California district attorney resigns after pleading no contest to felony
Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson has resigned in disgrace after taking thousands of dollars from his campaign account and spending it on meals, clothes and for other personal needs.
Peterson was charged with 13 felonies by the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, but within hours had resigned and pleaded no contest to one felony charge of perjury for making false statements on state campaign disclosure documents, with all the other counts being dropped.
The charges stem from Peterson using $66,000 of campaign money for personal use. He was sentenced to 250 hours of community service, three years of probation and will be prohibited from running for public office during his probation.
He could also face disbarment or have his law license suspended.
Peterson was in his second term of office and in the process of running for a third term. He was first elected in 2010 and reelected without an opponent in 2014.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The actions brought a remarkably swift conclusion to a rare criminal case filed by state prosecutors against an elected county district attorney.”
Peterson was previously fined $45,000 by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. “According to the FPPC inquiry, Peterson used campaign funds for about 600 personal expenditures totaling $66,372, including groceries, jewelry store bills and movie tickets,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
A civil grand jury had also recommended that Peterson resign. That recommendation was supported by the editorial board of the East Bay Times.
“If Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson cared one iota about the integrity of his office and the reputation of county law enforcement, he would do the honorable thing: resign,” the editorial said. “But Peterson doesn’t care and he’s not honorable. Rather, he’s a self-centered law-breaker.”
Peterson’s departure will be welcomed by criminal justice advocates. Throughout his tenure in office Peterson has supported minimum mandatory sentencing like three strikes and you’re out, claimed racism has nothing to do with the large number of black people in prison, and also vocally supportedthe death penalty even as his neighboring prosecutor, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, has repeatedly called for ending it.