Chief Deputy District Attorney Gary Roth of the Desert Adult Division Speaks Out.
You wouldn't know it by driving through on your way to Las Vegas, but there is a lot of crime occurring within the 19,000 square miles that comprise San Bernardino County’s High Desert. Our burgeoning population is now over 470,000 residents. Last year, the District Attorney’s Desert Adult Division filed 16,000 criminal cases (5,000 felonies and 11,000 misdemeanors).
Gary Roth is Chief Deputy District Attorney of the Desert Adult Division. His area covers 19,000 square miles in the San Bernardino County High Desert.
This represents 27% of the criminal cases filed in the entire county. Our dedicated, hardworking Desert Division staff consists of 39 prosecutors, 8 investigators, 4 investigative technicians, 5 victim advocates, and 28 office assistants. We have three branch offices in the Desert Division: Victorville, Barstow, and Joshua Tree.
The Division stretches north from the Cajon Pass to the Nevada border and Inyo County line, west to the Los Angeles and Kern County lines, and east to the Arizona border.
What happens to the criminals we prosecute? Those that commit minor crimes are put on the “rehabilitation track” with probation, restitution, counseling, alcohol rehabilitation, anger management programs, and anywhere from "credit for time served" to 365 days in county jail. The serious offenders are sent to state prison to do hard time.
Last year, 1,800 hardened criminals who committed serious crimes in the Desert Division were sentenced to over 7,200 years in state prison. You would think that would have put a dent in crime in the High Desert, but it hasn't. We are on our way to having similar crime statistics for this year. Our cases are as serious as they come. For example, Desert Major Crimes Unit prosecutor Rob Brown recently completed his 20th murder trial, one that involved the execution murder by six Sinaloa Drug Cartel members of two rival drug dealers.
Despite our relatively remote location, our Desert prosecutors are on the forefront of the criminal justice system, and provide leadership countywide and statewide. For example, last year Barstow Deputy District Attorney Lana Dallas was the first prosecutor countywide to successfully utilize Penal Code section 1347, which allows a child molest victim to testify at trial by two-way closed circuit TV, to avoid trauma to the victim.
Barstow Deputy District Attorney Sean Daugherty is helping update the California District Attorneys Association statewide manual on prosecutor ethics. Victorville Supervising Deputy District Attorney Britt Imes is on Attorney General Kamala Harris’ advisory committee on criminal street gang issues, and previously assisted with drafting statewide legislation that helps prosecutors crack down on gang members who possess firearms.
Victim’s rights and restitution to victims are on the top of our priority list. Our Desert Victim Advocates assist thousands of crime victims each year, and help obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in victim restitution.
Public service is the watchword of the District Attorney’s Office and the Desert Division also participates in many community outreach programs. For example, each year over twenty of our prosecutors help coach, judge, and administer the Desert component of the county’s high school mock trial program, instilling civic values and respect for our legal system in hundreds of high school students.
Our prosecutors and victim advocates give presentations at desert domestic violence shelters, Child Protective Services, and at “career days” at local elementary, middle and high schools. Victorville prosecutor Kathleen DiDonato is on the board of the High Desert Bar Association. Our prosecutors help keep the Desert community informed about our criminal justice system by speaking at service clubs (Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.) and community college criminal justice classes.
Prosecuting criminals, protecting victim’s rights, public service, and improving the quality of life for all the residents in the High Desert is what Desert Justice is all about!