Sally Moreno, a veteran of Central Valley prosecutor’s offices since 1996, has announced she will challenge incumbent David Linn for the seat of Madera County District Attorney.
Moreno is the first candidate to announce she will run against Linn for the office, with the primary election held June 5, 2018.
Linn, an Oakhurst attorney at the time, soundly defeated then incumbent Michael Keitz in November of 2014, and was sworn into office in January of 2015.
“I have a lot of energy and devotion to this county,” said Moreno, who was born in Fresno, graduated from San Joaquin Memorial High School in 1985, and currently lives in the Madera Ranchos. “I think I have good relationships with a lot of individual law enforcement officers and can build good relationships with the agencies as well. I just love Madera County. This is my home. And I look forward to being able to make it safer.”
While she attended college at University of California Santa Barbara, Moreno entered the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Program and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. After she graduated from UCSB in 1990, Moreno became an officer at the Los Angeles Police Department, and was called to duty in Operation Desert Storm.
When she returned home, she said she’d already decided on her future as a prosecutor.
“I really like being involved in public safety and feeling like I could make a difference in my community,” Moreno said. “Law was always what interested me. Ever since I was a little girl, my mother has told me I should be a lawyer. So I finally gave in and went to law school, and realized if that’s what I was going to do, I wanted to make sure it was always in service of public safety.”
Moreno graduated from the San Joaquin College of Law in 1995, and was hired at the Merced County District Attorney’s Office in 1996.
She worked there for two years until she started having children and worked on-and-off in Fresno and Merced for 12 years until she joined the Madera County District Attorney’s Office in 2011.
She worked there until July of 2015, when she was offered a job with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office led by Lisa Smittcamp, who was elected in 2014.
In her tenure as a prosecutor, Moreno has worked on a variety of criminal cases including domestic violence, child sexual assault, DUIs, and gangs.
Her most notable case in the Mountain Area was the arson trial of Kenneth Jackson and Allison Waterman, sentenced to more than 30 years and 10 years in prison, respectively, for starting a string of more than 20 fires in Yosemite Lakes Park in May and June of 2013.
“In that case, dealing with the community was gut wrenching,” Moreno said. “(YLP residents) were legitimately terrified throughout that time period ... that was a very clear case where (Jackson and Waterman) were not going to stop until they were caught. And when you looked at everything going on, they needed punishment, and needed to be removed from society as long as possible.”
But, Moreno said, the most important thing about being a prosecutor is to properly provide justice, which doesn’t always mean getting a conviction.
“The ethical obligations of a prosecutor are really quite different than any other attorney,” Moreno said. “The job is not to win cases. It’s to facilitate doing justice ... I’ve half joked that I’ve gotten more people off than any defense attorney, because if I look at a case and I can’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, I’m honor bound and obligated not to file it. So it’s more than just winning. It’s doing justice.”
Among her goals as district attorney, should Moreno win election in 2018, is to build strong relationships with law enforcement agencies while bringing the office into the electronic age.
“At some point, our law enforcement agencies, like others, are going to have video cameras,” Moreno said. “And we’re going to have to deal with electronic management of data, electronic filing, electronic discovery with defense attorneys and public defenders, it’s all very important.”
Also, Moreno said, her experience as a deputy district attorney makes her well suited to become the county’s top prosecutor.
“I’ve been a police officer, a military police officer, and I worked in corrections through law school,” Moreno said. “So I’ve seen all of that and I have an understanding that I think allows me to get along with law enforcement, and understand where they’re coming from and communicate in a way that we can build stronger relationships.
“I’m just hoping for an opportunity to make Madera safer,” Moreno continued. “And I think Madera County deserves to have a professional prosecutor running the prosecutor’s office.”
Moreno and Sergio, her husband of 23 years, have four children ranging in age from 10-19.
In September of 2004, Moreno wasn’t eligible to practice law in California because she didn’t pay annual fees to the State Bar. She returned to active legal status in June of 2006, but was ineligible to practice law in September that year due to an inactive status and noncompliance with the bar’s Minimum Continuing Legal Education, which requires attorney complete 25 hours of approved training credit every three years.
“I wasn’t practicing law at that time,” Moreno said. “I was focused on bearing and raising my children. Sergio was working supporting us, and I was at home. So I was inactive.”
She said when she returned to practicing law in January of 2007, she made sure she was in compliance with both the fees and the MCLE.
On Tuesday, March 21, Linn issued a release noting he was endorsed by the Madera County Prosecutors Association on March 6 in his bid to retain his seat.
The Madera County Prosecutors Association is made up of all senior and line deputy district attorneys who work in the Madera office. This is the first time in over a decade the association has endorsed a candidate for Madera County District Attorney, Linn said.
“I am honored and humbled by my staff’s continuing support of me,” Linn said. “I believe we are all doing our best to keep the public trust.”
NOTE: Madera County District Attorney David Linn is married to Betty Linn, publisher of the Sierra Star, Sierra Home Advertiser, and www.sierrastar.com.