trafficking, South Bay prosecutors worked with law enforcement agencies in coordinating and planning operations. Prosecutors also organized panel discussions and trainings on understanding and working with human trafficking victims.
The South Bay branch is also involved in the community by reaching out to the youth in the Sweetwater Union High School District. For example, prosecutors made a number of anti-bullying presentations at local schools and, through programs such as the Open Doors to Justice, South Bay middle and high schools students learned about the criminal justice system. Students met and learned from attorneys, judges, court staff, and participated in mock court hearings through these partnerships.