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Top Cop’s Kerfuffle

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Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch. - FACEBOOK
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  • Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch.

Down on the corner and out there in the streets they’re calling it “Ravitch’s kerfuffle.” Jill Ravitch, the Sonoma County DA, mocked citizens when they protested the Georgia slaying of African-American, Ahmaud Arbery.

“I seek to do justice in the work I do, not by marching,” Ravitch boasted.

Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins replied, “I worked, and I marched.”

Hopkins’ sentiments were widely echoed.

Over the past two weeks, hordes of citizens like Hopkins have worked and protested the death of George Floyd and marched against police brutality. It’s the American way.

Defense lawyer Omar Figueroa cranked up his sarcastic and said, “Jill is hard at work ignoring environmental crimes and police brutality. Time to retire. I’ll pay for the cake.”

Still, Figueroa allows that Ravitch was a “great trial lawyer” who did good when she created The Family Justice Center. He isn’t thrilled about her stance on cannabis, though her office has been clearing nearly 3,000 cannabis-related convictions.

As the county’s “top cop,” and nearing the end of her 10th year in office, Ravitch is less popular than ever. Courthouse buzz says she won’t run for reelection, though when I called Ravitch and popped the question, she wouldn’t answer.

Lawyer and longtime Sonoma County “police watchdog,” Jerry Threet, suggests that Ravitch’s record has been mixed and that she might have gone after white-collar and environmental crimes more vigorously.

“Usually the violators get a slap on the wrist,” Threet says. But he’s quick to add that as a young woman Ravitch didn’t have an easy time “stepping into the old boys’ network that ran the criminal justice system in the county.”

Ravitch is Sonoma County’s first woman DA. Unlike young, feisty DAs around the country, she has not gone out of her way to redress inequalities in the criminal justice system based on class and race. She didn’t lobby for the legalization of cannabis or take part in the movement to reform California’s marijuana laws. Some DAs did.

Threet says that Ravitch’s story is “complicated.” She brought criminal assault charges against a police officer, but the jury declined to find him guilty.

Veteran defense lawyer Chris Andrian says, “The cultural divide in the county makes it hard to convict cops.” He adds, “Sometimes I kicked the DA’s butt and sometimes I had my butt kicked.”

When Ravitch retires, the cannabis industry won’t shed tears. Neither will friends and family members of Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old shot and killed by deputy Erick Gelhaus on October 23, 2013, whose ghost still haunts Santa Rosa’s streets.

Jonah Raskin is the author of “Marijuanaland: Dispatches from an American War.”

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