News and Commentary: Justice Prevails Finally in the David Serena Case

In July of 2006, Yolo County headlines in both the Davis Enterprise and Woodland Daily Democratic, in big bold letters depicted the arrest of David Serena, head of the Yolo County Housing Authority until just a month before, on 19 felony counts, all stemming from medical benefits received for the children of Serena’s girlfriend, now his wife.

Now 20 months and tens of thousands in legal expenses later, all charges have been dismissed. Judge Richard Kossow–a visiting judge since all Yolo County judges had to recuse themselves due to the Grand Jury lawsuit–issued the order that according to preliminary hearing evidence, it was unlikely that there was sufficient evidence of criminal wrongdoing to convict David Serena.

The Vanguard spoke with an elated Mr. Serena yesterday. “I feel a ton of bricks is off my back.”

It is the opinion of many, that the criminal charges were simply a witch-hunt by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office seeking to find some criminal act to charge the former Housing Authority Director. After several grand jury investigations into Mr. Serena’s activities at the Yolo County Housing Authority this was the only criminal act they felt they could charge him with felony or other counts. And indeed there were problems under Mr. Serena at YCHA–no one denies that. However, those were handled administratively by the County and the Board of Supervisors. Were criminal charges in this case really in the interest of justice or protecting the public?

For all of their investigations into David Serena, the only evidence that they could find to support criminal charges had to do with his receipt of health and dental benefits for his girlfriend and her two children.

According to Mr. Serena and his attorneys, he had filled out the papers accurately himself but a clerical error occurred and Mr. Serena never knew that the papers had been filed incorrectly by his clerk. According to court papers, it was his clerk who executed policy changes after Mr. Serena had requested his girlfriend and kids be added to the policy without knowing that they were ineligible.

David Serena told me the key testimony actually came from the prosecution’s witnesses. They asked both the insurance agents for the health insurance and the dental insurance how often people filed erroneous claims or make other errors when they fill out their insurance papers. They said about 5% of the time. They were then asked what sort of remedy the insurance company ordinarily sought for such errors–whether they sought to correct the error and recoup the money or if they normally forwarded it to the District Attorney. According to Mr. Serena, they said that they never would forward such a matter to the District Attorney.

However, based on this scant evidence of criminal activity, the District Attorney’s Office charged David Serena with one felony count of grand theft for each month the housing agency paid for increased insurance premiums by covering David Serena’s ineligible family members.

In all, 19 felony counts were filed against David Serena. The District Attorney’s Office was seeking to put him away for much of the rest of his life for receiving ineligible medical benefits.

The District Attorney’s Office now had to decide whether or not to refile the charges.

The Woodland Daily Democrat quotes Jeff Reisig as weighing their options at this point.

“Our options are to re-evaluate the evidence, to see if there’s something we left out… We’ll step back and take a look at it. Basically, this is how the system works.”

However, our sources tell the Vanguard that it is unlikely that the DA will re-file the charges.

The charges as well as the YCHA were front page news in 2006. However, reading the Woodland Daily Democrat from yesterday you would think that Mr. Serena got off on a technicality.

The headline read: “Ex-housing chief off the hook.” My response was yes he got off on a technicality, the technicality being that they did not have evidence that a crime was actually committed.

For all of the investigations against David Serena, this was the only thing they could find that they could file criminal charges against him on. This is a grave misuse of government power in my view. This is malicious prosecution at its worst and it illustrates the attitude of the District Attorney’s Office both under David Henderson and now under Jeff Reisig.

David Serena now gets a chance to put his life back together. He did so at tremendous expense. He was able to afford to hire top notch defense attorneys in the form of San Francisco Law Firm Gonzales-Leigh. But as we have learned in the last few years, many others are not so lucky and have their lives literally destroyed for very small offenses with often meager evidence. Is this really in the interest of justice?

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • 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.

Categories:

Court Watch

60 comments

  1. Purely from the standpoint of using public money on things almost completely UNrelated to housing and helping people, Josh Bernstein from KCRA-TV did an excellent investigative piece about Mr.Serena and how much his office spent and on what. Viewing it leaves a bad taste in your mouth-I do recall HIS office spending more than $100,000 on a phone system and that was for an office of some 5 to 7 people at the time. He is at least, guilty of terminally bad judgement-kind of like Steve Pierce at our PD.

  2. Purely from the standpoint of using public money on things almost completely UNrelated to housing and helping people, Josh Bernstein from KCRA-TV did an excellent investigative piece about Mr.Serena and how much his office spent and on what. Viewing it leaves a bad taste in your mouth-I do recall HIS office spending more than $100,000 on a phone system and that was for an office of some 5 to 7 people at the time. He is at least, guilty of terminally bad judgement-kind of like Steve Pierce at our PD.

