Friday, December 19, 2014

Deputy District Attorney Carrie Halgrimson obtains 1st degree murder conviction in the case of a Hesperia man who was killed over a dispute about a construction debt

Hesperia man convicted of murder
Jurors return guilty verdict in 2011 shooting death

VICTORVILLE — A 35-year-old Hesperia man was found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder in a reported scuffle-turned-deadly over an alleged construction debt.

Moses Echavarria was convicted of shooting to death Andrew Battaglia, 29, (pictured left) in December 2011.

Jurors deliberated for three days before returning guilty verdicts on charges of murder and assault with a firearm, court records show.

Echavarria is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 30.

The verdict signals the end to criminal proceedings that began three years ago, and had resulted in a hung jury this summer.

On June 19, a jury announced they were deadlocked on a verdict amid questions about the definition of “imminent danger.” A re-trial began the following month.

Jurors this time were initially undecided whether the murder was premeditated or not, one of the jurors told the Daily Press on Thursday. The juror spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

According to authorities, Battaglia and three others arrived in December 2011 at Echavarria’s home in Hesperia to settle the debt owed to a Battaglia companion. A scuffle broke out soon after they arrived; a 58-year-old victim was beaten in the face and Battaglia was shot.

Battaglia’s brother, Thomas Battaglia, told the Daily Press in June that the 58-year-old man was owed the debt and had actually been invited to the home by Echavarria to settle it. Andrew Battaglia and two others waited in a nearby car when Echavarria began punching the 58-year-old in the face, he said.

Andrew Battaglia left the car to help, to break up the fight, and was shot while intervening, according to Thomas Battaglia.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Appellate Services Unit obtains AB 109 victory for prosecutors statewide

Deputy District Attorney Eric Ferguson, who is assigned to Appellate Services, handled a writ in the Court of Appeals in which we successfully overturned a superior court decision ordering the early termination of post release community supervision of Thomas Ward.

The Court of Appeal ruled Dec. 11, 2014, that the court had misinterpreted the law and did not have the authority to release the defendant from supervision.

The case revolved around the statutory meaning of AB 109’s definition of the term of PRCS and whether “flash incarceration” was a custodial sanction- it clearly is.

“Thanks to the great work of Deputy DA Ferguson and our ASU staff, prosecutors statewide are now able to prevent PRCS violators from obtaining early termination of supervision,” said District Attorney Mike Ramos. “Ultimately, we can now hold them responsible for their misconduct.”

The case is a published opinion, meaning it can be used by other prosecutors as legal authority.  It is the first case interpreting these sections of the Criminal Justice Realignment statutes. 

Click here to download a copy of the opinion.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Recent Press Releases

“After so many years of theft, the victims can now feel confident that justice was served today,” said Deputy District Attorney Jason Liso, who prosecuted the case. “Hopefully this sends a strong message that our public servants will be held accountable for their actions when they decide to abuse the public trust.”

According to Senior Investigator John Vega, shortly after recording the false grant deed with the County Recorder, the pair deceived the escrow and title companies and sold the house to an unsuspecting buyer for over $440,000.

Construction Foreman Arraigned on Fraud Charges

Osbaldo Serna, 34, of La Habra, was arraigned Wednesday on allegations that he and the owners of a now-defunct Ontario construction company defrauded their workers’ compensation insurance company out of more than $260,000 and stole from their workers over $160,000 in prevailing wages.

Ontario man convicted of second-degree murder

Once the gun was pulled, Camacho and his friend ran back to their car and got inside. Co-defendant Armando Lara, Jr., 19, of Ontario, yelled, “Let them have it!” Avila fired one shot into the car, striking Camacho in the back of the head. Camacho was rushed to the hospital by his friend. Camacho was pronounced dead approximately two hours later.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Dowd Adopted by First Graders

On Wednesday, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Dowd stood before a room full of first graders at Upland Christian Academy in Rancho Cucamonga and discussed the importance of staying in school.

The Academy recently had all their classes adopt a public servant or servants to learn about what they do, and Dowd was selected by Mrs. Beth Paxton’s first grade class.

Dowd’s presentation also highlighted the role of a Deputy District Attorney and why they are so important to the community and public safety.

“The entire presentation including questions from kids lasted about forty-five minutes,” said Dowd. “They loved the items we gave them especially the Junior DA stickers.  I had them take an oath when they started putting them on that they would promise to stay in school, do good in the community and stay out of trouble.”

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Father and Girlfriend Found Guilty of Torture and Child Abuse

A jury found a father and his girlfriend guilty today of torture and child abuse for starving his two children and physically abusing a third.

Erik Austin Flores, 30, and Mariah Rita Sugg, 23, both of Hesperia, face 20 years to life in state prison when they are sentenced January 8 for their roles in starving Flores’ children, ages 4 and 5, when they were removed from their home earlier this year.

“I am so grateful that the jury took care to find justice for these children,” Deputy District Attorney David Foy said. “These kids were starved to the point where witnesses described them as looking like concentration camp survivors and zombies.”

During a trial that began Nov. 17 before Judge Debra Harris, prosecutors presented evidence that Flores and Sugg lived together and jointly took care of the children from March 1 until June 6.

Dr. Mark Massi, a forensic pediatrician for Loma Linda University Medical Center, testified that both children suffered great bodily injury as a result of long-term starvation. Flores’ daughter, age 4, would have died soon had she not been hospitalized, Massi testified, adding that her body mass index of 11.7 was under the 1% percentile range for children her age and height.

