Contra Costa County DA Pleads No Contest to Felony Perjury, Resigns

Mark Peterson was sentenced to 250 hours of community service

Mark Peterson on Wednesday resigned from his position as the Contra Costa County District Attorney and pleaded no contest to felony perjury after being slapped with 13 felony charges.

The state attorney general's office filed 12 counts of felony perjury and one count of felony grand theft against Peterson. In exchange for his plea and resignation, the state agreed to dismiss the other charges.

Peterson was sentenced to 250 hours of community service and will be on probation for three years.

Pamela Price with the Coalition to Restore Public Trust says Peterson got a "sweet deal" compared to what anyone else might have gotten in the face of similar charges. His punishment is a "double standard once again," she said.

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is now tasked with appointing a new district attorney to replace Peterson.

Patrick Vanier, the supervising deputy district attorney for the Narcotics Prosecution Team at the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, announced last month that he plans to run for Peterson's position in 2018.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Vanier said Peterson's decision to resign was the "only logical" option.

He continued: “Voters can choose to close this chapter of dysfunctional leadership plaguing the DA’s office and our community by electing new, ethical leadership. I have the vision and fresh perspective needed to bring Contra Costa County’s criminal justice system into the 21st century. It is my hope that the Board of Supervisors appoints a caretaker — who will not be a candidate — to act as District Attorney until voters have an opportunity to decide who should be the new, elected District Attorney.”

The investigation into Peterson stemmed from his alleged use of $66,000 in campaign monies for personal expenses, according to an affidavit filed by the state attorney general's Office.

A search done last month of Peterson's bank accounts revealed campaign committee funds were used to pay for items at grocery and jewelry stores and other retailers such as Guitar Center, court documents show. Committee funds were also transferred multiple times into Peterson's personal bank accounts. 

According to a search warrant return, investigators last week detained Peterson in Antioch while they seized his iPhone, iPad and appointment calendar as evidence to support felony charges. 

"There's no doubt that what's happened to Mr. Peterson casts shadows over the employees at the office and the good work we do every day," deputy district attorney Kristen Busby said on Tuesday.  

Peterson, however, says he simply borrowed the money and had intended to pay it back. The affidavit says Peterson failed to disclose he'd borrowed any money. 

NBC Bay Area's Stephen Ellison contributed to this report.

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