Tag Archives: city of west sacramento

‘You have the right to an attorney…’

TRACIE OLSON Yolo County Public Defender (courtesy  photo)

Yolo County Public Defender (courtesy photo)



By Tracie Olson
Yolo County Public Defender

Born in 1910, Clarence Earl Gideon was a homeless drifter who spent most of his life in and out of trouble.  In 1961, a pool room in Florida was burglarized.  A single eyewitness testified that he saw the burglar leave the pool room carrying a wine bottle and money, and further testified that the man he saw was Mr. Gideon.  No other evidence tied Mr. Gideon to the crime.

In court, Mr. Gideon proclaimed his innocence and asked the judge to appoint him counsel, as he could not afford to hire his own.  The judge denied his request, telling Mr. Gideon that the law only allowed the court to appoint counsel to those facing a capital offense.  Ultimately, the jury convicted Mr. Gideon and he was sentenced to five years in state prison.

Undeterred, Mr. Gideon petitioned the Florida Supreme Court and eventually the United States Supreme Court, asking that his conviction be reversed because he had been unconstitutionally denied the right to be represented by counsel at trial.  On March 18, 1963, the high Court agreed, issuing its landmark decision in the case of Gideon v. Wainwright.  The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required to provide legal counsel to defendants who are unable to afford their own attorneys.  The Court held that a fundamental and essential prerequisite to a fair criminal justice system is the right to be defended by competent and effective lawyers.

[adrotate group=”7″] The Court stated, “… reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire an attorney, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.  This seems to us to be an obvious truth.”

At his retrial, Mr. Gideon was represented by defense counsel.  He was acquitted in less than an hour by a jury of his peers.  After his release, he reportedly stayed out of trouble.

Since Gideon v. Wainwright was decided, the promise of equal access to effective assistance of counsel is alive and well in Yolo County.  While other parts of the country, traditionally the Southern states and now more Northeastern jurisdictions, admittedly have extreme challenges which affect their ability to provide competent legal representation to defendants, California has largely managed to steer clear of the worst of these problems.

You will rarely hear a public defender’s office say that it has all the money it needs, and  most are not funded on par with the same county’s district attorney’s office.  However, as the Chief Public Defender of Yolo County, I am extremely proud of the legal representation my office provides to indigent defendants, and I am proud of the role we play in the criminal justice system.

We are not only full and active partners in implementing system changes necessitated by criminal justice realignment, but we collaborate with partners to optimize outcomes and to minimize collateral consequences for our clients.  First and foremost however, we are litigators, whose role it is to insist that law enforcement operate within the scope of their authority and that evidence is tested to the fullest extent of the law.

Every public defender has been asked at least once, in some fashion or another, “How do you sleep at night doing what you do?”  This question is typically asked by the person who can’t fathom actually needing a public defender for himself, a family member, or a friend.  However, when something goes wrong in one of their lives, we are the first ones they call – and it’s only then that they truly understand.

Happy 50th Anniversary,  Mr. Gideon. And thank you for not giving up.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

‘Spring Carnival’ at the Rec Center


Families are invited to the Spring Carnival at the West Sacramento Recreation Center (Southport, next to River City High School), from noon to 2 p.m. on Sat., March 23. Volunteers from the River City High School Interact Club will help kids with some face painting and some T-shirt tie-dying, among other activities. Cosponsored by the local Rotary chapters.

[adrotate group=”9″] Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Just learning to drive —

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER:   A local dad went to the hospital with minor injuries after his student driver child went into the front wall of a Southport house on March 10. The vehicle suffered minor damage. (Courtesy of the West Sacramento Fire Department)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER: A local dad went to the hospital with minor injuries after his student driver child went into the front wall of a Southport house on March 10. The vehicle suffered minor damage.
(Courtesy of the West Sacramento Fire Department)

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Woman apparently drowns in car while calling 911 for help

NEWS-LEDGER — MARCH 20, 2013 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A West Sacramento woman called 911 as her car went into the river on the morning of March 13, but rescuers weren’t able to locate the sinking car until it was too late.

The woman was identified as Mussarat Parveen Chaudhary, 58.

