Debate Between DA Candidates Benito and Carlton: No Contest?

 

benito-carlton-debate-crowd

It was a Monday night, but Bonnyview Baptist Church pews were filled with believers who leaned more political than theological.

Hundreds of people gathered at the church to hear an exchange of opinions between Shasta County District Attorney candidates Stephen Carlton, a former Shasta County DA, and Jerry Benito, the county’s current district attorney.

The pair accepted the Redding Tea Party Patriots’ invitation to a debate at the Tea Party’s 6-8 p.m. meeting at Bonnyview Baptist Church in Redding Monday.

The Redding Tea Party Patriots, whose slogan is, “A Grassroots Conservative Movement For ALL of Northern California” hosted the standing-room-only event inside the sanctuary, led by Erin Ryan, one of the group’s organizers.

For about the first 30 minutes, Ryan took care of regular business, including what she described as intentions by the U.S. Forest Service to ban campers, hunters and other recreationists from using forest land.

Ryan’s question to the crowd, “Who does the forest belong to?” was answered by a group exclamation.

“Us!”

She outlined an activity planned for Tuesday at Forest Service offices, where Redding Tea Party Patriots could show up en masse with messages intended for a certain Forest Service employee.

By 6:30 p.m. the debate between attorney Carlton and District Attorney Benito was off and running.

The men took turns answering questions and offering rebuttals when allowed.

A yellow plastic chlorine-bucket lid signaled when each candidate had 15 seconds remaining for each answer, while a red plastic chlorine-bucket lid indicated when the candidate should cease talking.

Timing seemed a drawback for Carlton from the get-go when he was unable to complete his opening statement within the allotted 2-minute time frame. This resulted in Calton’s unfinished statement that began with him saying how integrity was a necessary character trait for the position of district attorney, and how, if Carlton were again elected DA, he would seek justice – justice for all – and how he’d be tough when appropriate but also compassionate when appropriate. Just as Carlton seemed ready to wrap up his statement with a suspenseful, “The current administration…” he was cut off with the wave of a red plastic lid.

Carlton returned to his seat, saying something to the effect of, “I’ll finish that in closing…”

Benito, on the other hand, seemed to have his statements timed down to the second, quickly blasting through his points without hesitation.

He boasted that he commits 110 percent of himself to the citizens of Shasta County, and how he’d battled such problems as illegal dumping and bad-checking writing and how, under his administration, he had an above-average conviction rate, and how he’d reduced DUI-related deaths by more than 40 percent. He said his mission was public safety and justice.

When Carlton and Benito were asked, how, if each were operating under the same law, one could be a better candidate than the other, Carlton was allowed to answer first, but, again, he was cut off by the red lid before he could finish.

But first, Carlton named several reasons he believed he was better DA material than Benito, naming, for example, Carlton’s integrity (his theme repeated throughout), and how he would treat everyone fairly (another Carlton theme). Carlton vowed that when considering cases, he would ask himself, “What’s the right thing to do?”

Again, Carlton said he’d be tough when appropriate and compassionate when appropriate. Carlton said that regarding fiscal restraints, he’d ask himself the question, ….

And the red lid cut him off.

Benito tackled the why-am-I-a-better-DA-choice question with rapid-fire answers: he’s current, he’s conservative, he’s Christian (is that a prerequisite?) and that he believed in the right to bear arms.

Throughout the debate, Benito seemed relaxed, rehearsed and on his game, even joking about his height with a comment about how he had the tall step stool on stage.

Regarding a question that basically asked for a wish list of programs the candidates would want, if money weren’t an issue, Carlton said that even in the best of fiscal times, he’d always be mindful that the money belonged to the taxpayers. With that in mind, Carlton chose one program for his wish list: a mental health court. He pointed out that between 11 and 15 percent of defendants suffer from serious mental health issues.

Benito answered with a blitz of specific programs, such as a computer crimes program, and a DUI court and more help for domestic violence victims, all of which were followed by Benito’s saying that nearly all those programs were already started in his office during tough financial times.

Grants were frequently mentioned by both candidates. Benito said that without grants, his office wouldn’t have enough money to do what needed to be done. Carlton said that grants were restrictive and tended to tie departments’ hands.