  3. Purely from the standpoint of using public money on things almost completely UNrelated to housing and helping people, Josh Bernstein from KCRA-TV did an excellent investigative piece about Mr.Serena and how much his office spent and on what. Viewing it leaves a bad taste in your mouth-I do recall HIS office spending more than $100,000 on a phone system and that was for an office of some 5 to 7 people at the time. He is at least, guilty of terminally bad judgement-kind of like Steve Pierce at our PD.

  4. Purely from the standpoint of using public money on things almost completely UNrelated to housing and helping people, Josh Bernstein from KCRA-TV did an excellent investigative piece about Mr.Serena and how much his office spent and on what. Viewing it leaves a bad taste in your mouth-I do recall HIS office spending more than $100,000 on a phone system and that was for an office of some 5 to 7 people at the time. He is at least, guilty of terminally bad judgement-kind of like Steve Pierce at our PD.

  5. I don’t know, David. Just from a bit of digging, you can find on paper where this guy is a total scumbag—the kind of scumbag regular people fight to get out of power because they’re taking our money and using it to keep thier mustaches properly trimmed.

    And just because you talked with him doesn’t mean justice has been served.

    This is why I hate blogs. It’s easy to come to an uneducated conclusion, then claim no responsibliity because you’re “just a blogger, not a reporter.”

  6. I don’t know, David. Just from a bit of digging, you can find on paper where this guy is a total scumbag—the kind of scumbag regular people fight to get out of power because they’re taking our money and using it to keep thier mustaches properly trimmed.

    And just because you talked with him doesn’t mean justice has been served.

    This is why I hate blogs. It’s easy to come to an uneducated conclusion, then claim no responsibliity because you’re “just a blogger, not a reporter.”

  7. I don’t know, David. Just from a bit of digging, you can find on paper where this guy is a total scumbag—the kind of scumbag regular people fight to get out of power because they’re taking our money and using it to keep thier mustaches properly trimmed.

    And just because you talked with him doesn’t mean justice has been served.

    This is why I hate blogs. It’s easy to come to an uneducated conclusion, then claim no responsibliity because you’re “just a blogger, not a reporter.”

  8. I don’t know, David. Just from a bit of digging, you can find on paper where this guy is a total scumbag—the kind of scumbag regular people fight to get out of power because they’re taking our money and using it to keep thier mustaches properly trimmed.

    And just because you talked with him doesn’t mean justice has been served.

    This is why I hate blogs. It’s easy to come to an uneducated conclusion, then claim no responsibliity because you’re “just a blogger, not a reporter.”

  9. That’s nice Josh. But what crime did he commit that would have necessitated him being thrown in jail for most of the rest of his life?

    If you hate blogs, Josh, don’t read them.

  10. That’s nice Josh. But what crime did he commit that would have necessitated him being thrown in jail for most of the rest of his life?

    If you hate blogs, Josh, don’t read them.

  11. That’s nice Josh. But what crime did he commit that would have necessitated him being thrown in jail for most of the rest of his life?

    If you hate blogs, Josh, don’t read them.

  12. That’s nice Josh. But what crime did he commit that would have necessitated him being thrown in jail for most of the rest of his life?

    If you hate blogs, Josh, don’t read them.

  13. Josh can you share with us a bit of your “digging?”

    From the beginning David Serena was opposed by the people who had been at the housing authority before him. They did everything they could for years to undermine him.

    Josh you call David a scumbag but do you know his history as a United Farm Worker organizer? Do you know that he won a case at the US Supreme Court against voter discrimination in Monterey County?
    Do you know that he was the first latino to head the Yolo County Housing Authority an organization that serves a large migrant and latino community? Can you see why there are powerful people in Yolo County who would not want David Serena around?

    So Josh maybe you need to dig a little deeper before you start calling names and try to support your position with facts and evidence. You know something like how he built homes in Davis for poor people and migrant workers. Homes that were described in the Sacramento Bee as a “Model.”

  14. Josh can you share with us a bit of your “digging?”

    From the beginning David Serena was opposed by the people who had been at the housing authority before him. They did everything they could for years to undermine him.

    Josh you call David a scumbag but do you know his history as a United Farm Worker organizer? Do you know that he won a case at the US Supreme Court against voter discrimination in Monterey County?
    Do you know that he was the first latino to head the Yolo County Housing Authority an organization that serves a large migrant and latino community? Can you see why there are powerful people in Yolo County who would not want David Serena around?

