East County Branch

2018 Staffing
Support Staff33

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.

1338Because 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.

Noteworthy cases include:

People v. Llerena Henry

Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lazar prosecuted Llerena Henry for a vicious attack on his girlfriend’s stepfather. The girlfriend of defendant was angry with her step father because he kicked her out of the house for using drugs. The defendant approached the victim and ultimately struck him three times, which rendered him unconscious. Henry had a substantial violent criminal history and was sentenced to 35 years-to-life in prison.

People v. Joseph Bollacker

Deputy District Attorney Daniel Shim prosecuted Joseph Bollacker for the attempted murder of his sister’s boyfriend. The defendant had made it known he did not like the victim. On the day in question, he kicked a hole in his sister’s door, pointed a gun at the victim and told him to get out. The defendant walked the victim out of the house and once outside of the house a verbal confrontation ensued and the defendant began to shoot at the victim. Defendant shot at the victim three times, on the fourth attempt the gun jammed. Bollacker was sentenced to 27 years-to-life.

People v. Felix Barraza

Deputy District Attorney Kerry Conway prosecuted Felix Barraza for molesting a minor victim from the time she was 11-years-old until she was 16, eventually impregnating her. The victim moved in with her aunt and the defendant in order to go to school. Her mother worked and lived in Mexico and that’s when the molestation began. Barraza was convicted of nine counts of lewd acts on a child. He was sentenced to 32 years in state prison.

People v. Stacy Littleton

Deputy District Attorney Chris Lindberg prosecuted Stacy Littleton for stabbing an acquaintance to death in 1986. DNA advancements made the prosecution possible. He was sentenced to 26 years–to-life in prison.

People v. Jaquan Ramsey

Deputy District Attorney Jessica Paugh prosecuted Jaquan Ramsey for the attempted murder of his girlfriend. Ramsey forced his girlfriend into a car, threatened to kill her, put a gun to her head and then shot her. He was sentenced to 30 years in state prison.

North County Branch

2018 Staffing
Support Staff33

3008The 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.

Noteworthy 2018 cases include:

People v. Salvador Sanchez “Snapchat Murder Case”

In April 2017, 19-year-old defendant, Salvador Sanchez, lured his good friend to a park in Escondido to drink and smoke marijuana. The defendant had a secret plan to kill the victim. He dressed all in white as a symbol of his purity. In videos taken at the park and posted on Snapchat, the defendant made comments about killing the victim. One video shows the victim crying and asking the defendant why he is doing this. The defendant, an accomplished wrestler in high school, easily overpowered the victim and smothered him in a choke hold. Two mutual friends saw the posted videos and called the defendant, who admitted killing the victim. They called the police. The defendant confessed and led police to the victim’s brush-covered, bloody body on the Rincon Indian Reservation. Before the trial in September 2017, the defendant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He was ultimately found sane at the time of the murder and guilty of the murder itself. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Deputy DA Claudia Plascencia prosecuted this case.

People v. David McGee

In this case, 25-year-old David McGee used a claw hammer to bludgeon to death his 55-year-old mother. The victim’s daughter and defendant’s sister discovered the gruesome scene when the family was unable to contact the victim or the defendant. The sister found her mother in a bloody bedroom with McGee hiding in the closet, naked, covered in blood and mumbling incoherently. He was under the influence of drugs (Benadryl) and had self-inflicted cuts on his wrists and neck. Toxicology results showed McGee had the equivalent of 80 to 140 Benadryl pills in his bloodstream. At this high dosage, Benadryl causes hallucinations, disturbed coordination and delirium. McGee was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 26 years to life in prison. Deputy DAs Keith Watanabe and Melissa Ocampo prosecuted this case.

South County Branch

2018 Staffing
Support Staff35

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.

Noteworthy cases include:

People v. Ricardo Valles

In May 2017, the defendant stabbed and killed two homeless men who had set up a makeshift encampment in a strip mall. The knife used to kill the men was found at the scene and the defendant’s DNA was developed from its handle. The defendant was arrested and admitted the killings though he expressed what ultimately would prove to be a fixed delusion involving people the defendant believed were attempting to kidnap and harm his family. Deputy District Attorney Victor Ou prosecuted this case. The defendant was ultimately found not guilty by reason of insanity and in November 2018, was committed to a state hospital for a maximum term of life without the possibility of parole.

People v. Farzad Daftari

The defendant was recently released from prison for an attempted robbery. In March 2017, without warning or provocation, he stabbed a 20-year-old female dental assistant who had just gotten off work and was preparing to go inside her home. Fortunately, the victim survived this attack. In October 2018, the defendant pleaded guilty to attempted murder and admitted having a prior strike conviction. The defendant was sentenced to 24 years in state prison. Deputy District Attorney Patrick Ojeil prosecuted this case.

People v. Benjamin Lee Bathen

The defendant was a psychology patient of the victim for a number of years but those services ended in 2008 when the defendant moved out of state. In June 2017, the victim started to receive profanity-laden threats on her voicemail from the defendant. The repeated threats of death, mutilation and rape extended to the victim’s family. The victim was rightly terrified. The defendant was ultimately arrested and convicted of making criminal threats at trial. Deputy District Attorney Cherie Somerville prosecuted this case.

People v. George Espinoza, Jr.

In July 2018, the defendant’s car drifted out of its lane and onto a sidewalk where it struck and killed a 17-year-old jogger. The defendant fled the scene, recklessly running stop signs and speeding in an effort to get away. In August 2018, the defendant pleaded guilty to hit and run causing death and vehicular manslaughter and was later sentenced to three years in state prison. Deputy District Attorney Vincent Chen prosecuted this case.

People v. Manuel Arrendondo

73-year-old Manuel Arrendondo masturbated while standing over his sleeping granddaughter and one-year-old great granddaughter. The investigation revealed similar behavior by the defendant against numerous women in the family. In December 2018, a jury convicted the defendant of indecent exposure. Deputy District Attorney Hailey Williams prosecuted this case.