Contra Costa County D.A. Resigns, Pleas No Contest in Corruption Case

Contra Costa County's top prosecutor Mark Peterson resigned Wednesday after pleading no contest to a felony perjury charge related to the misuse of more than $66,000 in campaign funds. He has been sentenced to three years of probation plus 250 hours of community service. His chief deputy, Doug McMaster, has taken over in the interim.  

County News first covered the allegations against Peterson in December when he agreed to a $45,000 fine from the Fair Political Practices Commission. Last month, a county grand jury called for his removal from office, citing “willful or corrupt misconduct” on the job.

Peterson has admitted to using $66,372 in campaign contributions on personal items like clothes, meals and movie tickets. He also lied on campaign disclosure documents, leading to the perjury charge. He was initially facing 12 criminal charges but they were reduced to one as a result of his no contest plea.

The entire ordeal is a “Shakespearian tragedy,” said Peterson’s attorney, Dan Horowitz. In the end, he said his client just couldn’t help himself.

“It’s a story about a guy who truly dedicated his life to public service, but had this fatal flaw that he just couldn’t shake; he had to live a little bit bigger than he could afford, and it destroyed him. It really does read like a tragic novel, and there’s no reason to rejoice in what happened.”