    So Josh maybe you need to dig a little deeper before you start calling names and try to support your position with facts and evidence. You know something like how he built homes in Davis for poor people and migrant workers. Homes that were described in the Sacramento Bee as a “Model.”

  15. Josh can you share with us a bit of your “digging?”

    From the beginning David Serena was opposed by the people who had been at the housing authority before him. They did everything they could for years to undermine him.

    Josh you call David a scumbag but do you know his history as a United Farm Worker organizer? Do you know that he won a case at the US Supreme Court against voter discrimination in Monterey County?
    Do you know that he was the first latino to head the Yolo County Housing Authority an organization that serves a large migrant and latino community? Can you see why there are powerful people in Yolo County who would not want David Serena around?

    So Josh maybe you need to dig a little deeper before you start calling names and try to support your position with facts and evidence. You know something like how he built homes in Davis for poor people and migrant workers. Homes that were described in the Sacramento Bee as a “Model.”

  16. Josh can you share with us a bit of your “digging?”

    From the beginning David Serena was opposed by the people who had been at the housing authority before him. They did everything they could for years to undermine him.

    Josh you call David a scumbag but do you know his history as a United Farm Worker organizer? Do you know that he won a case at the US Supreme Court against voter discrimination in Monterey County?
    Do you know that he was the first latino to head the Yolo County Housing Authority an organization that serves a large migrant and latino community? Can you see why there are powerful people in Yolo County who would not want David Serena around?

    So Josh maybe you need to dig a little deeper before you start calling names and try to support your position with facts and evidence. You know something like how he built homes in Davis for poor people and migrant workers. Homes that were described in the Sacramento Bee as a “Model.”

  17. Shame on Mr.Bart for acting as an apparent shill for Serena. Prior to destroying YCHA–and what a crock that falsifying insurance documents gets blamed on “a paperwork glitch”–what did he do for a living? If I recall, I did see a brief video clip of him walking across a lake and you seem to have seen the same video segment!

  18. Shame on Mr.Bart for acting as an apparent shill for Serena. Prior to destroying YCHA–and what a crock that falsifying insurance documents gets blamed on “a paperwork glitch”–what did he do for a living? If I recall, I did see a brief video clip of him walking across a lake and you seem to have seen the same video segment!

  19. Shame on Mr.Bart for acting as an apparent shill for Serena. Prior to destroying YCHA–and what a crock that falsifying insurance documents gets blamed on “a paperwork glitch”–what did he do for a living? If I recall, I did see a brief video clip of him walking across a lake and you seem to have seen the same video segment!

  20. Shame on Mr.Bart for acting as an apparent shill for Serena. Prior to destroying YCHA–and what a crock that falsifying insurance documents gets blamed on “a paperwork glitch”–what did he do for a living? If I recall, I did see a brief video clip of him walking across a lake and you seem to have seen the same video segment!

  21. “Do you know that he was the first latino to head the Yolo County Housing Authority an organization that serves a large migrant and latino community? “

    That is the biggest crime of all. Josh you are correct, it was money that was supposed to go to them that instead went for medical insurance to his girlfriend.

    Look up his federal case against Yolo County and the Grand Jury. He lists some Latinos and states they have a driver’s License and are registered voters, yet they have never been called to the Grand Jury. Wow, that was great. Who would go through all of that trouble to file a federal suit and not even know the process to become a Grand Jury member?? It is pretty easy information to obtain… Obviously he should not be running a large organization.

    Now that he is cleared he should apply to be on the Grand Jury.

  22. “Do you know that he was the first latino to head the Yolo County Housing Authority an organization that serves a large migrant and latino community? “

    That is the biggest crime of all. Josh you are correct, it was money that was supposed to go to them that instead went for medical insurance to his girlfriend.

    Look up his federal case against Yolo County and the Grand Jury. He lists some Latinos and states they have a driver’s License and are registered voters, yet they have never been called to the Grand Jury. Wow, that was great. Who would go through all of that trouble to file a federal suit and not even know the process to become a Grand Jury member?? It is pretty easy information to obtain… Obviously he should not be running a large organization.

    Now that he is cleared he should apply to be on the Grand Jury.

  23. “Do you know that he was the first latino to head the Yolo County Housing Authority an organization that serves a large migrant and latino community? “

    That is the biggest crime of all. Josh you are correct, it was money that was supposed to go to them that instead went for medical insurance to his girlfriend.

    Look up his federal case against Yolo County and the Grand Jury. He lists some Latinos and states they have a driver’s License and are registered voters, yet they have never been called to the Grand Jury. Wow, that was great. Who would go through all of that trouble to file a federal suit and not even know the process to become a Grand Jury member?? It is pretty easy information to obtain… Obviously he should not be running a large organization.