When asked what staff might not like about each candidate, Carlton guessed that the staff might not like Carlton at first, but he predicted they’d grow to like him over time. Carlton took that opportunity to quote the DA office turn-over rate as 90 percent during Benito’s administration. As a point of contrast, Carlton said he would treat the DA staff like professionals “… and by the time …”

Carlton’s sentence was interrupted by the dreaded red plastic lid.

To that question, Benito conceded that his staff might like it better when Benito was away from the office, but only because they could relax more in his absence, because Benito had high standards and demands.

The men were cordial toward one another, but even so, the evening contained swipes by each candidate.

Benito said he wasn’t afraid of guns.

Carlton said that a 2007 document showed that Benito had the lowest conviction rate — 57 percent — he’d heard of in 41 years.

Benito accused Carlton of not answering a question, which Benito said would be a problem for a DA.

Carlton criticized Benito’s handling of a case in which he prosecuted the mother of a 12-year-old girl after the daughter was killed in the car driven by the mother.

Benito countered that Carlton didn’t get all the facts straight, that the mother was driving over solid double yellow lines, yelling into a cell phone and reaching for a drink while moving at speeds that some motorist/witnesses described as making them feel as if they were “standing still.”

Carlton calmly observed that if those were the facts, it sounded like reckless driving, which would have been a felony.

As the debate came to a close, Carlton addressed the issue of so many grant-funded programs in the DA’s office. He questioned the DA office’s need for so many attorneys, and suggested perhaps more general fund investigators were needed. He said that apparently the DA’s office had plenty of lawyers — “a lot of fat in his office” because Benito and his top investigator didn’t even enter the courthouse (a dig about Benito’s alleged disdain for removing his shoes before going through the courthouse metal detectors).

Carlton said that without a good district attorney in office, the “machine” wouldn’t work.

In closing, Benito asked if the audience had ever watched television and seen bad things happening, and if so, if they’d wished they could do something to make a difference.

“I’m the one who gets to make a difference,” Benito said, adding that he wouldn’t have to make candidate promises, because he was already doing them. Benito said that his family was his motivation to succeed, because he wanted his family to be safe, too.

Although Carlton asked for the final question to be repeated (it wasn’t a question, but an invitation for a closing statement), Carlton recovered by saying that he’d entered the DA race in an effort to return credibility to the Shasta County District Attorney’s office. Carlton said he had twice Benito’s experience, and wrapped up by saying, “I can assure you …”

We never heard. The time was up, at least for the debate.

After that the crowd thinned and Benito and Carlton each spoke in smaller, more casual settings in two different classrooms where groups of people, both sitting and standing, asked questions.

(Note: I went back and forth between the two rooms, so I wasn’t able to hear all of either talk.)

steve-carlton

In Carlton’s room he was asked about Benito’s dig about not being “afraid” of guns, to which Carlton said he wasn’t afraid of guns, he just never grew up shooting them. Carlton went on to say he was a supporter of gun rights for law-abiding citizens; it was the criminal gun-owners who most worried him.

As Carlton spoke, a group of apparent Benito employees flanked the room, and contradicted some of Carlton’s negative statements about low morale and high turnover under Benito’s leadership.

benito-staff

At one point, when Carlton mentioned that Benito doesn’t go inside the courthouse, several Benito staff said that wasn’t true, that Benito did try cases in the courthouse, to which Carlton asked if Benito had set foot inside a courtroom since the memo in which Benito allegedly said he refused to go through the metal detectors — because, Carlton said, Benito objected to removing his shoes.

Crickets. Not a further peep of disagreement from Benito’s camp regarding that point.

Someone else asked if Carlton felt “up to the job” — to which he looked somewhat exasperated and replied, “Why does everyone ask that?”

He said that if Ronald Reagan could serve as president at his advanced years, Carlton, at only 67, shouldn’t have a problem.

When a woman shared her impression that Carlton was only running for DA because he didn’t like what was happening under Benito’s administration, Carlton said she was correct.

