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Embattled Alameda County DA Pamela Price responds to recall effort, critics

Alameda County DA Pamela Price responds to criticism and recall effort
Alameda County DA Pamela Price responds to criticism and recall effort 07:20

OAKLAND -- In office for six months and facing a recall campaign, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price sat down with KPIX for a television interview that didn't quite go as expected.

Price campaigned on progressive criminal justice reforms that included alternatives to incarceration, not charging juveniles as adults and holding police accountable. She has faced backlash over her charging decisions in high-profile cases, including in the murder of toddler Jasper Wu and Home Depot loss prevention employee Blake Mohs.

RELATEDParents of victim in East Bay road rage shooting upset over DA Pamela Price's refusal to charge killer as adult

East Bay residents, public safety advocates and families of victims who don't agree with her agenda have argued that she pursues sentences that are excessively lenient -- that favor perpetrators over victims.

"I feel, definitely, my heart goes out to people who have lost loved ones in this community," Price said. "We at the district attorney's office are very, very committed to making sure that we're providing the best services for victims and so some people are not able to actually appreciate the work that we do."

Official paperwork to launch a recall has been filed by a group called "Save Alameda for Everyone" or S.A.F.E. The move signals the committee's intent to formally begin fundraising and collect signatures.

Price said the recall campaign was run by outside special-interest groups supported by the Republican Party.

RAW: Betty Yu interviews Alameda County DA Pamela Price 11:09

Community organizer and president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce Foundation Carl Chan and Brenda Grisham, whose son was killed in Oakland in 2010, are part of the recall effort.

"I was elected because the people in this community didn't feel safe, unfortunately. We know that crime under my predecessor was pretty much exploding," Price said.

"The DA's role has really no impact on crime. To create a safe community, we need to invest in alternatives to incarceration."

Oakland police have recently warned residents about a surge in violence, including an uptick in home invasion robberies. Robberies are up at least 7 percent compared to the same period last year.

"I live in East Oakland even and I know a lot of people say, 'Oh that's terrible!' I feel safe," Price said.

Less than halfway into a 15-minute interview, Price's PR person Patti Lee pressed this reporter to ask about Price's accomplishments.

"I'm sorry to interrupt. I don't think you asked about the achievements of the first six months," Lee said.

When asked what metrics Price is using to gauge her success, the district attorney replied that the office needs to establish them.

"I think the metrics are that we're beginning to create a baseline for the data that we have," Price said. "Unfortunately, we got here and the technology is pretty much outdated and underutilized."

Critics say Price has categorically pushed for the shortest possible sentences.

"There's a lot of families that are victims of Pamela Price and the system that she's trying to create and it will be three months on Tuesday of my son's death," said Lori Mohs.

Pleasanton police said Mohs' son Blake was shot to death by a shoplifter who stole a charger for a power tool at a Pleasanton Home Depot on April 18, 2023. Mohs said the prosecutor on the case told her Benicia Knapps -- the accused killer -- will face a murder charge and an enhancement that carries the least amount of prison time.

A KPIX report featuring the Mohs family caught the attention of lawmakers in the United States Capitol, where Lori Mohs recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee.

"Can you also tell us -- you have this public forum, a forum that you never wanted -- but to the prosecutors in this case, I hope they're listening to this, what do you want to see as an outcome?" Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California) asked in that meeting.

"We should be charging this case appropriately and we should be charging the case based on facts and not personal opinion or personal agenda," Mohs said. "We should be using the judicial system as it should be used, not for personal gain but for the safety of our communities and our children. By not charging the proper 'gun' which is discharge and death, Benicia Knapps will serve much less of a sentence and the DA's office is refusing to do so. It's not fair that we have to be victimized again."

"Since I haven't had any conversation with her, reading me some statement that she made -- I think that's not fair," Price replied when asked to respond to Mohs' statement.

Price said she was a visual person and would have to watch the statement. When Price was asked if she'd like to view the testimony on YouTube, the district attorney responded "no."

Family members say they have not been able to meet with Price since Mohs's passing, even after repeated attempts to reach her directly.

Price refused to address any specific cases. She has argued that adding enhancements to charges has disproportionately affected Black and Brown people.

"Any time that we can divert someone from the criminal justice system, that is a goal because the criminal justice system has shown to be racially biased," Price said. "Often what studies have shown -- and it's true in Alameda County -- many times people who are perpetrators or labeled as perpetrators were actually victims."

Since Price took office, several seasoned prosecutors have resigned, saying they could not legally and ethically fulfill their duties to represent the rights of victims.

"Seasoned prosecutor to me is not someone with 7 or 10 years. I've been a lawyer for 40 years so if someone says they're seasoned to me, they need to show me where they've been practicing law for 40 years at the highest level," Price said.

Lee pushed to wrap up our interview before our allotted time was up.

After this reporter said, "I hope that, moving forward, we will have more access to you," Price responded "I doubt it, quite frankly" and laughed. She stated that it was because she is busy.

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