East County Branch

2015 Staffing
Support Staff39

The District Attorney’s East County branch is located in El Cajon. The branch serves 535,000 residents and covers more than 2,000 square miles. Deputy DA Mike Still served as the Division Chief in 2015, with Deputy DA Terri Perez serving as Assistant Chief. Michele Linley became the Division Chief in January 2016. In 2015, the branch issued cases on 2,134 felony defendants and 10,180 misdemeanor defendants. Deputy DAs took 57 felony and 100 misdemeanor defendants to trial, including those tried by the branch’s Gangs, Narcotics, Sex Crimes, Economic Crimes and Family Protection Divisions. Approximately 98 percent of all cases were settled prior to trial, providing a significant cost savings to the public without sacrificing public safety.

1338Because of its location and proximity to Indian 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.

The branch also deals with cases involving drug smuggling across the international border into San Diego County, with large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine coming from Mexico. Additionally, the branch handles serious DUI accidents on rural roads, resulting from drug and alcohol impairment.

Deputies in the East County Branch prosecute a wide variety of felony cases, including homicide, sexual assault, child molestation, property and financial crime, drug offenses and DUI cases. There are specialty units within the branch that exclusively handle domestic violence, gang, narcotics and economic crimes cases

Noteworthy cases include:

People v. Jessica Quezada & Israel Soto
Deputy DA Carlos Campbell, from our Family Protection Unit, prosecuted these parents who left their four-month-old baby in the car for 14 hours resulting in the baby’s death. The defendants went shopping with all four of their children and another couple. When they arrived home, they left the baby in the car. The mother smoked marijuana and went to bed, with the entire family sharing a bed. Nobody noticed the baby was missing until 1:00 p.m. the following day, when the temperature in the car reached approximately 126 degrees. The baby was found lifeless in the car, and later declared dead. The mother was convicted of felony child abuse and sentenced to ten years in state prison.

People v. Salvador Gutierrez
Deputy DA Kerry Conway, from the Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division, prosecuted this defendant who molested his granddaughter for several years, starting when she was 8. The crimes occurred at his tuxedo shop in Spring Valley. She was told by her grandfather not to say anything. The victim reported the crimes to a therapist when she was 15, and again to the police in 2014. The victim was 22-years-old when the case went to trial and she courageously confronted her abusive grandfather. He was sentenced to multiple life terms in prison.

People v. John Fletcher
Deputy DA Will Watkins, a deputy assigned to our Crimes Against Peace Officers Unit, prosecuted this defendant who dangerously evaded police on a motorcycle, swerving around cars, and driving directly toward a patrol vehicle. He was convicted of felony evading, driving in the opposite lane, and driving under the influence. Fletcher was sentenced to five years and four months in state prison.

People v. Revan Mansoor and Raed Basem
Deputy DA Elizabeth Renner prosecuted these two men, ages 22 and 25, who picked up two 15-year-old girls from high school and drove them to a motel and engaged in sexual conduct. They claimed they did not know the girls were underage. Both girls testified, with the support of their mothers. Both men were convicted and ordered to register as sex offenders. At the sentencing, the mothers of both girls explained to the court the trauma their daughters endured as a result of the offenses.

North County Branch

2015 Staffing
Support Staff41

3008The North County Branch of the District Attorney’s Office serves about one third of San Diego County’s population – some one million residents. Ten law enforcement agencies, including five sheriff’s substations submit crime reports to the North County Branch for prosecution. In 2015, the branch reviewed over 4,000 felony cases and over 12,000 misdemeanor cases submitted for criminal prosecution. There are currently eight active homicide cases.

Noteworthy cases include:

People v. Lopez, Perez and Maraglino
This case involved three defendants living in the same household who practiced the sex bondage lifestyle. The male defendant, Perez, was in the Marine Corps and knew the victim. She was married to a Marine who was deployed at the time. The victim had begun divorce proceedings and was moving out of her apartment. Perez offered to help the victim move in exchange for her joining him on a Hornblower cruise. The Victim agreed only if Perez’s girlfriend, defendant Maraglino, was fine with the arrangement. Maraglino gave permission saying she was feeling ill and wanted the victim and Perez to use the tickets they had pre-purchased. This turned out to be a ruse to get the victim to get in the car with Perez. The last contact with the victim was a text saying “help,” which was received by a friend. The victim’s body was found the following day in a remote area of Fallbrook. Three days after her body was found, defendant Lopez, the “slave” in the household, was found in a motel in which she had attempted suicide by slitting her wrists and neck. In the room was a seven page letter in which she took responsibility for the murder. The case finally went to trial three years after the murder. Through witnesses who lived the same lifestyle, forensic evidence obtained from cell phones and inconsistent statements made by the defendants, Deputy District Attorney’s Patrick Espinoza and Garrett Wong were able to present evidence to the jury in a clear and concise manner. The defendants were all found guilty of first-degree murder with special circumstances and were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