Carlton added that he’d actually been the one who hired Benito back in the ’80s, that Benito was a good trial lawyer, and that Carlton didn’t have any issues with Benito until he took the DA position. After that, Carlton said, Benito abused his power, and caused an exodus of lawyers to leave the DA’s office.

benito-room

Meanwhile, back in Benito’s room, he defended his considerable staff turnover by saying that he got rid of “dead wood” staff — that he frowned upon the kind of employees who’d sit around and play solitaire.

If Carlton was under fire by Benito supporters, Benito was feeling the heat from a handful of people who had axes to grind about specific cases, such as those critical of Benito for not charging Lennart Schauman with manslaughter in the death of Adam Martinez. As a way of explaining his reasoning, Benito demonstrated on a woman from his DA staff how Martinez allegedly approached Schauman’s girlfriend with unwanted advances. This only seemed to stir up the group. After others in the audience complained that they resented the meeting being taken over, the group left.

By 8:30 p.m., Benito was still talking to the remaining group about such subjects as a new program he’d initiated to contract with private vendors to help citizens regain driver’s licenses. He also said Carlton didn’t have the facts straight about Benito’s conviction rate, that anyone could find the correct information about Benito’s record on the DA website.

Down the hall, Carlton’s room was empty, the meeting over by the prescribed time.

As I left the building, I heard one man sum up his take on the night’s debate between Benito and Carlton:

“No contest.”

Click here for anewscafe.com’s January story about Steve Carlton stepping into the DA race.

Click here for anewscafe.com’s November story about Jerry Benito running for office.

Click here for a historical overview of Shasta County’s District Attorneys.

Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Northern California in the tiny town of Igo.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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36 Responses

  1. Avatar Elizabeth Woodward says:

    Doni:

    Thanks for your very informative and detailed reporting of our event last night. It was thorough and the addition of several links for further research is helpful!

    Your colorful (pun intended) description of our use of red and yellow plastic lids for timing was so appropriate for our grassroots movement. Because we must resort to creativity due to a grassroots lack of funds, we've enjoyed the humor found in our chlorine and dish soap bucket lids!

    We hope you enjoyed your experience with the Redding Tea Party Patriots enough to continue to attend our meetings. Thanks again for the great coverage!

    Elizabeth Woodward

    Local Politics and Government

    Redding Tea Party Patriots

  2. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    I don't know Carlton but I know Benito. He is no Christian since he hates other Christian groups. I know he tells MADD one thing and then his office does the opposite. I know he has lost more big cases than any other DA in the area. I know Benito was a lousy family family lawyer during the time away from the DA office.

    Finally I now it is time for somebody else to be DA.

    • Do you mind if just call you gamer?

      Gamer, golly but you' express some strong opinions and make such extreme, authoritative statements. Are this statements true? Are you credible? Who knows. Maybe, maybe not.

      See, gamerjohn, I can't speak for the rest of the class, but I tend to give less credibility to comments posted with fake names. After all, it's easy to say the most amazing, possibly untrue things when hidden behind the cloak of anonymity.

      We here at anewscafe.com welcome all civilized, respectful reader feedback, but we would be delighted if you could one day leave the gamerjohn closet and join the majority of anewscafe.com commenters who sign their real names to their words. No games. Just real dialogue between real people trying to move the conversation forward.

      Just food for thought.

      • Avatar Troy Hawkins says:

        I second that.
        Thank you Doni.

      • Avatar gamerjohn says:

        I am a local attorney who chooses to not have my full name disclosed. Whether that dimishes my credibility, it makes no difference. Benito knows me. Our kids have gone to school forever together. The DA's office knows me and the lawyers that I have worked with and the cases that were horribly mismanaged by the DA. If you look at a few of the acquitals over the past few years, I was involved in many of them, the non-capital cases anyway.

        This is a small town with powerful people with long memories and the ability to hold grudges for a long time. I have many enemies along Court Street. Using my long time name allows me to speak to power without increasing that number. I owe it to my clients to not make it harder for their case by being their lawyer. Of course some have come to me because I consider myself an outsider, despite having been a past president of a local speciality bar association.

        When I win a motion to exclude evidence for client A against the DA, when I bring a motion on behalf of client B, they work harder to win the second motion to get even with me, despite ignoring the relative merits of the separate cases.

