Contra Costa County supervisors appointed retired Superior Court Judge Diana Becton as the county’s interim district attorney. Becton, who has served on the bench for 21 years, will be the first woman and the first African-American to hold the office of Contra Costa County DA.
Becton will fill the seat left by Mark Peterson in June. State prosecutors charged Peterson with using campaign contributions as a personal slush fund and then lying about it.
Becton has promised she will work to restore public trust in the DA's office. She said her goals as a prosecutor include reducing racial disparities in sentencing, bail reform and restoring community-police relations.
At the Board of Supervisors’ meeting Tuesday, dozens of criminal justice advocates and community members spoke in support of Becton.
“I am one of the individuals who was part of the problem,” said formerly incarcerated Richmond resident Antoine Cloird. “I changed my life about 14 years ago, and I just got my stuff expunged because of Diane [sic] Becton, because someone reached out to our community and saw the need for those who are really about change can get a second chance at a first-class life.”
But Becton also faced opposition to her appointment.
Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston called for supervisors to disqualify the judge and another applicant, Assistant District Attorney Tom Kensok over unattributed responses on their applications for the position.
“Any applicant to the county who conducted themselves that way would be removed from the process of selection,” Livingston said. “Certainly a deputy sheriff would be removed. So I urge you, look at the remaining three candidates.”
The unattributed responses came to light when anonymous packages targeting Becton’s application were delivered to their offices back in August.
“I should have used quotation marks when I used the words of other people,” Becton said, “and what I want to tell you is that I own that mistake.”
But she urged supervisors to focus on the core issues of criminal justice reform and racial equality that she was trying to highlight in those passages.
Becton also said she would take into consideration a person’s immigration status when making charging decisions.
“We need to use our discretion and give wide latitude when negotiating plea deals when we know that there are immigration consequences,” Becton said.
Becton starts as interim DA on Monday. She will hold the office until voters elect a new DA in 2018.