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Plumas County’s first four-term district attorney reflects on his work

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

 

“Every day, I am dealing with someone’s worst day.”

District Attorney David Hollister begins his fourth term in office this year – which is unprecedented in Plumas County for that position. Feather Publishing file photo

That statement reverberated in my thoughts long after my interview with Plumas County District Attorney David Hollister came to an end. As a prosecutor, Hollister works with crime victims and their alleged perpetrators — arguably it’s the worst day for those on both sides.

For the past 30 years Hollister has worked to bring justice to victims, beginning with the Alameda County District Attorney’s office where he served as Deputy District Attorney to Plumas County where he is beginning his fourth term as District Attorney. Hollister is proud of the fact that he has never had a case reversed on appeal.

But three decades of prosecuting criminals, some of which were very high-profile cases, can take their toll. You see things that you can’t forget — such as the battered body of a toddler or a traumatized 7-year-old rape victim left with great bodily injury.

Hollister described both as two of the most heart-wrenching cases he has tried. And though he gained convictions in both cases he can’t restore the life of the toddler, nor the innocence of the 7-year-old. The latter testified against her attacker, which was difficult. “She wouldn’t talk to anybody,” Hollister said. But she liked basketball and Hollister was a former college basketball player. “I spent hours with her shooting baskets,” Hollister said, and she testified. For years after the trial, she would send Hollister Christmas cards. That case was in Oakland.

The other case that remains with him is the 2015 case in Quincy when a man was convicted of killing his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son. That case impacted everyone who worked on it, as details emerged of the brutal assault.

Hollister likened the aftermath of dealing with such cases as putting pebbles in a jar. “My jar is getting pretty full,” he said, but he’s not ready to be done. Hollister, who turns 57 in March, said he still really likes his job “and will do it for as long as the voters willhave me.”

While it’s heart wrenching, it’s also rewarding and Hollister can run down a long list of cases that he is proud to have worked, including the “Riders” – when he was assigned as the sole attorney to investigate, evaluate and prosecute four Oakland police officers charged with 30 on-duty crimes ranging from kidnapping to conspiracy to obstruct justice. “There was a lot of pressure, a lot of threats,” he said of the experience. “But you have to push away the noise and always strive for justice.”

When asked to name his most rewarding case, Wallin-Reed came to mind. In that case, which was featured on the television show Dateline, Hollister successfully prosecuted Gregory Chad Wallin-Reed on murder charges in a “stand your ground” case where Wallin-Reed pursued and fired at a car full of young men who had taken solar lights. In addition to Hollister, detectives with the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office, were featured on the Dateline show, recounting how they collected evidence in the case.

“This was very high profile; it was supposed to be an acquittal, but the fact that all of us — the Sheriff, the DA and the jurors all said, ‘No. This is not a stand your ground case,’” made the difference.

Hollister said he enjoys a good working relationship with Sheriff’s personnel, and they, in turn, appreciate his work.

District 4 Supervisor Greg Hagwood, who served as Sheriff during Hollister’s tenure, said the working relationship is paramount. “In order for public safety and law enforcement to effectively serve citizens and visitors of Plumas County, it’s absolutely essential that the Sherriff, the sheriff’s office personnel, and the District Attorney have a close, collaborative working relationship.”

Beyond the relationship, Hagwood lauded Hollister for being a tireless, talented prosecutor who has one of the highest conviction rates in the state. Hagwood said that Plumas County is fortunate to have someone of his caliber, and the fact that he has never been challenged on the ballot speaks to the public’s confidence in him as well. Hagwood added that Hollister instills confidence in the deputies walking into court because they know that he is unwavering and always prepared.

Hollister also highlighted the good working relationship he has with the judiciary including Judges Ira Kaufman, Janet Hilde and Doug Prouty. “It’s been a pleasure to work in those courts,” he said.

He also praised his staff. “I have been so fortunate to have hard-working, dedicated people,” he said. “They do their work with grace, consistency and skill. There are people who have been there 14, 16, 18 years.”

The work is challenging and knows no set hours. “You are on call 24/7,” Hollister said. “It’s impacted birthdays, holidays, Christmas.” If there’s a homicide, Hollister gets the call.