According to various media reports, Chaudhary was driving her Toyota Camry back from a job at Cache Creek Casino Resort shortly after 8:10 a.m. She phoned her daughter to say the car’s brakes weren’t working properly. The call disconnected, but Chaudhary then called 911 to report – speaking Punjabi – that the car was in the river. Dispatchers scrambled to find a translator.

[adrotate group=”7″]  The West Sacramento Fire Department reports that a rescue boat and fire crews joined the CHP and Yolo County sheriff’s department, responding to the Elkhorn area north of West Sacramento.

“In route, dispatch advised all units that the driver of the vehicle was talking to dispatch as the vehicle was sinking,” said a fire department press release.

Firefighters couldn’t see the car, but borrowed a private boat and started searching. Firefighters in “dry suits” also went into the river.

At about 10 a.m., with no sign of the victim’s car, the operation went from “rescue” mode to “recovery” mode. Fire crews left the scene while CHP and DART (the Drowning and Accident Rescue Team divers) kept looking.

“Ultimately, the vehicle was located and a body was recovered approximately six hours later and ¼ mile downstream by DART,” said the fire department.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Accused West Sac cop pleads ‘not guilty’

SERGIO ALVAREZ, accused West Sacramento Police Officer (booking photo, Yolo County Jail)

SERGIO ALVAREZ, accused West Sacramento Police Officer (booking photo, Yolo County Jail)


A former West Sacramento police officer pleaded “not guilty” Thursday to 35 counts of kidnapping and sexual offenses he allegedly committed while on patrol.

Sergio Alvarez, a 37-year old resident of the city, entered the plea in Yolo County Superior Court.

He was charged with rape and other offenses. Police spokesmen say that over a period of about a year, Alvarez assaulted a number of women he contacted while driving a patrol car on the “graveyard” shift in the West Capitol Avenue area.

The plea was made on Alvarez’s behalf by attorney Gabriel Quinnan.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

School board election recap: comments from Castillo, Kirby-Gonzalez & mayor

SARAH KIRBY-GONZALEZ: Voters’ top choice to fill empty school board seat (News-Ledger photo)

Voters’ top choice to fill empty school board seat
(News-Ledger photo)


Teachers unions and school reform groups choose sides with their checkbooks in record-setting race —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

West Sacramento voters last week elected a teacher to the school board —  after a record-setting campaign battle between the two top candidates.

Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, a Southport resident who teaches in the Folsom-Cordova school district, was picked to fill the remaining 18 months or so of a school board term in the local Washington Unified School District. She received 2,794 votes, or 51.2 percent of the ballots cast in the all-mail election on March 5.

Following her was Francisco Castillo, a public affairs executive with the school reform group StudentsFirst.He pulled in 1,425 votes, or 26.1 percent of the vote.

Rounding out the field were Linh Nguyen, with 782 votes (14.3%), Katherine Gales with 258 votes (4.7%) and Nicholas Scott Turney, with 202 votes (3.7%).

[adrotate group=”9″] 5,520 ballots were cast, or 23.9 percent of local registered voters.

The race – even though it was for only a partial school board term – appeared to set some spending records. Castillo approached $60,000 in campaign contributions as the election neared, with notable contributions from charter school advocates and entities connected to StudentsFirst, a school reform group.

At the same time, Kirby-Gonzalez was approaching half that amount – with strong support from area teachers’ unions.

The campaign contribution numbers may go up further as campaigns finish reporting them after the election.

FRANCISCO CASTILLO Leading fundraiser in election, with a second-place finish (News-Ledger photo) (News-Ledger photo)

Leading fundraiser in election, with a second-place finish
(News-Ledger photo)
(News-Ledger photo)

“I think it’s time for us to rally around the candidate who won,” Castillo told the News-Ledger after the ballots were counted. “It’s time to congratulate Sarah, who ran a great campaign.”

“I’m going to continue to stay involved,” he added. “I want to start some kind of parent advocate network in West Sacramento. I want to talk to the business community and see if they will get more involved in education in West Sacramento. We don’t need to be a school board member to implement some of these ideas.”

