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Autopsy concerns prompt courtroom circus

By From page A11 | March 19, 2014

Trust. Faith. Belief.

Those are words we should be able to use to describe the criminal justice system here in Solano County. We should be able to trust that various players in our legal system are abiding by the rules, that they are doing everything in their power to ensure that justice is served on our behalf.

My trust, my faith, my belief in the system is shaken.

You’re likely aware by now of the situation surrounding Solano County autopsies and how a once-secret investigation by the Sheriff’s Office into its now-former pathologist, Dr. Susan Hogan, is spilling into the courts as defense attorneys in various homicide cases clamor for the latest information.

That’s the situation that’s playing out in one case in particular, the case of a man accused of killing a woman in Vallejo. There’s an ongoing hearing taking place in that case, but it’s only loosely based in Hogan’s work on the woman’s autopsy.

I wrote in this space Sunday about the underlying autopsy controversy and harkened back to a similar situation with Hogan’s immediate predecessor. That situation gave Solano County a black eye on national television.

As if the questionable credibility of autopsies isn’t enough, now we have a situation where prosecutors stand accused of failing to disclose relevant information to defense attorneys. That’s really the focus of the current criminal courts circus, with Judge Daniel Healy serving as ringmaster in his Vallejo court.

Healy ordered county attorneys to give him everything they had concerning the autopsy of the victim in the Vallejo case. That included information about the investigation into Hogan’s autopsies. The county produced something like 1,000 pages of documents that the judge reviewed before ordering that material be turned over to prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Testimony during a hearing last week revealed there was more. Hogan said she made handwritten notes and diagrams during the woman’s autopsy. Those were not included in the original stack of paperwork reviewed by the judge. Miraculously, 49 pages of additional material was given to the judge the next day. It’s fair to say the response of the judge was none-too-flattering.

We also learned last week that prosecutors delegated to county counsel the task of determining what information should be shared with defense attorneys in specific cases, even though that task is the responsibility of the District Attorney’s Office.

Thus far, Sheriff Thomas Ferrara has testified. A top prosecutor has testified. An attorney for the county has testified. Testimony of two attorneys, one a prosecutor and one who works for county counsel, centered on a critical meeting between the attorneys and the district attorney. Their testimony does not mesh. At best, someone was misremembering the facts. At worst, someone was not truthful in their testimony. The only other person involved in that meeting – the district attorney – has not testified. He declined a request by reporter Jess Sullivan to shed light on the discrepancy.

Against this backdrop is a request by prosecutors that Healy remove himself from the underlying Vallejo homicide case. It seems they do not appreciate the fact that Healy is exposing the county’s dirty laundry. At least that’s how it looks. The judge declined. Prosecutors appealed the decision. The Court of Appeal on Friday ordered that the hearing be delayed so defense attorneys can share their thoughts with the Court of Appeal. That will happen this week.

Let’s assume the Court of Appeal allows Healy to continue as judge.

Defense attorneys want the homicide case against their client tossed aside based on the actions – or in this case inactions – of prosecutors. That’s not likely to happen. The defense team will get a delay in the trial that was scheduled to start this week, to provide time to review all of the recently produced evidence that may be relevant to their case.

I predict the judge – even if it’s not Healy – will come down hard on prosecutors for their failure to provide the relevant information about Hogan to defense attorneys, and for delegating a portion of their duties to county counsel. I suspect the judge will also have unkind words for the sheriff and county counsel for their roles in the current kerfuffle.

Reach Managing Editor Glen Faison at 427-6925 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.

Glen Faison

Glen Faison

Glen Faison joined the Daily Republic as managing editor in September 2009. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in the San Joaquin Valley for 20-plus years. His experience includes time as editor of the Golden Eagle, a military paper serving the Lemoore Naval Air Station. He graduated from Fresno State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and bleeds Bulldogs red. He is an avid fan of the NFL's Washington team, and attended the 1988 NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings at RFK Stadium. He's a member of the Fairfield-Suisun Twilight Rotary Club and a board member for the Solano County Library Foundation. He married his wife, Jill, in 2005, and has three children: Courtni, Tyler and Hayli.

