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State Attorney General declines to investigate county sheriff’s and DA’s involvement in Batmobile case

The official did not find a ‘compelling need’ for oversight from the state Department of Justice

Mark Racop sits inside one of his custom built Batmobile replicas. Courtesy Mark Racop.

The California Attorney General’s office on Wednesday declined to launch an independent probe into the so-called Batmobile case, according to a letter sent to San Mateo County Executive Michael Callagy.

“Although your letter identifies notable concerns, it does not allege that the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office committed a crime. Nor does it detail anything beyond a criminal investigation,” Special Assistant Attorney General Michael Redding wrote in the letter.

“While the California Department of Justice has the authority to oversee the California Sheriffs and District Attorneys, the Department only takes that extraordinary step when there is a compelling need,” he added.

Redding said that there was nothing in the county’s letter that suggested “the facts contained in the affidavits in support of the warrants were misrepresented or inadequate in any way” and noted that the board had contracted with former Alameda County Judge Winifred Smith to conduct an independent investigation.

He advised Callagy to reach out if any allegations of wrongdoing come to light in the future.

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County Attorney John Nibbelin did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Sheriff Carlos Bolanos

The County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Attorney General Rob Bonta in mid-August requesting that he begin an inquiry into the recent criminal investigation and the prosecution of Mark Racop, an Indiana businessman who makes and sells 1966-era Batmobiles.

The request to investigate both Sheriff Carlos Bolanos and the office of District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe came almost one month after Racop’s business, Fiberglass Freaks, in Logansport, Indiana, was raided by four San Mateo County deputy sheriffs at the behest of Bolanos with aid from the Cass County sheriff, who provided one deputy sheriff of his own to serve as a liaison.

Stephen Wagstaffe, San Mateo County District Attorney. Courtesy San Mateo County.

In the letter, the board of supervisors mention that the raid, which has received much public attention and scrutiny from the community, falls under the purview of the AG’s oversight authority, according to the California Constitution.

Section 13 of the constitution grants the AG authority over the State’s “county sheriffs and district attorneys in matters pertaining to the duties of their respective offices …” Callagy wrote in the letter to Bonta. “Therefore, ... I refer this matter to you for any inquiry or actions that you determine are warranted under the circumstances.”

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Leah Worthington
 
Leah Worthington, a Menlo Park native, joined the Redwood City Pulse in 2021. She covers everything from education and climate to housing and city government. Previously she worked as the online editor for California magazine in Berkeley and co-hosts a podcast. Se habla español! Read more >>

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State Attorney General declines to investigate county sheriff’s and DA’s involvement in Batmobile case

The official did not find a ‘compelling need’ for oversight from the state Department of Justice

by / Redwood City Pulse

Uploaded: Thu, Sep 15, 2022, 11:14 am

The California Attorney General’s office on Wednesday declined to launch an independent probe into the so-called Batmobile case, according to a letter sent to San Mateo County Executive Michael Callagy.

“Although your letter identifies notable concerns, it does not allege that the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office committed a crime. Nor does it detail anything beyond a criminal investigation,” Special Assistant Attorney General Michael Redding wrote in the letter.

“While the California Department of Justice has the authority to oversee the California Sheriffs and District Attorneys, the Department only takes that extraordinary step when there is a compelling need,” he added.

Redding said that there was nothing in the county’s letter that suggested “the facts contained in the affidavits in support of the warrants were misrepresented or inadequate in any way” and noted that the board had contracted with former Alameda County Judge Winifred Smith to conduct an independent investigation.

He advised Callagy to reach out if any allegations of wrongdoing come to light in the future.

County Attorney John Nibbelin did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

The County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Attorney General Rob Bonta in mid-August requesting that he begin an inquiry into the recent criminal investigation and the prosecution of Mark Racop, an Indiana businessman who makes and sells 1966-era Batmobiles.

The request to investigate both Sheriff Carlos Bolanos and the office of District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe came almost one month after Racop’s business, Fiberglass Freaks, in Logansport, Indiana, was raided by four San Mateo County deputy sheriffs at the behest of Bolanos with aid from the Cass County sheriff, who provided one deputy sheriff of his own to serve as a liaison.

In the letter, the board of supervisors mention that the raid, which has received much public attention and scrutiny from the community, falls under the purview of the AG’s oversight authority, according to the California Constitution.

Section 13 of the constitution grants the AG authority over the State’s “county sheriffs and district attorneys in matters pertaining to the duties of their respective offices …” Callagy wrote in the letter to Bonta. “Therefore, ... I refer this matter to you for any inquiry or actions that you determine are warranted under the circumstances.”

Comments

MP Father
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 15, 2022 at 12:24 pm
MP Father, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2022 at 12:24 pm

Disappointing but not shocking. While Bolanos and Wagstaffe should be ashamed for wasting taxpayer money for personal gain, I unfortunately doubt this is the case.


Thoughtful
Registered user
Atherton: other
on Sep 15, 2022 at 1:27 pm
Thoughtful, Atherton: other
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2022 at 1:27 pm

"your letter…does not allege that the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office committed a crime". Lavrentiy Beria, who was Stalin's right hand man, famously said, "Show me the man and I'll show you the crime."

California Penal Code 424 makes it a crime for a public officer or a trustee of public funds to misappropriate the funds for improper use. A conviction is a felony punishable by up to four years in jail or prison, fines of up to $10,000, and permanent disqualification from holding public office.

Do Special Assistant Attorney General Michael Redding and County Counsel John Nibbelin know about this part of our law? Of course they do. Even I found it.

Could PC 424 apply to the actions of Carlos Bolanos? Obviously. It's the entire nature of the public outcry against his actions with the Batmobile and using public funds to send our deputies halfway across the country over a contractual dispute involving a donor to Bolanos.

Know that if the police got involved every time, or even ANY time, there was a business dispute between people, it would be completely unsustainable. That's why there are civil courts, for those business people to sue each other. Police are around for crimes, like robbery, rape, murder, assault, etc.

As I said when this started, the request for the state AG to "look at this" was just part of a whitewash. It should not inspire confidence in any of the people involved with this, including the Board of Supervisors.

It's more like an unspoken code between the officials in the San Mateo County government. "We don't ever go against a member of our club – no matter how flagrant the violation."

Not that unlike the "blue wall of silence" in the police departments nationwide.

If Bolanos and Wagstaffe could try to shoehorn the Batmobile issue into a crime in California (and they both did), it's a much smaller leap to apply Penal Code 424 to the actions of Carlos Bolanos AND Stephen Wagstaffe.

Both of them belong behind bars.


Brian
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 15, 2022 at 8:43 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2022 at 8:43 pm

While we no longer need to worry about Bolanos we definitely need to remember this case when Wagstaffe runs again and hopefully someone with integrity and a moral compass runs against him. We can add this to his soft stance on felony gun crimes where he is willing to plea bargain a violent felon who used a handgun to commit a violent crime down to mere months in county lockup.
Web Link

I certainly do not feel safer with Wagstaffe as our DA.


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