YOLO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — A candidate for Yolo County district attorney is under fire for accepting campaign donations from a man convicted of child molestation the brother of a man convicted of rape.
In an exclusive report, FOX40 reveals who made those contributions and how the candidate is responding.
Cynthia Rodriguez wants to be Yolo County’s top prosecutor. She is a former public defender who also worked as general counsel for the California Department of Mental Health.
Some crime victim advocates are questioning why Rodriguez would accept money from convicted child molesters and their families.
“It’s beyond words. How can you do that? And this is what’s going on now on our state, particularly trying to get good district attorneys out of office,” said Harriet Salarno, founder of Crime Victims United.
In 1990, Salarno founded Crime Victims United, which dedicates itself to protecting the rights of victims, supporting public safety and promoting balance in the criminal justice system.
Salarno lost her daughter, Katina, in 1979, after the teen’s high school boyfriend shot and killed her. She had just started at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
“This is a movement. You see it in Los Angeles. You see it in San Francisco. They’re all behind this movement,” Salarno said.
Documents obtained by FOX40 show that between October 2021 and March of this year, Brett Pedroia, who was convicted in 2009 of child molestation, contributed $5,000 to Rodriguez’s campaign.
McGregor Scott is a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California. He’s an expert on legal and ethical issues involving political candidates and elected officials.
“When a contribution comes in, from a suspect source, a controversial source, the best practice for a candidate is to either return the money, or donate it to some sort of a charitable cause. And that is the right thing to do,” Scott said.
Rodriguez declined a TV interview for this story.
She told FOX40 the money donated by Pedroia has since been given Empower Yolo, a nonprofit organization providing services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.
“My family and I have contributed thousands of dollars for many years to our local community … and election campaigns. I unfortunately have a past that’s different than most. I’m proud of the way I’ve changed my life through hard work and years of dedication. I understand fully that … my contribution should go to a better cause and the Rodriguez campaign did the correct thing,” Pedroia said in a statement.
The second campaign contribution in question came from the brother of Ajay Dev. Dev was convicted in 2009 of sexually assaulting and raping his adopted daughter, and he is currently serving a 378-year prison sentence.
FOX40 reached out to Dev, who made a $500 donation to Rodriguez in December. But we haven’t heard back and Rodriguez refused to comment.
“A DA candidate should really not put themselves in a position where they are receiving contributions from the family member of a very serious felon who destroyed the childhood of a niece who he adopted, because it just doesn’t smell right. It’s just never a good idea to accept donations from people in these positions,” Scott said.
“If she was a true believer to be a district attorney and maybe have a consciousness that she wants to help the victims’ rights, help the victims, put these terrible people in prison,” Salarno said.
Rodriguez is challenging 16-year incumbent Jeff Reisig in the June primary election.
Pedroia’s full statement can be read below:
My family and I have contributed thousands of dollars for many years to our local community to various organizations, fundraisers and election campaigns. We take pride in our community and the community is proud that we have helped people in need throughout the years. I unfortunately have a past that’s different than most. I’m proud of the way I’ve changed my life through hard work and years of dedication. Anyone that knows me would also agree. I’m a successful business owner, father, husband and my family relies on me to be the leader I have been in the last 20 years. Nobody that knows me believes the online hatred, lies and smears that is publicly being said in regards to my contribution to this District Attorney race. We are a strong family and so am I. We are use to dealing with people like this. We just laugh it off, tune it out and take a higher more successful road to the top. I understand fully that because of the dirty politics being played by one side of the campaign, my contribution should go to a better cause and the Rodriguez campaign did the correct thing.