    Now that he is cleared he should apply to be on the Grand Jury.

  24. “Do you know that he was the first latino to head the Yolo County Housing Authority an organization that serves a large migrant and latino community? “

    That is the biggest crime of all. Josh you are correct, it was money that was supposed to go to them that instead went for medical insurance to his girlfriend.

    Look up his federal case against Yolo County and the Grand Jury. He lists some Latinos and states they have a driver’s License and are registered voters, yet they have never been called to the Grand Jury. Wow, that was great. Who would go through all of that trouble to file a federal suit and not even know the process to become a Grand Jury member?? It is pretty easy information to obtain… Obviously he should not be running a large organization.

    Now that he is cleared he should apply to be on the Grand Jury.

  25. So here is a little evidence as provided in public records:

    PATRICIA M. ZIMMERMAN-KREBS sued Yolo County, David Serena and Hanan Bowman for numerous claims including discrimination on many levels. She claimed he told her, they had to have white people around to do the dirty work.

    You can view the complaint < a href="http://www.box.net/shared/static/oavbr31ko4.pdf" > Here < /a >.

    Important Note: This claim was settled out of court. Take that as you will, seems to me to be a pay off to keep quiet.

    2. Complaint from Serena and several of his friends claiming they all have a valid Driver’s License, but they were never called to serve on the Grand Jury. Sorry, not how it works.

    < a href="http://www.box.net/shared/static/9ajnir2804.pdf" >Click Here < /a > to view the complaint.

    This case was dismissed by the judge.

    If those html codes do not work, just copy and past the url.

  26. So here is a little evidence as provided in public records:

    PATRICIA M. ZIMMERMAN-KREBS sued Yolo County, David Serena and Hanan Bowman for numerous claims including discrimination on many levels. She claimed he told her, they had to have white people around to do the dirty work.

    You can view the complaint < a href="http://www.box.net/shared/static/oavbr31ko4.pdf" > Here < /a >.

    Important Note: This claim was settled out of court. Take that as you will, seems to me to be a pay off to keep quiet.

    2. Complaint from Serena and several of his friends claiming they all have a valid Driver’s License, but they were never called to serve on the Grand Jury. Sorry, not how it works.

    < a href="http://www.box.net/shared/static/9ajnir2804.pdf" >Click Here < /a > to view the complaint.

    This case was dismissed by the judge.

    If those html codes do not work, just copy and past the url.

  27. So here is a little evidence as provided in public records:

    PATRICIA M. ZIMMERMAN-KREBS sued Yolo County, David Serena and Hanan Bowman for numerous claims including discrimination on many levels. She claimed he told her, they had to have white people around to do the dirty work.

    You can view the complaint < a href="http://www.box.net/shared/static/oavbr31ko4.pdf" > Here < /a >.

    Important Note: This claim was settled out of court. Take that as you will, seems to me to be a pay off to keep quiet.

    2. Complaint from Serena and several of his friends claiming they all have a valid Driver’s License, but they were never called to serve on the Grand Jury. Sorry, not how it works.

    < a href="http://www.box.net/shared/static/9ajnir2804.pdf" >Click Here < /a > to view the complaint.

    This case was dismissed by the judge.

    If those html codes do not work, just copy and past the url.

  28. So here is a little evidence as provided in public records:

    PATRICIA M. ZIMMERMAN-KREBS sued Yolo County, David Serena and Hanan Bowman for numerous claims including discrimination on many levels. She claimed he told her, they had to have white people around to do the dirty work.

    You can view the complaint < a href="http://www.box.net/shared/static/oavbr31ko4.pdf" > Here < /a >.

    Important Note: This claim was settled out of court. Take that as you will, seems to me to be a pay off to keep quiet.

    2. Complaint from Serena and several of his friends claiming they all have a valid Driver’s License, but they were never called to serve on the Grand Jury. Sorry, not how it works.

    < a href="http://www.box.net/shared/static/9ajnir2804.pdf" >Click Here < /a > to view the complaint.

    This case was dismissed by the judge.

    If those html codes do not work, just copy and past the url.

  29. Not only am I familiar with everything he did for Latinos, I’m also familiar with the wreckage he left at the YCHA.

    I’ve (unfortunately) done quite a bit of research on this man and have even been accused of being in cahoots with the guy.

    It’s been a long time, and really, I wouldn’t have thought of the guy had I not read DG’s blog praising the scumbag.

    No matter what he did for Latinos (I am a Latino), corrupt is corrupt. The last thing we need is a wolf dressed up like a leader.

