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Zellerbach, Pacheco sling barbs in D.A. race

May 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Californians go to the polls in three weeks to decide several important elections. In Riverside County, the race for district attorney has both the incumbent and his challenger hurling accusations at each other.Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco was first elected to the position almost four years ago. It's a job he hopes voters will let him keep.

Asked what a vote for Rod Pacheco means, Pacheco replied: "A safer county."

But Pacheco's opponent, Superior Court Judge Paul Zellerbach, doesn't think so.

"Over the past three, three and a half years, we've seen the terrible job that he's done," said Zellerbach.

Under Pacheco's watch, the district attorney's office has grown in size. And Pacheco says it's no accident that violent crime has gone down.

"We are the safest we've ever been in the modern times for Riverside County," said Pacheco. "This is a very aggressive office. And the results are clear."

But Zellerbach says that's created gridlock in the justice system, and as a judge, he says he should know.

"What we've seen in the last three and a half years under Mr. Pacheco's regime is a significant rise in jury trials," said Zellerbach.

Partly because Pacheco says he just doesn't like to cut plea deals with gang members and sexual predators. So more cases are going to trial.

But at trial, Zellerbach says Pacheco is losing.

"When I was in the D.A.'s office, the D.A.'s office was winning about 70 percent of the charges that they brought to trial," said Zellerbach. "Under Mr. Pacheco's leadership, that percentage has now dropped to about 41, 42 percent that they're winning."

"Did he tell you his campaign donor put those statistics together? He probably didn't mention that," said Pacheco.

It does look confusing on a copy of the ballot.

Zellerbach says of the cases that actually go to a jury, Pacheco wins less than 45 percent of the time.

But Pacheco says of all the cases he files, his conviction rate is more than 90 percent.

"He sees cases as 'widgets,' and I see cases as victims and their families. That's a very, very big difference," said Pacheco.

"You know, Mr. Pacheco was a good trial attorney, as was I, but I think at times his arrogance got the best of him," said Zellerbach.

Zellerbach says a good example of that is the fact that Pacheco hasn't showed up at a single debate. Pacheco has called them "fake" debates. But Pacheco did say he will be at a debate scheduled later this month.


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