2014 District Attorney Race Could Again Feature 2002, 2010 Match-Up

(September 13) SAN BERNARDINO—The likelihood is advancing that the 2014 race for San Bernardino County District Attorney will be a rematch engagement between two of the candidates involved in the 2002 and 2010 contests.
Incumbent Mike Ramos, who was elected to the office in 2002, went without opposition in 2006 and was reelected in 2010, publicly declared last week that he will seek reelection next year.
Attorney Frank Guzman, a former deputy prosecutor in the Riverside County District Attorney’s office, was a candidate for San Bernardino County district attorney in 2002, when both he and Ramos challenged then-incumbent Dennis Stout. In 2010, Guzman again ran for the county’s top prosecutor’s post, when he challenged Ramos. Another candidate, Robert Conaway, also ran that year.
Rumors have been circulating that Guzman has access to $350,000 in seed money he is contemplating using to form the basis for next year’s campaign. Reached by the Sentinel this week, Guzman said he was moving to confirm the full availability of that funding before making a formal announcement. He nevertheless gave indication that he was gearing up to wage what he at separate points in the conversation characterized as a “brutal” and “take no prisoners” campaign in anticipation of that money materializing.
In both his 2002 and 2012 runs, Guzman said, he was hampered not only by a relative lack of funding but by his self-imposed insistence on waging what he called “gentlemanly” campaigns in which he limited his electioneering dialogue to discussions of law enforcement, prosecutorial, procedural and office management issues without dwelling on his opponent’s shortcomings or pointed failures.
Guzman said that thnext year things will be far different if he in fact tosses his hat into the ring. He was prompted to this more aggressive approach, Guzman said, by a tactic the Ramos camp used in 2010, when it coordinated the filing of what was ultimately determined by the courts to have been a meritless lawsuit against him while the campaign was under way.
That lawsuit was filed by Jane Un, who had been convicted of multiple counts of real estate and financial fraud in San Bernardino County in 2006 and was given what Guzman asserted was a far too lenient sentence. Un falsely claimed in the lawsuit, which was filed less than two weeks before the election, that she had been one of Guzman’s clients, that Guzman had violated attorney-client privilege and that Guzman had defamed her. A copy of the lawsuit was posted on Ramos’s campaign website before it was filed with the court.
Guzman believes the lawsuit severely impacted his campaign. He has publicly asserted that the lawsuit was an unethical political ploy and an abuse of the courts that is beneath the dignity of someone holding the office of district attorney.
After he was defeated in that year’s election, Guzman, representing himself, moved for a summary dismissal of the case, which was granted by Judge Robert Fawke pursuant to a finding that Guzman, in fact, had never served as Un’s attorney and that there was no merit to any of the allegations contained in the lawsuit. Fawke awarded Guzman court costs as part of his ruling that the lawsuit was frivolous.
Guzman said that in throwing the gauntlet down against Ramos, he intends to make a case with the county’s voters that in his stewardship of the district attorney’s office over the last eleven years Ramos has squandered taxpayer resources; improperly disciplined members of his own department for their frank assessment and criticisms of policies within the prosecutor’s office; displayed favoritism in the prosecutions of, or sentencing recommendations for, defendants to whom Ramos is connected politically or by friendship; made promotions within his office based not upon merit but on friendship or in some cases personal or sexual relationships; made prosecutorial decisions on high profile cases based not on the provability of the charges but rather for political advantage; been lackluster in his prosecution of gang activity and major crimes; compromised the integrity of the justice system and damaged office morale.
In announcing his candidacy last week, Ramos chose an article in the San Bernardino Sun as the forum. In an exclusive interview with that paper, Ramos struck a decidedly different tone than did Guzman, saying he was committed to remaining as district attorney for at least another four years and that he has made strides in the prosecution of crimes against children, human trafficking, and political corruption. He touted his office’s work in gang crime prosecution, despite San Bernardino County’s ranking as the third worst jurisdiction in the United States in terms of gang activity. Ramos said his office has recently adopted a strategy of seeking injunctions against gangs and their members to prevent them from associating and perpetrating criminal acts.

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