Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos said in an interview Tuesday that he has reassigned the Douglas Anderson-Jordet fatal stabbing case from Deputy District Attorney Elan Firpo to himself.
Gallegos said his decision had "nothing to do" with Firpo's handling of the case or the quality of her work, but said it was because the case is being used for other purposes by two of Firpo's fellow candidates in the upcoming district attorney election.
"It was my own inner sense of justice for everyone involved and my disappointment that some would use this case for political purposes instead of trying to seek justice," Gallegos said.
Firpo said she had requested Gallegos to reassign her from the case for the same reason.
"To ensure this campaign is not conflated with a political campaign and that decisions are based on evidence and the rule of the law to ensure justice for both the victims and the defendants, I have asked that the case be reassigned," Firpo wrote in a text message.
Anderson-Jordet, a 50-year old chef and Arcata resident, was killed in the early morning hours of last Nov. 25 in Arcata after an altercation with three Arcata residents, which resulted in him being fatally stabbed once in the chest. In a plea agreement with the district attorney's office, Anderson-Jordet's killer -- 35-year-old Juan Joseph Ferrer -- pleaded no contest to the charge of involuntary manslaughter, for which he would serve a maximum four-year jail sentence and pay up to $10,000 in restitution fees to Anderson-Jordet's family.
Donna Johnson, Anderson-Jordet's sister, said her family has sent several emails and letters to the district attorney's office asking them to vacate the plea deal and bring Ferrer to trial.
"We have tried to work with (Firpo) and Gallegos, and he was giving us the same answer," Johnson said. "We were told that this plea deal was the best we can get against him."
Anderson-Jordet's brother, Donald Anderson, said he and his family "aren't happy" about the plea deal, and said that "we didn't feel like everything has been heard."
"There has been some discrepancies about what we heard when we wrote to them and what we're being told by the district attorney's office," Anderson said. "We were told it was one way, and now it's another."
Gallegos said he has corresponded with the family and understands their grief, but said that he will not challenge the plea deal as "the legal system does not aspire to accomplish the individual aspirations of victims or their families."
"My heart goes out to them," Gallegos said. "... But our job as prosecutors is to listen and exercise compassion without sentimentality."
As a prosecutor, Gallegos said their decisions "cannot be based on the will of the individuals," but must be supported by "evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt."
"We don't represent the victims, we represent the people of the state of California," Gallegos said.
District attorney candidates Arnie Klein and Allan Dollison have both issued press releases in the last month scrutinizing the plea deal and Firpo's handling of the case.
As Gallegos is not seeking reelection, he said he should be the one to carry out the rest of the case.
"I am responsible for all of the decisions in my office and the one person that is not making a decision based on political motivations one way or another," Gallegos said. "I am used to the hue and cry of politics."