    Well, now that he’s back in the game, you can have a little party and see which other government services are available to fondle and rape in the name of la causa.

  30. Not only am I familiar with everything he did for Latinos, I’m also familiar with the wreckage he left at the YCHA.

    I’ve (unfortunately) done quite a bit of research on this man and have even been accused of being in cahoots with the guy.

    It’s been a long time, and really, I wouldn’t have thought of the guy had I not read DG’s blog praising the scumbag.

    No matter what he did for Latinos (I am a Latino), corrupt is corrupt. The last thing we need is a wolf dressed up like a leader.

    Well, now that he’s back in the game, you can have a little party and see which other government services are available to fondle and rape in the name of la causa.

  31. Not only am I familiar with everything he did for Latinos, I’m also familiar with the wreckage he left at the YCHA.

    I’ve (unfortunately) done quite a bit of research on this man and have even been accused of being in cahoots with the guy.

    It’s been a long time, and really, I wouldn’t have thought of the guy had I not read DG’s blog praising the scumbag.

    No matter what he did for Latinos (I am a Latino), corrupt is corrupt. The last thing we need is a wolf dressed up like a leader.

    Well, now that he’s back in the game, you can have a little party and see which other government services are available to fondle and rape in the name of la causa.

  32. Not only am I familiar with everything he did for Latinos, I’m also familiar with the wreckage he left at the YCHA.

    I’ve (unfortunately) done quite a bit of research on this man and have even been accused of being in cahoots with the guy.

    It’s been a long time, and really, I wouldn’t have thought of the guy had I not read DG’s blog praising the scumbag.

    No matter what he did for Latinos (I am a Latino), corrupt is corrupt. The last thing we need is a wolf dressed up like a leader.

    Well, now that he’s back in the game, you can have a little party and see which other government services are available to fondle and rape in the name of la causa.

  33. How about a little calm here Josh. Don’t you think your rhetoric is a little inflammatory? As for your biggest crime of all nonsense I want you to know that I had a conversation with a deputy DA back when the indictment came down who told me that if all this is about is him getting his girlfriend’s kids teeth fixed on the counties dime it wasn’t going to go anywhere and guess what Josh? It didn’t go anywhere.

  34. How about a little calm here Josh. Don’t you think your rhetoric is a little inflammatory? As for your biggest crime of all nonsense I want you to know that I had a conversation with a deputy DA back when the indictment came down who told me that if all this is about is him getting his girlfriend’s kids teeth fixed on the counties dime it wasn’t going to go anywhere and guess what Josh? It didn’t go anywhere.

  35. How about a little calm here Josh. Don’t you think your rhetoric is a little inflammatory? As for your biggest crime of all nonsense I want you to know that I had a conversation with a deputy DA back when the indictment came down who told me that if all this is about is him getting his girlfriend’s kids teeth fixed on the counties dime it wasn’t going to go anywhere and guess what Josh? It didn’t go anywhere.

  36. How about a little calm here Josh. Don’t you think your rhetoric is a little inflammatory? As for your biggest crime of all nonsense I want you to know that I had a conversation with a deputy DA back when the indictment came down who told me that if all this is about is him getting his girlfriend’s kids teeth fixed on the counties dime it wasn’t going to go anywhere and guess what Josh? It didn’t go anywhere.

  37. For this comment: “If you hate blogs, Josh, don’t read them”

    I say: I hate GWB, but that only makes me watch him more—just to kind of see what he’s up to. You know? If you want to shut your ears and eyes to the things that you dislike, then by all means …

    For this comment: “Josh can you share with us a bit of your “digging?””

    I say: If I can find the story, I will certainly post it. There have been several accounts writen.

    For this comment: “As for your biggest crime of all nonsense I want you to know that I had a conversation with a deputy DA back when the indictment came down who told me that if all this is about is him getting his girlfriend’s kids teeth fixed …”

    I say: Since this statement hardly abides by any rules within the English language, I’ll assume you’re just not serious.

    Josh

  38. For this comment: “If you hate blogs, Josh, don’t read them”

    I say: I hate GWB, but that only makes me watch him more—just to kind of see what he’s up to. You know? If you want to shut your ears and eyes to the things that you dislike, then by all means …

    For this comment: “Josh can you share with us a bit of your “digging?””

    I say: If I can find the story, I will certainly post it. There have been several accounts writen.

    For this comment: “As for your biggest crime of all nonsense I want you to know that I had a conversation with a deputy DA back when the indictment came down who told me that if all this is about is him getting his girlfriend’s kids teeth fixed …”

    I say: Since this statement hardly abides by any rules within the English language, I’ll assume you’re just not serious.

    Josh