My Time In Northern California
My federal prosecutorial experience was not limited to Las Vegas – I spent 8 years in the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, one of several refugees from the desiccating Las Vegas office. During much of that time Kamala Harris was the Attorney General of California.
The San Jose area includes a number of gang-infested rural communities: Salinas, Hollister, Watsonville, and Gilroy among them. The gangbangers are mostly the offspring of hard working Mexican immigrants, farm laborers. A tragic outcome for people who left their homeland to work like dogs in order to afford their kids a better life in the U.S., only to lose them to gangs, drugs and violence.
Operation Garlic Press
One of the most significant cases I did was a sting operation which was conducted jointly with an impressive array of state and local law enforcement agencies (see press release below for full list). The result of the operation was an unprecedented 118 arrests. One of, I’m told, the biggest – if not thebiggest – takedowns in California history.
The concept was for the Gilroy Police to open an undercover (UC) store front for the purpose of buying drugs, firearms, and stolen property, targeting the ubiquitous area gang members. Because Gilroy is the “Garlic Capital of the World”, and because cops just have to give big cases a cool name, they chose”Operation Garlic Press”. Which was great inasmuch as that meant that I had to constantly remind myself, and my law enforcement witnesses in numerous Grand Jury sessions, NOT to mention the name of the case or the word “garlic” or make any reference to Gilroy. All they had to know was that the store was somewhere in the Northern District.
(One would think common sense would dictate this practice, however, I later learned that a storefront sting had been abandoned in Northern Nevada, for officer safety reasons, when the prosecutor disclosed the location of the store to the Grand Jury. Before you knew it, informants were telling local police that they knew all about it, thanks to a Grand Juror with a big mouth and no understanding of his or her obligations under oath. The undercover cops and agents working the sting instantly became easy targets. In Garlic Press, I was almost fanatical about ensuring that no good guys got hurt on my watch.)
Months of meetings to plan and coordinate with the Santa Clara D.A’s office, the Gilroy Police Department and the California Highway Patrol were required to select appropriate targets. My ATF agents were the dynamic duo of Dennis Larko and Bob Patrizi. The primary UC officer in “Bobby’s Place” was a CHP guy.
We needed to select worthy targets, then decide which would be charged by the DA, and which would be charged federally. The state would take primarily stolen car cases. On the federal side, we’d take gun and dope cases, offenses which carried heavy sentences in federal court.
The criteria we used for federal targets was “is he a bad enough guy, has he serious priors and/or arrests, or some combination”. This was the same approach I’d used in Las Vegas in a highly successful firearms program I’d initiated which happened to mirror a new nationwide program called Project Safe Neighborhoods.
In any event, when the carefully planned takedowns were carried out, over 3 days, we had over 100 bodies in custody and zero injuries to any of the 500 law enforcement personnel who effected them.
Attorney General Harris’ Press Conference
A press conference was planned in Gilroy. It was led by Attorney General Kamala Harris. I Have no idea whether she had any prior knowledge about the case. I ramrodded the thing from get-go, and never met with or spoke to her. But she was more than happy to take credit for it. (I was busy arraigning defendant after defendant in federal court on that day, and for weeks thereafter.)
The demographics of our defendants spoke for themselves. Almost all 118 were Hispanic. By the way, we didn’t pick them – they chose to come into our store to commit crimes:
Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris’ Position On “Mass Incarceration”
Curiously, now that she is a candidate for President of the United States, Harris has had to defend her previous persona as the “tough prosecutor” against her far left rivals. She must disavow policies such as very the mandatory minimum sentences which we imposed in Garlic Press. She has likewise tried to distance herself from other hot-button criminal justice issues near and dear to her extremist rivals.
One such challenge for Senator Harris is the leftist outcry against “mass incarceration of black and brown people”. Hence her statement in the Democratic debate last week:
It will be interesting to see if one of the Senator’s opponents seizes on this additional example of her prior incarnation as a crime fighter, and how she responds.
On the federal side, we took 46 cases and had a 100% conviction rate.
The cops and agents received awards for “California Case of the Year”.
And, of major importance, no law enforcement personnel were killed or injured during the execution of over 100 arrest warrants.
“Operation Garlic Press” Press Release: