Alameda County’s top pros­e­cu­tor to in­ves­ti­gate col­lapse.

Alameda County pros­e­cu­tor vows a thor­ough re­view of fa­tal Berke­ley case.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Lee Rom­ney lee. rom­ney@ latimes. com Twit­ter: @ leerom­ney

OAK­LAND — Alameda County Dist. Atty. Nancy O’Malley promised Thurs­day a “thor­ough and ex­haus­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion” of the June 16 col­lapse of a Berke­ley bal­cony to de­ter­mine whether crim­i­nal charges or a civil con­sumer pro­tec­tion ac­tion are war­ranted.

Flanked by her chief as­sis­tant, O’Malley said at a news con­fer­ence that her of­fice had been mon­i­tor­ing the deadly col­lapse and moved to take on the lead role in a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter Berke­ley city of­fi­cials an­nounced Tues­day that they were not pur­su­ing one.

The tragedy that left six Ir­ish stu­dents dead — one of them a dual citizen from the Bay Area — and in­jured seven “has dev­as­tated com­mu­ni­ties through­out the Bay Area and Ire­land,” she said.

Ad­dress­ing the fam­i­lies, O’Malley said: “Each of you de­serve to have this mat­ter thor­oughly and ex­haus­tively in­ves­ti­gated. We will do so. That is the pledge I make from my of­fice.”

D. A. spokes­woman Teresa Drenick said that, to her knowl­edge, Alameda County pros­e­cu­tors have never brought a crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion in the case of a death re­sult­ing from a con­struc­tion de­fect, though other ju­ris­dic­tions have.

The stu­dents were cel­e­brat­ing a birth­day when the fifth- f loor bal­cony at the Li­brary Gar­dens com­plex on Kit­tredge Street col­lapsed.

O’Malley de­clined to com­ment on po­ten­tial tar­gets of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The orig­i­nal devel­oper, Trans­Ac­tion Com­pa­nies, be­came Eq­uity Man­age­ment Group be­fore selling the com­pleted Li­brary Gar­dens in 2007 to a prop­erty fund man­aged by the global f irm Black­Rock. The com­plex is man­aged by Hous­ton- based Greystar. The con­trac­tor was Pleasan­ton- based Segue Con­struc­tion Inc. San Jose- based R. Broth­ers Inc., a li­censed wa­ter­proof­ing con­trac­tor, lists Li­brary Gar­dens on its web­site as one of its projects.

In writ­ten state­ments, a Black­Rock spokesman pledged to co­op­er­ate and said com­pany of­fi­cials “strongly sup­port the ef­forts of author­i­ties to con­duct a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion.” He said Black­Rock has been work­ing with the prop­erty man­ager, the city and in­de­pen­dent ex­perts “in a thor­ough re­view of the sit­u­a­tion,” and as the ad­vi­sor to the fund that in­vested in the build­ing in 2007, “we are equally in­ter­ested in fully un­der­stand­ing the cause of the ac­ci­dent.”

A Greystar spokesper­son said that com­pany also sup­ports the in­quiry and “will con­tinue to aid author­i­ties as they work to de­ter­mine the cause of the ac­ci­dent.”

Trevor R. Martin, an out­side spokesman for Segue, said, “We con­tinue to of­fer our full co­op­er­a­tion to all in­ves­ti­gat­ing author­i­ties.” A woman who an­swered the phone at R. Broth­ers Inc. de­clined to com­ment.

Berke­ley of­fi­cials Tues­day pro­posed strength­en­ing lo­cal codes in an ef­fort to pre­vent wa­ter in­tru­sion and re­sult­ing dry rot in bal­conies. But they de­clined to con­duct a ma­te­ri­als anal­y­sis of ev­i­dence or draw con­clu­sions about a cause.

O’Malley de­clined to weigh in on the city’s ear­lier de­ci­sion to wrap up its find­ings, say­ing that “their in­ves­ti­ga­tion was lim­ited in scope, and they made that clear in state­ments to the media.”

The col­lapsed f ifth- f loor bal­cony is in cus­tody of the Berke­ley Po­lice Depart­ment, which, along with other city de­part­ments, is co­op­er­at­ing with the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice, she said. The Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment is work­ing with the prop­erty owner to ob­tain cus­tody of a sec­ond bal­cony, re­moved from the f loor be­low the col­lapse, and “mov­ing it to a se­cure place so our foren­sic ex­perts can an­a­lyze it.”

She de­clined to say where it has been but stressed that she was con­fi­dent that the chain of cus­tody has not been breached and that an ex­haus­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion can be car­ried out “with the ev­i­dence we have.”

She promised a thor­ough re­view but said crim­i­nal charges may not be war­ranted. Crim­i­nal neg­li­gence must in­volve more than inat­ten­tion or mis­takes in judg­ment, she said. De­fen­dants must have acted in a reck­less way that cre­ated a high risk of in­jury or death.

“It must be ag­gra­vated, gross, reck­less, cul­pa­ble,” O’Malley said, “and such a de­par­ture from what would be the con­duct of an or­di­nary per­son as to be in­com­pat­i­ble with pro­tect­ing life.”

The gravest pos­si­ble charge would be in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter.

Any find­ings of crim­i­nal neg­li­gence must be deemed prov­able in court for charges to be brought, she added. A thor­ough vet­ting “is what ev­ery vic­tim de­serves,” she said. “We grieve with them.”

Philip Grant, the San Fran­cisco- based Ir­ish con­sul gen­eral for the West, promised to as­sist O’Malley in “any way we can,” and said she had “reached out to the fam­i­lies” be­fore her news con­fer­ence.

“We con­tinue to mon­i­tor,” he said, “and we ap­pre­ci­ate that any in­ves­ti­ga­tion that will be tak­ing place is an in­de­pen­dent one.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.