All cases linked to Antioch officers in texting scandal to be reviewed: 'Absolutely unprecedented'

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Thursday, June 8, 2023
All cases linked to Antioch officers in texting scandal to be reviewed
The Contra Costa County Public Defender's Office is hiring more staff as they embark on a review of "thousands and thousands" of cases. Here's why some have already been dismissed.

ANTIOCH, Calif. (KGO) -- Ellen McDonnell is the Chief Public Defender in Contra Costa County. Her department is hiring more staff given the huge task ahead of them.

Over the next couple of years, the Public Defender's Office will be reviewing all the cases that involve any of the Antioch police officers linked to the racist texting scandal.

"We will be reviewing thousands and thousands of cases by the time we are able to pull together all of the impacted cases," says McDonnell.

The reviews will go back to the beginning of each officer's career in the county.

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"Some of them didn't just work at Antioch. So we will be doing a thorough and complete review of any cases they were involved in as a police officer in Contra Costa County," says McDonnell.

McDonnell says five new deputy attorneys are being hired to help investigate the thousands of cases that may be impacted, such as by racial bias, false evidence, and civil rights violations.

Priority will be given to individuals currently in county jail or state prison. Next, those on probation or parole. And then those with a prior conviction on their record. But McDonnell says this isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card.

"On any of these cases the courts will be involved. The courts will evaluate the role of the officer in the case, the status of the evidence, and whether there is any integrity to prior conviction," explains McDonnell.

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But even before any review, some cases are already being dismissed.

On Wednesday, the first major felony case to be dismissed because of the ADP texting scandal was People vs. Montalvo and Boone.

In a statement to ABC7 News, the Contra Costa County District Attorney's office wrote: "In this case, the prosecution of Montalvo and Boone for mutilation of human remains and arson on October 17, 2022, relied heavily on the investigative work of Antioch Police Officers who are associated with racist text communications."

Ashton Montalvo and D'Angelo Boone faced two-count felony charges for arson and mutilation in connection to the death of Mykaella Sharlman. Her body was found along an Antioch trail, and was so badly burned, that police had to use dental records to identify her.

Other cases are also being dismissed.

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"What's been happening thus far, the lower-level cases, the nonviolent cases, have all been dismissed by the D.A.'s office, all those open cases," says Evan Kuluk, Deputy Public Defender at the Alternate Defender Office in Contra Costa County.

Greg Woods, a professor in the of Department of Justice Studies at San Jose State University, and many other experts like him, say this level of review may be one of the largest of its kind in U.S. history.

"This is absolutely unprecedented," says Woods.

He says these reviews will serve to address police accountability and transparency. They may even be an opportunity for police departments across the country to reevaluate their hiring and training practices. But he adds, it's mostly about restoring public trust.

"If we don't, then we can continue to spiral in a downward position where the concept of public safety, the relationship between police and community in Antioch will be tarnished forever," says Woods.

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