Antioch police officers avoid testifying about racism despite Racial Justice Act violation

Antioch police officers were expected to testify Friday about racism within their department, but a judge ruled against it following a move by the Contra Costa County District Attorney.

Superior Court Judge David Goldstein ruled officers who exchanged racist text messages about suspects in two alleged gang-related shootings in 2021 would not need to take the stand to answer questions.

It follows a motion by the District Attorney’s Office that admitted the officers who investigated the crimes violated California’s Racial Justice Act. The law blocks prosecutors from seeking convictions or sentences based on race, ethnicity or national origin.

Goldstein ruled the case will now move to the remediation portion of the motion, with the next hearing set for Sept. 8.

"At the remedy stage, it’s going to be important for us to be able to show just how deep and wide the violations were," defense attorney Carmela Caramagno said. "This investigation was racist in its inception."

Caramagno's motion to hear more evidence and to keep the officers under subpoena was denied Friday, but the judge said he would consider officers’ testimony in the next phase of the case.

At least 10 Antioch and Pittsburg police officers were recently indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on charges including improper use of weapons and a police dog on suspects, civil rights violations, falsifying records, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, turning off body cameras, selling steroids, and paying individuals to take college classes for officers.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office is also charging officers from both cities with obstruction of justice and bribery for fixing traffic tickets for friends.

"It's my understanding that all the officers involved (in the 2021 arrests) have been indicted," Goldstein said.

Goldstein laid out potential fixes to the case under the Racial Justice Act including dismissal of gang enhancements, dropping special circumstances or a reduction in charges, but he wants attorneys to argue why he has the authority to do so.

Defense attorneys for the four men charged with murder or attempted murder said they will ask for maximum remedies available under the law, meaning a reduction in charges against their clients.

Goldstein also told prosecutor Jordan Sanders to be able to present enough evidence at the next hearing to convince him the full prosecution of the four men can move ahead, despite the District Attorney's Office concession of officers' bias.

Outside the courthouse in Martinez Friday, civil rights attorneys, families and advocacy groups gathered to speak out about the Antioch Police Department that’s embroiled in scandal with dozens of officers on leave.


Antioch, Pittsburg cops indicted by federal grand jury on variety of charges

The U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco and the FBI held a joint news conference Thursday afternoon, where they announced the arrest of nine current or former Antioch and Pittsburg police officers for a variety of criminal allegations.

"We need to stop the bias, stop the racism," said civil rights attorney Ben Nisenbaum. "Stop the cheating and lying by police,"

But attorney Mike Rains who represents the Antioch Police Officers’ Association said some officers have been unfairly targeted.

"A lot of good officers in Antioch and in this country and in this state have been smeared and besmirched because of some very ugly, vulgar messages that were done by a few," he said.

During the FBI and District Attorney's Office investigations, racist and homophobic text messages involving as many as 45 Antioch police officers were made public.

Defense attorneys for the four men at Friday's hearing have said some of their clients were mentioned in the text messages. The texts, which used racist and homophobic language and described violence against suspects, also included slurs and threats against former police chief Steven Ford and Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, both of whom are African American.

While racial bias is now considered a factor in two 2021 shooting investigations, a victim’s mother expressed her emotional frustration over the focus on officers rather than the suspects.

"This is enough," she shouted. "This is about the murder of my son."

There was a clash between the mother’s family and about a dozen protesters Friday who held signs and demanded that Antioch officers go to jail. The crowd grew to include families who had lost loved ones while in police custody.

"Good policing is about accountability and transparency," father Robert Collins said. "So we need to work towards that."

Bay City News contributed to this report.

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU