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Honors for prosecutor in high-profile attempted murder cases

Jeffrey Wilson praises his co-workers in bringing criminals to justice
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Involved in two high-profile attempted-murder cases over the past year, Placer County Prosecutor of the Year Jeffrey Wilson chose Tuesday to shine the spotlight on what he described as a team approach in bringing criminals to justice. Wilson is the assistant district attorney in District Attorney Scott Owens’ office, and was awarded the Prosecutor of the Year award at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. Wilson, who has worked for the county as a prosecutor for 13 years, said that he was honored to receive the award from colleagues, particularly when they know how he feels about individual awards. “I’m not a fan,” Wilson said. “Firstly, this is my job – and prosecuting is a team effort.” Wilson said he considers himself the “legal mouthpiece” and a prosecution planner for cases that are developed by investigators, legal secretaries, victims’ advocates and sheriff’s deputies. Even fellow prosecutors pitch in when needed, he said. “Without these people, prosecutions don’t happen,” Wilson said. Owens singled out Wilson’s work on two particular cases that resulted in lengthy prison terms for assailants in potentially deadly attacks. Wilson prosecuted Paul Thomas Heintz after the 24-year-old Rocklin resident was charged with attempted murder in the on-campus stabbing of 22-year-old Alex Abrahamian at Sierra College in March 2009. Found guilty in a jury trial of attempted murder, Heintz was sentenced last March to 11 years in state prison. Wilson also led the prosecution of 46-year-old Applegate resident David Allan Virgo. Virgo was involved in a 2006 shootout with Placer County Sheriff’s deputies in Newcastle. Virgo was eventually taken into custody after a standoff and charged with 10 counts of attempted murder of peace officers. Convicted of those charges, he was sentenced last December to 121 years in prison. “Every successful prosecution has a successful investigation,” Wilson said, in summing up the work leading to the Heintz and Virgo sentencing decisions in Placer County Superior Court. Owens praised Wilson for his vision and valuable legal skills before quoting a letter from sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Ausnow, who was part of the team that took part in the Newcastle shootout with Virgo. Wilson’s award is well-deserved, Ausnow said. “He’s a great attorney who gets the job done right,” Ausnow said. Same case, two awards Coincidentally, on the day Jeff Wilson received Placer County Prosecutor of the Year honors, a student who may have saved the life of the victim in the Sierra College stabbing was announced as a Carnegie Hero medalist for his bravery. Cameron C. Gilbert, 19, is credited with rescuing Alex R. Abrahamian, 22, who was being stabbed on the sidewalk of the Rocklin campus. “Gilbert stepped between the men and pushed the assailant to the ground, kicking his knife out of reach,” the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announcement stated Tuesday. The award honors people who risked their lives while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. Carnegie medalists receive financial grants. More than $33.7 million has been awarded to 9,477 honorees since the fund’s inception in 1904. Steel baron Andrew Carnegie was inspired to start the fund after hearing rescue stories from a mine disaster that killed 181 people. The Associated Press contributed to this story.