Joe Alexander: Jennings unfit for District Attorney | TheUnion.com

Joe Alexander: Jennings unfit for District Attorney

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Joe Alexander

I was the assistant district attorney for Nevada County following Glenn Jennings, who is now running for district attorney. Although I support Cliff Newell for re-election, I no longer work for Nevada County.

I have nothing to gain, professionally or personally, from the outcome of the race. I am writing, however, because my experience in Nevada County, and as a prosecutor for 20 years, makes me uniquely qualified to address why Glenn Jennings is unfit for the office he seeks.

When I took over as assistant DA in June of 2016, I inherited the mess left behind by Jennings.

Two issues in particular stood out: his inept handling of the situation with Sheriff's Office narcotics detectives Jason Mackey and Mark Hollitz, as well as his failure to fulfill his sworn obligations as an assistant DA in connection with the Isaac Zafft murder investigation. The Mackey/Hollitz drama has played out in court, and the truth appears to have finally had its day. Jennings' improper handling of the Zafft murder investigation, however, is an untold truth that voters need to know.

Soon after I took the position of assistant DA, the investigation into the murder of Isaac Zafft was brought to my attention. Zafft had been shot and killed during an attempted marijuana rip-off in July of 2014. At Cliff Newell's direction, I started working with the Major Crimes Unit at the Sheriff's Office on the case. In a collaborative effort that involved Major Crimes Unit detectives, investigators from the DA's office and multiple state and federal law enforcement agencies, we were able to identify and arrest the three men suspected of killing Isaac Zafft. Two have admitted their guilt in open court and the third awaits trial.

Working on the Zafft case, I learned the Major Crimes Unit had previously tried to solicit advice and direction from then-Assistant DA Jennings, but their efforts were rebuffed by Jennings. Investigators and detectives alike described meeting with Jennings and imploring him to assist them with the case, only to have him cross his arms and refuse to participate. A deputy DA similarly described Jennings' behavior at that meeting and called it "embarrassing" to the office. I was shocked to learn of Jennings' abandonment of his responsibilities as a prosecutor and went searching for an answer that would explain why he would act this way.

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What I found was that Jennings had applied to the Sheriff's Office to renew his concealed carry permit. The application was denied, because Jennings had failed to complete the required refresher course on firearm safety. This infuriated Jennings, who literally threw a temper tantrum in the DA's office, yelling and cursing the Sheriff's Office. Jennings repeatedly swore he would get back at the Sheriff's Office, telling multiple people in the DA's office. Several DA employees had to intervene in order to calm Jennings down.

The Zafft case meeting happened soon after Jennings vowed revenge. In addition, Jennings began to openly disparage command staff at the Sheriff's Office in front of subordinates and made his disdain well-known. As the working relationship between the DA's office and the Sheriff's Office deteriorated, Jennings was relieved of his duties.

Even if the Sheriff's Office was wrong to deny Jennings' concealed carry permit, Jennings' reaction was disgraceful. He abandoned his professional and moral obligations as a prosecutor over a petty squabble. He tore at the working relationship between the DA's office and the Sheriff's Office because he felt he deserved to be treated differently than every other person who applies to renew his or her concealed carry permit.

Most damning, however, is that Glenn Jennings was willing to risk allowing a murder to go unsolved and dangerous killers to remain at large. Jennings' behavior is inexcusable, and demonstrates his lack of fitness for the office he seeks.

Former Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Joe Alexander lives in Placerville, where he serves as assistant district attorney for El Dorado County.

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