Judge picked as Con­tra Costa in­terim D.A.

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY AREA - By Kim­berly Vek­lerov

The Con­tra Costa County Board of Su­per­vi­sors ap­pointed a long­time judge Tues­day to serve out the term of the for­mer dis­trict at­tor­ney, who re­signed af­ter plead­ing no con­test to felony per­jury.

Diana Bec­ton, who served as a Con­tra Costa County Su­pe­rior Court judge for 22 years but never worked as a prose­cu­tor, will be the first woman and the first African Amer­i­can to lead the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice. She can hold the post un­til at least Jan­uary 2019 — longer if vot­ers elect her in next year’s elec­tion. She has not said whether she in­tends to run.

The su­per­vi­sors picked Bec­ton de­spite her ad­mis­sion that she pla­gia­rized whole sec­tions of her ap­pli­ca­tion. She copied and pasted the words of U.S. se­na­tors and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and lifted pas­sages from sev­eral Bay Area dis­trict at­tor­ney web­sites.

She told the su­per­vi­sors Tues­day that she

took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the pla­gia­rism but said that the board should be “fo­cused on the real is­sues” of crim­i­nal justice re­form.

“I drew lib­er­ally from all kinds of sources be­cause I wanted to lift cer­tain is­sues up. I rec­og­nize that I should have used quo­ta­tion marks when I used the words of other peo­ple, and I didn’t do that. I own that mis­take,” Bec­ton said dur­ing her pub­lic in­ter­view with the board. “That is the same kind of lead­er­ship and trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity that I will bring to the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice.”

Bec­ton spoke of the need to im­ple­ment bail re­form, in­crease trust be­tween law en­force­ment and the com­mu­nity, and re­duce re­cidi­vism and in­car­cer­a­tion rates. She said pros­e­cu­tors should worry less about their trial records.

“Our cur­rent sys­tem does not work be­cause it fo­cuses our at­ten­tion on con­vic­tions and sen­tences but not on just out­comes,” Bec­ton said. “I want to change that cul­ture in our of­fice, be­cause there’s too much pres­sure to try to get cases out.”

Con­tra Costa County has been with­out a dis­trict at­tor­ney since June, when Mark Peter­son re­signed hours af­ter state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Xavier Be­cerra’s of­fice filed 13 felony charges against him in con­nec­tion with his ad­mit­ted use of $66,000 in cam­paign funds for per­sonal ex­pen­di­tures. In a plea bar­gain, state pros­e­cu­tors agreed to drop all but one per­jury count, for mak­ing false state­ments on cam­paign dis­clo­sure forms.

Bec­ton started her law ca­reer in pri­vate prac­tice and was ap­pointed to the bench in 1995 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson. In 2011, her col­leagues voted for her to be pre­sid­ing judge, which put her in charge of the court’s bud­get when state fund­ing cuts forced a large-scale re­duc­tion and reshuf­fling of staff.

She ran for re-elec­tion, un­op­posed, in 2014 and re­tired last month to con­cen­trate on her bid to win the in­terim dis­trict at­tor­ney’s job.

The ma­jor­ity of pros­e­cu­tors in the of­fice and law en­force­ment as­so­ci­a­tions sup­ported Se­nior Deputy Dis­trict At­tor­ney Paul Graves for the job. On Tues­day, how­ever, it was Bec­ton’s sup­port­ers who showed up in force at the board meet­ing in Martinez to high­light her record of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment and help­ing of­fend­ers change their non­vi­o­lent felony con­vic­tions to mis­de­meanors.

Su­per­vi­sors John Gioia, Diane Bur­gis and Fed­eral Glover sup­ported Bec­ton, while Su­per­vi­sors Can­dace An­der­sen and Karen Mitchoff backed Graves. When the 3-2 split be­came clear, An­der­son and Mitchoff changed their votes so Bec­ton would win unan­i­mous ap­proval.

Aron DeFer­rari, pres­i­dent of the Con­tra Costa County Dis­trict At­tor­neys’ As­so­ci­a­tion, which cam­paigned for Graves, de­clined to dis­cuss the out­come but gave a brief state­ment to re­porters.

“This is an in­terim ap­point­ment, and we will work with Judge Bec­ton to keep our com­mu­nity safe un­til the vot­ers select the next dis­trict at­tor­ney,” he said.

Graves and an­other fi­nal­ist for the in­terim job, Su­per­vis­ing Deputy Dis­trict At­tor­ney Pa­trick Vanier of Santa Clara County, have filed pa­per­work to run for the post next year.

Bec­ton will start later this month and make an an­nual salary of $258,181.

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