Contra Costa District Attorney Resigns Over Campaign Fund Usage

MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) – Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson resigned Wednesday and pleaded no contest to perjury over his use of campaign funds for personal expenses.

Peterson resigned hours after the California attorney general’s office charged him with 13 felony counts. He had rejected earlier calls for his resignation and had been expected to run for re-election next year.

Agents of the attorney general’s office briefly detained him last week and seized his cellphone and other items as part of the criminal investigation.

At his arraignment in Superior Court, Peterson entered a no-contest plea to a single perjury count and was sentenced to 250 hours of community service, the East Bay Times (http://bayareane.ws/2sBFpbO ) reported.

Eleven other perjury counts and a charge of grand theft were dropped, along with a pending civil accusation of misconduct.

He left court without speaking to reporters but his attorney, Ted Cassman, said in court that Peterson had made a “tragic mistake,” the Times reported.

“He’s worked hard for this county,” Cassman said, later adding, “This is a Shakespearean tragedy.”

It was unclear when county supervisors would appoint an acting DA.

Peterson took office in 2010 and won re-election in 2014. Last month, the union representing prosecutors in the Contra Costa district attorney’s office voted “no confidence” in Peterson and called for him to resign.

Also last month, the county grand jury recommended Peterson be removed from his post after he acknowledged secretly spending more than $66,000 of campaign cash on movie tickets, clothes and other personal expenses from 2011-15 while serving as treasurer of his re-election campaign.

Peterson has said he considered the withdrawals of campaign funds to be loans. However, he didn’t report the spending in campaign financial disclosure documents filed with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, which has fined him $45,000.

Peterson has repaid the money and has said he was “humbled and embarrassed” by his actions.

“It’s a story about a guy who truly dedicated his life to public service, but had this fatal flaw that he just couldn’t shake; he had to live a little bit bigger than he could afford, and it destroyed him,” defense attorney Dan Horowitz told the Times. “It really does read like a tragic novel, and there’s no reason to rejoice in what happened.”

 

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

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