“For the last three years I have been bothered by the De Anza Rape Case. Much speculation has been made about what the Sheriff’s Office could have done to ensure a different outcome. In retrospect, there are some things that could have been handled different. This is often apparent in hindsight, when things are happening in real time and we can recreate a situation exactly the way we wish.” — Sheriff Laurie Smith, May 26, 2010, statement regarding De Anza rape investigation from 2007.
We are human. Humans make mistakes. It is part of the nature of how we learn. We learn from our mistakes. Because of the lack of knowledge that has been gathered from experience by the administration run by the incumbent, Laurie Smith, I felt this issue important enough to bring back to the top and add too.
New cases have come to light or simply come to my attention. The case of 22-year-old Adelita Rojas-Lomeli, who’s body was found on Mount Hamilton Road in unincorporated East San Jose; her has been reduced to no more than a fragment of a news story left over in a chat site when you search for her. Her story may have turned out differently if negligence wasn’t the norm of the day when a then sergeant, now captain, threw away evidence gathered in the case. Three days of searching the local dump turned up no sign of the evidence and Adelita faded into anonymity along with her murderer who will likely never be caught now. Yes, mistakes happen, but mistakes of this caliber are unacceptable… and to have the negligent party meet with promotion rather than punishment is a flat out dishonor to the victim who will go without justice.
Human trafficking and sex trafficking is a huge problem in the Bay Area. An issue that the entire region as well as the California Attorney General, has worked hard to address. However our sheriff has failed, miserably to even address our local missing and at risk children. A Santa Clara county teen, known to be at risk for sexual exploitation and trafficking was found, being trafficked, in a San Francisco sting. Little to nothing was being done to find this young teen by the Sheriff’s Office. This is not so much a case of negligence of a deputy as it is an example of the crushing personnel issues the sheriff’s office is facing under the self-serving leadership of Sheriff Laurie Smith. There is one detective assigned to missing persons cases. That one person also is responsible for all juvenile criminal investigations AND all child abuse cases. If that is not enough for one person to handle, that person also has to carry the weight of CSI responsibilities for all cases as part of the CSI team. There is no functional way that crimes against children — be they missing and exploited or abused — can be fully and properly addressed under these circumstances.
Vice, which was the Sheriff’s team responsible for responding to prostitution calls, sex trafficking, human trafficking, among other things, was disbanded several years ago now. The positions are still on the books from what I’ve been told, likely even funded from my understanding, but remain unfilled. There are a slew of rumors flying around about why this is. Deputies who have attempted to pursue cases against prostitution have been reprimanded, sometimes severely and all are under orders until very recently that no prostitution cases will be pursued. Period. Until recently, when a group of local businesses repeatedly complained about a business that was clearly a front for human trafficking.
The De Anza case was a tragedy of mistakes and bad decisions by higher ups; from beginning to the bitter end, a heartbreaking tragedy. While the D.A. was driven out of office through the election process, some of that based on this particular case, the elected official who oversaw the investigating agency and therefore holds the ultimate responsibility came through her election unscathed. Lesson learned she claims above. But as I said earlier, events continue too this day to say otherwise.
What happened is the captain at the time made a decision that paying overtime to investigate a gang rape wasn’t in his budget. Because your budget and not spending 5 hours overtime for a detective and CSI team is far more important than convicting a crew of rapists.
Rather than dealing with the captain for poor leadership and bad decision making that was the probable result in the failed conviction of the case, he was allowed to quietly retire at his own leisure. Rather than implementing change of policy that would demand a detective be sent out immediately as possible on a violent crime investigation, the sergeant who fought with the captain about the decision ultimately took the brunt of the blame was driven into forced retirement on a petty wave of hostile blame-gaming intended to silence the potential public outrage and provide a scapegoat that would protect those worthy of protection if it became necessary.
The Sheriff, as we see above, later publicly attributes the failure of this case, to the heat of the moment and the clarity with which we now as see the benefit of “hind sight.” I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt, but I find it incredibly hard that any sworn peace officer with more than 6 months under their belt wouldn’t know that it’s a good idea to start an investigation into a violent crime as immediately as possible to ensure you can get all the evidence in a timely manner without the risk of loss, contam…okay, you get the point. So let’s say lesson learned here and look forward from that point.
The future from that point on, as we now know, would all be well and good if the part about learning from our mistakes I mentioned earlier kicked in. If nothing else was learned here, it should be that when a crime is committed, stalling, counting budget pennies and playing power games are off the table. You conduct the investigation and you do what your agency has been charged with — protecting the public and taking the bad guys down.
However since the tragedy of De Anza a slew of other people have suffered from the same indignity of not being important enough to demand immediate results or, in one case that has been breaking news lately, being important enough to avoid results. Clearly the Sheriff has not learned from the hindsight offered by the De Anza case that she herself refers too.
We have the Sierra Lamar case where it was reported by local news that for more than a week after finding the girl’s clothing on the side of the road the Sheriff would not raise this case above “missing person” even though it was clear at this point something had happened to this missing girl, a beautiful young lady who still has not been found to this day. Many reports from inside are saying it was because of the money and her not wanting to “ruin” her budget. When forced to spend the money, insiders say she insisted that all stops be pulled, not to find the girl, but to spend enough to meet the threshold for grant assistance to pay for the investigation – from lavish catered meals on the 4th floor for the administration “overseeing” the investigation to deputies sitting on the corner playing games on their iPhones getting overtime pay so they had “visibility”, the Sheriff went on a spending spree.
