Contra Costa DA cuts back on cases

February 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
They're calling it a "perfect storm" in Contra Costa County. Their budget problems are so severe, crooks could go free. Budget problems means the District Attorney's Office will be forced to drop prosecution of some crimes.

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Police could arrest people for misdemeanor crimes, but then they would be set free because the District Attorney says he's not going to have the money to prosecute them.

"I think it's horrible. I think it's absolutely horrible, and I can't imagine that government, whose highest purpose is the security of their citizens, would allow this to happen," says Barry Grove, the president of the Deputy District Attorney Association.

But Contra Costa County has asked the District Attorney's Office to cut $4.1 million and the D.A. has announced to do that he has to cut 33 attorneys. Meaning he won't be able to prosecute misdemeanors anymore.

"That means that driving under the influence will not be prosecuted, concealed firearms, petty thefts will no longer be prosecuted, indecent exposure will no longer be prosecuted," says Grove.

District Attorney Robert Kochly said in an email to his staff on Thursday that these cuts are the only option because "During this fiscal year we have been hit by the 'perfect storm.'"

The supervisors will vote on this proposal.

"We're going to work with the District Attorney as much as possible to give him the ability to still prosecute some misdemeanors and he's going to have to prioritize the ones that post the greatest risk to public safety," says John Gioia, a Contra Costa County supervisor.

"Not all services are equal. The library is not the same as the DA's Office," says Grove.

Supervisor Gioia says the library has already cut all it can and that every department is going to have to make cuts. The supervisors will discuss this proposal at its meeting on Tuesday.

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