And it’s not always the criminals that make the work challenging. Hollister cited local government and new laws out of Sacramento as examples. For the past year, Hollister has been the sole prosecutor in the DA’s office, a fact he partially attributes to the low pay offered. During that time, he prosecuted all felony and juvenile cases, managed the Drug Court and Mental Health Court calendars, met all in-custody charging and on-call responsibilities, and administered the office of 10.

But that will change soon with the addition of two new assistant district attorneys that Hollister recruited.  He will have help administering the roughly 1,000 cases annually that come through the DA’s office. “I won’t have to cover every calendar, every decision,” Hollister said. Both individuals are taking large pay cuts to come to Plumas County, but the area attracted them.

It’s what originally drew Hollister and his wife, Lara, who is the principal of Quincy Elementary School, to move to Quincy back in 2003, and it’s what will entice him to stay when he retires. (Though he always plans to work in some fashion — whether it’s teaching, such as he has at Feather River College, or prosecuting cases on a temporary basis for other jurisdictions.) But when he’s not working, he will enjoy what he describes as the “adult amusement park” to be found in Plumas County with its opportunities to hike and fish and play golf.

But for now, more time will be spent in the courthouse than on the Middle Fork. He is beginning his fourth term as district attorney, and it is coming during an interesting time, when the state judiciary has resumed its intention to build a new courthouse in Quincy. Hollister likes the idea of placing it at the back of Dame Shirley Plaza and connecting the courthouse lawn to that of the plaza. (This would require closing Court Street.) “This would provide a courthouse square approach,” he said, “and not disturb the Veterans Memorial.”

He also wants to continue to meet the high expectations that he sets for his office. “We are open 7 to 5 and we never missed a day; never missed a court appointment,” he said — not even during the pandemic.

Twenty years after he arrived in Plumas County to take a job as a deputy district attorney, Hollister still enjoys the work and remains committed to it. “I am happy to be a steward of this office,” he said.

 

Plumas County District Attorneys

 David Hollister is beginning his fourth term, making him the longest-serving Plumas County District Attorney. Following is a rundown of his predecessors.

 

  1. Thomas Cox: 1854-1854
  2. John R. Buckbee: 1855-1856, 1864-1867 (appointed 1st term)
  3. Robert I. Barnett: 1857-1858
  4. Woodbury D. Sawyer: 1859-1861
  5. Patrick Oglesby Hundley: 1862-1863
  6. A.J. Howe: 1863-1863 (appointed 1st term)
  7. Hiram L. Gear: 1868-1869
  8. David L. Haun: 1870-1873
  9. R.H.F. Variel: 1874-1882
  10. Hugh S. Porter: 1883-1886
  11. Charles Emmet McLaughlin: 1887-1890
  12. Ulysses S. Webb: 1891-1902
  13. Fred W. Borden: 1902-1902 (appointed 1st term)
  14. Louis Nelson Peter: 1903-1906
  15. M.C. Kerr: 1907-1918, 1935-1938, 1943-1945
  16. L.H. Hughes: 1919-1921
  17. Stanley Colin Young: 1921-1934 (appointed 1st term)
  18. William M. Macmillian: 1939-1940
  19. H.B. Wolfe: 1941-1942
  20. Frank H. McAulffie: 1946-1950
  21. Bertram D. Janes: 1951-1953
  22. John F. Keane: 1953-1958 (appointed 1st term)
  23. Chellis Carpenter: 1959-1966
  24. Stanley C. Young Jr.: 1967-1969
  25. Morris Durrant: 1969-1970 (appointed 1st term)
  26. Gerald E. Flanigan: 1975-1982
  27. Gary Fry: 1983-1986
  28. Thomas M. Buckwalter: 1986-1990
  29. Michael Crane: 1991-1992
  30. James A. Reichle: 1992-2002
  31. Jeff Cunan: 2003-2010
  32. David Hollister: 2011-present (2023)

    David Hollister is the district attorney not a judge, but he played that role when he mentored then Quincy High School student Kayla Thackeray with her senior class project. Feather Publishing file photo

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