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ALAMEDA — An Oakland judge who was arrested during a prostitution sting avoided probation in an unusual plea deal that he made with the Alameda County district attorney’s office on Friday. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jackson “Jack” Gifford was one of 21 people arrested during a videotaped prostitution sting March 3. Gifford, a 76-year-old widower, told a police decoy he would pay her $40 to have sex at his house, police reports say. On Friday, Gifford pleaded no contest to disturbing the peace and paid a $270 fine, but avoided probation. Most johns plead guilty to disturbing the peace, pay a $120 fine and are put on probation for two years, said Deputy District Attorney Kevin Dunleavy. Since many of the men arrested in the March 3 sting have not yet made their initial court appearances, it’s too early to tell if those cases were handled the same way, he said. A supervisor at the public defender’s office said most PD clients in Gifford’s situation receive probation. “It would be an unusual case with no probation,” said Assistant Public Defender Byron Brown. District Attorney Tom Orloff could not be reached for comment on Friday. The prosecutor who handled the case, Eileen McAndrew, declined to comment outside the courtroom. Gifford’s defense attorney, Michael Cardoza, said the case was handled fairly. “I wanted to try this case,” said Cardoza, a high-powered Walnut Creek attorney who is a frequent television commentator on the Scott Peterson trial. “We knew if we took this case to trial, there would be blood in the courtroom. There would be no winners in this case.” “Neither side is happy with this, but we can live with the result,” he added. Gifford, who did not appear at Monday’s hearing, is eager to return to the bench, but has not made a final decision about that, Cardoza said. “This won’t affect his decisions in criminal cases,” he said. It has, however, cast a shadow over Gifford’s 40-year legal career. The judge was a private practitioner for more than two decades before Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the municipal court in 1981. Gifford was elevated to the superior court through trial court unification. Gifford usually sits in the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland conducting felony preliminary exams. His plea was entered before Judge Peter Smith, a retired Marin County judge sitting by assignment. The judge still faces a possible investigation by the Commission on Judicial Performance, which has the power to reprimand judges or even remove them from the bench. The commission has declined to comment on Gifford’s case.

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