Tim Covello announces candidacy for district attorney post

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comDecember 10, 2013 

Assistant District Attorney Tim Covello makes his opening statements in court Monday, March 11, 2013, in San Luis Obispo, where Rhonda Wisto and her son, Jacob York, were on trial for the murder of Dystiny Myers.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Tim Covello, who has prosecuted several of San Luis Obispo County’s most infamous and high-profile criminal cases in the past 15 years, announced Tuesday that he is running for district attorney.

Covello is now the second person to declare his candidacy since Gerry Shea, the current district attorney, announced that he did not intend to seek another term. Dan Dow, a deputy district attorney, announced his intention to run last month.

Covello, 52, of San Luis Obispo, is currently the assistant district attorney, a management position that makes him second in command after Shea. He recently was the lead prosecutor in the Dystiny Myers murder case, which resulted in murder convictions for all five defendants charged in the 15-year-old’s death. He and John Trice, now a Superior Court judge, prosecuted Rex Krebs, who received the death penalty in 2001 for abducting and killing two college students. And he prosecuted a trio of defendants convicted in 2003 of murdering National Guardsman Michael Sotelo.

Having worked those high-profile cases and others would prove helpful if elected district attorney, Covello said.

“You understand the people you are working with — what kind of pressure they’re under,” he said. “Because you’ve been there.”

While he has extensive trial experience, Covello is also respected for his knowledge of court precedent and has often been assigned cases with complex legal issues, including the case of Peter Derks, a once-cold murder case solved with DNA evidence.

“I’m certainly not afraid, when issues come up at trial, to take matters up at the court of appeals — or the Supreme Court if we have to,” he said.

Born in Roseville and raised in Bakersfield, he graduated from UC Berkeley and then the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, where he taught legal research and writing.

Early in his career, Covello represented large corporations and banks in civil litigation while performing pro bono work for the San Francisco public defender’s office. He joined the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office in 1993, where he initially prosecuted misdemeanors. From there, he became a felony trial leader. After his appointment to chief deputy district attorney in 2006, he was appointed assistant district attorney last February while in the throes of the Myers case, which entailed a lengthy trial.

“I’ve done both the trial work and the courtroom work, and I’ve also done the management work in the last seven years, dealing with policy and how operations are run on a daily basis,” he said.

While Covello has been with the office substantially longer than Dow — and has handled more high-profile cases — Dow, a 43-year-old Army veteran, has endorsements from close to 20 of his peers at the District Attorney’s Office while Covello’s campaign material lists none from his office.

Covello said others might not see him as a peer because he is in management. And he said there has been stress with busy caseloads, which he hopes to manage more efficiently.

Covello said he doesn’t take it personally that his co-workers have aligned with Dow.

“Really I want to see the office work really well,” he said. “Most of the folks I work with, they know who I am and know I’ve had their backs for a long time. They come to me when they need help.”

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