Discussion | 41 comments

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  • Bill of RightsMarch 18, 2014 - 6:14 am

    What an absolute joke! This criminal justice system takes enough hits with slimy defense attorneys running amuck, stretching the US Constitution to extremes, and liberal jurors. But know this! Enough!! Vote du Bain out!

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  • The MisterMarch 18, 2014 - 6:45 am

    BOR, du Bain wasn't the DA when Hogan's predecessor was found to have given Solano County a black eye on national television, as Glen phrased it. Hogan's predecessor, as Hogan, worked directly for the Sheriff. Our current Sheriff was hand-picked by long-term Sheriff Stanton to fill out his term. While ineptness is apparent in the DA's office, long-term corruption in the Sheriff's Office is what needs to change. With hand-picked Sheriff Ferrera the only name on the ballot, thanks to his conspirator and Registrar Ira Rosenthal, the Sheriff Stanton corruption and cover-up appears poised to continue unfettered. That's why I'm voting for Tom Toler... because Tom Toler is not part of the generational Stanton machine. In fact, Toler has been victimized repeatedly by that corrupt machine and the taxpayers of Solano County have had to pay when that corruption was exposed. To spill all this ink and focus on the periphery does not fix the problem. Vote out corruption and vote in Tom Toler will fix the problem.

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  • @MISTERMarch 18, 2014 - 12:12 pm

    @Mister, the Sheriff is responsible for the coroner, however, the DA has the duty to provide ALL information to the Defense. The DA has committed a crime by not reporting these actions. Many families, VICTIMS, will be violated again due to this failure. The DA is the highest Law Enforcement official in the county. His job is to report ALL crimes, especially if it involves others within power. He has failed the people.

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  • Curious ObserverMarch 18, 2014 - 3:10 pm

    Mister, your continued commentary on this long term corruption in the Sheriff’s Office caused me to stop and think, what if you were right. Since no one has been able to give me specifics into what exactly this corruption was, I tried to come up with a solution for myself in this matter. Thinking that, as you characterized, there was long term corruption in the Sheriff’s Office, I believe that this would be common knowledge in the policing community, political community, and with influential citizens of Solano County. I figured the litmus test for this would be in the endorsements for the position, figuring if there was indeed corruption, there would be an obvious lack of them. What I found was quite the opposite. There were a litany of endorsements for the Sheriff from State and Local political figures, influential citizen’s and every law enforcement association in Solano County. In my opinion, I find it very difficult indeed to agree with your corruption theory because in doing so you would have to conclude that these educated and knowledgeable people and the law enforcement organizations in this county, as a group have had the wool pulled over their eyes, or are in on the cover-up of this so called corruption. Maybe that is how you see it and you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I personally think this corruption you keep espousing is highly unlikely.

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  • The MisterMarch 18, 2014 - 5:03 pm

    Need an example? Check out the comment by "Mike (Former SO Deputy)" over on the article "Prosecutor, county attorney differ in coroner accounts". Mike's example is a witness to the systematic corruption in the SO. I've heard similar stories from others. It's not me making up wild stories just to piss you off... I'm doing my best to make you aware of the truth.

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  • Curious ObserverMarch 18, 2014 - 8:08 pm

    Mister, I have read it and on face value it does appear compelling. But, his is only one side of the story and I would venture to guess he is only telling his side of the story. If you read into it, it appears this Mike is very bitter over his treatment and exit from the sheriff’s office. However, it appears that there was some issue with a disability and subsequent criminal charges that were filed against him in a different county. Based on that, it could be possible that this was a troublesome employee who was released from his employment for a just cause. If all what he has claimed to be is accurate, I find it difficult to believe any DA would take a case like that to court. However, in the case, the DA appears to still be pursuing it. It is very easy for this type of person to sling disinformation regarding their cases knowing that the other side cannot comment on the issue due to pending litigation. I would want to know all the information on the subject before choosing a side. In this case, I will defer any opinion on the matter until then. Again, we have a different perspective on the subject but that is part of this whole process.

