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County supervisors appoint Summer Stephan as interim district attorney

Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan announces the results of an operation targeting sex trafficking of girls and young women.

SAN DIEGO — The Board of Supervisors Tuesday appointed veteran prosecutor Summer Stephan as San Diego County’s interim top prosecutor to succeed Bonnie Dumanis, who is retiring.

Stephan is the chief deputy district attorney, and has gained numerous endorsements for the permanent job when elections are held next year. She’s served 28 years.

She was appointed as interim D.A. on a unanimous vote. Others who applied for the job were Adam Gordon, a former prosecutor who now practices in business litigation and white-collar defense and retired prosecutor Greg Walden.

Dumanis, who is in her fourth term, plans to step down on July 7 and mull over a run for the District 4 supervisor’s seat next year. She endorsed Stephan to be her successor.

“What I would ask you to look at is not just my internal leadership and the absolute trust that the troops have put in me, wanting me to lead them at this time and in the future,” Stephan said in her opening statement to the board. “It’s the fact that my leadership also extends to law enforcement and it extends to the community that we serve. I’m a trusted leader inside and outside the office.”

Opponents, however, contended that appointing Stephan would give her an unfair advantage when elections for a full term are held. Both Gordon and Walden said they wouldn’t be candidates for the permanent job.

Opposition also came from the parents of Stephanie Crowe, a 12-year-old girl killed in her Escondido bedroom 19 years ago.

“My husband, Steve, and son, Michael, are at home. My daughter, Stephanie, is in a grave,” Cheryl Crowe said.

“She was murdered, and the killer got away with it,” she said in sometimes tearful comments. “It would have been a lot different if Summer Stephan had not been assigned to the case.”

Crowe said Stephan spent a page and a half of her application defending her handling of the case and writing that it showed how compassionate, ethical and competent she was. In truth, she was mean, unethical and incompetent,” Crowe said.

Stephan was the second prosecutor on the troubled case, taking over when Stephanie’s brother and two of the boy’s friends were charged with her murder. The teens were later exonerated and a homeless man found with her blood on his sweatshirt was eventually found guilty. His conviction was overturned on appeal, however.

The process to hire the county’s chief prosecutor originally called for interviews to be held Tuesday, with the field being winnowed to three and an appointment made next week. But with just three applicants and the first round of voting going strongly in Stephan’s favor, the supervisors agreed to go ahead and make the appointment.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story erroneously reported that Stephan was approved as interim DA on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Kristin Gaspar dissenting.