Batmobile raid: CA attorney general declines to investigate San Mateo Co. sheriff's actions

Dan Noyes Image
ByDan Noyes via KGO logo
Saturday, September 17, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

California Attorney General Rob Bonta declines to get involved in Batmobile raid saga but San Mateo County investigations continue.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The California Attorney General's Office has declined to get involved in the Batmobile raid saga.

The ABC7 News I-Team first told you about San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos sending a team of investigators to raid the Batmobile garage in Indiana after a complaint from a wealthy realtor and donor. This doesn't come as a surprise to many people involved, but it is a setback for that Batmobile garage owner.

EXCLUSIVE: Batmobile raid hearing canceled, San Mateo DA considers dropping case

The central question in this controversy - was it proper for San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos to send four investigators to raid this Batmobile garage in Indiana? Bolanos admits he did that, after a wealthy realtor who donated to his campaign called the sheriff, upset that the $210,000 Batmobile he ordered had been delayed.

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Don Horsley told the I-Team on Aug. 9, "It looks to me, and I think to most citizens, like this is really kind of a civil matter."

Horsley said the county asked Attorney General Rob Bonta to review the sheriff's handling of the case.

"How this rose to a criminal matter I think the public justifiably wants to know. And I think we have a responsibility to get that answer for the public," said Horsley.

Now, we have an answer. The attorney general will not investigate, telling the county, "Although your letter identifies notable concerns, it does not allege that the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office committed a crime," adding, "While the California Department of Justice has the authority to oversee the California Sheriffs and District Attorneys, the Department only takes that extraordinary step when there is a compelling need."

ORIGINAL EXCLUSIVE REPORT: NorCal sheriff orders raid on Indiana Batmobile garage

We asked Batmobile garage owner Mark Racop for his reaction Friday.

"I'm very disappointed, Dan. I really had high hopes that this would be a turning point," said Racop.

Racop has concerns he can get a fair shake in San Mateo County given the close personal relationships of officials involved.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta endorsed Carlos Bolanos in his losing campaign for sheriff this year. Bonta's Special Assistant Attorney General who reviewed the Batmobile matter, Mike Redding, used to work for San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. Wagstaffe frequently appeared at campaign events with Sheriff Bolanos; they both donated to each other's campaigns.

RELATED: Bay Area Batmobile buyer bows out of scheduled interview with ABC7 News I-Team

Dan Noyes: "Is it unfair to raise that question?

Danile Barton: "No, it's the question that we need to ask."

Daniel Barton is Mark Racop's defense attorney.

"And I don't think there's a reliable answer about whether those things that could create improper relationships and motives for corruption actually did in this case."

After the I-Team's Dan Noyes broke the story in July, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe ordered a second look at the decision to charge Racop with Obtaining Money by False Pretenses, and Diversion of Construction Funds.

VIDEO: San Mateo Co. residents demand answers after Indiana Batmobile garage raid

Wagstaffe told us, "I said, 'Hey, what about this, this and this.' I want some more detail, before we make a final decision on whether this case will go forward or not."

That interview, from last month. Wagstaffe was out of the office Friday but his deputy heading this second look, Sean Gallagher, sent an email, "Our decision will be based solely on the facts of this case and the applicable law."

Daniel Barton adds, "I think that San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe is capable of being the adult in the room. And I don't think he wants to tolerate corruption in his county, and using public resources to give political favors to your friends is corruption."

The county has hired a retired judge to review the matter. But they have also hired an attorney for Sheriff Bolanos who is arguing the county has no right to review what the sheriff does. The tab for taxpayers on this keeps climbing.

Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live