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  • "Yoda"March 18, 2014 - 8:33 pm

    @ Curious Observer, personal accomplishments: Started the first Neighborhood Watch Program in unincorporated Vallejo. Established the first Community Service Center in unincorporated Vallejo. Implemented the first farm watch program in the county. First of two certified instructors in the county on the philosophy of Community Oriented Policing Problem Solving. D.A.R.E. instructor who taught in the unincorporated area as well as in the City of Dixon. Solano County Sheriff's Office Ethics Instructor. Architect and first team leader of the Honor Guard Team. Served for five years as the President of the Deputy Sheriff's Association. He has in his possession letters of recommendation for Sgt. from three Lt.s (one being the head of IA), one Captain and three Sergeants, not to mention several letters of Commendation from the former Sheriff, Gary Stanton himself. Now in your honest opinion, would you say that this former Deputy in 20+ years was non-productive?.... For he suffered the same fate as Mike! I would know, I am one of his brothers.

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  • DeniseMarch 19, 2014 - 10:32 am

    He was also one of the Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer and along with one other Deputy, he also put together and operated the first Sheriff's Citizen's academy.

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  • Curious ObserverMarch 20, 2014 - 8:57 pm

    Wow, that is a very impressive resume. It appears that you were were given many opportunities and had many accomplishments at the Sheriff's Office. I guess I am curious what happened. Were you fired or did you have a disability like former deputy Mike has described.

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  • DeniseMarch 20, 2014 - 9:27 pm

    He resigned!

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  • LeonardMarch 20, 2014 - 9:48 pm

    Curious Observer, Thank you for the compliment on the resume. Many of the opportunities you refer to in my posting I personally applied for due to it's direct interaction with the public. The Solano County Sheriff's Office is a fine organization and in my opinion sometimes under appreciated for all they do. I spent 20 plus years at the S.O., my abrupt departure was by my own choice, and "no" I was not given the option of two envelopes as alleged with Dr. Hogan. I am a man who stands on principle, it's something my Grandparents taught me and that quality was reinforced throughout my tenure in the U.S. Marines. My biggest mistake, was trying to do the right thing. It's just something that did not bold well with the upper management of the S.O.. I would be more than happy to sit down and chew the fat if you are ever interested. I have always tried to do things with class and I wouldn't want to embarrass anyone publicly. Curious Observer, thank you for taking the time to educate yourself on the ongoings in your community and for affording me the opportunity to be heard.

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  • SakrootsMarch 22, 2014 - 12:38 am

    I do have to agree with Curious Observer that is quite a resume and accomplishments for Leonard. Tonight, I shared this story with my local Women's group (small business owners), and if this is the same Leonard that we were talking about who worked as a DARE officer, he was a life changer for many of our children in the group. What a shame for other children within our community not get the same benefits to hear this man's life lessons and teachings. WOW he motivated our children. He is a true American Hero! And for this area being the home of such an Outstanding Air Force community, it makes us sad for him and his family. Our group wants to know if any one within the Sheriff's Dept. try to talk him out of leaving? If not, what a Terrible use of resources Sheriff Ferreria, Leonard was one valuable asset. Our membership would like to invite you Deputy Leonard to gather with us and share your story, One of our members is a published author and has expressed an interest in your story, if you would like to share it. We hope that you will come we would love to hear from you, it has been a long time.

