Accusations of courtroom misdeeds against DA candidate Noah Phillips are front and center in a new ad from Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert that aired recently.
The 30-second spot, paid for by Schubert’s campaign, carries the ominous web address “sacramentounderattack.com” and includes foreboding music and grainy black-and-white photos of the campaign challenger and the murder defendant at the center of the ad’s claims. Phillips is a deputy DA and principal criminal attorney in the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.
“What is the out-of-state billionaire funding Noah Phillips’ campaign not telling us? That Phillips has been accused of prosecutorial misconduct? For cutting a secret deal with a murder defendant? That he could be charged with a felony and lose his ability to practice law. Or that Noah Phillips supports reducing punishments for sex crimes and human trafficking? Noah Phillips: Unethical. Dangerous. Wrong for DA.”
Yes, Phillips was accused in April of prosecutorial misconduct for allegedly cutting a "secret deal," in a 2016 murder case with Tiwan Greenwade, one of four suspects in the murder of 60-year-old Ashok Kumar at Kumar’s south Sacramento home. In the alleged deal, Greenwade was to trade perjured testimony against his co-defendants in exchange for a lighter manslaughter sentence, without the knowledge of the other defendants’ lawyers.
Phillips has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. The attorneys are demanding a new trial accusing Phillips of providing a “script” of questions to Greenwade through his then-attorney Danny Brace that Phillips planned to ask when Greenwade took the stand at trial. They say Phillips later lobbied for a lighter manslaughter conviction for Greenwade in his closing argument to jurors.
Jurors did not find Greenwade guilty of first- or second-degree murder at trial, but did convict him of manslaughter. Greenwade’s three-co-defendants were each convicted of first-degree murder.
Could Phillips be charged with a felony and lose his ability to practice law?
Possibly. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Curtis Fiorini heard arguments May 11 but wasn't convinced by the evidence against Phillips, saying "there's not enough specificity to support those claims. The problem is whether Greenwade was compelled to testify in a certain way. It appears there is no perjury. There needs to be a showing that (Phillips) was putting words in Greenwade’s mouth." Fiorini called a second hearing for June 8 – days after the June 5 election. Schubert’s ad refers to California Penal Code section 141 (c), a newly instituted law governing prosecutors’ conduct that punishes those who tamper with or withhold information. The law passed, last year, punishes prosecutors with up to three years in prison if they intentionally misrepresent evidence at trial to affect the outcome of a case.
Does Noah Phillips support reducing punishments for sex crimes and human trafficking?
No. Phillips supports sentencing reforms approved by voters who passed Proposition 47 that reduced penalties for some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and Prop 57, which gave judges the leeway to decide whether minors should be tried in juvenile or adult court and offered greater chances for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes to receive parole or good behavior credits. Prop 47 ensured that "sentences for people convicted of dangerous crimes like rape, murder and child molestation are not changed." Those crimes include sexually violent offenses that require registry as a habitual sex offender such as pimping, pandering, abduction for prostitution and sex assault on a child.