        I have spoken to most of the lawyers who have been released by the DA. They are possibly disgruntled, but considering that some had to be the flunkies who were ordered to shadow opponents in the past, the repeated pattern of the new crop of flunkies hounding Carlton is sad.

        Since the state bar has decided that Benito is unqualified to be a judge, I think he is unqualified to remain the DA.

        • Thank you, G. John for your reply. That makes sense to me, and I do appreciate the explanation.

          (Hey, not to beat this to death, but maybe you can have two accounts: One under gamerjohn for more sensitive, conflicting areas, and another under your real name for comments about less controversial matters, like chickens and food and health and fitness and arts and entertainment and outdoors?)

        • Avatar Sheila says:

          Gamer:

          You most certainly are not a local attorney in Redding. No attorney I have ever met would spell acquittal, "acquital", nor would an attorney throw out a garbled phrase like "long time name" or say "the DA's Office knows me" when an office cannot "know" anything as it is an institution and not a person. The reason you don't post your name is because your are not being truthful.

          You appear to have serious language deficits – I suggest in the future you attempt to pass yourself off as an unemployed day laborer or transient parolee.

  3. Avatar Katrina Eliante says:

    Great job, Doni. A very accurate, succinct description of last nights' meeting. We look forward to seeing more of you on Monday nights!

    Katrina Eliante

    reddingteaparty.com

  4. Avatar Becky Spence says:

    Great article Doni…I thought the questioning went very well and was happy with theway things were ran. I went in to the meeting with no decision regarding my vote and think that you pretty much summed it up…no question. Thank you for the well written informative article.

  5. Avatar Nathan says:

    I also attended the debate. Benito was very polished. However, he also sounded like a politician who was trying to say all the right things as quickly as possible.

    Carlton sounded like a real person. Carlton spoke from the heart, and with sincerity.

    Carlton won me over. I also talked to other people who are Carlton supporters now, too.

    • Fair observations, Nathan.

      And, of course, just because someone is a kick-ass debater doesn't make him a kick-ass candidate. A debate is just one of many measures.

  6. Avatar Pat j. says:

    No District Attorney is going to please everyone. It's a tough job and requires tough decisions. I have not always agreed with Mr. Benitos actions, but perhaps I didn't have all the facts. I have noticed from reading elsewhere that a certain element truly dislikes him, so in my opinion he must be doing something right.

    • Avatar Nathan says:

      From the people I talked to, the element that dislikes Benito as district attorney is the judicial bench, the legal community, and a whole lot of voters.

      I dont think he's doing something right if the judges and the other legal people don't think he's right for the D.A. job. They know much more about whats really going on down there.

    • Avatar J P Adams says:

      A Certain Element..?

  7. Avatar Robin says:

    Sheila:

    Not all attorneys are great spellers.
    Not all attorneys are great writers.
    That doesn't mean they're not attorneys.
    And that doesn't mean they're not great attorneys.

    You also knew exactly what gamerjohn meant by the "DA's office knows me." That was just a cheap shot you threw in when you thought you were already on a roll. You weren't. You only appear spiteful and mean-spirited…Hey, you're not a member of the DA's office, are you? If not, have you considered applying?

    The sad truth is that many people are afraid to list their real names anywhere for fear of a Benito reprisal.

    • Avatar gamerjohn says:

      Are you the Robin who works for Dave Wilson? Not a lot of Robins around anymore. I noticed Sheila chose not to include her last name.

  8. Avatar jacki g. says:

    Well done, Doni. Good article, great reporting! Let the people decide…

  9. Avatar Erin Ryan says:

    My family is still laughing about the lids. You've taken a potentially dry article and made it a classic! I hope you will report on many events in the future. Thanks 🙂

  10. Avatar emil shue says:

    Informative, fairly well balanced and impressively detailed account. Good job. Only a few word choices, when others would obviously have been more neutral, reveal the direction that your vote will go. Interesting contrast between this recitation and Bruce Ross's shorter version. It is my educated conjecture that your votes will cancel each other.