People v. Fermin Olano
Fermin Olano murdered his brother and staged the crime scene to appear as if it had been self-defense on November 30, 2014. The defendant called 911 on the morning in question and reported he had shot his brother in the chest when he came at him with a knife. When deputies arrived no one responded to their knocks. The defendant was detained as he walked out the back door of the home. He told deputies that his brother had come at him when he confronted him about bills for the house. The defendant showed no remorse when told his brother was dead from the gun shot. Instead, he threatened to sue the deputies for nerve damage to his wrists from the handcuffs. Field evidence technicians were able to ascertain that 6 bullets were fired from a .357 magnum found on the shelf of the residence. Three bullets were recovered in the area where the victim laid, one underneath his body. During the trial the evidence showed there had been bad blood between the brothers since their mother’s death. Deputy District Attorney Marnie Layon successfully refuted the self-defense argument and the jury found Olano guilty of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to 50 years-to-life in prison.

South Bay Branch

2015 Staffing
Support Staff41

The South Bay Branch of the District Attorney’s Office is located in the City of 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 2015, the South Bay Branch was led by branch Chief Rachel Cano and Assistant Chief Melissa Diaz. The branch includes Deputy District Attorneys from the Gangs, Family Protection, Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking, and the Narcotics divisions. In 2015, the South Bay branch handled about 3,400 felony cases and more than 6,000 misdemeanor cases during the course of a year. Deputy District Attorneys took 44 felony cases and 67 misdemeanor cases to jury trial.

1032The South Bay branch handles unique cases because of our proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border. The South Bay Branch works with the Department of Homeland Security to prosecute cases that involve drug smuggling, identity theft and stolen vehicles that occur at the Port of Entry. The branch also prosecutes cases from R. J. Donovan State Prison and the county detention facilities in East Mesa. John Dunlap, an experienced Deputy District Attorney, handled these difficult cases in 2015. As part of an office wide initiative, the branch works with all of the law enforcement agencies in prosecuting crimes committed against peace officers. Vertical Deputy District Attorneys handle these cases in cooperation with the Crimes Against Peace Officers Unit.

The South Bay branch is also heavily involved in the community through mentoring youth in the Sweetwater School District. Through programs such as the Open Doors to Justice, South Bay middle and high schools students learn about the criminal justice system. The students meet and learn from attorneys, judges, court staff, and participate in mock court hearings.

Noteworthy cases include:

People v. Figueroa
In April 2013, the defendant went into his younger brother’s bedroom and attacked him with a samurai sword and a butcher’s fork. The defendant’s grandfather walked into the bedroom and saw the defendant straddling the victim, punching him and stabbing him. The defendant pushed his grandfather out of the bedroom and told him to not get involved. The grandfather called 911. The victim was found by police with 23 fatal stab wounds. Deputy District Attorney Ryan Karkenny successfully prosecuted this case, resulting in a murder conviction. The defendant was sentenced to 32 years-to-life in prison.

People v. Venegas & Antar
Between August 2012 and July 2013, the defendants were involved in a series of 48 residential burglaries throughout San Diego County. Deputy District Attorney Victor Ou pieced together the evidence developed by investigators from numerous law enforcement agencies. The evidence presented at trial included detailed cell phone activity for each of the defendants during each of the 48 residential burglaries and 300 witnesses. As a result of the successful prosecution, Venegas was sentenced to 1,540 years-to-life in prison and Antar is awaiting a lengthy prison sentence as well.

People v. Flores
In this case, the victim went into an Imperial Beach barbershop in October 2014 for a haircut and shave. As the barber was shaving the victim, he used a large razor to slit the victim’s throat. The victim was rushed to the hospital after suffering two horizontal cuts to the front of his neck. Medics saved the victim’s life. Deputy District Attorney Laura Evans prosecuted the case. Flores pleaded guilty to Attempted Murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

People v. Castro
The defendant went into the Plus Star Hookah Lounge in Chula Vista in September 2014 where he pulled out a gun and pointed it at the store owner. The defendant demanded money from the victim and threatened to kill him. The victim emptied out the money in the register and gave it to the defendant. The defendant then pointed the gun at a customer inside the lounge. The defendant ordered the customer to give him everything in his wallet. The customer complied with the defendant’s demands. The victims ended up locked inside a bathroom. Deputy District Attorney Christopher Chandler successfully prosecuted the case and the defendant was sentenced to 14 years and eight months in prison.

People v. Castillo & Tarango
On April 2013, the defendants approached the victim while he unloaded items from his van. Castillo pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the victim’s head demanding money. The victim gave the defendant $140 and his car keys. Castillo told the victim “I should shoot your knees out.” Castillo then shot the victim in the leg. The victim hobbled to a nearby apartment and called 911. Deputy District Attorney Ryan Karkenny successfully prosecuted the case. Castillo was sentenced to 25 years in prison and Tarango was sentenced to 11 years in prison.