by Liam Gwynn
Humboldt County district attorney candidates Stacey Eads, Micheal Acosta, and Adrian Kamada debated a variety of pressing issues on Monday in Cal Poly Humboldt’s Native American Forum.
Students from the sociology department moderated the debate, choosing questions submitted by Cal Poly Humboldt students. Each candidate was given a two minute introduction and a two minute closing statement. After the introductions, the moderators would ask candidates a question and they would each get a two minute response followed by a round of one minute rebuttals.
The Three Candidates
Stacey Eads is currently the Assistant District Attorney and has 20 years of experience as a criminal prosecutor. She is the lead prosecutor for the Sexual Assault & Child Abuse Crimes prosecution team . She touts her many years of experience, connection to the current District Attorney Maggie Fleming, and love for Humboldt as leading factors in why people should vote for her.
Micheal Acosta has been a practicing defense attorney for twenty years. Acosta moved to Eureka after being recruited by the California Indian Legal Services as a staff attorney. He’s a controversial figure and is running on the idea that he would implement major changes to face problems like policing for profit, racial inequality, and gender discrepancies in sentencing. Acosta isn’t just controversial because of his ideas, he’s also currently facing a felony drug possession charge in the Humboldt Superior Court.
Adrian Kamada graduated from Cal Poly Humboldt with a BA in Political science and a minor in Environmental Science and Ethics. Kamada has eight years of experience. He served as Deputy District Attorney from 2014 to 2020, when he transitioned to a position as a public defender. Kamada is running on a promise to lower the crime rate, which he says has risen by 30% in the last five years. He wants to do this by implementing new methods of criminal correction for first-time offenders that focus on keeping people out of the criminal justice system with alternative help like mental and drug abuse treatment.
Could you please explain what racial justice means to you and could you provide concrete examples of instances where you’ve helped promote racial justice in Humboldt county?
Acosta was called to respond first and was prepared with direct instances citing cases he worked on with the California Indian Legal Services. He cited a case where he was able to reduce a black man’s sentencing that was disproportionate to the sentencing that white people had received for the same crime.
“Where you really see it in sentencing is where dispositions are made, and people of color get harsher sentences and get treated differently by the probation department,” said Acosta.
Eads responded to the question by denying that race played a role in prosecutions but providing instances of how she has helped minorities by prosecuting for children who had experienced child abuse but were not believed because their community didn’t think that someone in their race could commit that type of abuse.
“I think that race, outside of a hate crime type of analysis, really doesn’t have a role in terms of how we prosecute an individual,” said Eads.
Kamada responded by acknowledging the fact that minorities are incarcerated at a higher percentage and saying that the problem needs to be fixed.
“Religion, race, ethnicity, those things don’t have anything to do with justice, but we can’t ignore the fact that there has been injustice for a long time towards people of color,” said Kamada.
If you are elected DA, will you prosecute the Lawson case?
Eads answered first saying that she wants to prosecute the case but that they need to have enough evidence before taking it to the preliminary hearing again, because if the judge doesn’t think there’s enough evidence then it will be almost impossible to prosecute in the future.
“We can only bring it before the judge one more time, and if we don’t have enough evidence to do that we will not be able to find Justice for Josiah,” said Eads.
Kamada gave a similar response saying that he won’t promise anything he can’t guarantee while reassuring everyone that it would be a priority and claiming that he has the support of Charmaine Lawson in his election.
“I will do everything possible, including coming up with new investigation techniques if necessary, but I can’t make a commitment that I can prosecute that case unless I’ve seen the entire case file,” said Kamada.
Acosta’s response was bold, saying he would prosecute the murder case and bring charges not just to the murderer but also to accomplices in an attempt to get information from a plea deal.
“There is significant new evidence this time to bring charges back and whether you do that through the complaint process or the grand jury indictment process is open to question, but absolutely yes, probably against more than one person,” said Acosta.
Registered Humboldt County voters will be able to vote for the Humboldt County district attorney position during the Statewide Direct Primary Election on June 7.
The comments from Stacey Eads and Michael Acosta are interesting.
Eads is correct, in a sense, that they would only have one more opportunity to prosecute the case, but this is only true if the prosecution is against Kyle Zoellner who is the only one who has been charged for the crime and had charges dismissed. This is because California Penal Code 1387 generally prohibits prosecuting a felony case if it has already been dismissed twice (or once in the case of a misdemeanor). If a different suspect were identified or a different crime were suspected, they would again have two opportunities to seek prosecution.
One could follow up on her answer by asking that, if she is unsure whether there is evidence to show probable cause at a preliminary hearing, much less the proof beyond a reasonable doubt required at trial, how could she be sure that she is intending to pursue prosecution against the correct suspect. This would at least be an interesting look into her approach to ethics as a prosecutor.
Acosta’s proposed strategy of offering plea deals to potential accomplices in an attempt to gain information only works if there are accomplices and he can show probable cause at their preliminary hearings, which is the issue the other candidates directly addressed in their answers and the same issue that has continued to hamper the prosecution of this case. If he intends to follow this strategy by indiscriminately charging the witnesses and party attendees with hopes that something sticks, this could also be an ethics issue.
Is it a fact that there was blood on the knife from someone other than Josiah? If so, who was that person?? Whomever it is, the possible suspect(s) is only relative at such point in time that the knife showed-up-on-scene…
…one thing that is very plausible is that the only suspect so far identified faked being “knocked-out”, got back into the fight… and if the knife used was from that suspect’s cutlery set, then who had access to that cutlery set… the media version of the events leaves a big gap for someone to fake being knocked-out, retrieve a knife, etc…
…of course, it does not help if machismo masculinity talks crap because of being self-enamored at thinking ya knocked someone out…
…The “Lay Dead” tactic…
Lastly, a handful of folks connected to the only known suspect are the children of local elected, appointed government employees… surely that is not ironic, and reported facts show the only known suspect to already be a shit-stirrer…and punk… who hangs out with shit-stirrers…
…has a sorta insiderism thing going on like the A/C spat with the county department heads…
Personally, would do free research of the case files to get closer to convicting the stabber, whomever it is…even if it was self-induced for some ulterior motive, or an action by the decedents friend(s), or the sole known suspect or someone else not yet on the radar…
Documents and testimony are available for free at the link in my comment above.
All documents, every document? Maps of onsite scene(s), maps offsite for residences of known party goers, all information for alleged stolen mobile phone (service, ip address, location points based off applications, search results based off account history, etc..)?
If redactions exist, are the redactions color-coded?
Updated information of the “current whereabouts” of all known eye witnesses, etc…
I do not have every document, but there are thousands of pages available on my site which is a good start if you are curious to read further into the case. Many of your questions are answered within these documents. This includes transcripts of the vast majority of witness testimony, the closing arguments and the court’s ruling from the 2017 preliminary hearing, among others. I hope to have the remainder of the testimony available in the near future. I don’t have maps, but I do have the testimony of the two detectives who describe the crime scene in fairly great detail, including measurements. They also testify to the cell phones that they had seized at the time.
Any redactions in the documents are generally limited, are very visible within the documents and are made by the courts, not by me. I would like more information too and I am continuing to work on that.
-Testimony and Documents from the 2017 case
-The Court’s Decision in 2017
-The Prosecution Argument from 2017
-The Defense Argument from 2017
And just for the record, I would never post the locations of witnesses or jurors. That would be dangerous and inappropriate.
Also, The Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury Report, with the names of all members.