By Clayton Huckaby
Kern Valley Sun
On Tuesday, April 25, Cynthia Zimmer announced her candidacy to become Kern County’s new District Attorney. This follows current District Attorney Lisa Green’s announcement that she will not be running for reelection in 2018.
Zimmer serves as a Supervising Deputy District Attorney in the Gangs unit. Zimmer has been a prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office for 32 years and has served as a supervisor for 19 years. According to Zimmer, she was recruited for the District Attorney’s office by then District Attorney Ed Jagels and served as a law clerk until her BAR results came through. Since then, she has served in a number of roles at the District Attorney’s office.
Zimmer served as a prosecutor in the General Felonies, Juvenile Court, Homicide, Narcotics and Major Vendor Narcotic’s units. For background, the Narcotics unit prosecutes mainly users and low level sellers while the Major Vendor Narcotic’s unit prosecutes high level manufacturers and dealers. In 2004, she was promoted to a supervising position and has served as the supervisor for the Misdemeanor, Preliminary Hearing, Drug, General Felonies, Complaint Desk and Criminal Calendar units.
Zimmer currently serves as the Supervisor for both the Gang and Target Gang units. The Target Gang unit is a unit that she personally created with a grant from the Board of Supervisors. While the Gang unit handles specifically gang related crimes, the Target Gang unit essentially prosecutes non-gang related crimes committed by gang members.
In her duties, Zimmer has gone above and beyond what is required of her. According to Zimmer, as a supervisor, she is not required to personally prosecute cases, but she chooses to. “I care deeply about the [District Attorney’s] office and the people of Kern County,” said Zimmer. She continued, “I have the right experience to lead the office as the top prosecutor. As a supervisor, I was not required to try cases, but I chose to. In the last six to eight years, I have tried some high profile gang cases that have all resulted in a conviction.”
When Zimmer talks about her high profile cases, she is not exaggerating. One of her most high profile cases was the case of the People v. Cory Johnson. Johnson and his associates, Joseph Dixon and David Lee were members of the Country Boy Crips, a Bakersfield gang with more than 200 members. The three were held on three first degree murder charges and three attempted murder charges.
According to Zimmer, the case was one of the longest the county has conducted and lasted over six months. Ultimately, the case ended in a conviction with all three members being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 300 years. The case was then appealed all the way up to the California Supreme Court where the judges’ affirmed the jury’s decision.
Zimmer was also the prosecutor against East Side Crip member Tommy Davidson. Davidson was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Zimmer has also prosecuted both serial killers and serial rapists. Among those, Kerry Hastings stands out. Hastings committed three murders over the course of three years. As a result of Zimmer’s efforts, Hastings was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The case that Zimmer referred to multiple times, however, was the case of the East Side Rapist. Billy Rae Johnson victimized nine women and children. The case was especially hard because Johnson would clean his victims after he was done. The team was able to get enough DNA evidence, however, from other sources to result in a conviction. Johnson received life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 432 years.
Zimmer has been endorsed by the Kern County Law Enforcement Association, Bakersfield Police Officers Association, Ridgecrest Police Officers Association, Delano Police Officers Association, Arvin Police Officers Association, Kern County Detention Officers Association, the Peace Officers Research Association and former Sheriff Carl Sparks.
The Kern Valley Sun will continue to follow the District Attorney’s race and will do a profile on any candidates that announce their candidacy.
By Clayton Huckaby
Kern Valley Sun
With current District Attorney Lisa Green retiring from her position in 2018, there have been two contenders that have announced their candidacy for the position. Among those contenders is current Associate District Attorney Scott Spielman.
Spielman grew up in Simi Valley. In 1984, Spielman enlisted in the United States Army where he completed basic training and military police school at Fort McClellan in Alabama. As a military police office, Spielman was stationed at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Belgium and the Sierra Army Depot in California. In 1987, Spielman was honorably discharged from the military with the rank of sergeant; he began furthering his education soon after.
In 1988, Spielman graduated from Moorpark Junior College with an Associate’s degree in Administration of Justice. He transferred to Fresno State soon after, and by 1990, he finished his Bachelor’s degree in Criminology. From there, Spielman was accepted into McGeorge School of Law and graduated in 1993 with his Juris Doctor degree. Later that year, Spielman passed the Bar Exam on his first attempt.
By March 1994, Spielman already had his job at the Kern County District Attorney’s office. He has been with the governmental organization for close to 23 years and has a plethora of experience under his belt. Spielman has worked in the Misdemeanor, Preliminary Hearing, Rural Crime, Juvenile Court, General Felony, Taft Branch Court, Murder and Sexual Assault Units. Spielman also has a long history as a supervisor for the Misdemeanor, Preliminary Hearing, Murder and Sexual Assault Units.
In 2011, he received his most senior appointment yet when he was appointed as Assistant District Attorney for Kern County, the second person in command next to the District Attorney. As the ADA, Spielman is responsible for the budget, personnel, policies, programs, contracts, crime lab oversight, as well as interaction with other agencies. These include agencies at the local, state and federal levels.
As a prosecutor, Spielman has personally prosecuted more than 100 felony trials. He explained that nearly half of those felonies that he has prosecuted were murder, sexual assault or serious child abuse cases. Among these cases was the high profile People v. Elmo Williams case of 2002. Williams was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for sexually assaulting and murdering a homeless woman in Bakersfield. According to Spielman, Williams had a long history of sexually assaulting women that dated back to the 1970s.
Another notable case mentioned by Spielman was the case of the People v. Johnte Allen and John Thomas. The two were Bakersfield gang members who were convicted of murder in 2008 and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for killing Jesse Harkleroad and seriously injuring two other young men at a residence near South High School. Both Allen and Thomas had used handguns to rob a group of young people as they played cards in their garage. After stealing the keys to a truck, Allen and Thomas opened fire on the group of young men.
Spielman’s record with the District Attorney’s office may be impressive, but he has a number of accomplishments outside of the DA’s office. While in law school, Spielman worked for the Victim of Crime Resource Center. He is also a past member of the Alliance Against Family Violence legal subcommittee. The alliance seeks to stop domestic abuse and sexual violence in Kern County as well as assist survivors in reclaiming their lives.
Spielman currently serves as a board member for “A Life Interrupted.” This group partners with the Bakersfield Police Department to make presentations at schools to inform students about the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Spielman also helped write “Adam’s Law.” Adam’s Law closes a legal loophole in drunk driving murder cases and helps get murder convictions for impaired drivers who kill while they are under the influence.
Spielman believes that he is the most qualified for the position because of his plethora of experience. “My military experience, my trial experience and my leadership experience make me the most qualified person for the position,” Spielman continued, “I have a strong desire to seek justice for all, especially for crime victims.”