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  • LeonardMarch 22, 2014 - 4:02 pm

    Sakroots, glad to hear that I had some impact in your children's lives. Teaching the D.A.R.E. curriculum and interacting directly with the children and school staff was a very rewarding experience for me. I tried to convey to the young minds that it is easier to stay out trouble by doing the right thing then to try and get out of trouble later. Based on this way of life I could no longer endure the daily harassment inflicted upon me by a couple of "Badge Heavy"Sergeants. One of them went as far as to attempt and coarse the investigator of an ongoing criminal embezzlement case against someone else, to tilt it's findings in a way that would have implicated me. The individual which was under investigation at that time, confessed and took full responsibility for her actions. This did not sit well with a couple of Sergeants, for they had wished that I had been the one to loose by job. These guys went as far as posting my name in the main entry of the Sheriff's Office depicting me as a criminal when it was common knowledge I had nothing to do with it. The only reason all this came to pass was for doing the right thing. I was ordered to document my encounter with a certain graveyard Patrol Sergeant who I inadvertently found asleep inside his assigned Patrol unit while parked between two vehicles in a secured County yard. Didn't realize this guy was drinking buddies with the current and former Sheriff.

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  • "Yoda"March 22, 2014 - 4:29 pm

    Leonard you are much kinder than I am. Some of the things that Leonard left out was that not only did he write up that lazy Sgt. who's making $ 95,000 plus a year to sleep, but Leonard also met with the FBI and ATF over discrepancies of registered weapons with DOJ versus the actual numbers in inventory at the Sheriff's Office. The two just didn't jive.....Don't quote me, but it is my understanding that the investigation pertaining to the missing weapons was conducted by the same retired Captain Comrade of Sheriff Ferret who also conducted the Dr. Hogan "Top Secret" investigation. This Captain must be good or compromising.

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  • Curious ObserverMarch 26, 2014 - 12:41 pm

    Leonard, it appears Yoda and you are one and the same. How many other pseudonyms do you have? It seems to me a little disingenuous to reply to your own post.

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  • Mike (Former SO Deputy)March 19, 2014 - 7:07 pm

    Curious Observer, what do you want to know. I worked there for 9 + yrs after coming from another agency. When I finally was able to get my medical retirement I had a total of 26 yrs of city experience, international experience (including homicide & IA) and then came to Solano SO.

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  • SakrootsMarch 19, 2014 - 8:21 pm

    Leonard and Mike, you both must feel alone, for the silence of your former fellow brothers and sisters in black are "golden." You guys are not alone. The recent spotlight shined upon the deceptive and illegal conducts of officials entrusted with our safety, speak for themselves. Thank you both for having the courage to stand up for what is right! You are not alone and justice will prevail!

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  • LeonardMarch 19, 2014 - 9:35 pm

    Sakroots, thank you for your words of support. I can say this much....I have never felt alone. I have been surrounded by family and friends who believe in me. But you are right, never heard from inside again. I have been excommunicated

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  • DeniseMarch 20, 2014 - 4:10 am

    Wow! No questions...cricket....cricket... There are lots of remarks and assumptions made on this site, Mike is willing to answer questions but I don't see any takers. Are we afraid of what he may have to say?

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  • Curious ObserverMarch 20, 2014 - 9:03 pm

    Denise, not crickets. I check the threads on occasion but it is certainly not a priority in my life.

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  • DeniseMarch 21, 2014 - 1:20 am

    Curious Observer, it was not my intention to imply that my last remark was specifically directed at you, for that I apologize. I was merely making a general statement based on the ongoing discussion on this site.

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  • Curious ObserverMarch 20, 2014 - 9:00 pm

    Mike, I guess the elephant in the room is what are you being accused of. Based on your comment further below it appears to be taking place in Sacramento County as opposed to Solano County.

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  • The MisterMarch 18, 2014 - 6:25 am

    Amazing, Glen, just amazing. It sure seems as if our system in Solano County is systematically corrupt.

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  • Rich GiddensMarch 18, 2014 - 7:07 am

    I don't believe any Solano County Judge will sanction any Sheriff's or DA's Official because the Judge's are co-conspirators in meeting illegally and in an ex parte manner with the DA and te cops with no defense counsel present. There is no separation of powers between the Judges, the DA and the cops. Even the Hogan affair will continue to be covered up.

