District Attorney Michael Keitz had a letter to the editor in the June 26 Star, responding to a June 19 page one article "Community plans meeting to discuss recent break-ins" by reporter Alan Wileman. The story addressed the growing problem of burglaries and property crimes in the Oakhurst area.
In his letter, Mr. Keitz complains that no one from the newspaper ever contacted him to verify the "facts" provided by Oakhurst resident, Ted deMont. Specifically, he takes exception to Mr. deMont's statement, "The district attorney is not prosecuting the crimes unless there is an injury or violent crime."
I read the article. I went back and read it again after seeing Michael Keitz's response. The situation seems obvious to me. Mr. Keitz couldn't care less about our problems. He's only concerned about appearances.
The crux of the article, including the headline, was about an increase in break -ins that is so unstoppable that it warrants a Town Hall meeting for the mountain community. Poor Mr. deMont had just had his home burglarized yet he was gracious enough to say that he believes the problem is a fiscal one, depleting the resources of both the sheriff's office and district attorney. Janice Guthrie gave a similar opinion.
Shop owners like Victor Weitzel say they would like more help from the sheriff's office, yet when the jail releases criminals on a promise to appear, it becomes a revolving door of arrests, release, and warrant for failure to appear, followed by an arrest, release and another warrant. Nothing we currently do seems to stop these street smart hoodlums from continuing their bad behavior.
The First Amendment gives us all the right to voice our opinions. I certainly didn't take the comments in that article by Mr. deMont as fact, nor was it presented as fact by the reporter.
To support Mr. deMont's opinion (which may well turn out to be fact), the Sierra Star ran an article on Aug. 13, 2013 "Madera County's $208 million budget approved." In that article, Eric Fleming, the county chief administrative officer, said, "Funding was provided for additional employees for the Madera County Department of Corrections (six persons), sheriff's office and the district attorney which should improve our ability to catch and prosecute criminals." Mr. Fleming also stated, "The DA's budget has a total of 39.3 positions and funding was provided for 36 positions, leaving 3.3 positions vacant of unfunded." In the same article, it states that Keitz told supervisors he plans to beef up gang prosecution efforts and welfare fraud protection. That would indicate that the DA's office is still short on resources.
Honestly, Mr. Keitz, do you really think that this is a clearly coordinated effort by the Sierra Star to besmirch your office and its dedicated staff and help the paper publisher's "clandestine level of support" for your opponent? That's silly. Of course the publisher supports your opponent, it's her husband. No one expects anything less and I doubt there is anything clandestine about it.
However, the editor also ran an article on crime in the mountain that you could have used to show your support for our predicament. You could have used that article to inform yourself about our community's serious increase in crime.
Mr. Keitz, a citizen's belief and opinion is not fact, but it sure does count when one goes to the polls. I challenge you to quit your whining and do something productive like attend a Tom Wheeler Town Hall meeting to advise us on how we can help your office prosecute these crimes? That just seems like something a person I'd vote for would do.
Editor's Note: KC Caldwell is the wife of Ted deMont.