Nevada County prosecutor Oliver Pong retires after 20 years
In his 20 years as a Nevada County Deputy District Attorney, Oliver Pong handled hundreds of drug cases a year and frequently represented the county in instances when convicted murderers were up for parole.
But the case Pong calls his most notable — and one he touched on during his retirement party Friday — was when he was asked by then-District Attorney Michael Ferguson in 2003 to take 17 anti-war protestors to trial on misdemeanor charges of public nuisance and unlawful assembly.
Dozens were arrested in the March 20, 2003 protest, sparked by objections to the war in Iraq. Police arrested people after they wouldn’t leave their sit-in at the intersection of Broad and Pine streets. Some of those arrested avoided trial by pleading no contest to a lesser charge.
Pong noted that during arraignment of 35 defendants in Nevada County Superior Court, they were coming in to the courtroom six or seven at a time.
“By the third batch, the attorneys were stipulating to everything,” he said with a laugh.
At Pong’s farewell, Ferguson joked that “As grumpy as you are, you can never be replaced,” words that ended up on a plaque presented to Pong by District Attorney Cliff Newell.
Pong, born in Hong Kong, moved to the United States in 1967 and grew up in Los Angeles. He got his degree in psychology and served in the U.S. Army for three years, at White Sands Missile Range. After he left the army, he worked in retail before deciding to “give law a try.”
He graduated from the University of Laverne in 1996, passed the bar on his first try and worked in private practice before joining the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office in 1999.
“I liked criminal law,” Pong said, adding his favorite assignment was narcotics.
One of his more notorious cases, however, involved a teen charged with felony animal abuse in 2010. Carter Livingston, 19, of Lake of the Pines, had posted a video on Facebook that showed him hitting an opossum 44 times with a meat cleaver as his four younger siblings looked on. Livingston’s case had garnered widespread media attention and had riled the passions of Nevada County’s animal lovers.
In early October, dozens of protesters showed up at the courthouse with signs asking for justice for the possum, which they had nicknamed “Opie” — coincidentally, Pong’s initials.
Reflecting on his decades as a prosecutor, Pong said, “I feel like I did something good for the community — I helped put some bad guys away.”
“This has been the most wonderful career anyone could ask for,” he added.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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