Both children suffered from what Dr. Massi called psychosocial dwarfism – a permanent loss of height as a result of starvation. He also said the girl’s development was arrested as a result of starvation. At age 4, the girl could barely talk and was not toilet trained.

Foy also argued to the jury that there was evidence that Flores had sexually penetrated the child in 2012 and 2014. Dr. Massi found the child had genital injuries caused by blunt force penetration.

They were removed on June 6 after San Bernardino County social workers were called by employees at the Marinello School of Beauty in Victorville, who saw the emaciated children when both defendants brought them to the school on May 16, according to testimony.

The employees said the kids appeared to be like “concentration camp” survivors and “zombies—describing the children as extremely thin and listless.

An older boy who was properly nourished because he ate breakfast and dinner at school testified that Sugg would beat him and his siblings, make them do exercises for hours at a time, and make them stand in the corner all day. The defendants were convicted of felony child abuse for abusing him.


Father, girlfriend found guilty

Fundraiser for fallen Pomona Police Officer Shaun Diamond

A fundraiser at the Pizza Factory on Sunday honoring fallen Pomona police officer Shaun Diamond was a huge success. The Rancho
Cucamonga Pizza Factory will be donating $600 to the family fund. The turnout was fantastic.

Among those attending were officers from Pomona, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Monrovia, San Gabriel, LAPD, LASO, SBSO and the San Bernardino County Bureau of Investigation.

Many members of the DA’s office attended including Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Fermin, West Valley Division Chief Bruce Brown, SDDA Michelle Lauron, SDDA Robert Brown, and many others.

Thank you to all that came in out in support. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Central Division Collects Items to Donate to Local Charities

Thanks to the generosity of our Central Division and all those who participated, we were able to provide assistance to mothers and their children through the "Time for Change Foundation."

Along with a truck bed full of items headed for "Time for Change," the Central Division also received bags of dog food and pet supplies that they were able to donate to the San Bernardino Humane Society.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Juvenile Girls Court: A Collaborative Approach in Assisting Victims of Human Trafficking

Editor’s Note: On Dec. 9, 2014, Deputy District Attorney Karen Martinez, presented the following proposal for a collaborative effort currently underway aimed at assisting young girls who have been victims of human trafficking. Collaborators currently include the District Attorney’s Officer, Public Defender’s Officer, Probation Department, and the Superior Court.

By Deputy District Attorney Karen Martinez
When I say the words “prostitute” “hooker” “whore” or “pimp,” I am certain that you have an image in your head of what those labels represent.  
Janie D. was born to a mother with substance abuse and mental health issues. Because of this, she was raised primarily in the home of her father from the age of four.  At age 13, she was being sexually abused by a 28-year-old cousin of her father. By the ages of 14 and 15, Janie had been arrested for battery and resisting arrest on multiple occasions.
During this time, she began to run away from home on a frequent basis. She felt abandoned by her drug addicted mother and knew her father was overwhelmed and unable to parent well. She stopped attending school. By the age of 16 she was regularly arrested for using drugs and admitted to being “out on the streets, getting high (on meth).” She had also begun cutting herself on the wrists. She had multiple hospitalizations, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and major depression.
Her history of molestation and self-harm issues were not immediately known to the juvenile delinquency court. When it was discovered, the juvenile mental health court tried to intervene, but Janie had no interest in cooperating. She continued to run away.  Eventually, it was discovered that Janie was a victim of human trafficking. That is, she was engaging in sexual activity in exchange for money. However, Janie wasn’t getting paid. Rather, she was handing the money over to a pimp.
She disclosed that she had at least two pimps who beat her. Probation officers assigned to monitor Janie soon found that she was pictured on the internet advertising sex for money. The pictures showed Janie in various states of undress, surrounded by money and the headless body of a male who was believed to be her pimp.
From age 14 to 18, Janie was in juvenile court many times. She repeatedly acknowledged that she engaged in acts of prostitution. She turned 18 while in custody and was then released into the community as an adult, no longer able to rely on resources previously available and fending for herself.
Janie and other young women in our community represent a population at immediate risk of harm, often including death.
A brief and simplified overview of the juvenile justice system is this: Children under the age of 18 who are accused of committing a crime come to court and the crime is found true or untrue. The judge then imposes some consequence for the criminal action, such as probation or placement away from home.  The goal of the juvenile court system is the rehabilitation of the minors rather than punishment.
The current state of the law is that if a child is found to be engaging in the act of prostitution activity, they are arrested and charged with that crime. At this time, it is one of the few ways to identify the issues, prosecute the abusers and attempt to offer services and rehabilitation to the child.          
We are attempting to establish Girl’s Court to address those charged with prostitution AND those who are in danger of becoming involved in that lifestyle. We believe that establishing a specialized court for these girls is imperative.  By using a collaborative approach, we believe we can have greater success in identifying these girls and provide more specific services to meet their individual needs. 
Our focus is on the female offenders in the juvenile justice system. We propose to be gender RESPONSIVE, not just gender specific.  We acknowledge that there are historical, societal and individual factors which differentiate the female offenders from the males. This collaborative court will include not only those girls found to be actively engaged in sexual trafficking , but also those who may be at risk of becoming victims of sexual exploitation. Risk factors may include a history of sexual or physical abuse. Other risk factors may be family instability, substance abuse by parents, girls who identify as lesbian, bisexual or transgender, family or parental rejection, homelessness or poverty, etc.
As a community, we already provide many of the basic living necessities for the people of San Bernardino County. Many of us have dedicated our professional lives to the public through our individual departments. We have chosen public service for a reason.  We have an interest in our community and we are invested in its well-being and are proud of our opportunity and ability to help others. As public servants, we know the value of giving and investing time and energy into all individuals because making one person stronger benefits society as a whole.
The Girl’s Court we propose would provide consistent supportive services in an attempt to redirect and empower young women who come before the juvenile delinquency court. We envision females as leaders in this court. In addition, we will strive for consistent and more frequent proceedings than those currently utilized (normally, after a crime is found true, the juvenile court may often place the juvenile offender on  probation for a one-year period without intervening court appearances unless there is an identified/reported problem).
However, when a young girl is referred to this court, she will find that the judge, the Deputy DA and her attorney will be knowledgeable on the subject of human trafficking and sexual exploitation and indicators that put her at risk.  With an understanding of the girl’s specific needs, the court staff will provide education, support, and encouragement.
The collaborative nature of this court may include several different county agencies. These young women have likely suffered trauma. They may suffer from depression or other mental issues. We hope to involve mental health professionals who can offer them treatment. They also have physical medical issues and will benefit from family planning professionals who can treat them for pregnancies, STDs, birth control
 They will have issues with substance abuse and often will begin using drugs to “escape” from trauma endured. Substance abuse counseling should be offered. Many have had their education interrupted and will need tutors or credit recovery experts to assist so that they can earn their high school diploma.
Young women can benefit from classes in self-defense. They may also need help with issues of bullying and other issues affecting self-esteem. They will likely benefit from exposure to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. They may need shelter, food, clothing and assistance and support if they are asked to participate in the prosecution of their pimps. County agencies such as the Probation Department, Behavioral Health, Children’s Fund and Network, Public Health or Arrowhead Regional Medical Center may be willing and able to contribute time, professional services or other resources for the benefit of these girls. This short list is not exhaustive and we welcome participation from any agency or department capable and willing to help.
The girls we intend to serve are not always easily helped. They have often experienced bonding with their abusers, similar to domestic violence survivors. Often they are not “ready” to be “saved.” Working with these young ladies can be challenging. They may run away, they may lie, etc.  When we become enlightened and knowledgeable, working together with consistency we have a better chance of reaching them as soon as possible. 
We’ve all heard the parable of the Starfish:

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, "I'm saving these starfish, Sir."

The old man chuckled aloud, "Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?"

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, "I made a difference to that one!"

So, when you heard the terms “prostitute,” “hooker,” and “whore,” you may have imagined a sloppy, drug addicted immoral woman. Or, maybe you thought of a glamorous lady like the one in the film Pretty Woman who got Richard Gere by the end of the movie. When you thought about the term “pimp” you may have thought of Snoop Dogg, etc or other glamorized and glorified public images and Halloween costumed fun.

Hopefully now you will add to those images and think of the many young women in our community who have fallen victim to this lifestyle. You will remember that they are children and cannot legally consent to sex. That sex between these children and adult males is not an act of consent but an act of sexual molestation or rape.
AND, when you think of those children, you will also remember that they are young ladies who matter in our community. They deserve our attention and assistance. With proper tools and patience we may be able to help them achieve a different life, with a new and brighter future.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

In The News: San Bernardino County DA blasts Jon Stewart over Victorville man’s death

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos on Wednesday publicly criticized television personality Jon Stewart for comments he made Monday about an incident in which a Victorville man died following a skirmish with a sheriff’s deputy.

On Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Stewart blasted those coming to the defense of former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, the grand jury’s decision not to indict him in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and the riots and protests that ensued following the decision.

Stewart was particularly vocal about critics who said the issue was an isolated incident, not a civil rights issue, and those who accused protesters of “race arson.”

And that’s where the Victorville incident came in.

“I get what you’re saying. This is an isolated incident, like the police shootings of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, or Dante Parker in San Bernardino County, or Kendreck McDade in Pasadena, or Armand Bennett in New Orleans, or John Crawford in . . . What time does (Stephen) Colbert start?” Stewart cracked during the segment.

Stewart went on to joke that the incidents are “clearly not a manifestation of systemic inequality and mistrust between the African-American community and the somehow always justified police-American community,” and that they were “merely an unending, bizarrely similar series of isolated incidents.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire story at The Sun


San Bernardino DA Gives Jon Stewart Tongue Lashing For Monologue About ‘Deadly’ Deputy Shooting


San Bernardino County DA rails against Jon Stewart in YouTube video

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

District Attorney Mike Ramos Speaks Out in Support of Law Enforcement and Corrects Jon Stewart of the Daily Show

On Monday, December 1, 2014, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show incorrectly stated that officers shot Dante Parker—using this local incident to fuel the #Ferguson debate. Hear District Attorney Ramos’ response to Mr. Stewart, as well as his thoughts on the brave men and women who risk their lives every day to protect our communities.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

District Attorney Ramos named statewide CNOA Prosecutor of the Year

Executive Director Joe Stewart (pictured left) and President Steve Riddle (pictured right) present District Attorney Ramos with CNOA Prosecutor of the Year Award