    This is an intriguing race. The contrast in the candidates' styles, philosophies and methods will present some interesting and revealing choices for and about our electorate. Both gentlemen have had enough experience that they have drawn their share of criticism over the years, some of which was valid. However, the citizens of Shasta County can count themselves fortunate that, no matter what the outcome, their next DA will be honest, dedicated, conscientious and capable. That's more than can be said in many venues.

  11. Avatar ChristLives says:

    Doni,

    Having used my real name in past posts in various media forums and been subjected to dishonest, vicious personal attacks from anonymous posters that refuse to reveal their identity I agree with gamerjohn about the value of anonymity.

    How about this? If you don't want anonymous posts then don't offer a system that allows anonymous posting on your website. Maybe real identities will raise the bar, maybe it won't, but, you, Doni, are in charge of this issue so how silly of you to complain about the system you yourself authorized. If newscafe doesn't want or support anonymous posting, then change your own rules. You are the boss on this one my fine female friend!

    With respect to the issue at hand:

    A group of defense attorneys who were getting their butts kicked by Benito's staff (the staff he retained after cleaning house of dead wood) decided to run a candidate in order to win through the ballot box what they could not win in their profession of representing criminals. They drafted a youngish, good looking defense attorney to run. Unfortunately for them, he had some, uh, personal issues that when revealed wouldn't be helpful for getting elected so he stepped down in a rush. (Note to Doni, did you ever ask or report on why Mr. Lowery stepped up and then stepped down in such a comical manner?). Mr. Carlton, having been the key solicitor of Mr. Lowery was put in the position of seeing the opportunity to wage political war against Mr. Benito slipping away so as he himself has said, he had to step up to run despite being in the twilight of his career. This is being painted as the reluctant candidate stepping up for the good of public service, but oops, in reality is is for the good of his cronies on the defense bar. Since the defense attorneys had no legitimate issues to campaign on, a negative campaign style was deliberately chosen 'cause, after all, it is well known in the campaign business that negative campaigning is the most successful way to unseat an incumbent. Fabricating issues to take out an incumbent is tried and true!

    So the good 'ol boys sat around to hash out what might play well in the court of public opinion to take out Mr. Benito.

    Let's see, what cases might play to public sympathy? Hmm, let's accuse Benito of favoritism and bad judgment in a few hot button cases. That should work! Never mind that a thorough and honest review of these cases reveals the underlying law that supports the D.A.'s actions. Never mind that the State Bar has an ethics and discipline procedure to investigate "real" ethical issues. Most citizens won't take the time to check this out. This should work!

    And while we're at it, let's accuse Benito of having a "disorganized office." That sounds good! Never mind that Benito's employees vigorously dispute this allegation. It don't matter it's not true! It will play in the public arena! Yee Haw, let's go get 'im!

    This is a transparent effort by a certain group of self-serving criminal defense attorneys trying to get a "friendlier" D.A. for the benefit of their low life criminal defendants. That is exactly what this is.

    I have had personal interaction with both men. Mr. Benito is a compassionate, caring District Attorney who is not afraid to make the tough calls that his chosen profession demands of him. He is honest and ethical.

    Mr. Carlton is a dishonest manipulator. Let me repeat, I know this from direct, personal experience. His family should be embarrassed and ask him to step down before his foolishness is fully revealed.

    Mr. Carlton is bringing the same tactics he uses to try and get his criminal defense clients "off the hook" to this political campaign. Confuse the jury! Create reasonable doubt! Blame someone else! That is exactly what to expect of a certain type of career defense attorney. Not all, but a certain type. Carlton's type.

  12. Avatar Gary Tull says:

    So.. one candidate gets cut off in mid sentence 4 times by a Tea Party style Plastic Red Lid, and the other guy rapidly slips it all in without interruption.

    Praise the good Redding Tea Party Patriots!

  13. Avatar I Hate Dirty Politic says:

    In Response to:

    "Nathan
    Reply:
    April 7th, 2010 at 11:06 am

    From the people I talked to, the element that dislikes Benito as district attorney is the judicial bench, the legal community, and a whole lot of voters."

    Shame on you for making representations for a group of people who are prohibited by judicial rules from endorsing any candidate. AND shame on whoever you spoke with for making an endorsement to you. BTW it is not the whole legal community, (true the defense bar doesn't like him – seems to me he is doing something right if that's the case), and there are a whole lot of voters who are supporting him as well.

