DISTRICT ATTORNEY

Election 2014: Fladager well on way to winning contentious district attorney’s race

rahumada@modbee.comJune 3, 2014 

Incumbent Birgit Fladager held a dominant lead late Tuesday in the race for Stanislaus County district attorney and was well on her way to winning a third term in office.

Fladager said she felt the voters recognized the good work her staff has done in the past eight years. She said, “It means a lot to me that the voters have that much trust in me and the office.”

But her challenger, defense attorney Frank Carson, wasn’t ready to concede the election just yet. Even if Fladager’s commanding lead holds up, Carson said his effort to hold her accountable has not ended.

“I’m gonna run against her again in four years,” Carson said Tuesday night. “We’re not going to quit.”

Fladager had 71 percent of the vote in the district attorney’s race, according to unofficial results as of 10:15 p.m. Carson had garnered 29 percent.

Carson is a longtime, boisterous critic of the District Attorney’s Office while working as a defense attorney in Modesto. In this contentious race, he called Fladager’s management style “profoundly dysfunctional.” He said her leadership was based on fear and intimidation.

Carson also was critical of Fladager’s dispute with Superior Court Judge John Freeland. She ordered prosecutors to move criminal cases out of Freeland’s courtroom for months until he was reassigned to civil court.

The defense attorney said the boycott of Freeland had a long-lasting negative effect. He suggested that other judges will be less likely to rule against prosecutors, for fear they also might be transferred.

Fladager spent time in her campaign responding to her challenger’s claims. She said the election results show that the voters saw through all the negativity coming from Carson.

“All that nonsense Frank was putting out there was not true,” she said.

Carson’s campaign made about 31,000 so-called robocalls to voters. The automated calls focused on Carson’s criticism of wiretaps by Fladager’s office that have produced no convictions.

Fladager calls the wiretaps an effective tool to investigate homicides, criminal gang activity and major drug trafficking. She said less serious criminal activity doesn’t meet the criteria needed to obtain a wiretapping order, which can be approved only by a judge.

Carson said he is gratified by the show of support for his campaign. He said it might take a grand jury or the FBI to uncover the “misconduct” carried out by Fladager’s office. He said, “We’re going to keep pursuing the truth.”

Carson in his campaign has had to explain his connection to the Korey Kauffman murder investigation. He says any suggestion he is involved in a homicide is absurd.

Kauffman’s body was discovered by hunters in an isolated area of Mariposa County in August. Carson’s property was searched as part of the investigation not long after Kauffman went missing in late March 2012.

Robert Woody is the only suspect identified and arrested in the Kauffman homicide case. Three suspected co-conspirators are mentioned in court documents, but their names are not listed.

Carson has hired an attorney, who advised him not to speak about specific details with news media. His attorney says Carson wants to clear his name, which frequently has been brought up by investigators questioning witnesses and suspects in the Kauffman case.

Fladager said she had a difficult time imagining Carson as the county’s top prosecutor after he has spent more than 20 years saying “terrible things” about the District Attorney’s Office and its employees.

“I don’t think the voters really looked at him as someone who really wanted to be DA,” Fladager said.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.

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