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – District Attorney Mike Ramos has been named statewide “Prosecutor of the Year” by the California Narcotics Officers’ Association (CNOA).
Ramos was honored Saturday afternoon at the Anaheim Hilton at the Opening Session of the CNOA 50th Annual Training Institute.
According to CNOA, the award was established to identify, recognize, and honor prosecutors throughout California who are committed to the strong enforcement of narcotic laws. This person should be selected on basis of a long-standing record of contributions, or for his or her extraordinary efforts as a prosecutor.
The award was presented by Executive Director Joe Stewart who alluded to the fact that during the early nineties, San Bernardino County was acknowledged as the “meth lab capitol” of California, and Mr. Ramos spent many of his formative years as a prosecutor learning how to try and convict narcotics traffickers and methamphetamine manufacturers. 
DA Ramos speaking to General Assembly prior to receiving award
“These experiences stuck with him during his three terms as the elected District Attorney and have influenced his current efforts to support narcotics investigators and do his part to help fight the war on drugs in San Bernardino County,” Stewart said.
Stewart also acknowledged Ramos’ efforts to combat local and transnational criminal street gangs involved in the illegal drug trade, his ongoing commitment to prevention and intervention programs and his recently-formed Crimes Against Peace Officers Prosecution Unit.
For Ramos, it was an honor to receive CNOA’s Prosecutor of the Year Award during the 50th Anniversary conference
District Attorney Ramos
“Everything we do in and out of the courtroom is based on teamwork and a shared vision of seeking justice on behalf of victims and making sure our communities our safe,” Ramos said. “This award is not only a testament to the hard work of my staff, but a reflection of the very investigations that make a successful prosecution possible in the first place. Thank you to CNOA and its members for this distinguished honor and for the work that they do fighting drug use and enforcing narcotic laws.”
The California Narcotic Officers' Association is a non-profit, corporation dedicated to providing high quality training for law enforcement professionals. Since 1964, CNOA has grown to become the largest non-profit Training Association in California, with over 7,000 members.

IN THE NEWS: Ex-teacher imprisoned for child molestation

Paul James Hultman, 58, Apple Valley
A 58-year-old pilot and ex-school teacher will be imprisoned for 48 years to life for sexually molesting three Apple Valley girls as young as 10, a San Bernardino Superior Court judge has decided.

Apple Valley resident Paul James Hultman drew the maximum term during his sentencing hearing Friday, Nov. 21, before Judge Eric Nakata.

Hultman was found guilty last April of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14, molestation of a child aged 14 or 15, and two counts of molestation involving a child under the age of 14.

The girls were 10, 12 and 13 when the abuse began.

"This is every parent’s worst nightmare," Deputy District Attorney David Foy said in a written statement following the two-week trial. "The defendant befriended these girls and paid them to do chores around his house.

"Then, after gaining their trust, he paid them cash to perform sex acts."

Hultman was associated with the Sherwood Montessori School and the Sherwood Montessori House of Children, both in Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara sheriff's spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said in a written statement.

"Hultman's association with the schools stems from his previous marriage to the owner/licensee of both facilities," according to the statement.

Hultman moved to Apple Valley in 2007 and became a professional pilot, according to San Bernardino County prosecutors.

"According to trial testimony, he befriended an 8-year-old girl and her younger brother in 2009, buying them clothes and food, and paying them to do chores around his house," DA's spokesman Christopher Lee said in a written statement after Hultman's conviction. "In 2011, he asked the girl to introduce him to some of her friends."

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

2014 Management & Leadership Academy Graduates

Congratulations to all of our 2014 MLA graduates for their accomplishment in completing the Management & Leadership Academy. This year-long course provides supervisors with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully transition into management positions, as well as opportunities to develop professional and personal leadership skills.
From Left to Right: Chief Deputy District Attorney Bruce Brown, Asst. District Attorney Mary Ashley, Supervising Deputy District Attorney David Hidalgo, Supervising Victim Advocate Barbara Rivera-Loa, Supervising Office Assistant Marcus Thomas, Chief Asst. District Attorney Michael Fermin, Supervising Deputy District Attorney William Lee, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Britt Imes, and Supervising Office Specialist Ann Marie Dunbar
From Left to Right: Chief Deputy District Attorney Bruce Brown, Asst. District Attorney Mary Ashley, Chief Deputy District Attorney Simon Umscheid and Chief Asst. District Attorney Michael Fermin

Office Assistant Organizes Holiday Donation Drive in Victorville

Tana Montgomery, who has been with the District Attorney’s
Office for 8 years, stands beside donated items.

When Office Assistant Tana Montgomery received the invitation offering staff a chance to participate in a holiday donation drive for those less fortunate, she jumped into action.

Montgomery, who is currently an OA III felony clerk assigned to Departments 2 and 4 and Animal Cruelty, started collecting a variety of items a month ago, and credits her success to the staff in Victorville.

“It warms my heart to help people during the holiday season,” Montgomery said. “There are a lot of homeless people without families to help them, so it’s great to get together as a team and help out those less fortunate.”

Montgomery collected items such as pet food and supplies, toiletries, cleaning supplies, clothing and food—all of which will be donated to two charities: Time for Change and the Helping Hands Pantry.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Chief Deputy District Attorney John P. Kochis retires after distinguished career with the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office

The Kochisean World Paradigm
Kent Williams

Deputy District Attorney

What I will always remember about John Kochis is his sense of diplomacy.  He has been a distinguished prosecutor for almost 40 years, but I think his real calling was in diplomacy.  He would have been an equal or better to James Baker or Madeline Albright.  It’s too bad our office doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Middle East—John would have everyone behaving in no time.  John generates this positive aura by displaying respect for everyone—yes, sometimes even for people who don’t fully deserve it.  But he always presumes the best about everyone and he gives everyone the benefit of the doubt.  When presented with information to the contrary, John takes it with a grain of salt.  His trademark phrase is “Well, the flip side of the coin is…”  John never made rash decisions.  He liked to mull things over and talk to just about everyone involved before he reached any conclusion—and even then his conclusions were often tentative.  He corrected issues by gentle nudges and by talks that were typically more encouraging than reprimanding.  John pretty much has lived by the axiom of “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.”  There has never been anything malicious in John’s character, but more importantly, there has never been anything petty.  He is a man of substance.  Every discussion was couched in a constructive, often humorous, light.  His was a reign of charisma rather than terror.

