Former Tulare County prosecutor Matt Darby runs to unseat current District Attorney Tim Ward this year
By Paul Myers
TULARE COUNTY – Current Kings County Assistant District Attorney Matt Darby is campaigning to unseat his old boss, Tim Ward, in this year’s election. And he knows the system he is campaigning to be in charge of pretty well, despite having worked in the neighboring county since 2015.
Between summer of 2006 and April of 2015, Darby worked in a number of different capacities within the DA’s office. After graduating from McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento Darby worked as a part of the misdemeanor prosecutorial team, then meth and sales team before trying child abuse cases as the north county child abuse prosecutor for three years.During his time on the child abuse prosecutorial team he prosecuted the case People v. Alton Dorrough where on May 2, 2013, Dorrough, the former Exeter Police Chaplain, was sentenced to 25 years in state prison for two separate counts of child molestation and a single count of contacting a minor with the intent to commit a sexual offense. The crimes occurred in Exeter between 2007 and 2012.
He also prosecuted the case, People v. Cary Nealy. In that case on Sept. 20, 2012, Nealy was convicted of five separate felony counts of lewd acts on a child aged 15 and a single felony count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 16. The defendant lured the victim to his Visalia home in 2011.
After his three years prosecuting child abuse cases he became a member of the domestic violence team and the violence against women homicide prosecutor where he tried a number of difficult cases such as People v. Eugene Bruno where Bruno entered into a guilty plea to all counts on the second day of jury trial. On June 29, 2013, Bruno doused his wife with gasoline in their Visalia home and set her on fire. She suffered third degree burns to 80% of her body. Bruno was convicted of attempted murder, mayhem, torture and domestic violence and is serving 20 years to life in prison after being sentenced on January 26, 2015.
Darby also prosecuted the case, People v. Brent Pullin. Pullin was convicted of two separate counts of willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder and two separate special allegations that he discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury. On August 11, 2012, Pullin shot his wife twice in the bedroom of her Visalia home. The victim made her way to the bathroom and phoned 911. As the victim was on the phone with dispatch, Pullin entered the bathroom and shot her a third time. The third shooting was recorded on the 911 call. Pullin was convicted at jury trial on July 23, 2014 and sentenced to 64 years to life in prison.
Darby’s position as the domestic violence and violence against women homicide prosecutor was where he ultimately ended leaving to go on to Kings County.
In September of last year Darby kicked off his campaign in front of the Tulare County courthouse and has been working to get his message out to voters ever since. He says that for never having run for an elected office he feels as if campaigning has been going well. Some of his more notable stops have been to the Tulare County Hispanic Chamber Awards Ceremony, speaking to the Tulare County Realtors Association, Lindsay Rotary and a luncheon for the western Vietnam wall dedication in Dinuba.
“I wouldn’t even really consider that a campaign stop. It was just a great event to go to,” Darby said.
In roughly a month Darby hopes to hold a Dinner and Dance fundraiser on Feb. 24 at the Wyndham Hotel in Visalia where tickets are $30 for a person and $50 for a couple. And that would be on top of the funds already donated to his campaign. Darby said that checks have come in worth $5 to $25 and some checks have coming with $2,000. His largest donation he said came from Liquid Manure Transport LLC worth $10,000.
And there have been some less than notable, albeit still important, stops so far. Darby says he has held some campaign get-togethers at a supporter’s home with a couple handfuls of people listening to what he has to say on the judicial state of the County. Beyond some voters he has also gathered a few key endorsements.
Retired judge Howard Broadman, Rick Logan former assistant chief of investigation of the Bureau for the Tulare County DA’s office, and recently retired Exeter police chief Cliff Bush is Darby’s campaign chairman.
“I know [Cliff] was an honorable man and when I decided to run for DA he was the first persons I reached out to…we recognized there needs to be a change and it needs to be done right now,” Darby said.
Some of the changes Darby said he wants to pursue is taking a harder look at larger corporations in Tulare County. He criticized Ward for not taking a hard stance on HCCA’s management with Tulare Hospital, saying Ward turned a blind-eye to the case. Darby went on to cite another case where Ward did not prosecute a case where a farm worker had his arm mangled at a pistachio plant in Terra Bella.
If elected as District Attorney Darby says that he would continue to try cases in the courtroom.
“My opinion is that my opponent has lost the vision of the DA’s office and trying cases…I want to continue to try cases and lead from the front,” Darby said. “I’m running to be the chief prosecutor in the county and I want to continue and remain the prosecutor.”
Aside from his differences with Ward, Darby noted the organizational changes he would hope to make as DA. During his time with the Tulare County office he says prosecutors would come in from outside of the area shortly after law school to cut their teeth and then leave. What Darby plans to do is recruit prosecutors from the area, or who went to school in the region like the San Joaquin College of Law.
“[Prosecutors] contribute 3 years at most and then move to another office…I would like to make an effort to make local law students want to come here,” Darby said. “If you have local ties to the community you have a passion to stick around.”
When asked about child sex trafficking, an issue Ward and Sheriff Mike Boudreaux have been successful at dismantling, Darby said he plans to continue the effort if not become more aggressive. He cited his time prosecuting child abuse cases as a part of the Tulare County’s child abuse prosecutorial team. During his three years prosecuting cases he
“Those who harm and abuse children will be treated as aggressively as possible,” Darby said. “Children are the most vulnerable and need the most protection.”