    I'm watching this campaign and I'm disliking the Carlton camp more and more everyday because they are just down right nasty. That is not what I need in a DA.

  14. Avatar Robin says:

    Those are some strange declaractions, ChristLives. Clearly you are a DA employee, for no one else would ever claim that defense attorneys are getting "their butts kicked by Benito's staff." You should have checked the conviction rates (and not the DA's numbers – the court's numbers). There was also a recent story in the Record Searchlight about the public defender's office conquests over the DA's office, too.

    The rest of your comments were equally as untrue. Benito epitomizes dishonesty. I'm sure you don't know that, though. You were probably only hired a few months ago.

    to Dirty Politics: The fact that some things are appearing "nasty" to you are only because the truth about Benito is nasty itself. People would be appalled if they knew everything about Benito.

    It's not just the defense bar that is disappointed in Benito. It's an overwhelming majority of members of all bars. Believing that it's just the defense bar is playing right into the hands of the DA's office vendetta yarn. The DA's office would actually have to WIN some cases for that to be true. The fact that they don't, that they have a poor conviction rate, is even MORE telling when the defense bar is against them. How is that difficult to understand??

    • Avatar I Hate Dirty Politic says:

      Example of the Carlton Camp nastiness: On March 10 Jo Vayo wrote an opinion piece disputing Rocky Venti's 3/7/10 letter. She called him a liar, because she spoke with Carlton. Guess what – everything Rocki said was the truth. Don't believe me – go to FreeFireRadio.Com and listen to the archives, its there for all to hear.

      Carlton represented that during the 7 years that Benito has been DA 18 people have left the office. Well let's see: there have been some retirements (Gee people decided to retire, what an odd happening.) Some went to the bench. (Gee imagine that some wanted to move on in their careers.) Some where let go. – not an easy thing to do – fire a civil servant. Good for him in getting rid of some of the deadwood.) I'm sure some left because they were disgruntled. (Gee what a surprise. The only person in history to have people leave because they are disgruntled. (sarcasm.)) Carlton claims that the office is in disarray. Really – I see his employees turning out to support him.

      The only thing I have really gathered about Carlton is that over 20 years ago he use to be DA when the office was much smaller, and there were no computers. And he can't answer questions in a direct manner. He is also really good at throwing out accusations without backing them up (Again go to Free Fire)

      What I see is a personal vendetta, and they are trying to ruin a man because of it. Yes that is nasty.

      • Avatar Robin says:

        You obviously don't know the real Benito.

        The real Benito is dishonest, unethical and power-hungry.
        Case-in-point: Benito lied during his DA interview about using the position as a stepping-stone (he was actively pursuing a judgeship and he continued to do so after being appointed DA). He only gave up trying to become a judge when he was found to be unfit for the position. One of the reasons he was found unfit was because Benito made fun of a mentally-challenged defendant in an email. He also refused to go to court since he thinks he's above the standard security procedures.

        How can you justify any of that? Can you offer any explanation? I doubt you can. Instead you attack his challenger.

        What you see is not a dirty campaign. What you see is the real Benito being exposed for the public. It only looks dirty because Benito is so darn dirty.

        • Avatar I Hate Dirty Politic says:

          This really is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. All you need to do is visit the two web sites, and its obvious which candidate is playing dirty.

  15. Avatar ReddingRuger says:

    What I witnessed Monday night in the room where Benito went to answer questions after Monday’s debate was one of the meanest theatrical displays I have ever witnessed by a public official.

    When somebody asked Benito about the Martinez case, he pulled a woman from the audience to act out the assault that killed Adam Martinez. A woman quickly warned Benito that there were some in the room that had seen this video, Benito turned and looked right at a member of Adam’s family and continued with his version in what I believe was an attempt to justify his decision to not prosecute and without any consideration for this grieving family. When the family member and the woman that had warned him tried to object, he spoke over them in an attempt to make sure they were not heard, both eventually left the room a little more than upset. The highest law official in the county and all for the sake of his political campaign did this.

    I was shocked and saddened that Benito would try to make a villain of a deceased victim with no compassion or consideration of whom may be watching his inaccurate and theatrical portrayal of the video.