The essence of all of this was that everyone knew that John Kochis was absolutely going to preclude anything unfair from happening.  No one was going to get unfairly vilified or railroaded under his watch.  He never threw the baby out with the bathwater.  That’s an extremely important element to have in a chain of command. John exhibited maturity and confidence.  He had no need to make any personal statement or show of ego. Occasionally we wished he addressed issues more aggressively.  But, as with anyone, you have to take the good with the  bad.  With John, the good outweighed the bad by a factor of ten.  John enjoyed rigorous dissent, he was not threatened by it.  I don’t recall him ever becoming defensive, even when someone adamantly disagreed with him.  Actually, his main response to vocal dissent was to smile.  He liked “lightning rod” attorneys, as long as they were willing to try cases.  John was “old school” in that regard—active willingness to try cases was the currency of the kingdom for him.

John was a workaholic.  He was the classic “first in, last out” type of Supervisor and Chief.  John was never just “kicking back.”  He has been dealing with one major issue or another for as long as I’ve known him, and there was a visible intensity to his work.  But all you had to do was stick your head in his office and ask if he had a moment.  He would break free from his thought processes, smile, and invite you in.  He was never in the least sanctimonious or austere.  In fact, he was casual and warm. The most serious of conversations were augmented with anecdotes about families and movies and the condition of slopes and waves.  I appreciated my early discussions of cases with him. He really likes his lawyers to articulate their analyses rather than just operate off of generalities, instinct or hunch.  He expected us to comprehensively know the facts of our cases.  At the end of the discussion he was typically deferential to the line lawyer’s views and recommendations.  He readily acknowledged the assigned lawyer’s feel for their cases.  He ended every conversation with “Okay, go have fun.”  In his mind, the work we do here is not conventional, plodding work.  Seeking justice is fun.  You seek justice, and then you go surf or you go ski.  That’s pretty much the Kochisean World Paradigm.

When Jim Hackleman left a few years ago, someone mentioned the wealth of “institutional memory” he took with him.  The same thing is true now with John’s departure.  I was a sophomore in high school when John started with this office.  That seems like a lifetime ago to me.  He has seen countless twists and turns since then here in San Bernardino County.  Not the least of those twists and turns were Kevin Cooper and Phillip Lucero.  I saw John’s penalty-phase opening statement in Lucero—it was as meticulous as a Swiss watch and as potent as a missle.  It has set the standard in my mind for the balance of my career.

We knew it was just a matter of time before he departed.  He’s “been working for free,” as the saying goes, for quite some time.  John assures us that we’ll be fine with Bruce Brown and Bob Bulloch, and we will.  But I think we all know that the amazing “institutional memory” will now be on the slopes or the waves, instead of in that northwest-facing office waiting to untangle the latest issue or debacle.

Top Flight Prosecutor
 by James Hackleman
Assistant District Attorney (Retired)

You know that little guy in the tuxedo that they put on top of wedding cakes.  Few people know that John Kochis was the model for that fellow next to the gal in white.  John has always looked the part.  And in the courtroom, it was ever obvious who was the prosecutor.  Jurors paid attention to this good-looking, impeccably dressed attorney whose easy demeanor and command of the facts and the law resulted in their complete trust in him.  He developed into one of the Office’s top flight prosecutors.  He became an expert in Grand Jury procedures and has death penalty convictions to his credit, including Kevin Cooper, a case he continues to monitor and to tirelessly work on through all of its post-trial machinations.  When a critical case had to be won and done right, elected DAs turned to John.  He never let them down.

John was an obvious selection for supervision.  And as a Chief Deputy he successfully ran Central and then the West End for many years.  That trust that jurors gave him was the same trust he engendered with judges, police chiefs, public officials, and the citizens that he dealt with on a daily basis.  He was not an “office” Chief but was in the courthouse, in the trenches with his deputies, and had personal contact with the public and police.  With management he often presented unique insights that got us all to ponder, and his dry wit often got the better of us.  He was always a willing hand and carried many an important Office project to completion.  And from his first days in the Office until his last day today, John could pick up any file and present a beautiful case in the courtroom.  It is hard to picture a career as a prosecutor that could have been done better or a retirement better earned.  Along with my congratulations and best wishes, John has my sincere admiration.      

The Man Behind the Yellow Legal Pad
Karen Schmauss
Deputy District Attorney

I have known John Kochis for 36 years.  I started out covering his murder trials at the old courthouse in Ontario when I was a newspaper reporter.  After I joined the office in 1984, I began working for him.  The best lesson I learned from him is there is no substitute for preparation, preparation, preparation.  That is how cases are won – not so much by brilliant advocacy but by meticulous and thorough preparation. 

I can close my eyes and visualize his  “John writing,” in his neat, compact hand, as he filled yellow legal pad after yellow legal pad with notes and indexed them for use at trial.  He was a trial lawyer before there were personal computers, and his method served him well.  

