Local Elections

DA candidate Phillips lands Sen. Kamala Harris' endorsement

Noah Phillips landed a major endorsement Monday, picking up U.S. senator and former San Francisco DA Kamala Harris’ endorsement for Sacramento County district attorney.

The senator’s endorsement in the waning days of the campaign is expected to be a big boost for the reformist Phillips in an increasingly heated race with incumbent Anne Marie Schubert to become the county’s top prosecutor. Election Day is June 5.

@SenKamalaHarris Endorses @PhillipsforDA for District Attorney saying. ‘As a prosecutor I know we can trust Democrat Noah Phillips as the next District Attorney for Sacramento,’” read the announcement in a tweet on Phillips’ campaign page earlier Monday.

Phillips, 46, a principal criminal attorney in Schubert’s office, has run on a “smart-on-crime” platform heavy on themes of police accountability and criminal justice reform. He says Harris, a Democrat who served as California attorney general before heading to Washington, D.C., “wrote the book on ‘smart-on-crime.’”

“We are obviously very excited about it. We’re very excited about her support – she was a career prosecutor. We’re proud to have her endorsement,” Phillips said Monday.

The DA’s race, shaping up as one of Phillips’ planned reforms vs. Schubert’s experience and law-and-order bona fides, is also shaping up to be one of the most competitive for the seat in years, with ad attacks heating up and money pouring in on both sides.

More than $1.2 million in contributions have flooded the two campaigns, including hundreds of thousands in in-kind contributions to Phillips from billionaire George Soros-funded California Justice & Public Safety PAC; and nearly $100,000 in recent weeks to Schubert’s camp from law enforcement groups and individual donors. The candidates’ war chests were nearly even as of the weekend: Schubert has raised $652,000 to Phillips’ $643,000.

Timing, too, has defined the race: The shooting death of Stephon Clark in March by Sacramento police officers shone the spotlight on police reforms and accountability, key planks of Phillips’ social justice-themed campaign.

Schubert has since slammed her deputy prosecutor as an opportunist capitalizing on the 22-year-old African-American man’s death for political gain.

The arrest of the man suspected to be the East Area Rapist just weeks later in April, on a DNA break in the case that haunted Sacramento and California for decades, shifted momentum Schubert’s way. Schubert championed DNA technology as a crime-fighting tool as a deputy prosecutor forming the office’s cold case prosecution unit in 2002; and as DA opened the district attorney’s crime lab.

In recent days, Schubert has also pounced on accusations that Phillips committed prosecutorial misconduct by allegedly engineering a secret deal with homicide suspect Tiwan Greenwade at trial in the 2016 murder of a south Sacramento man. Phillips is accused of coaching tainted testimony from Greenwade against the man’s three co-defendants. In exchange, Phillips is accused of arguing for a lighter manslaughter sentence for Greenwade at the end of the trial.

Jurors found Greenwade not guilty of first- and second-degree murder in 60-year-old Ashok Kumar’s death, but convicted him of manslaughter. Attorneys for the other three defendants appeared Friday in Sacramento Superior Court to fight for a new trial, arguing they knew nothing of a deal and could not cross-examine Greenwade on its details.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Curtis Fiorini set a June 8 date to hear more proof from defense attorneys of a hidden pact.

A new ad by Schubert echoes the allegations, calling the deputy DA “unethical” and “dangerous.”

In a recent interview before The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board, Schubert levied what had been her sharpest words yet of her rival’s alleged misdeeds.

“Look at the pleadings. Ask attorneys if this is the most egregious case of misconduct they’ve ever seen,” Schubert told The Bee, suggesting that Phillips could face felony charges if the allegations are found true.

Phillips has repeatedly denied the claims from defense attorneys and his boss, saying Monday that the ad was “exactly what I would expect from someone on the ropes.”