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Contra Costa DA resigns, is now a convicted


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felon

Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson makes his way into the AF Bray
Courthouse in Martinez, Calif., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The California Attorney
General has charged Peterson with 13 felony counts including 12 counts of felony perjury
and one of felony grand theft. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

By NATE GARTRELL | ngartrell@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group


PUBLISHED: June 14, 2017 at 10:48 am | UPDATED: June 15, 2017 at 3:45 am

MARTINEZ In what his attorney called a Shakespearean tragedy, Contra Costa District Attorney
Mark Peterson resigned from office Wednesday, before pleading no contest to a single count of felony
perjury.

Peterson entered the plea at his arraignment hearing Wednesday afternoon, just hours after the
California attorney general chargedhim with 12 counts of felony perjury and one count of felony
grand theft. Peterson illegally spent more than $66,000 in campaign cash over a five-year period, and
last month a county grand jury formally accused him of willful or corrupt misconduct that warranted
his removal as DA.

On Wednesday, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Theresa Canepa sentenced Peterson to 250 hours
of community service and three years of probation, during which time he is barred from running for
office. His resignation means that Chief Deputy Doug MacMaster, Petersons appointed second in
command, will likely take the helm of the office, though he has not yet been appointed acting DA.

In exchange for his plea, the other 12 felony charges were dropped, as was apending civil case
sparked by a county grand jury investigation that could have resulted in his forcible removal from
office.
The criminal complaint alleged Peterson stole $66,372 in campaign cash and carried an enhancement

for theft exceeding $65,000. The perjury charges covered dates beginning in 2011 and ending in 2015,
and allege Peterson lied on campaign-disclosure forms during those years.

Peterson got into a car and left court immediately after Wednesdays hearing. He did not speak to
reporters. His attorney, Ted Cassman, said in court Peterson had made a tragic mistake but added
hed done a stellar job as DA.

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Hes worked hard for this county, Cassman said, later adding, This is a Shakespearean tragedy.

State prosecutors, though, said Petersons criminal offenses were serious and sophisticated in
nature, and encouraged Canepa to separate Petersons actions from his office.

The Attorney Generals Office wants to make sure every person is treated the same under the law,
prosecutor David Bass said.

Petersons arraignment was attended by a number of Contra Costa prosecutors and criminal defense
lawyers. Every seat in the courtroom was full, as many as six deputies were on hand, and no one not
even attorneys were allowed to use cellphones.

Its a story about a guy who truly dedicated his life to public service, but had this fatal flaw that he
just couldnt shake; he had to live a little bit bigger than he could afford, and it destroyed him, said
Dan Horowitz, a well-known defense attorney who was in the audience for Wednesdays hearing. It
really does read like a tragic novel, and theres no reason to rejoice in what happened.

In January, the state Fair Political Practices Commission fined Peterson $45,000, finding he violated
the states Political Reform Act nine times. Until Wednesday, he had ignored numerous calls for his
resignation, including from within his office.

Last week,agents from the Attorney Generals Office briefly detained Peterson, seizing his phone and
other items as part of the criminal investigation. A statement of probable cause in support of a
warrant to search Petersons office said state prosecutors were considering whether to file felony
perjury, grand theft and embezzlement charges against him.

Peterson admitted last year that from 2011-15, hed spent money from his campaign fund on
restaurant meals, movie tickets, gasoline, clothes, and other personal expenses, as well as making
cash withdrawals from his account. He was treasurer of his campaign at the time and stopped only
when he was informed that the fund would be subjected to a state audit.

He later said he considered the money a loan and intended to fully repay it, but his campaign-
disclosure forms signed under penalty of perjury and submitted to the Fair Political Practices
Commission said his campaign had not issued loans for those years, and made no record of the
illegal spending. Peterson also didnt indicate hed received any loans on financial-disclosure forms
submitted to the county.

Peterson agreed to pay back the campaign cash in December, saying he was humbled and
embarrassed by his actions. He said last week that he was cooperating with the criminal investigation
and ready to fight the civil accusation in court.

In May, Petersons rank and file held a vote of no confidence in him, which passed overwhelmingly.

Peterson was elected DA in 2010, and ran unopposed in 2014.

Tags:Courts, East Bay Crime, Regional



Nate Gartrell Nate Gartrell covers crime, politics, and corruption in
Contra Costa County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2014.
Outside of journalism, he doesn't do much. He aspires to visit all 30
Major League Baseball stadiums. Reach him at 925-779-7174.
Follow Nate Gartrell @NateGartrell

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