The District Attorney’s Prosecution of Berny

On July 26, 2006, the Yolo County District Attorney dismissed 170 misdemeanor charges Tuesday against a Clarksburg goat farmer, Khalid Berny from Morocco, accused of allowing his livestock to roam “at large” on several occasions back in 2004. One misdemeanor count was filed for each escaped goat. Berny claimed that his goats, which he kept for grazing purposes, escaped from his land due to circumstances beyond his control, including vandalism to his fence and low-flying crop dusters that may have disturbed the animals.

Honestly, I could see them legitimately charging Berny with a misdemeanor, but 170? That seems over-the-top. One count–pay a fine–that would seem perfectly reasonable to me.

The Davis Enterprise reports the following: “the district attorney’s office opted to dismiss the case, noting Berny’s payment of restitution and impound fees to the animal services department, along with the fact that Berny no longer owns goats and is not likely to have similar problems in the future. “In the grand scheme of things, the community is better served prosecuting (more serious) crimes,” [Deputy District Attorney Deanna] Hays said.”

Sounds reasonable. What the Davis Enterprise article does not tell us is that the DA’s office was ready to move forward to trial with this in May. It was the outside intervention of new defense attorneys and a last second extension on the case that set this case in a different trajectory. The new defense attorney’s were Matt Gonzalez and Whitney Leigh from San Francisco. Suddenly the District Attorney’s office decided to drop the case rather than continue to prosecute and potentially put Berny in prison for allow his goats to roam free. The DA’s office has a policy not to drop the prosecution of cases in the face of restitution. The only thing that changed their calculous in this case, was the outside intervention from Gonzalez-Leigh and the very real possibility that they could lose this case.

Of course, the mainstream media did not cover this part of the story. It is hard to criticize the Davis Enterprise too much here, they at least covered it, unlike the Daily Democrat or the Sacramento Bee. The community needs to look at the prosecution of these sorts of cases and determine whether or not the resources being spent on minor crimes is worth it to the community as a whole. Is the Yolo County community better off for the prosecution of people like Berny, the Buzayans, the UC Davis student mentioned in the entry yesterday? Unfortunately, the DA’s race is over and there was not much discussion of these issues. Hopefully the new DA will seriously look at the allocations of resources, but given the support he gained from the current boss and the entire office, that appears doubtful.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting


  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.


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