For the first time since 1994, it looks like there will be a seriously competitive race for district attorney in Sacramento County next year.
California Deputy Attorney General Maggy Krell has announced that she is a candidate for the office now held by the outgoing District Attorney Jan Scully.
Scully said in January she won't seek re-election when her fifth term expires at the end of 2014. She has faced little competition since she won the job in 1994.
Scully has endorsed a prosecutor in her office, Deputy District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, to succeed her. Schubert also is being supported by Sheriff Scott Jones and former Sheriff John McGinness, as well as other past and present law enforcement officials and local politicians.
Krell, 34, has not released an endorsement list so far, but she has hired a veteran Democratic operative in Andrew Acosta and has begun raising money. Acosta said he expects Krell to compete financially with Schubert, whose political consultant, Dave Gilliard, said he expects his side to raise and spend $1 million.
In an interview at a downtown Starbucks this week, Krell said she wants to be DA "to stand up for victims when a victim has the courage to report what has happened. I want to have an office that backs him or her and prosecutes the case. When the victim doesn't have the courage to stand there, I want an office that stands there for him or her."
She said she views Sacramento as having "a very difficult time" implementing realignment, the statewide criminal justice emphasis initiated in October 2011 to alleviate California's prison overcrowding crisis. The program already has shifted thousands of lower-level offenders from state to county responsibility, with thousands of more transfers expected to follow.
Krell said that with realignment, "I think there's an opportunity to improve the community, to make Sacramento safer, to really have some innovation in the District Attorney's Office."
A UC Davis School of Law graduate, Krell is a San Francisco native who is married and has two children. She has worked as a line prosecutor and appellate lawyer for the state attorney general's office for nine of the past 10 years. The other year, she left the attorney general's office to become a deputy district attorney in San Joaquin County.
Most recently, Krell has been appointed by state Attorney General Kamala Harris to act as the Sacramento point person on the California Mortgage Fraud Task Force.
"We've taken out a number of bad actors in mortgage fraud," she said.
Five years ago, in the Department of Justice's trial unit, Krell prosecuted and obtained a conviction against a Lassen County defendant in a 20-year-old murder case who was about to be paroled from prison. Former Lassen County Sheriff Steven W. Warren said the case "had been written off by many officials as unsolvable."
As an appellate lawyer for the attorney general, Krell successfully defended the death penalty conviction of Eric Leonard, the Sacramento "thrill killer" who murdered six people in 1991 at a convenience store and a pizza parlor.
In another case with a local twist, Krell reviewed the decision by the Yolo County District Attorney's Office to not pursue criminal charges against three sheriff's deputies involved in the highly publicized April 30, 2009, fatal shooting of Woodland resident Luis Gutierrez. Her cover letter to the Yolo DA's Office on the attorney general's 37-page report said that state prosecutors "concluded that your decision was not unreasonable and thus did not constitute an abuse of discretion."
Krell said in an interview she thinks "there are some things they do really well" in the Sacramento DA's Office, and "there are some things they could do a lot better" mainly, by taking more of a leadership role to make sure that realignment works.
She said Sacramento should pursue alternative sentencing programs that "I've seen work in other counties."
"I think people need to be held accountable without completely interrupting their lives," Krell said, of lower-level, realigned offenders. "If you cross a line, you're going to be prosecuted. You need to be held accountable. But we also need to do that in a way that sets people up for success instead of failure."
Krell said that if she is elected, she would expand the community prosecutions unit in which deputy DAs are assigned to work on neighborhood problems with police, businesses and residents.
She said she also would once again review officer-involved shooting cases, a program that Scully dropped two years ago because of budget cuts.
Acosta, her political consultant, foreshadowed an introduction of party politics into the 2014 DA's campaign. Acosta said in an interview that Scully and the law-enforcement establishment "club" in Sacramento "has joined forces to support their Republican candidate" in Schubert. Acosta also pointed out that Schubert's brother Frank Schubert "is established in Republican ranks."
"This is a county that's gone for (President Barack) Obama and other (Democratic) folks, so I think it'll be an interesting race," Acosta said.
Schubert, 49, a Republican who hired a top GOP strategist in Gilliard to run her campaign, criticized any effort to introduce party politics into the race. Krell is a Democrat whose political consultant has long worked for Democratic candidates.
"I'm sure that's what their efforts are," said Schubert, a supervisor in the DA's child-abuse unit. "The reality is that public safety is a nonpartisan issue. Voters deserve to have people in there who are for public safety. It has nothing to do with what party you're affiliated."
Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.