Glenn Jennings, Cliff Newell square off in Nevada County district attorney race (VIDEO)
Few punches have been pulled in the Nevada County district attorney’s race.
Glenn Jennings is running against his former boss District Attorney Cliff Newell, alleging a level of corruption that requires someone new to fix things. That supposed corruption, which has put sheriff’s Deputy Jason Mackey center stage in this race, is one of Jennings’ main reasons to run. Jennings’ calls for an experienced trial attorney in the office while pointing to what he calls his opponent’s lack of trial experience is another reason for new blood.
Newell has countered Jennings’ arguments with claims that his opponent, once his No. 2, failed as a manager. The district attorney said Jennings’ accusations against Mackey are unfounded and false.
Newell said he stands by his own record. Jennings said that as an experienced trial attorney he’ll mentor prosecutors and retain them longer.
Add to this conflict a 7-to-5 vote by the Deputy District Attorney/Deputy Public Defender Association to endorse Jennings. The group has seven of Newell’s employees, six from the Public Defender’s Office and one attorney with the county’s Department of Social Services.
One member abstained from the vote. Another didn’t cast a ballot.
Nevada County will pick the next district attorney in the June 5 election.
Currently a prosecutor with the Butte County District Attorney’s office, Jennings was assigned to Truckee when Newell hired him. Jennings said he made that office run properly. A year later he was Newell’s assistant district attorney.
Then came Mackey, followed by Jennings’ allegations the deputy lied in a 2015 search warrant. Those accusations have led multiple defense attorneys to attack Mackey’s warrants. Early this month two men facing misdemeanor marijuana accusations prevailed when a Superior Court judge suppressed evidence authorities gained from one of those warrants.
“Like I’ve said all along, three law enforcement officers told me not to approve any of his warrants,” Jennings said in an email. “Mr. Newell knew this and tried to cover it up by ending our investigation and telling me to sign a document that stated the DA’s office had conducted a thorough and complete investigation and found no wrong doing on behalf of Mackey, which was not true.”
Jennings said the District Attorney’s Office needs leadership. He intends to prosecute high-profile cases and teach younger prosecutors the skills needed to do the same.
He also wants to retain prosecutors once they’ve gained trial experience.
“Your leader needs to prosecute a case once in a while to earn that respect,” Jennings said, adding later: “The only way you get respect is to prosecute a case.”
As district attorney, Jennings said he’d implement proper filing techniques. Prosecutors must thoroughly vet their evidence before filing a criminal complaint.
Jennings pointed to the case of Nicholas Chittock, a general manager of Simply Country who faced a felony count of animal cruelty. He later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to a year’s probation.
Chittock has contributed both cash and in-kind contributions to Jennings’ campaign.
“Filing a felony on somebody, you’re ruining their life,” Jennings said. “It’s a serious decision.”
Asked why people should vote for him, Jennings said his opponent doesn’t prosecute cases. Jennings has taught law classes. He knows how to properly introduce evidence in court.
“I can answer those questions,” Jennings said. “My opponent can’t. When I look at that office, there’s a lack of leadership, a lack of respect.”
Nevada County’s district attorney for three terms, Newell said he still has work to do.
Newell’s office is purchasing a new case management system, which he said will make operations quicker and more efficient. Once implemented his prosecutors will no longer carry physical files to court, but instead access case information on laptops.
It’s a system that will take months to implement and learn. Newell wants to see that process through.
Additionally, Newell said he wants his prosecutors to have the necessary skills for leadership roles. He wants his employees prepared to lead his office, though he dismissed what he called rumors about leaving his job before his term ends.
“I fully intend on completing my fourth term in office,” Newell said in an email. “That will give me 25 years in public service.”
Newell dismissed Jennings’ arguments about corruption linked to Mackey, saying he’s examined the deputy’s search warrants and determined no illegality occurred. For Newell, Jennings’ issues aren’t pertinent. He points to his own record, saying he’s consistently worked toward increasing public safety and implemented programs based on best practices.
Newell listed what he said his office has accomplished.
Recidivism — the tendency of a criminal to re-offend — has dropped because of adult drug court. Newell has worked with that court since 2007-08, he said.
According to Newell, incarceration isn’t a cure-all. Drug court can provide an alternative for those who enter it.
“The proof is in the pudding — our recidivism rate is down,” Newell said. “The numbers show that in Nevada County, we’re doing a good job.”
Newell said putting people convicted of misdemeanors on supervised probation has helped. In the past only felons received that formal probation. Assigning probation officers to those convicted of lesser crimes gives them assistance they otherwise wouldn’t receive.
“That has helped and it’s made a big difference,” Newell said.
Newell said he’s been involved in every major case over his 12 years in office, disputing Jennings’ claims. He added that he has no ego forcing him to take over those cases and dismissed his opponent’s accusations.
“We’ve got serious issues in Nevada County,” Newell said.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.