Madera County District Attorney David Linn has more than a year and a half to go before he can seek a second term, but already he has a challenger – one of his former prosecutors.
Fresno County homicide prosecutor Sally Moreno said she plans to run against Linn in the November 2018 election, saying the office needs a prosecutor as its leader – not a career defense lawyer.
“He’s not a prosecutor who seeks justice,” Moreno said in a recent interview. Instead, Linn is more like “a defense lawyer who’s doing too much horse trading,” she said.
In response, Linn, 68, said: “I find that offensive.”
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Linn was elected a little over two years ago, unseating then-incumbent Michael Keitz, who was in his first full term as district attorney. Keitz succeeded Ernest LiCalsi, who held the office for 17 years.
Moreno, 49, said she’s a novice to politics, but knows a lot about prosecuting criminals. “If they deserve life in prison, then that’s what they should get,” Moreno said. “I won’t be horse trading.”
He’s not a prosecutor who seeks justice.
Fresno prosecutor Sally Moreno
Her resume includes stints in the Merced County District Attorney’s Office and at the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno. She also worked in the Madera County District’s Attorney’s from 2011 to 2015, prosecuting homicide cases and supervising sex crimes, narcotics and gang crimes.
She worked for Linn for about six months before she left to work for Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp.
Linn said Moreno’s stints in Merced, Madera and Fresno prove she can’t keep a job. He also said Moreno left his office in a huff because he would not promote her to assistant district attorney.
“She is the least qualified to run for DA of Madera County,” Linn said, adding that several criminal cases prosecuted by Moreno in Madera County have been successfully appealed. In addition, Linn noted the State Bar of California said Moreno was ineligible to practice law from September 2004 to June 2006 and from September 2006 to January 2007. Linn said the bar disciplined Moreno for not paying dues and completing coursework. But the bar website says Moreno has no record of discipline; the action taken against her was administrative.
Moreno said her family’s finances prevented her from paying her bar dues. When facing the choice, she said, she put family ahead of bar dues. “I make no excuses for doing that,” she said.
Regarding her career progression, Moreno said working for Smittcamp was “too good to pass up.”
Regarding Linn’s attack on her, Moreno said: “I have a depth and breadth of experience that makes Mr. Linn’s complete absence of any prosecutorial experience all the more glaring.”
Born in Fresno, Moreno attended San Joaquin Memorial High. She then attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she earned a degree in history in 1990.
While in college she was in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1988 to 2003, achieving the rank of major. She said she was activated during Desert Storm.
In addition, from 1990 to 1992, she was an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. She and her husband, Sergio Moreno, then returned to the Valley to raise their four children.
Moreno, who lives in Madera Ranchos, began practicing law in December 1995 after graduating from San Joaquin College of Law in Clovis.
Linn has been practicing law since 1976, mostly as a criminal defense attorney. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1988 but brought an array of law experience – from civil litigation to environmental law to criminal defense – when he defeated Keitz.
His wife is Betty Linn, publisher of the Sierra Star, which like The Fresno Bee is owned by McClatchy.
Though Moreno has criticized him for being too lenient on crime by offering plea agreements, Linn said plea bargains have helped his office focus on the people truly responsible for violent crime and has saved taxpayers money.
She is the least qualified to run for DA of Madera County.
Madera County District Attorney David Linn
To prove he’s providing leadership, Linn said, the union for Madera County’s deputy district attorneys recently endorsed him for re-election over Moreno.
In his first two years, Linn said, he has hired new deputy district attorneys and investigators, all while remaining within a budget approved by the Board of Supervisors. Those additional hires have helped eliminate a massive backlog of cases and sped-up prosecutions to help keep communities safe, Linn said.
He also opened a satellite office in Oakhurst, which allows an deputy district attorney and an investigator to handle mountain cases and speak with area residents, and created an agricultural and water-crime task force to take on equipment theft, illegally drilled wells, and other ag crime. In addition, he has established a prevention program for youths who start wildland fires. The offenders are incarcerated, but receive intense counseling so they won’t reoffend, Linn said.
Linn, a retired Navy commander who served in the Vietnam War, said he also fulfilled a campaign promise by starting a program that helps military veterans clean up their criminal record and assists them with legal issues.
But what’s he most proud of, Linn said, is that many of his prosecutors are establishing homes in Madera County. “All in all, I would say we are doing pretty good,” he said