Special Operations Division
The Special Operations Division is led by Division Chief Paul Azevedo and Assistant Chief Fiona Khalil.
The division investigates complex cases involving misuse of public funds, political corruption and violation of election laws. Special Operations is responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes committed by government officials and employees including law enforcement officers. Crimes committed against officers resulting in serious injuries to them are also prosecuted by the division. This division also investigates and prosecutes attorneys for crimes committed while in their professional capacity; offenses committed against the justice system, such as perjury and threatening a judicial officer as well as hate crimes.
Investigators who provide assistance to prosecutors and law enforcement that work with the justice system of Mexico and other countries are assigned to Special Operations. The division is responsible for background checks on potential employees and volunteers. In 2012 for example, the unit completed 326 background checks
Some of the high-profile duties of the division include the independent review of all officer- involved shootings (OIS), which the District Attorney's Office has done since the mid-1970s. The purpose of the review is to provide an impartial analysis of all shootings and other use of deadly force by peace officers, fatal and non-fatal. The neutral and objective review determines if peace officers in San Diego County acted in a legally justifiable manner when they made a decision to use deadly force. Upon completion of the District Attorney's review, a letter summarizing the facts and statements of the deputy or officer and other witnesses is written and delivered to the respective law enforcement agency. In 2012, the division reviewed 19 officer-involved shootings.
In all, the Special Operations opened 56 investigations in 2012 and filed charges in 21 criminal cases.
Some of the more significant cases include:
South County Corruption Case
The grand jury indicted15 defendants in a public corruption case involving elected school board members and the former superintendent of the Sweetwater Union High School District, trustees of the San Ysidro School District and its Superintendent, former members of the board of trustees of Southwestern Community College and the school's former president, as well as a construction program manager and a bond underwriter. The indictments consist of 232 charges against 15 separate defendants.
People v Michael Gonzalez
The defendant, Michael Gonzalez, was convicted of attempted murder and assault with deadly weapon. He used a knife to stab a San Diego Police Officer and two good Samaritans who came to the officer's aid. The defendant was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison for this case and for residential burglaries which he also committed.
People v Tyler Torres
The defendant in this case assaulted two uniformed officers and inflicted serious injuries to both. Tyler Torres was convicted of multiple felonies and sentenced to nine years and four months in prison.
People v Francis Noble and June Pickard
The defendants – a mother and adult son – conspired to murder the daughter-in-law/wife of the defendants. Both defendants were sentenced to life in prison.
People v Michael Pines
Michael Pines, an attorney, advised his clients to break the law. He personally committed crimes related to real estate transactions. He was convicted of unauthorized practice of law, sending an extortion letter and stalking.