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  • Bill of RightsMarch 18, 2014 - 7:14 am

    @Mister, Yawn! Du Bain is accountable for the DA office. His job is to convict and send criminals to prison. That's what I want from my DA! I will be happy to see a new Sheriff. But only if qualified!! Toler has not even listed his qualifications for the voters to evaluate him. Personally, I don't think he can produce anything more than a high school diploma! Not good enough for me when it comes to running a large business. Besides, Toler can't even get a real job as a cop in California. That should be the biggest red flag if all! Prove me wrong!

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  • The MisterMarch 18, 2014 - 7:18 am

    Yawn, BOR? I figured you must do your thinking while asleep... now we know.

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  • Teresa CourtemancheMarch 18, 2014 - 8:18 am

    My heart aches for all of the victims, the families and their friends who are once again being victimized by all of this! You all are in our thoughts and prayers.

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  • KarleneMarch 18, 2014 - 9:03 am

    It's about time the corruption came to light. Judge Healey gets my vote. It's sad a group of people will do anything to "win". To make a name for themselves. Point your dirty finger at yourselves. All the "tax payors" money spent on how many trials. I wonder how many innocent people went to prison over your shady antics? You are the worst of criminals in my opinion. Using your "positions" to influence, maybe even blackmail people into going along with your dirty work. Judge Healey I commend you for making the decisions you made in this. I hope you never let a DA run YOUR courtroom. I just wonder how "fair" the trials prosecuted prior to this were. I'm way beyond a "shadow of a doubt" they were fair and "just". That office is a joke, in my opinion.

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  • Bill of RightsMarch 18, 2014 - 8:47 am

    @Mister. Nice response. When faced with challenging questions, sarcastic, non-responsive comments always close the case! I wonder if I am talking to Toler? You know then guy who won't publish his qualifications in the DR! But I don't think that won't happen because he will not be getting his name on the ballot.

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  • Cliff GenesonMarch 18, 2014 - 9:16 am

    Corruption and ineptitude in our "justice system"? Nothing new here. Move on, people. Nothing to see here. YOUR PAPERS, CITIZEN!

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  • JanellMarch 18, 2014 - 1:38 pm

    I see a comment, "nothing new here people, move on" with attitudes like that it's no wonder this is happening and has been happening for years. Be careful, you never know when YOU or a loved one will be sitting on the other side. But we can always just say "move on" and look the other way, sweep the dirt under a rug and let your fate be in the hands of dirty DA's. Dirty cops. Maybe even dirty judges.

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  • Rich GiddensMarch 18, 2014 - 10:24 am

    None of the people involved in the Solano County mess exude an aura of sweetness and light including Healy.

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  • D M KMarch 18, 2014 - 3:43 pm

    Grand Jury or Federal Grand Jury investigation is what is needed here. Having been the sibling of a homicide victim where the confessed killer ultimately walked due to errors made by the Imperial County District Attorney at the time, its painful just to read what is happening in my new "home town". We have a lot of good people in local law enforcement and some not so good. We have some DA staff who push garbage complaints through the system, in my opinion, to improve their office's conviction rate and we have a few law enforcement officers who are physically and verbally abusive toward the citizenry. Then we have this mess - creating delays and new game venues for defendants who just might be guilty of what their charged with but may never face a day in prison because the People's Council didn't follow the rules! Let's clean house!

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  • DebMarch 18, 2014 - 6:13 pm

    Woah people slow down with the flinging accusations about every official in the system! It seems the focus should be on the pathologists conducting the autopsies in question. We need unbiased professional objective medical examiners in this role to get to the truth without prejudice or pressure. Is that not possible? As for our current DA Don duBain, he has made sweeping improvements for victims, including task forces for domestic violence leading to development of the Solano Family Justice Center, and tackling the interagency issue of human trafficking of minors right here in our communities. Look beyond the sensational comments to the reality of the work at hand and you will see integrity in the DA and judicial systems. And no, I don't work for either of them, just know the reality out there. And great press by Glen Faison.