As a supervisor and as a chief deputy, he was an excellent leader and role model, although it could be difficult to get an audience with him because he was so busy – after all, he’s been working on the Kevin Cooper capital case for 31 years!  His advice was always excellent.  I never saw him get angry or raise his voice at anyone.  John is truly an institution at the DA’s office and he will be very missed.

Monday, November 10, 2014

City of Highland honors Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Brooks

On March 9, 2005, Deputy DA Jennifer Brooks
was killed in an automobile collision in Highland while on her way to
work. Today, the City of Highland dedicated the new bridge over the
Santa Ana River on Greenspot Road in Jennifer’s name.
Highland Mayor Sam Racadio and members of the Highland City Council cut the ribbon on the new bridge

Native Sons of the Golden West Junior Past President Jim Smith and District Attorney Mike Ramos standing on the new bridge with the old bridge pictured in the background

District Attorney Ramos standing before the granite plaque chiseled with Jennifer Brooks' name

The mortar used to officially seal the plaque in Jennifer's name

DA Ramos speaking on behalf of the District Attorney's office about Jennifer's contributions to the office

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Welcome to our Newest Deputy District Attorney

Welcome to Pierpaolo Repetto, our newest Deputy District Attorney, who was sworn in this morning by Assistant District Attorney Michael Fermin.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

District Attorney's Office and the Sheriff's Department Receives CSAC Award for Campaign to End Human Trafficking

Sheriff John McMahon and Assistant District Attorney Gary Roth accept CSAC Award for Campaign to End Human Trafficking

Eighteen counties in California are being recognized this year with Challenge and Merit Awards.
The annual Challenge Awards program was created by CSAC in the mid-1990s. Since that time, it has grown in popularity.

The award-winning programs are just a sampling of the creativity and leadership demonstrated each day by our counties. More than entries were evaluated this year by an independent panel of judges closely affiliated with California counties and the programs and services they deliver.

The campaign strengthens the County’s zero-tolerance policy on Human Trafficking by creating a vertical prosecution unit and countywide task force and promoting awareness.

Problem or Challenge
Human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation have been a hidden plague on our county, state, and nation for many years.  In 2013 it became clear that the District Attorney’s Office needed to focus efforts on more effectively investigating and criminally prosecuting these ruthless exploiters. With the passage of Prop 35, which increased the penalty for human trafficking from an average of 6 years in prison to 15 years-life, the District Attorney had every intention of fully implementing the new law while holding those who were driving the demand for sexual exploitation accountable.

On January 18, 2013, the District Attorney’s Office announced several directives to strengthen its zero-tolerance policy on Human Trafficking at the premiere of a 45-minute documentary aimed at generating awareness about the sexual exploitation of minors:
  • Creation of Human Trafficking Vertical Prosecution Unit within the Office of the District Attorney comprised of 1 Deputy District Attorney, 1 Investigator, and 1 Victim Advocate.  
  • Formation of a countywide Human Trafficking Joint Investigative Task Force with the Sheriff’s Department that consists of a Senior DA Investigator and a Sheriff’s Deputy.
  • Implementation the “Stop-the-John” Project in which the District Attorney’s Office releases and posts online the names and photographs of defendants convicted of solicitation.  
  • Outreach with community members using the 45-minute documentary.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

POST BY DISTRICT ATTORNEY MICHAEL RAMOS: October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Right now you're reading this post. Maybe you're in an abusive relationship. Maybe you know a friend or family member who is in a potentially dangerous situation. Either way, the main point I hope to convey is that help is available.

Last year our office filed 3,038 cases across the county that were related to domestic violence. Sadly, 11 cases involved murder.

Too often, our victims of domestic violence are scared to come forward. Scared to make the phone call. Scared of retribution by their abuser. Scared of the unknown that lies on the other side of their current situation. These are all valid feelings, but it’s important to point out that nobody deserves to be a victim. Nobody. And if children are involved we need to consider the tragic impact that domestic violence has on them.

At the end of last year we saw a terrible case come to light in which 28-year-old Ashley Atherley was beat and stabbed to death by her husband, Edly Atherley, who had a history of domestic violence. I still remember standing on the steps of the San Bernardino Police Department beside Ashley’s parents and vowing to seek justice not only for Ashley but for her two little girls who are left without a mother and her family members.

When it comes to fighting for our victims and seeking justice, fortunately, our attorneys in the Family Violence Unit, who are all specially trained to deal with these types of crimes, feel the same way.

Sadly, we see these types of cases far too often across the county. Domestic violence knows no boundaries. It affects all walks of life, and women are not the only ones who are victims. I started this post by saying maybe you're in an abusive relationship or know someone who is, so my charge to you today is to pick up the phone and take action before it's too late.

Call 911 if you are in immediate danger. Call our victim advocates who are available to help. Call a friend or someone you trust because no one deserves to be a victim.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Riverside woman sentenced in Ontario killing, dismembering case

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A 54-year-old Riverside woman convicted of stabbing to death and dismembering her boyfriend was sentenced today to 26 years-to-life in state prison.

Carmen Montelongo was arrested in 2011 after being discovered pushing a trash can down the street that contained the body parts of her 62-year-old boyfriend, Samuel Wiggins. On Aug. 29, after three days of deliberations, a jury found Montelongo guilty of First Degree Murder.

"We are pleased that the jury saw the case for what it was—a heinous crime—and that justice was served for the victim and his family,” said Deputy District Attorney Erica Gallegos, who prosecuted this case.

