Tag Archives: Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year

California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Sacramento

At its August 2019 meeting in Sacramento, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from the two-day meeting.

The Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division David Bess presented an award to Jessica Brown, who earned the title of 2018 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Brown is Supervising City Attorney for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Environmental Justice Unit. As she accepted the award, Brown acknowledged her team of superb prosecutors, all of whom are highly dedicated to the successful prosecution of fish and wildlife cases. Brown, along with her team, has shown steadfast dedication to CDFW’s cases and to protecting and conserving California’s natural resources.

At the Commission meeting Chief Bess also presented the Wildlife Officer of the Year Award to Warden Anastasia Norris for her exceptional efforts to investigate highly technical petroleum pollution cases and guide them to conviction. She took the initiative to become a pipeline and corrosion expert and this has benefitted CDFW in many oil spill cases. Her work on the May 2015 Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara kept her stationed away from her family for three months. Norris accepted the award with her family present.

The Commission honored Valerie Termini for her service as Executive Director from 2016-2018. Termini was the first ever female Executive Director of the Commission and brought integrity and professionalism to the position. President Eric Sklar presented Termini with a Commission resolution and gift from the commissioners. Termini served as Executive Director until CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham requested she serve in an acting role as CDFW Chief Deputy Director in November, a position to which she was officially appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in June.

The Commission began the regulatory process to ban possession of live nutria, a large, brown, fur-bearing, aquatic rodent native to South America. CDFW is seeking a regulatory change from the Commission in order to prevent further spread of this persistent invasive species. In California, nutria pose a significant threat as an agricultural pest, a destroyer of critical wetlands needed by native wildlife, and a public safety risk as their destructive burrowing jeopardizes the state’s water delivery and flood control infrastructure. CDFW has a robust detection and eradication effort underway in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to limit the invasive rodents’ spread and impact on California’s most important water resource and the heart of the state’s water delivery and infrastructure.

The Commission also determined that listing San Bernardino kangaroo rat as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review of the species and the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, the San Bernardino kangaroo rat is protected under CESA as a candidate species.

The Commission also directed staff to continue working with CDFW and stakeholders to revise a draft Delta fisheries management policy, including potential revisions to the existing striped bass policy.

President Sklar and Commissioners Russell Burns, Samantha Murray and Peter Silva were present. Commission Vice President Jacque Hostler-Carmesin was absent.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at www.fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will also be available in coming days.

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The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

 

Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office Prosecutor Honored for Pursuit of Justice in Wildlife Crimes

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Fish and Game Commission are pleased to name Jessica Brown, Supervising City Attorney in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office as 2018 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Brown oversees the Environmental Justice Unit in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, which includes a team of superb prosecutors, all of whom are highly dedicated to the successful prosecution of fish and wildlife cases.

Jessica Brown
Jessica Brown, 2018 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year

“The Los Angeles City Attorney’s team of Environmental Justice Unit prosecutors, and especially Ms. Brown, have worked tirelessly to prosecute poachers and to send a clear message that poaching and trafficking of wildlife will not be tolerated,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Ms. Brown is a true asset to the protection of California’s natural resources and has displayed exceptional skill and an outstanding commitment with her relentless pursuit of justice.”

The following are just a few examples of her tenacious work.

  • Brown and her team prosecuted some of the first ivory trafficking cases in California, including winning convictions in the first two ivory cases to go to jury trial, since the Legislature strengthened the law to prohibit ivory trafficking in July 2016. The multi-week trials involved litigating a vast array of legal topics related to the recently enacted statute, including developing jury instructions, crafting complex pretrial motions and arguing numerous legal concepts during trial. Brown and her team demonstrated exceptional cooperation with wildlife officers, wildlife forensic specialists and the CDFW Office of General Counsel throughout all stages of these trials, from pretrial preparation through sentencing. “It was critical to prosecute these first ivory trafficking cases right the first time since it would set the stage for future prosecution of similar cases,” said Chief Bess.
  • Brown and her team were instrumental in the filing of complex cases related to interstate seafood trafficking. This joint law enforcement operation involved wildlife officers from California, Maine and Hawaii and resulted in several Fish and Game Code violations against numerous retail establishments. During the operation, Brown went above and beyond in conducting her own investigations into records violations, which significantly contributed to the successful outcome of this case.
  • Brown and her team prosecuted a recent high-profile restricted species possession case involving a monkey. Another case involved a convicted drug dealer who illegally possessed a tiger. CDFW and the Commission hope the cases will have long-term deterrence impacts and help educate people that exotic pets do not belong in unpermitted homes, owned by people who lack the qualifications to properly care for them.
  • Brown and her team have also regularly assisted CDFW wildlife officers with marine enforcement cases involving unlicensed commercial passenger fishing vessels, resulting in positive marine conservation benefits for the state. Brown understands the importance of California’s ocean’s resources and takes action against those who illegally exploit them for personal gain.

If all this was not enough, Ms. Brown and her team have shared their knowledge and expertise with fellow prosecutors by spearheading a statewide prosecution task force dedicated to stopping wildlife trafficking. Prosecutors around the state now have additional resources to facilitate successful prosecutions of cases concerning the illegal commercialization of wildlife, with significant credit going to Brown.

“I certainly understand why the CDFW and the Commission are honoring Jessica Brown as Prosecutor of the Year,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. “I’m a big fan. Jessica’s determination to protect the environment and our wildlife – and hold accountable those who violate the law – is an example for all of us. My colleagues and I are inspired by her commitment, passion and hard work.”

As the supervising attorney for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Environmental Justice Unit, Brown’s steadfast dedication to CDFW’s cases has earned her the respect of wildlife officers and she has been instrumental in advancing the successful prosecution of CDFW cases in California. Her devotion to the protection and conservation of California’s natural resources makes her worthy of this recognition.

 

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2016 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year Announced

(Photo, left to right: California Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar, Fresno County Deputy District Attorney Sabrina Ashjian, CDFW Chief of Enforcement David Bess.)

The California Fish and Game Commission has honored Fresno County Deputy District Attorney (DDA) Sabrina Ashjian as the Commission’s 2016 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. The selection process was based upon nominations from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division, whose wildlife officers regularly work with all 58 District Attorneys’ offices.

The award was presented to DDA Ashjian amongst her peers last night at the California District Attorneys Association annual summer conference in South Lake Tahoe.

“We recognize prosecuting attorneys as an integral partner in the effort to conserve California’s fish and wildlife resources for its intrinsic value and for future generations,” said Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar. President Sklar was in South Lake Tahoe to present the award.

CDFW and the Commission recognize many prosecuting attorneys who go above and beyond to prosecute the state’s poachers and polluters, but this year, DDA Ashjian stood out among the rest.

Ashjian was always willing to meet with wildlife officers in Fresno County on moment’s notice, after hours, and on weekends to review details of investigations. During many investigations of the most egregious poaching cases, Ashjian remained available and supportive every step of the way. She even took the initiative to ride-along on patrol with wildlife officers to better understand the challenging investigations and unique nature of a wildlife officer’s work.

Ashjian has gone out of her way to be a liaison between CDFW and the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. During her tenure, she has taken time to educate and share insight about CDFW and resource crimes to her co-workers and in turn has educated wildlife officers about the challenges of prosecutions and how to overcome them.

“As passionate as our wildlife officers are at bringing suspected poachers to justice, DDA Ashjian is at prosecuting them,” said David Bess, Chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division. Chief Bess was also on hand to present the award last night.

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Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982
Cpt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692