Why hasn’t Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner been arrested?

May 10, 2024 /

When news broke that Kern County Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner was under investigation for allegedly sexually assaulting one of his four children, public reaction ranged from sadness to shock to anger. But as of this date, Scrivner has not been arrested or booked on any charges, drawing skepticism from community members with claims that Scrivner is being given preferential treatment because he comes from a powerful politically connected Republican family.

“I know there’s a thirst for knowledge and for information from the media and the public,” said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood. “But we will not let the media or the public dictate the pace of our investigation, we want to make sure we do it right.”

At a news conference on April 25th at sheriff headquarters in Bakersfield, Youngblood confirmed rumors that two days earlier, a search warrant was served on Scrivner’s home in Tehachapi.  Deputies initially responded to a report that Scrivner was having a psychotic episode, and was armed and suicidal. But Youngblood confirmed deputies soon found more than a suicidal man, namely he said, “possible evidence” of a sexual assault.  Further, two of Scrivener’s minor children got into an altercation with him and one of them stabbed Scrivner twice, protecting the other child from what he believed occurred, said Youngblood.  Scrivner was treated and released from Kern Medical Hospital.

According to legal experts, though it may appear that a high-profile person may be given preferential treatment, it is usually not the case. Police must meet the standard of probable cause to issue a warrant to arrest someone. To meet that standard, police must have enough evidence to support the case.  Once police make an arrest, there is a strict timeline to meet, or else that person goes free. “You have 48 hours to do certain things, and we know that cannot get any of this done within 48 hours to meet that time clock, so this is the proper way to do this,” said the sheriff, who emphasized the investigation is on-going and it will “take a while” to conclude.

In such high-profile cases, authorities want to make sure they have all their ducks in order.

“Even in scenarios where there may be probable cause, in some circumstances, the investigation can be forwarded to the investigations division for additional follow-up before submitting the case to the DA’s office for review and the issuance of a warrant,” said Bakersfield police Sgt. Eric Celedon. Such is the case in another matter where Paul Magallanes, a teacher for the Panama Buena-Vista school district was recently arrested in connection with the murder of Margarita Lopez. Though Magallanes was initially arrested, the Kern County District Attorney’s office said there was insufficient evidence to charge him and Magallanes was released and is a free man while further investigation is being done.

Scrivner’s defense attorney, H.A. Sala staunchly defended his client, criticizing Youngblood for publicizing what Sala called false accusations and without conducting a full investigation before going public.  Sala noted Scrivner’s record as a public servant who “has done so much for this community,” and he said, “deserves better.”

With the investigation in progress, Sala said the public must not make pre-judgments.  “Folks need to walk it back a little bit and keep an open mind and not jump to conclusions and assumptions about what happened,” said Sala. 

Zack Scrivner has a long history in local politics.  Elected to the Bakersfield City Council in 2004, he served for six years representing Ward 7. He is a protégé of Kevin McCarthy, the ex-speaker of the House, and served as district director for former state Sen. Jean Fuller from 2006 to 2010 and, before that, as a field representative for then-Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy from 2002 to 2006.  His estranged wife, Christina Scrivnerserved on the Tehachapi City Council but resigned in December 2022 after being elected to the Kern Community College District’s board of trustees, a post she still holds.  His mother, Kathy Scrivner serves on the Kern High School Board of Trustees, and his aunt, Cynthia Zimmer is the Kern County District Attorney.

In March, Christina Scrivner filed for divorce.  On May 2nd she petitioned for a temporary restraining order against her husband based on domestic violence and the petition was granted by Kern County Superior Court judge Tanya Richard. Zack Scrivner must stay 100 yards away from Christina Scrivner and their four children.  The next hearing on the matter is on May 22nd.

Once the investigation by KCSO is completed, it will be turned over to the State Attorney General’s office for review which will decide whether to file charges against Scrivner.  The case would normally be reviewed by the Kern County District Attorney’s office, but since Zimmer is Scrivner’s aunt and a potential witness in the case, it is considered a conflict of interest for her office to review the investigation.

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Jose Gaspar

José Gaspar is a veteran journalist and former news anchor/reporter with Telemundo, Bakersfield. Prior, he worked 28 years at KBAK-TV as a reporter. Email him at jose@southkernsol.org.