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Senior Corner

Betty Rhodes, Senior Corner: A conversation with Diane Knoles

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I’m sure you will remember our visit with our Napa County District Attorney, Allison Haley and how very informative she was. Along with other amazing things she shared with us, was the fact that she had fairly recently hired a new Deputy District Attorney from the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. Today, we have the honor of having Diane Knoles with us as our guest. She will share with us, along with a bit of her history before coming to Napa, the fact that she is the Head of the Elder Abuse Unit.

Please welcome Napa Deputy District Attorney Diane Knoles.

Betty: Thank you for joining us, this morning, Diane. Please share with us a little of your history before coming to Napa, as well as enlighten us about your relatively new job with our District Attorney, Allison Haley

Diane: “Thank you, Betty. I went to local schools and still live nearby with my husband and two daughters. I just turned 62 and find I have aged into the population I now focus on protecting! I joined the Napa District Attorney’s Office in June 2020. I love working for DA Allison Haley, who is deeply committed to public safety and understands the importance of her role in enforcing our laws.

A bit of my history before coming to Napa: In 1986, I started working at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, beginning in the Misdemeanor Unit. From then until 1996, the SFDA’s office was

headed by former Assistant Attorney General Arlo Smith and his team of talented career prosecutors. At that time, the SFDA’s Office was well respected and I learned from my supervisors and colleagues to prioritize victims’ needs and to seek justice for them and for the community.

I transitioned to the Preliminary Hearings Unit, and then became the Assistant Supervisor of the Misdemeanor Trial Division. I also worked in the Domestic Violence, Narcotics, and Sexual Assault Units. For many years, I worked in the Special Prosecutions Unit handling insurance fraud and other complex and high-profile cases, and while there began San Francisco’s first Elder Abuse Unit. Eventually, I became Head of the Intake Unit, which made many of the charging decisions for the office. I also handled homicides for several years, and in May, 2020, resigned as Head of the Homicide Unit.

I feel so fortunate to be working at the Napa County District Attorney’s Office in Napa, the DA is focused on enforcing victims’ rights and in doing our best to make sure that justice prevails. That view is consistent with my own philosophy, and so it is a great pleasure to come to work every day.

Betty: Since coming to Napa, what have you realized about the Napa County community that is different from your previous experience in San Francisco?

Diane: DA Allison Haley understands her important role in keeping this community safe. Allison works hard to ensure her attorneys are equipped with necessary resources and she fosters an atmosphere that inspires her deputies to do their best work and to provide justice for victims.

People often do not realize how important the DA is in determining a community’s quality of life. I am so proud to work for Allison, who leads an administration focused on victims’ rights and justice, which directly and positively impacts the quality of life for all of Napa’s citizens.

Allison believes in the separation of powers under our Constitution and understands that her role is not to make the laws. Under Allison’s direction, her deputies’ impartially enforce the law, using appropriate charges, enhancements and allegations, as the Legislature and California voters intended.

Betty: Well, I’ve been reading a few San Francisco Chronicle articles describing the alarming working conditions in the SFDA’s Office and the impact the new District Attorney is having on San Francisco. How did your experience working at the SFDA’s Office affect your transition to the Napa DA’s Office?

Diane: “In Napa, It is refreshing to focus on justice for victims, supporting law enforcement, and on ensuring public safety. When the prosecutor’s primary concerns revolve around the criminals, public safety suffers. Public safety should not be political!

Allison recently opened the Monarch Justice Center, which embodies her unique vision of serving victims. The Monarch center works in collaboration with other Napa County partners and the non-profit community to organize all the wrap-around services any crime survivor might need. It is available for all victims but it primarily focuses on victims of domestic violence, elder abuse, sex trafficking, and sexual assault. It is truly a revolutionary concept that will serve as a model for similar centers across the country.”

Betty: Diane, there is so much more I want our readers to her from you. Much more about the Elder Abuse Unit’s function, what you see in store for the future of the Napa DA’s office, etc.

Thank you, so very much, for today’s visit. Do you think we might get you to come back?

Diane: “It would be my pleasure, Betty.”

Thank you so very much, Diane, for today and our future day.

This video shows a wine warehouse being built in the city of Napa from April to late October, 2021.

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