Dear readers: This is the first of many candidate statements to be published on A News Cafe prior to the June 8 primary election. (Read opponent Steve Carlton’s statement here.) We hope you find the series useful. -Editor
Candidate statement from Jerry Benito:
I am proud to have served as your District Attorney for the past 7 years. With nearly 20 years of current prosecution experience in Shasta County, I am dedicated to ensuring our families are safe and protected.
I am tough on crime. My aggressive prosecution of drunk drivers helped us achieve California’s second highest DUI conviction rate (96.9%). (State of California DMV). More importantly, these efforts have saved lives. The number of people killed by drunk drivers has been dramatically reduced by over 40%, meaning our streets are safer for our families.
I have increased the conviction rate on felony cases filed by 13%. (Judicial Council of California). Prior to my becoming the District Attorney, this conviction rate had been consistently below state average, but has been at or above state average every year I have been the District Attorney.
I’ve taken a tough stand on prosecuting methamphetamine possession cases. Since implementing these policies, the number of methamphetamine cases has been reduced by over 50%.
We have continued our success in keeping gangs from becoming established in our community through a variety of efforts. Families in Shasta County do not have to worry about drive-by shootings and gang murders.
I have been a champion of victims’ rights. I started special units focused on prosecuting rapists, stalkers and domestic violence offenders. I established the first-ever stalking prosecutor in Shasta County.
I am now leading our community to establish the Shasta Family Justice Center, a single location where victims of violent crime can find all the resources and help they need.
I continue to maintain a fiscally responsible budget. I reduced expenditures by making the necessary cuts in spending before the current fiscal crisis. I used technology to find news ways of doing old tasks. These efforts saved taxpayers money and made our office run more efficiently.
We aggressively sought and obtained federal, state and local grants to meet shortfalls in our county budget. These grants allowed us to continue prosecuting dangerous offenders despite the current fiscal crisis.
With the closing of a floor of the jail, I developed alternative forms of accountability for low level offenders. I established rehabilitative and educational programs that divert low level offenders from the criminal court system. Private vendors provide rehabilitative programs for offenders, paid for by the offenders. In addition, the county receives reimbursement for administering the programs. One of these programs addresses the problem of drivers with suspended licenses. This is the first such program in the State of California. (Neither DUI nor other dangerous drivers are eligible.)
I have been innovative in solving community problems. I am proud of our anti-illegal dumping program. In the past, private landowners or taxpayers paid to cleanup after those who illegally dumped on the land of others. I led the county in establishing “Don’t Trash Shasta.” The goal was to clean-up our county and it has worked. Since its inception, we have convinced over 140 illegal dumpers to clean up their own garbage off private and public land. The program has been so successful that we won a state award for innovation.
Last summer, I established the first-ever Real Estate Fraud Investigation unit in Shasta County and a Consumer Protection Unit that has already recovered $2 million for Shasta County citizens.
I am involved in the community. Through Rotary, Kids Turn, and other organizations and events, I remain an active part of the community.
I am dedicated to the protection of our families so that we can enjoy our community in safety. I have consistently found new ways of accomplishing this goal and been effective in doing so.
That’s why those who are currently familiar with the office and its operations and are charged with the responsibility of protecting you and our community endorse me. That includes the associations that represent all the major, local law enforcement agencies in our county (Redding Peace Officers, Anderson Peace Officers, Shasta County Deputy Sheriffs), the association that represents many employees in my office (UPEC), Sheriff Tom Bosenko, and ALL the current Shasta County prosecutors.
Please join them in voting for effective experienced leadership. Vote to re-elect Jerry Benito, District Attorney.
Bio: Gerald “Jerry” Benito, Shastas County District Attorney
I attended Solano Community College before transferring to Sacramento State University, where I graduated and earned a degree in History in 1983. I then attended the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, graduating with a law degree in 1986. I passed the California State Bar exam that same year.
After working in a private firm for 2 years, I came to Shasta County in 1988 to be a prosecutor. I started as an entry level prosecutor handling low level misdemeanor cases and quickly advanced and began handling homicide and other high profile cases starting in 1992. Some of the more notable cases included the successful prosecution of the then-sitting mayor of Redding for misuse of public funds, the only gang related murder ever to occur in Shasta County, a 12 time drunk driver for murder in the death of an 8½ month old fetus of a young mother to be, and I was co-counsel in the prosecution of the killers of Deputy Ken Perrigo, who is the last law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in Shasta County.
In 1997, I was appointed Assistant District Attorney. In 2001-2003, I left the District Attorney’s Office to explore private practice. In May, 2003 I was appointed by the Board of Supervisors as the District Attorney and ran unopposed in the June 2006 election. I am seeking re-election in June 2010.
I am married and have 2 sons that were born in Redding. One is attending college and the other is in high school.
Chairman of Domestic Violence Law and Justice Subcommittee
Member of the 40 Developmental Assets Movement
Board Member of Kids Turn (an organization to help kids of divorcing parents)
Member of Rotary Club of Redding
MADD member and volunteer
Dancing With The Stars participant (Shasta County style)
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes (3 years)
Past Participant in local high school Mock Trial Competition
Founding Participant in the local Peer Court for minors
Former Chairman of EUDL (Enforcement of Underage Drinking Laws) project
Former Chairman of Shasta County Methamphetamine Task Force
Former Chairman of Domestic Violence Coordinating Council
Former Coach for Peer Court youth
Former Little League Baseball Manager (Redding and SLC)
Former Chairman of Family Service Agency
Former member of Addicted Offender Program Advisory, Steering and Review Committees