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: Ron Bamieh

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For the first time in 24 years, Ventura County voters will pick a new district attorney March 5. Vying for the seat are Greg Totten, retiring Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury's top aide, and fellow prosecutor Ron Bamieh. These are highlights of interviews both candidates had with The Times.

January 06, 2002

Question: Your critics say you are brash, ambitious and self-centered. Are they right and how do your more aggressive tendencies fit into the administrative role of district attorney?

Bamieh: Well, you can have whatever opinion you have of me. I am a very aggressive prosecutor, no doubt about it. I am tenacious. But what you do in court is different from what you do as a person in your everyday life. I am not a trial lawyer when I go home to my family, I am not a trial lawyer when I am doing other tasks, whether it is working in the community or doing something else. I think most people who know me in everyday life, and know me well, would have different opinions.

Q: What percentage of the lawyers, and employees overall, are racial or ethnic minorities in your office? What steps would you take to make the district attorney's office reflective of the entire community, including the 33% of residents who are Latino?

Bamieh: I'll talk about the attorneys. If [the number of minorities is] over 10% to 15%, I'd be surprised. And if you go to management, it is even lower. My personal opinion is we don't make a sincere effort to recruit people. I am not an affirmative action person, but I do believe it's important that the office does reflect some of the county that we represent. Our biggest problem is that when we recruit, we don't recruit in terms of what support would someone have if they came to our office. Why would somebody of ethnic origin, who was ambitious, come to the office? Then he looks at the management structure and thinks, wow, there doesn't seem to be anybody of ethnic origin in the management. Why would I think that I could achieve something big here? Now, the biggest thing that I will do is I will make a sincere effort. The other thing is I am going to ask the community to help us out. I would like to get a board of community leaders and I would like to form what we call a retention committee. Now what retention committees do, is they integrate the new person into the community--social networks, make them part of the community immediately so there is a support network in place. This would be pretty simple to do.

Q: The district attorney's case against local Hells Angels and their associates is the most time-consuming and expensive in Ventura County history, taking years and perhaps costing millions of dollars: Is it worth the time and money?

Bamieh: Well, first of all, to make it clear, I will comment as an outsider because I have not been privy to the entire investigation. When we go after a gang, you need to have a plan. Now, if the goal is to eliminate the entire gang, can you do that? We have undertaken one of the most ambitious projects going. I will tell you straight out, I don't understand the prosecution theory behind that case. And I will tell you why. When I run a case, if I am going to make a deal with an informant, or if I am going to make an agreement, I do that prior to the indictment. So to indict 50 people, as an example, and then make deals with 25--that is not something I would approve as district attorney. Now if the goal was to eliminate the gang which was selling drugs to children, I am all for it. If the expense was great, I am all for it. But it must be justified at the end of the day. And the public is going to hold them accountable.

Q: People's right to die at a time of their choosing has been upheld by law in Oregon, but is now being challenged by the Bush administration. Which position do you support?

Bamieh: As district attorney your main job is to enforce the laws of the Legislature. And when you start taking positions on controversial issues like this, and you start taking them publicly, you immediately call into question your ability to enforce the laws equally on both sides. I would be troubled as district attorney doing such. You have a responsibility, first and foremost, to enforce the laws equally.

Q: Years ago, California took a step toward decriminalizing the use of marijuana by making simple possession a misdemeanor offense. Is too little or too much time now spent on marijuana violations?

Bamieh: They created a huge problem because the federal government has a different theory on that crime in this state. Now we have no man's land. Is there too little or too much? Very little, I can tell you, right now in our county is done in terms of possession cases of marijuana because quite frankly there is little bang for your buck.

Q: You both have worked for Dist. Atty. Mike Bradbury for a long time. What would you say are his greatest strengths, his biggest shortcomings?

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