As of today, Marc Klaas, and people like Danny Domingo, who have worked with him to search for Sierra asj well as many others around the search have come out and stated openly that the Sheriff actively stonewalled their assistance in the search. The incumbent’s claims that it would put the case “at risk” to give out information despite not a single case across the country ever having been put at risk by civilian search assistance.
Like other cases with delays by Sheriff’s Smiths people, we still do not know if this case will result in a conviction. The defendant has been in jail now for nearly 18 months and as of October 3rd the Sheriff’s Office still has not provided the required evidence to the defense in order for the case to proceed, the defendant has yet to even enter a plea. All this despite the fact that in the hearing prior the people stated they had all the evidence in hand, the case has been extended into November as we still wait for the already slow process to work it’s way through the system.
Then we have the Audrie Pott case. A case where Rolling Stone recently noted in their article that a captain in the Sheriff’s Office, an office that should have learned delays in sex crime cases do them no favors, agreed to the request by the school to put off the investigation so students could “mourn.” This brilliant decision now appears to have resulted in the destruction of evidence, the collaboration of lies among suspects, at least one parent is said to have possibly acted to obstruct justice, and the possibility of the full potential of any legal action against the suspects may now never be realized.
Yes, mourning is important. When it comes to the responsibility of law enforcement, it’s not as important as acting swiftly and effectively to investigate a crime that resulted in a death.
Aldon was a special case. His was the opposite, an investigation delays because of his clout. Despite a party where there were 2 shootings and a stabbing and multiple illegal weapons were found in Aldon Smith’s house, it took more than a year for the case to be reported up from the Sheriff’s office to the District Attorney according to a recent report in the Mercury News. Since that time there have been the ever shifting reports of what happened that night and what Aldon did or did not do involving guns.
Investigations can take time, and perhaps there was good reason for delay. That’s not the most bothersome part of this case. The most bothersome part of all this is while this investigation is ongoing, involving weapons, injuries, drunken parties et al, the Sheriff is making sure her people tell Mr. Smith that he is a “victim” and his weapons and actions are not going to be investigated, all while inviting Aldon Smith to “party” with her and her high level administration and a few hand selected, trusted others. Where was this “party”? At the Sheriff’s range, playing with high powered weapons and riding in the helicopter. If the Sheriff’s actions don’t cross the line of bad ethics in this case, they certainly reach the level of bad decision making by a leader and blatantly inappropriate behavior from an elected official charged with upholding the law.
We’re left wondering after all the parties are over, what exactly happened in that shooting that night and is it possible we’ll ever know given the Sheriff’s derailing of this investigation in order to hobnob with the 49er’s star players?
The above mentioned weren’t the only cases. There have been others, yes, even another alleged rape case that recently took nearly 24 hours for detectives to respond due to “budget” despite that lesson learned.
There have been other incidents of negligence that were lucky in that they left no obvious victims — the Metcalf substation attack where the sheriff’s administrators tried to force deputies off the scene and write it off as vandalism for hours before finally realizing the seriousness of the issue that is now subject of a federal investigation. Or the incident of the LeHigh active shooter where the Sheriff sent SERT (SWAT) personnel home despite all expert advice — her claim was that the shooter was gone, even though there was no evidence to show that. The shooter hid under an innocent and very lucky families home only to be found the next morning… the community was protected by “gun bearer” correctional deputies with absolutely no experience on the street as law enforcement officers dealing with a crisis active shooter incident. Sometimes we get lucky.
While the Sheriff talks about hindsight and how it’s hard to know what may happen in the future, she applies none of the lessons learned from the past. She continues to promote the same shoddy policy of budget first, bad guy second, if we can brush it under the rug, make it so. She continues to pretend that she hasn’t decimated staffing needs, that programs haven’t been cut at her whim and that the victims in this county are getting everything the taxpayer is paying to ensure that the victims get a fighting chance at justice.
All this and more is why the largest victim’s advocacy group in the state, Crime Victims United, has come out and endorsed Kevin Jensen for our next sheriff.
Our incumbent claims to have years of experience in law enforcement in every division before she became Sheriff. Yet for all that experience, before and after winning an election, it has become clear that she has no idea on how to apply that experience into a better, more responsive, more affective policing agency for the community.
It comes down to this. If your child is the victim of a crime, is this the sheriff you want making the calls in an investigation? Do you want the overtime budget to be the deciding factor when your child is missing or your wife is assaulted? Is this the decision maker you want at the helm to make sure your family gets the best possible results from your law enforcement agency? I certainly don’t want anyone in my family becoming a victim of a crime in Sheriff Laurie Smith’s jurisdiction.
It’s time for a new Sheriff in town… vote Kevin Jensen in 2014. Sheriff Jensen clearly admits he makes mistakes too, but he also has proven he has the aptitude, desire and ability necessary to apply hindsight lessons to the practical applications of his office.
…vote for a better, safer community