Kirby-Gonzalez, the winner, will be sworn at Thursday’s board meeting by her father, Auburn city councilman Dr. Bill Kirby, who will visit for the occasion.

What will she try to accomplish from Day One?

“Right away, it’s just about working well with everybody, establishing relationships in town and on the board,” said Kirby-Gonzalez. “My first goal is to make connections.”

As far as policy:

“My biggest focus is always on curriculum, first and foremost,” she said.

The News-Ledger asked Castillo whether the public made its choice based on a perception of him as a “school reform” candidate and her as a “teachers’ union” candidate.

“I think voters made a choice, but this wasn’t about reform voices versus teachers’ unions,” Castillo answered.

“I think he’s right,” Kirby-Gonzalez said after being told of Castillo’s comment. “I talked to hundreds and hundreds of voters. None of them brought up StudentsFirst. We didn’t talk about the opponents, we just talked about us. They wanted to know why I was running.”

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon supported Castillo – as did various city council members, school board members and Yolo County Supervisor Michael McGowan. He agreed that the “teachers versus reformers” characterization didn’t fly among local voters, although similar school board election battles were occurring all over the country.

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon (News-Ledger file photo)

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon
(News-Ledger file photo)

“I think that (perception) was largely in the minds of mostly-outside pundits,” Cabaldon commented. “Within this community, it was a local election, with the candidates describing their qualifications and not attacking each other. We had a crop of good candidates step forward to run.”

Was Cabaldon shocked by the amount of money in this WUSD campaign?

“Yes and no,” he answered. “As mayor of our city, yes. To say it’s impressive is a vast understatement for a school board race in our community.”

But he said similar battles are now being raged around the country.

Though Castillo lost, Cabaldon said he had confidence in Kirby-Gonzalez.

“Sarah is a very good candidate and she will be a good board member,” he said.

This special election resulted from a citizen’s petition which the mayor had supported, while others decried the election’s cost. Citizens unhappy about how the school board had initially filled the vacant seat called for the election.

Cabaldon said he is pleased at the outcome, despite the fact that the candidate he supported didn’t win.

“The key was that the voters got to make the decision, and the community and district are all better off for having this discussion about the issues in our district,” said Cabaldon.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Gas line error: ‘little danger,’ says FD


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A mistake by a PG&E work crew led to overpressurization of a business customer’s gas line in January.

The utility company filed a mandatory “non-compliance report” about the incident with the California Public Utilities Commission, but local fire officials told the News-Ledger the event didn’t appear to pose a serious danger to the public.

The event occurred on Jan. 15 at a distribution business on the 1300-block of Jefferson Boulevard, when a PG&E crew responded to the report of a gas smell and a leak.

“During the leak repair, an employee inadvertently shut in the relief valve” on the customer’s line, “allowing pressure to build up in the service pipe,” said the PG&E report. “Approximately 250 feet of 1-inch and ½-inch plastic service was overpressurized for approximately one minute, until the crew corrected the error and opened the valve to allow pressure relief.”

The line was rated for a maximum operating pressure of 60 psig (pounds per square inch gauge. An attached gauge maxed out at its 150 psig reading, “however, the pressure in the service may have reached as high as 650 psig, which was the operating pressure in the upstream transmission line,” said PG&E.

[adrotate group=”7″]  After relieving the pressure, the crew took the equipment out of service for replacement. In the meantime, they provided portable compressed natural gas to the customer.

Fire Marshal Brian Johnson noted that the involved lines were fairly small, and the mishap occurred outdoors.

“It was a small distribution line,” he told the News-Ledger. “Less than one inch. With natural gas, it’s half as light as air, so it will go up into the atmosphere. It’s when it gets up in a building – a room or something – that’s when it gets dangerous.”

Fire Chief Al Terrell agreed, comparing it to a fatal gas line explosion in the Bay Area in 2010.

“From my point of view, it wasn’t as big an event as it may have seemed,” said Terrell. “Everything was well taken care of by the first responders, (city) public works and PG&E. It was nowhere near what happened in San Bruno.”

Copyright News-Ledger 2013