    I heard from two different people that were in Carlton’s classroom that Benito’s deputy DAs were so loud, disruptive and disrespectful that they could not get any of their questions asked and finally just left frustrated. Between that and what I witnessed in Benito’s classroom it would appear that Benito and his DDAs are not only unprofessional, but classroom bullies! I would make a bet that if any of the general public had conducted themselves in such a manner we would have been removed and they would have been the ones demanding it!

    Mr. Carlton may not be a good public speaker but he certainly did not deserve such disrespect!

  16. Avatar Pooper says:

    On Monday night, April 5, 2010, I attended the debate of candidates for Shasta County District Attorney’s office hosted by the Redding Tea Party. The event was well prepared, well attended, and efficiently run. The rules were even and fair and gave each candidate equal time to respond and to rebut. Having these rules enforced to insure that the candidates kept on subject and did not over-run their allotted time, kept some of the answers limited. At the conclusion of the debate, the candidates were given separate rooms to field questions and to expand upon their answers to those interested in hearing more.

    As I was interested in learning more about the qualifications, policies, and positions from each candidate directly, I did visit both rooms to get as much input as time would allow. Most questions were well thought out and on-target helping me to learn more about the candidates.

    I did however witness two troubling exchanges during these “break-out” sessions. First was that a handful of current deputy district attorneys had gathered in the Carlton room and began to fire question after question at Mr. Carlton. It was obvious from their aggressive tone and confrontational queries that they were not there to learn more about Mr. Carlton, but to attack him. Everyone is entitled to ask questions, even those that are confrontational, but their continued bombardment left the rest of us without an opportunity to ask our own or to hear responses on other matters which we felt were important. I realize that many, if not most, attorneys assume a dominant posture to argue their point, but the courtroom is the place for that, not an open “question & answer” session for the public to learn about the candidates.

    The second and more troubling event occurred when I entered the Benito room and found Mr. Benito conducting his own “re-enactment” of the attack by Schaumann on Adam Martinez at Club Ice. Although I believe that this case, and the decision “not to prosecute”, is of upmost importance in deciding who to vote for in this election, Mr. Benito’s “theatrics” were way out-of-bounds and over the top. During his “performance” he not only pled “his” case to the public, but filled in his own “adlibs” such as stating that “Adam had tried to kiss the girl”, and that “Adam held the girls hands up”, and that “Schaumann approached Adam and warned him”. None of these are true. He further went on to say the family has not even filed a lawsuit against Schaumann. This statement is puzzling as it has nothing to do with the legal criminal case, his decision not to prosecute, the DA’s office, or this election. It appears to be a desperate attempt to “justify” his decision, after the fact, with irrelevant information. Mr. Benito’s actions and comments were made in public and in front of members of Adam’s family.

  17. Avatar ReddingRuger says:

    Doni

    It appears to me that you must NOT have viewed the video that Benito was so distastefully acting out and that you certainly must NOT have known that members of the Adam Martinez family were watching and Benito knew it. Of course there was an ax to grind. There was a crime committed that took their loved one’s life and Benito has tried and still tries to explain why there should be NO consequences for the batterer. I have not spoken to one person that viewed this video that did not believe some kind of charges should have been brought against Mr. Schauman.

    I am NOT a member of Adam’s family and have viewed this video and was appalled at Benito’s inaccuracies, I can only imagine how this family felt when they watched Benito out to make their dead loved one to be the bad guy here. I would call that heartless!

    I encourage you to view the entire video for yourself and for just a minute imagine that Adam was your son, brother or friend.

    Here is the link:

    http://www.redding.com/videos/detail/security-vid

  18. Avatar msjesse says:

    I only have one observation. Thank goodness that Schaumann was not there when Benito pulled a "female volunteer" from the audience. Had it been another one of Schaumanns' girlfriends….Benito could have suffered the same fate as Adam. Benito's family would not have been able to expect justice for his death since Benito has not set the standard in Shasta County for that type of behavior.

  19. Avatar msjesse says:

    Sorry everyone, typo, should have read "Benito has now set the standard in Shasta County for that type of behavior.

  20. Avatar Josh says:

    Wow. That got a lot of action.