Statement of Facts

Samuel Wiggins, 62, of Diamond Bar, had last been seen alive in April 2011. Reported missing by his family, investigators turned their attention to longtime girlfriend, Carmen Montelongo. Several weeks later, on May 29, 2011, Montelongo was caught by the Ontario Police Department moving some of Samuel Wiggins’ remains in a trash can down a residential neighborhood in Ontario.

During the weeks that investigators were conducting a missing person’s investigation, Montelongo delayed police action by claiming that she was in regular contact with Wiggins. However, it was during this period that Montelongo had dismembered his body, placing the head and arms in potted plants that were later located in Bell Gardens. The legs and torso were buried in Ontario at a residence where Montelongo was finally discovered and apprehended.

During the weeks leading up to her arrest Montelongo had been living in Wiggins’ home and using his accounts, continuing to draw attention from law enforcement. Her attempt to elude police led her to exhume Wiggins’ remains in Ontario on May 29.

Subsequent investigation by the Ontario Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department would show that Wiggins was stabbed to death in his home in Diamond Bar. The victim was stabbed twice in the chest and 22 times in the back. His body was severely decomposed and dismembered. The crime scene had been significantly cleaned, with carpet and tile removed to hide the evidence.

Friday, September 5, 2014

District Attorney’s Office Releases Video to Combat Cockfighting in San Bernardino County

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office released a short video today to raise attention about the increasing problem of cockfighting in San Bernardino County and the negative effects that it has on communities. The 4-minute video spotlights the recent raid of a cockfighting breeding facility conducted by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Animal Cruelty Task Force in conjunction with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
Cockfighting is a criminal blood sport between two roosters (also known as gamecocks), that are outfitted with steel blades on their legs and forced to fight one another in a violent death match.
“Once again we are faced with a situation in which hundreds of animals were being subjected to terrible living conditions,” District Attorney Mike Ramos said. “When so many birds are placed in a small area like this, it’s not only harmful to the health of the birds, but it creates an ideal environment for diseases to be spread. Whether it’s a facility that is breeding birds for future fights or a location where the actual fighting is taking place, cockfighting is a clear threat to community safety, and it will not be tolerated in this county.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Supervising Deputy District Attorney Receives Outstanding Advocacy in Capital Litigation Honor and Recalls Murder Trials

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Supervising Deputy District Attorney Robert Bulloch was recently awarded the Outstanding Advocacy in Capital Litigation Award by the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation (AGACL).

The presentation took place on Aug. 20 in San Diego at the 35th Annual AGACL Conference.

Mr. Bulloch is currently a Supervising Deputy District Attorney in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s West Valley Division. He has been a deputy since Oct. 1998. Prior to his current assignment, he was assigned to the Major Crimes Unit prosecuting homicide and death penalty cases. From 2010 until August of 2013 he served as the Office Death Penalty Coordinator, where he monitored capital cases on appeal from San Bernardino County.

Mr. Bulloch has personally tried to verdict twenty-five homicide cases including four capital murder cases.  He has completed four separate capital death penalty trials.  

People v. Gregory Whiteside  

Shawana Andrews and her 18-month-old daughter, Brittany Andrews
Gregory Whiteside killed his ex-girlfriend, Shawana Andrews and her 18-month-old daughter, Brittany Andrews, in a particularly brutal fashion. Whiteside stabbed his ex-girlfriend repeatedly in the neck, throat and back. He then used the knife to saw deep into young Brittany’s neck causing her death.

The trial was continued for a number of years until it was assigned to Mr. Bulloch. He was able to aggressively move the case forward to trial. The guilt phase trial lasted for three weeks and the penalty trial lasted four weeks. Whiteside was eventually convicted of both murders and the jury returned a death verdict at the end of the penalty trial.  

Murder weapon used by Gregory Whiteside
“This was my first death penalty case,” said Bulloch. “It took ten years to get the case to trial.  And during trial I could not help but constantly think of how 18-month old Brittany would have developed into a young child and adult.  She was so cute.  The picture of her peeking around the doorway made my heart melt.  And then seeing the pictures of how Whiteside decapitated her out of a jealous rage gave me a life-changing exposure to real evil.” 

Brittany playing peek-a-boo
People v. Jonathan Holeman and Samuel Wright Jr. 

In 2011, Mr. Bulloch tried the case of People v. Holeman and Wright. The victims, 82-year-old John Painter and 54-year-old daughter Barbara Martin, hired the defendants to complete some home repairs on a vacation home in Lake Arrowhead. During this time, the defendants decided to rob them. They first attacked Mr. Painter and beat him to death with a hammer. However, they had a much more difficult time killing Ms. Martin, who fled upstairs. The defendants attempted to strangle her with a belt but she resisted. They next dragged her into the bathroom upstairs and tried to drown her in the bath tub, but she continued to struggle to stay alive. 

Finally they were able to place a plastic bag over her face and tighten it so that she suffocated as she struggled to stay alive. 

Victims John Painter and Barbara Martin
The defendants wrapped the victims in carpet and placed them in the basement of the house. Afterwards, they used the victims’ debit cards and checks to purchase pizza and beer and then invited friends over to the house to party. When the victims’ family did not hear from them they contacted law enforcement and the victims’ bodies were discovered. 

Due to their use of the victims’ credit cards and checks, the defendants eventually became suspects.

