"Pamela Price and her administration are putting criminal defendants, criminal suspects before victims, before the community."
ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Concerns about the policies of Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price are being raised by one of her own prosecutors who has resigned in protest.
"You actually felt that lives would be lost because of (Pamela) Price being elected?" I-Team reporter Dan Noyes asked Charly Weissenbach, former prosecutor in Alameda County.
"I really did. And I hoped that I was being dramatic. I hoped that I was wrong. And now that her policies are playing out, I know that I wasn't," she answered.
Weissenbach is far from the only prosecutor to quit the DA's Office in the few months that Price has been on the job. Price is shaking things up. With each passing day, we're receiving new information about plea deals that favor criminals and leave victims of violent crime feeling like they haven't received justice.
The court records tell the story. April 29, 2018 -- a Sunday, two in the afternoon. Unlicensed driver Cesar Garcia speeds 70 mph on northbound 880 in a red sedan, makes an unsafe lane change, side-swiping a car, sending it into the sound wall. Several people suffer serious injuries in the crash, including a pregnant woman who lost her 8-month-old fetus as a result. Garcia ditches the car in this parking lot and tries to report it stolen.
Former Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley charged Garcia with Felony Leaving the Scene of an Accident and Felony Reckless Driving with Serious Injury.
But this month, new DA Pamela Price offered a deal. Garcia pled "no contest" to Vandalism and got released with time served, just one year in county jail.
"Pamela Price and her administration are putting criminal defendants, criminal suspects before victims, before the community," Weissenbach tells the I-Team.
Th 10-year veteran prosecutor resigned from the Alameda County DA's Office effective March 17 saying, "I no longer feel capable of fulfilling my legal and ethical duties as a prosecutor under this administration."
Weissenbach adds, "Victims of crime still do have some rights, and those are being ignored and flagrantly disregarded, and it's really sad and hard to watch. I didn't want to be a part of that."
And Price's handling of that hit-and-run case gets worse.
I-Team reporter Dan Noyes has confirmed through multiple sources that Price's office did not inform the woman who lost her baby about the plea deal and reduced sentence, until after it was done.
The victim is devastated.
Sources inside the DA's Office tell us, it's actually state law that a victim be informed about a coming plea bargain, and have a chance to speak at sentencing. Neither of those happened in the deadly hit-and-run case that turned into simple vandalism.
"Why was that the appropriate charge? What am I missing here?" asked Santa Clara University Law Professor W. David Ball.
Ball specializes in criminal law and procedure. Pamela Price's own staff pointed us to him, as someone who would defend her policies.
W. DAVID BALL: "And that's not a political anti-Pamela Price kind of thing. But that's one where it's like, yeah, why did you do that?"
DAN NOYES: "This victim, I mean, she felt bad about this and I feel for her. She's thinking my baby was only worth a vandalism charge."
W. DAVID BALL: "Yeah, right, right."
DAN NOYES: "That's a tough one."
W. DAVID BALL: "No, I think that I agree with you on that."
We wanted to ask Pamela Price about this case and more, but she refuses to be interviewed -- even after Dan Noyes caught her in an elevator at the Fallon Street courthouse last week.
At her oath of office, Pamela Price told the crowd, "My vision is to serve Alameda County as a minister of justice."
One of her first directives to all attorneys and staff - they must address her as "Madame DA Price."
"We will be prosecutors who will use our power to change lives and not destroy them," Pamela Price said. She released a memo on March 8 instructing prosecutors to stop using sentencing enhancements that bring higher prison terms.
"She's saying, we're going to get somebody on an armed robbery," adds Professor Ball. "That's what we're going to charge them with, we're not going to charge them with a variety of other enhancements, right? A gun enhancement, a gang enhancement, things like that, unless it's warranted. And it has to be extraordinary circumstances."
That is already impacting high-profile cases. David Misch is in prison for murder, but Price is throwing out special circumstances in a case with three new victims, including 9-year-old Michaela Garecht in Hayward from 1988.
Charly Weissenbach told us, "It means that there is no additional punishment for the fact that he's a serial killer by definition, and that he committed those murders, at least motivated in one or more of them by sexual assault. The special enhancement for multiple victims is also something that can't be sought."
The parents of toddler Jasper Wu, killed by a stray bullet during a rolling gun battle on 880, are concerned Price will throw out gang enhancements in their case.
Weissenbach adds, "And to just do it as a knee-jerk reaction without proper information is, I think really sad for the family and I think can result in injustice and can result in more people getting hurt. More gun battles down the freeway, right?"
And just last Thursday, a judge rejected Price's plea deal for Delonzo Logwood. He's accused of three murders and faces 75 years to life in prison if convicted. Price offered 15 years on a single voluntary manslaughter charge.
Weissenbach believes, "What that tells the community is that three young black men were murdered, and each of their lives is worth five years each."
All this has already prompted a push to recall Price, including from victims' rights groups.
DAN NOYES: "You said to other media that she should be recalled."
BRENDA GRISHAM: "I did say that."
DAN NOYES: "Do you still believe that?"
BRENDA GRISHAM: "I still believe what I believed then. I don't see any change."
A petition to recall Price has passed 3,000 signatures. An official recall in Alameda County needs about 92,000 signatures. Brenda Grisham lost her son to a stray bullet during a 2010 gang shooting; no charges were ever filed, even though she knows the identity of the killer.
"It's still a traumatic loss for me, " Grisham tells us. "So I can imagine if, you know, you have somebody that's already in jail, and then you know, they get a free pass, and when your loved one didn't get a free pass."
Veteran prosecutors are not getting a free pass under Pamela Price. She shouted, "Power to the People!" in a speech two months ago at an "Anti Police-Terror Project" rally posted to the group's Instagram.
"Yes, it's a new day, "Price said. "Them other folks is gone. Most of 'em. I'm working on the rest. Okay?"
DAN NOYES: "I find it really hard to believe that every prosecutor in that office is no good."
CHARLY WEISSENBACK: "Right? And that's what she that's what it feels like. She believes that we're criminals that we're racists that she does not support who we are as humans and the career choices we have made and dedicated our lives to."
The I-Team has confirmed Pamela Price has:
"All because of Price," says a source. That's 22 experienced prosecutors gone, out of an office with 135 attorneys.
DAN NOYES: "Are you having an exit interview?"
CHARLY WEISSENBACH: "No."
DAN NOYES: "If you had a chance to tell Pamela Price something? What would you tell her?"
CHARLY WEISSENBACH: "I think that I would implore her to see beyond herself, implore her to learn about what we do, why we do it. Because if you're going to head an office where you have ethical and legal duties to uphold, then you need to know what those are, and then you need to abide by them."
Charly Weissenbach has already started work at the San Francisco DA's Office.
Dan Noyes has placed a standing request for an interview with DA Price. He said we'll talk to her any place, any time and we have many more leads to follow on upcoming plea deals.
Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.
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