The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has filed a motion conceding that racial bias was involved when Antioch police arrested four men in 2021 for two alleged gang-related murders. 

The motion was made public at a hearing on Aug. 25 in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez on a motion by attorneys for the four men, saying the arrests violated the California Racial Justice Act, which blocks prosecutors from seeking a conviction based on race, ethnicity or national origin. 

Judge David Goldstein ruled the District Attorney’s Office concession allowed the officers to avoid testifying at Aug. 25 hearing.

Goldstein ruled the case will now move to the remediation portion of the motion, with the next hearing set for Sept. 8.

Carmela Caramagno, attorney representing Terryonn Pugh, speaks with the press after the first half of a hearing at A.F. Bray Courthouse in Martinez, Calif., on July 21, 2023. The hearing was for determining whether the Antioch Police Department officers violated the Racial Justice Act in arresting four Black suspects, including Pugh, for murder in 2021. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Goldstein denied defense attorney Carmela Caramagno’s motion to hear more evidence and to keep the officers under subpoena, but without prejudice — meaning she can subpoena them again for the next phase of the case.

Antioch police arrested 22-year-old Terryonn Pugh, 23-year-old Eric Windom, 24-year-old Keyshawn McGee and 22-year-old Trent Allen in 2021 for two alleged gang-related murders. All four of the Black defendants remain in custody and were present at Aug. 25 hearing. 

At least 10 Antioch and Pittsburg police officers were recently indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on charges including improper use of weapons and a police dog on suspects, civil rights violations, falsifying records, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, turning off body cameras, selling steroids, and paying individuals to take college classes for officers.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is also charging officers from both cities with obstruction of justice and bribery for fixing traffic tickets for friends. 

“It’s my understanding that all the officers involved (in the 2021 arrests) have been indicted,” Goldstein said. 

Goldstein said it’s also his understanding that during the remediation phase of the case, he can’t outright dismiss the murder charges against the four men. He said he can dismiss enhancements and reduce charges but wants defense attorneys to prepare to argue how and why he can legally do so. 

Goldstein also told prosecutor Jordan Sanders to be able to present enough evidence at the next hearing to convince him the full prosecution of the four men can move ahead, despite the District Attorney’s Office concession of officers’ bias. Sanders said it was a “Catch-22,” because “by showing (the defense) that, I’m showing them what I can prove, or what I can’t prove.” 

Nevertheless, Goldstein said, “You’re going to want to convince me.” 

During the FBI and District Attorney’s Office investigations, racist and homophobic text messages involving as many as 45 Antioch police officers were made public.

Bella Quinto Collins, sister of Angelo Quinto holds signs in protest against the Antioch Police officers involved in the racist text scandal in the department during a hearing involving the officers at A.F. Bray Courthouse in Martinez, Calif., on July 21, 2023. Her brother Angelo Quinto died from complications three days after being knelt on the neck by an Antioch police officer. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Defense attorneys for the four men at Aug. 25 hearing have said some of their clients were mentioned in the text messages. The texts, which used racist and homophobic language and described violence against suspects, also included slurs and threats against former police chief Steven Ford and Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, both of whom are African American.