Our View: Honeymoon over for DA | TheUnion.com

Our View: Honeymoon over for DA

Any honeymoon District Attorney Jesse Wilson may have had is over.

It couldn’t have lasted long, anyway. His job is to prosecute criminals, which is an unenviable position. With policy makers like county supervisors you’ll typically be in one camp or another, which brings with it, hopefully, a somewhat sturdy set of allies.

Not so with the top prosecutor job. When you put people behind bars, you upset the defendant and their family. The victim and their family will likely be pleased, unless the DA failed to put them away for long enough. Or, alternatively, the DA agreed to a plea deal resulting in no prison time. Then most everybody has an opinion.

You just needed to take a look at the online comments about the recent resolution of two cases to see that.

Wyatt Yoder, accused multiple times of fleeing from officers, has reached a plea deal that, if it goes through, could result in no jail time.

Nathan Tomlinson, accused in a January fire that destroyed a historic Nevada City building, also is expected to avoid prison time, as he’s now slated to enter a mental health pretrial diversion program.

It’s easy to lob Facebook comments with limited direct knowledge of what’s being discussed. You can see that on any given day. What’s more difficult is to dig into the details, learn the specifics about each case, and weigh the factors before reaching an opinion.

The symbol for justice is, after all, the scales. We as a people just seem very keen on lifting up the blindfold depending on what we’re talking about.

Wilson, like any district attorney, is in a precarious position. He must navigate a world foreign to most of us, as we don’t speak Latin daily, while ensuring he’s representing and protecting the people while upholding justice. He’ll make decisions that determine whether someone is jailed, believing that it’s in the community’s best interest, and there will always be someone angry about it.

Not the most favorable entryway into politics.

Add to this scenario that Wilson isn’t at the start of a four-year term, which would give him some breathing space and time for missteps, and corrections, before facing the voters. Supervisors appointed him to the job this past June because the former DA, Cliff Newell, left office early. Wilson must face voters for the first time this coming June if he wants to serve a full term that would start in January 2023.

That gives Wilson a short window to prove himself capable, build a reputation while in office and fend off any potential challengers.

Two cases that ended in sentences without prison time doesn’t make a pattern. The direction his office takes from July, when he took office, to the election in June, however, will fill in the blanks and give voters plenty to chew on.

For example, will Wilson get the Sean Bryant and Michael McCauley murder case to trial? It’s been over three years. And what about the Michael Pocock murder case? It’s scheduled for February. Will it be postponed, like so many others?

Then there’s the perennial catch-and-release problem at the Nevada County Jail. Why arrest them if they’re just going to be let go? Are they getting into diversion programs, drug court or something similar?

What about the allegations of rape, or sexual assault, or any related accusation that never result in a criminal complaint? People in these situations deserve more than a Facebook explanation and hand waving. They deserve a district attorney who stands in front of the people, discusses their reasoning and takes the hard questions.

It’s no honeymoon, but no one ever said it would be.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com

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