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State Justice Dept. official resigns after DUI arrest

Peter Sarna, a deputy director and Jerry Brown confidant, hit a truck on an offramp.

August 18, 2007|Tim Reiterman | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- A high-ranking California Department of Justice official hired by Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown resigned Friday -- a week after he crashed a state-owned vehicle and was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

Peter C. Sarna II, deputy director of the Division of Law Enforcement, helped oversee hundreds of state agents, criminalists and other employees who provide investigative, intelligence, forensic and security services for the department.

"He has offered his resignation and it was accepted," said Brown spokesman Garreth Lacey.

After hitting a tow truck on a freeway offramp in Walnut Creek, Sarna was arrested by the California Highway Patrol, and the attorney general's office said it placed him on paid administrative leave while it conducted an investigation.

Sarna on Friday would not discuss the incident but confirmed that he had resigned from his $132,000-a-year job.

"I made one mistake in my 16-year career in law enforcement," Sarna said. "I am prepared to accept the consequences of what I did."

Sarna, 37, is a former Oakland police officer who headed special operations, including gang suppression efforts, when Brown was the city's mayor. One of the few aides Brown brought along when he took office in January, Sarna assumed a leadership role in the attorney general's anti-gang program that recently produced dozens of arrests through joint state-local raids on gang members' homes in Stockton and Atwater in the Central Valley.

He also was widely viewed within the department as a confidant of Brown and an important liaison between the attorney general and local law enforcement.

The accident occurred about 12:45 a.m. Aug. 10 as Sarna was trying to pass the tow truck on an exit from California 24 in Walnut Creek, according to Highway Patrol Sgt. Les Bishop, spokesman for the Golden Gate Division.

An officer arrested Sarna when he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, and a test later confirmed he was legally intoxicated, Bishop said. Sarna was described as cooperative.

An East Bay resident who commuted to Sacramento, Sarna was cited for a misdemeanor DUI and released to a responsible party, the spokesman said.

No one was reported injured, the CHP said. But Sarna's state-owned Chevy Tahoe SUV received major damage and the tow truck had moderate damage.

The morning after the accident, Sarna informed his superiors, and they asked Department of Justice consultant Glenn Craig, a former CHP commissioner and Sacramento County sheriff, to investigate.

By Friday, the investigation was finished and The Times had begun making inquiries after hearing about the incident.

Brown's chief deputy, Jim Humes, said he called Sarna to discuss the investigation report and his options, and Sarna offered his resignation.

"Pete was a deputy director -- the second-highest level in the division -- and it is important to set the right tone," Humes said. "And I do not think any DUI sets the right tone. . . . The whole situation is sad."

The state Department of Motor Vehicles said Sarna had a clean driving record.

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tim.reiterman@latimes.com

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