For release on February 23, 2023
Public Communications Officer
DA Annual Awards: Parents of Children who Died of Opioid Overdoses Honored
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office gave its annual awards to a tireless lawyer who prosecuted gang murderers, the head of a center that helps children who have been abused, and a group of parents who transformed the pain of losing their children to fentanyl into a mission to save others from the toxic drug.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen personally gave the parents the annual Courage award. Since their children fatally overdosed pills laced with the fentanyl, they have been working alongside law enforcement, health officials and prosecutors to raise awareness in the county of about its dangers.
DA Rosen praised the parents before a large crowd of prosecutors, police chiefs, and county officials: “Our work is their work – and their work is our work. They want their children’s memories to live on as a catalyst for change rather than one dark moment in time. And so do we. And so they will.”
The annual awards recognize outstanding work by the Office’s prosecutors, investigators, criminalists, paralegals, and support staff. Each year, the Office also recognizes a courageous crime victim. This year the award went to the six parents, who are sharing their children’s tragedies to raise awareness about the dangerous opioid.
DA Rosen gave a “State of the Office” speech singling out other notable achievements of the past year, including a unit that solved 12 cold cases: seven sex assaults and five murders including the slaying of 15-year-old Karen Stitt in 1982.
DA Rosen gave his excellence outside of trial award given to a veteran prosecutor who helped unravel and successfully prosecuted a massive scheme set up to cheat and defraud health insurance companies out of $50 million. The fraud began with the creation of a call center, which solicited unwitting victims, and used doctors to write fraudulent prescriptions for pain cream and back and neck braces. The criminals billed the insurance companies, laundered the proceeds, and hid behind an obscure web of more than 40 shell corporations.
Here is a full list of the winners:
• Robert L. Webb Award for Excellence in Misdemeanor Trials: DDA Melissa Castillo
• Award of Excellence for Support Staff:
Support Services: Legal Secretary Celeste De Leon
Community Service: Program Manager Jennifer Puthoff
• Lowell W. Bradford Achievement of Excellence Award – Crime Laboratory Division: Criminalist Marcela Velasco
• Paralegal Excellence Award: Senior Paralegal Christopher Vu
• Rolanda Pierre-Dixon Excellence in the Pursuit of Justice Award for Excellence Outside the Courtroom: DDA Mattia Corsiglia
• Michael P. Brown Award for the Bureau of Investigation: Sr. Investigator Lorraine Tatsukawa
• Napoleon J. Menard Award for Felony Trial Advocacy: DDA Sulaiman Tokhi
• Karyn Sinunu-Towery Courage Award: Ed and Mary Ternan, Jan Blom, Lisa Marquez, Geralyn Maul-Vasquez, and Brennan Mullin.