Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I appreciate Karen Pearsall’s civil rebuttal to my recent letter. I would suggest that she read online the prosecutor’s sentencing report. In it the prosecution calls attention to the racial motivation defense, the rejected plea bargaining, former Manteca Unified School District Trustee Ashley’s Drain’s demeanor, the serious financial injury to the People, and the sophistication shown in filing forms (crossing out an address?). The former three items are not usually applicable to sentencing. From my perspective, a few facts are important for more perspective on the latter two items.
According to the Legislative Analysist’s Office the average cost for housing a state prisoner is $71,000 a year. Requesting punishment costing $142,000 seems more injurious financially for us People, especially given the fact that the food stamps have been reimbursed. With restitution, it is the usual practice to use administrative hearings through HHS or consent agreements through the DA to address SNAP violations. Perhaps this is why special instructions needed to be drafted for this charge against Trustee Drain.
Other perspectives to consider can be found in the National District Attorneys Association National Prosecution Standards: “(A) prosecutor must (take) into account the interest of victims, … defendants and those members of society who have no direct interest in a particular case, but who are nonetheless affected by its outcome. … The prosecutor should disclose … any known evidence that would mitigate the sentence to be imposed … The prosecutor should be the person most familiar with the defendant, … It is also the prosecutor who … will be aware of the sentences received by persons in similar situations so as to steer the court away from unfair sentences and unfair sentence disparities.”
Former Trustee Drain’s sentencing recommendation seems unfair when a State Senator is sentenced to 90 days for eight felony counts of election fraud and served less than 90 minutes. As noted at the time by the former President pro Tempore Steinberg: “… there is ambiguity in the law on residence and domicile. … over a quarter of the members … had their residency status questioned when they filed for office.” For example, Senator Berryhill was sued to be removed from the ballot in 2010 prior to the election.
Additional disparity can be found by comparing the sentencing recommendation to other cases of fraud. I found online six figure fraud being punished by restitution and six months in jail, and of course substantial fines. Perhaps substantial time is seen as fair punishment for a poor mother of three.
In her probation report Trustee Drain is quoted as identifying her need for better guidance, mentorship and knowledge. She acknowledges a need to watch her anger and that politics is not for her. I have witnessed Trustee Drain meeting with MUSD employees and seeking reconciliation. Reconciliation in the contest of restorative justice is a shared responsibility. Restorative justice addresses the root causes of the harm, supports accountability, and promotes healing.
MUSD’s recent LCAP identifies an unacceptably high suspension rate for all students. It is quantified as about double the state average. Within this harmful situation black student suspensions are double their enrollment percentage. Perhaps a restorative sentence could harness Trustee Drain’s strengths in mentoring students.
One of MUSD’s pillars of character promotes caring as shown by forgiveness. Maybe this is the example students will see by former Trustees Drain and Alexander Bronson’s pictures being returned to their place on the district office walls. Such a return would be consistent with the forgiveness shown Senator Berryhill after his election finance fraud and former Senator Wright after his election residency fraud. Both of their pictures remain on the California Senate’s website.