“I strongly identified with the victims in this case,” said SDDA Bulloch. “Mr. Painter reminded me of my grandfather who also suffered from dementia. There was absolutely no reason to brutally murder him, particularly the way they did. And Ms. Martin reminded me of my mother. Her struggle to fight back and live while these killers repeatedly tried to beat, strangle, choke, drown, and ultimately suffocate her, gave me nightmares. It remains very emotional to me.”  
The defendants were convicted of willful, deliberate and premeditated murder, robbery, burglary and the special circumstances of multiple murders. The penalty phase of the trial lasted three months. Both defendants received sentences of life without the possibility of parole at the conclusion of the proceedings.

People v. Rickie Fowler  
Firefighters battle Old Fire on hilltop
Mr. Bulloch tried People v. Rickie Fowler in 2012. In Sept. 2009, Fowler was arrested and charged with five counts of murder for the deaths of five victims ranging in age from 54 to 93.  These deaths occurred during the Old Fire–a wildfire started by the defendant on Oct. 25, 2003.  

The Old Fire was the second largest fire in California history after the Santiago Canyon Fire of 1889. The filing of criminal charges was the culmination of an investigation of the Old Fire. 

“Anyone who lived or worked in San Bernardino County in the fall of 2003 was directly impacted by this crime,” said SDDA Bulloch. “If you recall, there were dozens of other fires burning all over southern California at the time.  News coverage was overwhelming.  Then Fowler starts the Old Fire, which quickly eclipsed the other fires in both size and ferocity.”

Investigators determined that the defendant threw a lighted road flare into a dry and brittle hillside in the city of San Bernardino. The flames were fueled quickly by fierce Santa Ana winds. Within hours the winds had whipped the fire into a canyon into a storm that quickly funneled into the northern San Bernardino city neighborhoods and up into the mountains of San Bernardino. 

Deer in Flames
The fire ultimately burned for nine days until rain and snow curbed its intensity. By the time the fire was contained, over 91,000 acres burned in the San Bernardino National Forest and numerous neighborhoods, both in the mountains and down into the cities of San Bernardino, Highland, Del Rosa and Devore. Over a thousand homes and structures were burned and over a hundred and two thousand people had to be evacuated. The cost to the local community was over fifty million dollars.

“Whole neighborhoods and communities were turned upside down and some completely destroyed,” said SDDA Bulloch. “My family was evacuated for almost three weeks.  And over those days and weeks, as victim after victim died, it was as if we were all in a grand-scale disaster movie.”

During the course of the evacuation, the five victims died of heart attacks in the days after the fire started. The pathologist from the San Bernardino Coroner’s Office opined that each of the heart attacks were the result of the stress and strain of the evacuation.  

In June 2012, Mr. Bulloch commenced trial on the Fowler case.  He presented evidence and witness testimony for the next three and half months in the guilt phase as well as the penalty phase. Fowler was convicted of the murders of all five victims, and on Sept.  28, 2012, the jury recommended the penalty of death for Fowler’s crimes. On Jan. 28, 2013, in accordance with the jury recommendation, the judge sentenced Fowler to death. 

Firefighters fight to save a home consumed by the Old Fire
The death verdict was the result of many hours of work by Mr. Bulloch, during the week and on weekends.  He constantly met with his investigating officers and witnesses during this trial.  During the trial, he also had to deal with a witness who had to recall events when he was six years old, as well as reluctant witnesses who had to be impeached during the trial.

Through his hard work and determination, the appropriate and just result was reached and justice was served to the community of San Bernardino County as well as the deceased victims’ families.

“Years later, after Fowler was caught and charged, I could not get over how he seemed to relish the attention and the devastation he brought to the whole community,” said SDDA Bulloch.  

People v. John Wayne Thomson

Defendant John Wayne Thomson
Mr. Bulloch took on the case of People v. John Wayne Thomson in 2013. The defendant had met the victim Charles Hedlund at an off-ramp to a freeway in San Bernardino County. During what started as a consensual encounter, the defendant became upset with the victim and began stabbing him in the throat and face. After the defendant stabbed the victim to death, he stole his wallet and car.
The defendant was also responsible for killing two people in the State of Washington in unrelated crimes.

The guilt and penalty phase of that trial lasted four months. Thomson was eventually convicted of torture, and willful deliberate and pre-meditated murder. The jury determined the appropriate sentence to be death. 

Truck where the crime occurred
“John Wayne Thomson is why the death penalty is still relevant, appropriate, and needed,” SDDA Bulloch said. “He started out as a serial rapist.  He raped one woman and was released from jail.  Thereafter, he immediately raped and kidnapped another woman and went to prison.  And after being released for the second rape, he went out and violently raped a third woman.  After the third rape conviction, he was classified as a sexually violent predator.  He deliberately caused himself to be taken out of the SVP program by threatening patients and staff.

“Then after a collective 20 years in prison, he gets out, and starts robbing, carjacking and murdering. First he murders a 70-year-old man by throwing him in the trunk of his own car and then driving him around the desert to find a place to shoot him. Second, he brutally tortured and murdered a 36-year-old woman in order to take her car. Then he murders 54-year-old Charles Hedlund, who stopped to give him a ride when Thomson’s stolen car broke down. 

"After the murders, and while a nationwide manhunt is looking for him, he proceeds to attack and carjack three separate people before he is caught. 

Victim Charles Hedlund and his mother
“And even after being caught, charged with three separate murders, three separate carjackings, and facing life in prison or the death penalty, John Wayne Thomson solicited the murder of three additional people all while in custody at West Valley Detention Center.”