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  • JanellMarch 18, 2014 - 8:52 pm

    How did this enlightening of a DA not turning over materials to the defense and a forensic pathologist sending "just between you and me" emails to the DA, turn into a bashing of certain sheriffs!? I want the DA and coroner looked into, EVERY trial either was involved in. I would say should be of concern for both sides involved. I'm certain innocent people were unjustly found guilty as I'm sure guilty people walked. That's more important. I didn't read anything saying sheriff so and so didn't turn over a very important email to the defense. I'm sure your arguments are valid but I thought this was about the DA's office.

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  • This isn't home anymoreMarch 19, 2014 - 10:35 am

    I have no faith left in this county. The politians and admin who have lied or turned a blind eye, in order to cover up wrong doing repulses me. What repulses me more is how these men, Mike, Leonard, and who knows how many others, no matter how much of there story Is shared, it appears to be ignored or disregarded. And when they are acknowledged it's only an attempt to discredit by a small person hiding behind a monitor with a defense I'd expect from a criminal. Well you men that protected me, you men who didn't sit behind a desk In quest for political reign , you men who proudly put on a heavy weighed down bullet proof vest everyday knowing you may need it and not just for a uniform requirement, you men... Have my support and everlasting pride. Always will. That is something I can confidently say the sheriff, the DA's office, the city council, and the board of supervisors will never again have from me. I honestly hope the neglect and ignorance thy have shown is what they all plan on being remembered for. MEN, thank you for your sacrifice,. Your county loves you, and supports you, even if the people in charge are too sideways to reflect that.

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  • LeonardMarch 19, 2014 - 10:59 am

    Thank You, it's most heartfelt!

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  • Tyler G.- Tigers for life!March 19, 2014 - 1:40 pm

    It took some reading for me to realize who my fellow Tolenas elementary peer was talking about when he told me to read this article and the comments on it. When I was I'm 5th grade in 1999 we had without a doubt the best D.A.R.E. officer. Can't really remember the heavy Dude who he was partners with when he came in to talk to us, but man were they cool. I remember one time him and his fat pal started dancing in the lower play ground by mrs. Smiths room. We all loved it. If this officer is who I think it is he was life changing. He didn't tell us the same PG message about drugs. He went out of his way to relate to us as was honest and real. It sucks that after everything he did for us I see him enduring this with others like him. Stay cool deputy Alexandre. Your impact will never be forgotten or tainted. You were an awesome officer and an even better mentor to all us. Thanks for always being true!

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  • Mike (Former SO Deputy)March 19, 2014 - 7:27 pm

    Thank you, I have written over 30+ letters to the Solano County BOS, Ca Dept of Comp, Ca Dept of Ins, State Assemblypersons, Ca State Senators, Newspapers in Solano County and in Sacramento where I live, but this is as much time as I can get with my story of corruption. Did you know that one of the people supporting the sheriff on his campaign and an employee of the sheriffs department and who does internal investigations was accused in Solano county court documents to have lied in a criminal investigation against another Solano county sheriffs employe that he did the investigation on. He was accused of withholding evidence and threatening witnesses as well. And now he is a witness in another criminal case in Sacramento county where again, surprise, his testimony is in doubt. He left important information out of his report. And another Solano Sgt. in court documents was allowed to contradict his own statement he gave just a week earlier to a da inv. Now these two witnesses are not going to be called in a criminal investigation where they were the lead investigator and a key prosecution witness. But the dda refuses to drop the charges even though the two chief witnesses has been impeached before trial and will not be called. The dda herself said she has problems with the witness and evidence from Solano county. Nice to know you have such highly thought of officers doing internal investigations and supervising other deputies at the sheriffs office. And the one doing internal investigations is also helping the current sheriff get elected. But no one wants to here what I have to say.

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