John Sarsfield, newly elected district attorney in California’s rural San Benito County, promised to clean up an office “he portrayed as a cozy, old-boys club,” the San Francisco Chronicle says. Sarsfield has accused his predecessor of failing to disclose evidence in 60 criminal cases over a dozen years, citing a strategy of “winning convictions at all costs and by any means necessary.”
Critics say Sarsfield is dredging up decade-old child molestation allegations against a former prosecutor’s investigator who backed his election opponent. “It’s a beautiful smear campaign; he’s great at that,” said defense attorney Arthur Cantu, who ran against Sarsfield and lost.
The county is a growing bedroom community south of Silicon Valley.
Sarsfield charges that under his predecessor, the office failed to tell defendants in scores of murder, rape, and robbery probes that the investigator on the cases was himself the target of a child molestation investigation in the early 1990s. Sarsfield says reports detailing allegations about the man should have been turned over to defense attorneys under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires disclosure of any evidence that might help an accused defend himself. Sarsfield has referred the case to the U.S. Justice Department of Justice.