Contra Costa Co. public defender requests pending cases involving Antioch PD to be dropped

This comes after a growing racist texting scandal possibly involving 40% of the department.

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Monday, April 17, 2023
East Bay public defender requests Antioch PD cases to be dropped
The Contra Costa County Public Defender's office is asking the district attorney to dismiss pending public defender cases involving Antioch police.

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- The Contra Costa County Public Defender's office is asking the district attorney to dismiss all pending public defender cases involving the Antioch Police Department.

This comes after a growing racist texting scandal possibly involving 40% of the department.

"The public simply cannot have trust or confidence in any prosecutions coming from Antioch at this time," said Ellen McDonnell, Chief Public Defender at Contra Costa County. she spoke to ABC7 on Friday before sending a letter to Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton.

"I request you immediately dismiss all pending Public Defender cases involving Antioch Police Department, agree to release our incarcerated clients, and cease filing any APD related cases," she wrote.

RELATED: 40% of Antioch police force likely involved in alleged racist texting scandal, public defender says

Contra Costa County public defender says 40% of Antioch police force are likely involved in the alleged racist texting scandal.

This comes after published reports reveal of a chain of racist and homophobic text messages sent by Antioch police officers over period of almost two years.

"Have you ever seen anything like this before?," asked an ABC7 News reporter. "No. This is a first of its kind, as far as I have heard from every other attorney who has practiced in his county, that this is a huge moment and unprecedented," said Evan Kuluk, Deputy Public Defender.

Kuluk says the text messages shows exactly what police are doing... and in their own words.

VIDEO: 'Disgusting': Alleged Antioch PD racist texts addressed as tensions flare at city council meeting

At least two people had to be escorted out of the meeting after a back-and-forth with the Antioch mayor over the alleged racist and homophobic text messages of around two dozen police officers.

An example of one exchange from March 25, 2021, Officer Eric Rombough texted, "Sooo many black people."

Officer Jonathan Adams: "Bro. They all look the same."

Officer Eric Rombough: "Tell me about it. I feel like I'm at the zoo. I hate these idiots."

Kuluk says because many cases are based on entirely on the word of officers he says these cases must be dismissed.

"A traffic stop. The officer believing they identified someone on a surveillance video. Those cases should all be dismissed. These officers should not have any credibility in a court of law when arresting people based on their word," said Kuluk.

RELATED: Antioch mayor addresses officers' racist texts; calls for special meeting to examine APD culture

The public defender's office says this could impact thousands of cases. Cases involving violent crimes he says may require more litigation.

"And it may be up to judges to determine how big a remedy to give," said Kuluk.

Carmela Caramagno, Attorney represents Terryon Pugh. He was arrested two years ago for an attempted shooting. Pugh was mentioned in several text chains.

RELATED: Antioch mayor announces more officers placed on leave after investigation into police dept.

Caramagno is raising concerns about Detective Robert Gerber - who was named in the report. She says he testified as a gang expert in the Pugh case - as it relates to special enhancements. Those charges could lead to life in prison without possibility of parole.

"So that enhancement is in large part founded on officer Gerber's testimony. And investigation. So, the impact is tremendous. And it infects every aspect of the charges against my client.," she said

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