  21. Avatar EatsWithHogs says:

    It's interesting how some portray the massive turnover in the D.A.'s office as a case of Mr. Benito getting rid of the "deadwood." Hm. Deadwood like Josh Lowery, who Benito nominated as the county Employee of the Month before deciding to fire him? Benito fired Lowery because he suspected him of leaking an inappropriate cartoon; that cartoon later prompted the judicial commission to decide that Jerry Benito was unqualified to be a judge.

    Brian Popkes was the D.A. office Employee of the Month just prior to leaving the D.A.'s office. He was hard-working and probably had the best success rate of any attorney in the office, but he left to become a defense attorney, and folks, I'm sure it wasn't because he thought he'd make more money.

  22. Avatar Robin says:

    I Hate Dirty Politics:

    "All you need to do is visit the two web sites, and its obvious which candidate is playing dirty."

    Benito is an incumbent (albeit an AWFUL incumbent). Candidates who're challenging incumbents have a record to attack. Benito's record as a DA & as a person are horrendous.

    Carlton, as a challenger, has a record of his own since he was the DA who hired Benito as a deputy. Benito has not attacked Carlton's record because Carlton's record is pristine; he was a GREAT DA. Benito knows this. Benito also knows that Carlton is an honest, good person.

    Sorry to see that you're a Benito supporter. Hopefully – for Shasta County's sake – there aren't too many of you out there.

  23. Avatar Earl Allen Boek says:

    Doni: This is my first real visit to your Newscafe. I am impressed and will return soon. I too once worked for the ole Record Searchlight years ago, in display advertising.

    Regarding the DA race. I was a pioneer in the pre-paid legal business before most
    attorneys or DA's or judges even knew or understand what the term "Pre-Paid-Legal"
    stood for. We provided expert attorneys, who were specialist in the area of law you
    required, at a discount with a free consultation and charged them in a similar fashion as
    the car insurance or health insurance business did back in those days.

    I actually owned and ran businesses in LA county and here in Shasta County also and my family are life-long, six generations in Shasta County. Have observed many cases of our companies clients, both here and in Southern County I have several observations I'd like to make, since I'm not part of the legal community that is supposed to be supporting Mr. Carlton, but I'm still supporting him. I felt it was important after reading the above post.
    First of all, comments above saying the fact that most highly experienced in the legal community and in the art of law are against Benito means "he must be doing something
    right" suggest just the opposite, I'm sure to any fairly intelligent readers.

    While I have never seen DA Benito himself try a case, I actually did see him visit one, as he sat right beside me and watched. Still I have seen and experienced the leadership of this man through his assistants and witnessed first hand what I consider unfair tactics
    used against those that are being prosecuted.

    I take big exception to his taking a poll himself in the case of the Adam, I watched the video evidence myself, Adam was sucker punched and died never knowing what hit him.
    This case cries out for justice in m.h.o. and should have been turned over like so many of the BS cases Mr. Benito spends the tax payer's money on, and left to a jury to decide,
    letting the chips fall where they may. Instead, Mr. Benito choose to play God.

    I once had a LA DA say to me, "Your not going to find justice in my court room Mr. Boek," and he was partially right, with his influence, I almost didn't, still he forgot about one thing
    which the jury reminded him when they found me not guilty due to self-defense of four counts of assault, two with a deadly weapon, because I refused to take a plea, instead
    asked for and received a jury trial, while facing at least 2 1/2 years of confinement.
    When you know your facing an unfair, unjust system Doni, it takes guts to play in that arena that way. Ask anyone.

    This LA DA,

    Doni, he forgot the power and common sense of twelve men and women, sworn to up- hold JUSTICE.

    The whole reason I mention this now Doni, is Mr. Benito reminds me, a lot of this LA DA and the unethical and unprofessional way he ran "HIS" LA courtroom.

    I will be supporting and helping to get Mr. Carlton elected. It's time that the word 'JUSTICE'
    becomes more than just a word on the sign of the John Balma Justice Center again.

    Return Mr. Carlton to the DA's office and you'll see justice returned to the Shasta County Court System. Of this I am positive. Benito Finito!

    Earl Allen Boek