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Sonoma County DA Re-Elected By Nearly 2-1 Margin

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch was re-elected Tuesday night by nearly a 2-1 margin, according to unofficial results.

Ravitch, 55, of Sebastopol, tallied 41,847 votes, or 64.2 percent, and her challenger, Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Victoria Shanahan, 45, of Cloverdale, was defeated with 35.4 percent of votes.

The undercurrent to the election was public reaction to the killing of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by Sonoma County sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus on Oct. 22.

The Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez called on Ravitch to arrest and indict Gelhaus for murder and complete her office's review of the Santa Rosa and Petaluma police departments' investigation of the shooting before the June 3 election.

Ravitch's review would include determining if there were any violations of criminal law, prosecuting any violator, providing a summary and recommendation to a grand jury, and presenting investigative information to the grand jury on request.

[Related: Election Wrap: Voters Approve 6 Measures in Sonoma County.]

"It is not the role of the District Attorney to evaluate a law enforcement agency's tactical policies or consider civil, legal or liability issues," Ravitch said.

"We will take the time it requires, no more and no less. The Lopez family, Deputy Gelhaus and the public deserve that," Ravitch said.

She said investigators were continuing the investigation at the shooting site southwest of Santa Rosa as recently as last week.

Gelhaus shot Lopez seven times just outside the Santa Rosa city limit when he mistook a BB gun Lopez was carrying for an AK-47 rifle. Gelhaus told Santa Rosa police he ordered Lopez to drop the gun and the gun barrel rose upward as Lopez turned toward him.

[Related: Election Wrap: Supe Rabbitt Re-Elected; Fudge, Gore Head to November Runoff.]

Members of the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez were urging a write-in vote for Lopez in the district attorney's race.

There were more than 273 write-in votes cast in the Ravitch-Shanahan race, and 1,067 write-in votes, or 2 percent of the vote, in Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas' unopposed re-election. It was not immediately known how many of those write-in votes were for Andy Lopez.

Ravitch, the county's first female district attorney, said her priorities have been targeting DUI, violence against women and white-collar crime offenders. She said her office has expanded the domestic violence, sexual assault and child and elder abuse services of the Family Justice Center established by her predecessor Stephan Passalacqua.

"We've established a dedicated elder protection unit to deal exclusively with cases of fraud, neglect and violence against senior citizens. We're targeting violent criminals and gangs and it's working. The California Department of Justice reports our felony conviction rate is at a 10-year high," Ravitch said in her campaign statement.

Ravitch said she has put managers back in the courtroom and expanded efforts to inform the public about identity theft, money scams and elder abuse. Ravitch also said she has reduced the backlog of felony cases and established an adult truancy program to hold parents accountable for the absence of their children from school.

Shanahan cited her people skills and management and prosecution experience as qualities that would have brought strong, transparent and effective leadership to the district attorney's office.

[Related: Neel Kashkari: The Man Who Will Square off with Gov. Brown.]

Shanahan disputed Ravitch's claim of putting managers back in the courtroom.

"Only four cases have been tried by managers in the past 3 and a half years. As a result, there is a real disconnect between the managers and the front line deputies and what is actually happening daily in the courtroom," Shanahan said.

Shanahan said the adult truancy program actually was established in 2009, two years before Ravitch took office. She said marijuana cases, some of them three years old, continue to clog the court calendar.

Shanahan also claimed the county's conviction rate has increased only one-half percent over past 10 years and that Ravitch has failed to provide statistics to support her claim.

Shanahan also took issue with the length of time Ravitch has taken to review the fatal Lopez shooting investigation.
  
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--Bay City News

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