Santa Clara DA accused of favoritism

October 29, 2009 7:09:06 PM PDT
The district attorney in Santa Clara County is under fire for helping the client of a political supporter. The DA's harshest critics say her conduct sends a signal that justice is for sale in Santa Clara County.

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Legal observers say Santa Clara County's district attorney crossed an ethical line.

Last year, Dolores Carr got involved in a criminal case where the defendant was represented by a big campaign contributor.

Dean Johnson is a former prosecutor and ABC'S 7 legal analyst.

"There's a clear policy in the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office as to how this particular type of case should be handled. It wasn't handled that way and it just smacks of political favoritism," he said.

The campaign contributor is defense attorney James McManis. He represented Stanford student Ali Yahya Valdovinos charged with felony grand theft and McManis called DA Carr who called the deputy district attorney handling the case.

In the end, Valdovinos plead no contest to misdemeanor petty theft. The district attorney says there was no special deal.

In a statement released on Thursday, Carr said in part: "I respond to each inquiry, balancing the source and content of the information with my ethical duty to do justice in all cases."

Regardless of whether the outcome in the case was just, the district attorney's involvement gives 15 year prosecutor Jeff Rosen ammunition in his bid to unseat Carr in the June election.

"The issue that this raises is does the kid from a poor family represented by a public defender get the same deal that this kid got because he was represented by a political contributor," said Rosen.

District Attorney Carr can expect her own actions to be part of a long campaign.

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