Two McGeorge alumni serve as district attorneys in Pacific’s home counties

Two attorneys who began their legal journeys at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law are now serving as the top law-enforcement officials in counties where Pacific houses a campus.

Ron Freitas ’88 of San Joaquin County and Thien Ho ’98 of Sacramento County were elected as district attorney in their counties in June 2022 and began service in January 2023, joining eight other alumni serving California counties in that role.

The other district attorneys are: Todd Reibe ’90 (Amador), Michael Ramsey ’77 (Butte), Stacey Eads ’01 (Humboldt), Jesse Wilson ’11 (Nevada), Summer Stephan ’86 (San Diego), Stephanie Ward Bridgett ’01 (Shasta), Krishna Abrams ’93 (Solano) and Jeff Reisig ’96 (Yolo).

In Nevada, three alumni serve as district attorneys: Brian Kunzi '83 (Nye), Kevin Pasquale '84 (Humboldt) and Anne Langer ’86 (Storey).

Ron Frietas

Ron Frietas (center) at the Michael Belote Capital Center Lecture Series event on April 4, 2023 at the Citizen Hotel in downtown Sacramento.

Ron Freitas ’88

Freitas began his career with the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office. Since then, he has held an impressive variety of leadership roles within the office, including supervising deputy district attorney of the Gang Violence Suppression Unit, chief deputy district attorney of the Homicide and Gang Divisions and assistant district attorney.

In the courtroom, Freitas has been involved in several groundbreaking advances in criminal prosecution. He conducted the first scientific admissibility hearing to admit DNA evidence in San Joaquin County, as well as the first two dual-jury trials (when co-defendants are tried by separate juries during the same trial). Freitas has also argued before the California Supreme Court, successfully persuading them that autopsy reports are not testimonial.

Freitas says giving a voice to the voiceless and achieving justice for the victimized keeps him passionate about his work.

“This is what wakes me up in the morning and motivates me to go to work each and every day,” Freitas said.

Despite his accomplishments as a career prosecutor, Freitas never anticipated practicing in the field.

“When I first started at McGeorge, I thought there was no way I was going into criminal law like many of my classmates. I was going to be a business attorney, plain and simple,” Freitas explained. “Sure enough, a few criminal law and procedure classes later, I was hooked.”

Freitas’ time in Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Larry Levine’s first tort class stands out to him, as does his time interning at the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office during his studies.

“That internship is what made me decide I wanted to have a career in criminal law,” Freitas said.

On his decision to run for office Freitas said, “I felt the people of San Joaquin County deserved better. San Joaquin County has different priorities than cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, different needs, and the district attorney at the time simply was not addressing those. I’m forever thankful that the voters of San Joaquin County agreed.”

Freitas touts McGeorge’s ability to ensure that graduates are “practice-ready attorneys.”

“I got a Juris Doctor in real life lawyering, not theory, not ‘what ifs?’, but what it’s like to actually be in the courtroom. I was able to step in and excel in the courtroom from day one when I was hired in the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office,” he said. “That set me on the path to succeed in my career, and I will forever be grateful to McGeorge for that.”

Lee Neves '97, '00 led Freitas' political campaign. Neves is the owner and principal at CrossCurrentsLLC.

Thien Ho

Thien Ho served as a keynote speaker for the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association Culture Night at McGeorge on April 22, 2023. 

Thien Ho ’98

Ho joined the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office in 2004. Ho has risen through the ranks of the office and prosecuted just about every category of crime imaginable — from misdemeanor and general felony cases, to sex crimes, to gang and hate crimes.

Before assuming his role as the elected district attorney, Ho was assigned to the homicide team. In this position he prosecuted the Golden State Killer, one of California’s most notorious serial killers. The undertaking was made possible by advances in genetic genealogy. Ho’s successful prosecution gave a voice to the thirteen homicide victims and approximately 50 rape survivors in 11 jurisdictions who had waited more than 32 years for justice.

Ho describes the courtroom as “the great equalizer.”

“The only thing that matters in the courtroom is justice and the truth,” Ho said. “If you are unprepared, if you are incompetent, if you are lying, there is no place for you to hide in the courtroom.”

Ho is now responsible for leading the second largest district attorney’s office in Northern California and seventh largest in the state, with a staff of 175 prosecutors, 432 employees and a budget of more than $100 million dollars.

Ho is one of only five prosecutors of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry in the country and the first to become district attorney in Sacramento. He was recognized as one of the Sacramento Bee’s AAPI Change Makers in 2022.

“I believe that the District Attorney's Office needs to reflect the community that we serve,” Ho said. “We need to reflect the community that we serve in terms of the perspectives, the background and the life experiences that we have.”

One way Ho is working to achieve this is by creating a Community Advisory Council, which is made up of members from diverse areas in the Sacramento community.

Ho attributes competing as part of McGeorge’s nationally-ranked mock trial program to setting the foundation for his work as a trial attorney and prosecutor.

“The best experience that I had in law school was being on the mock trial team for two years,” Ho reflected.

Ho still takes to heart lessons taught by the late Trial Advocacy Director Joseph Taylor, one of his mentors at McGeorge.

“One of the things Joe Taylor taught me, besides trial skills, was that your reputation precedes you. Everything you do inside and outside the courtroom must be of the utmost integrity and ethics, and when you have integrity and ethics, and your search is for the truth and to render justice, the right thing will always happen,” he said.

Despite his busy schedule, Ho consistently gives back to McGeorge’s mock trial program. For the past 17 years, Ho and fellow mock trial coach and Adjunct Professor Keith Hill ’96, have coached students as they represent McGeorge at some of the most prestigious mock trial competitions across the country.

“True leadership is creating other leaders,” Ho said. “The students that we have coached and mentored over the years have found great success in the program and a great foundation as trial attorneys and attorneys. We see them in my office as prosecutors. We see them as public defenders. We see them in civil practice. The mock trial program has been a tremendous success in turning out amazing leaders and advocates not just here in Sacramento, but in so many different areas throughout the State of California.”