March 27, 2014

Davis retracts comment, DA responds

Supervisor Linn Davis is under fire for a remark he made last week during a candidates’ debate in the race for District 3.

Supervisor Linn Davis is under fire for a remark he made last week during a candidates debate in the race for District 3.

When the candidates were asked how they would deal with gangs and shootings, Davis said District Attorney Larry Morse II refuses to prosecute marijuana cases. Davis retracted his comment in a letter to the editor published in today’s Merced Sun-Star.

In an interview with the Sun-Star on Thursday, Davis said he meant to say Morse is “reluctant” to prosecute marijuana cases, not that he refuses. Davis said he heard that opinion from several other people, including former Sheriff Mark Pazin.

“I personally feel that in the past he was reluctant to prosecute the marijuana cases. That’s just my own humble opinion,” Davis said. “What I meant by that is that he – I didn’t say his department – he was reluctant in the past to prosecute these cases. I didn’t mean it to come out as a negative.”

Davis said he formed that opinion on his own, without persuasion from Pazin or others. “I have felt that way for some time,” he said. “It’s not the impression anyone else put on me.”

Davis said he understands that Morse has a legal obligation to prosecute cases. “I wouldn’t accuse him of doing something against the law,” he said.

Morse responded to the comment this week, calling it “irresponsible” for Davis to speak out about the district attorney’s office without first knowing the facts about the marijuana cases it handles.

Morse said his office prosecuted 1,328 marijuana cases in the three years since Davis was elected to office. Marijuana cases make up more than 30 percent of all his office’s drug prosecutions, he said.

“This was information that was readily available to Mr. Davis had he taken any time to educate himself on what the facts are,” Morse said. “It’s frightening to me that he is a member of our Board of Supervisors. He is clearly completely uninformed with respect to the work being done in our office. Even when confronted with the facts, he is apparently unable to accept them.”

Morse said Davis never inquired about the district attorney’s office or its work during his time on the board. “I have not had one conversation with Mr. Davis about narcotics, gangs or the crime problem in our county since he was elected,” Morse said.

The other two candidates at the forum last week, Daron McDaniel and Tony Dossetti, also responded to the issue Thursday.

Dossetti stressed the importance of county supervisors staying in touch with department heads and elected officials all year, not just during the budget season.

“You can’t see them once a year and say goodbye,” Dossetti said. “I think that staying in touch with all the departments is really very important. I know Larry, and he knows what he’s doing, and I’m confident in him. I feel like I could pick up the telephone and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ ”

McDaniel said he inquired about the number of marijuana cases prosecuted by the Merced County District Attorney’s Office after the debate.

“I looked up the numbers for myself and 30 percent of his drug caseload was marijuana charges,” McDaniel said. “As a candidate, I’m always checking my numbers and making sure I’m saying and doing the right thing. I think before he (Davis) makes comments like that, he should have the correct data in front of him.”

The candidates’ debate was hosted by the Merced-Atwater Tea Party. William Snyder III, who’s also running for District 3 county supervisor, did not attend the forum.

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