David Onek, Executive Director
David Onek was named Executive Director of the Northern California Innocence Project in 2013.
Onek served as a Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission, where he set policy for the Police Department and oversaw the police discipline process. Prior to that, Onek worked as Deputy Director of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's Office of Criminal Justice, where he led numerous criminal justice policy initiatives for the Mayor. Onek was a candidate for San Francisco District Attorney in 2011, running on a strong criminal justice reform platform and finishing second to the incumbent.
Onek was also the Founding Executive Director of the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice at UC Berkeley Law School (now part of the Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy). He created and hosted the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast, a co-production of the UC Berkeley Law School and the UC Berkeley School of Journalism. Onek taught “Criminal Justice Reform in California” as a Lecturer at UC Berkeley Law School and as an Adjunct Professor at UC Hastings Law School.
Earlier in his career, Onek worked at the W. Haywood Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness and Equity, Legal Services for Children, the National Council in Crime and Delinquency, and Walden House. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Brown University.
Linda Starr, Legal Director
Linda Starr received her J.D. from the University of Southern California Law Center and clerked for the California Court of Appeal upon graduation. She was an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, New York, where she wrote and argued post-conviction matters before state and federal courts and was a supervisor in the Sex Crimes and Special Victims Unit. Ms. Starr worked as a staff attorney at the Sixth District Appellate Program in California and then privately represented indigent criminal defendants on appeal. In 2001, she co-founded NCIP.
Maitreya Badami, Supervising Attorney
Maitreya Badami received her JD from the University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law in 1994. She spent 16 years in criminal defense, both as a deputy public defender and in private practice. She has litigated both trial and appellate cases, in California state and federal courts. She has been a panel attorney for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, litigating direct appeals and habeas corpus petitions.
Sarah Bonini, Project Manager
Sarah holds a JD from Santa Clara Law, as well as many years experience as a teacher and administrator at St. Lawrence Academy and Holy Spirit School in San Jose. She has extensive experience in coordinating complex projects staffed by volunteers, particularly with St. Mary's School of Los Gatos. Sarah handles the budgets and data collection for cases involving claims of innocence based on DNA evidence.
Melissa Dague O'Connell, Staff Attorney
Melissa received her JD from Santa Clara Law in 2003, with a certificate in Public Interest. She served for several years a Deputy Public Defender in Solano County, and most recently was a criminal defense attorney with Cooper Law Offices. She supervises NCIP students and maintains a caseload of her own focusing on claims of innocence involving DNA evidence.
Holly Dixon, Paralegal
Holly graduated from Santa Clara Law School in December 2010. She worked for NCIP as a basic and advanced student, and most recently as a Research Assistant. Holly is a native of Cincinnati, OH where she worked in social services and human resources before discovering her passion for criminal law. She began law school at Northern Kentucky University, Chase College of Law before transferring to Santa Clara Law School. Holly handles case review and investigation focusing on claims of innocence involving DNA evidence.
Rhonda Donato, Supervising Attorney
Rhonda Donato supervises students through the Innocence Project clinic at Santa Clara University and litigates post-conviction cases in Central and Northern California. Ms. Donato was previously a staff attorney for Justice Paul Haerle on the First District Court of Appeal. She also worked as a litigation associate at McCutchen, Doyle, Brown and Enersen in San Francisco. Ms. Donato served as an extern for the Honorable Melvin Brunetti on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in Reno, Nevada. She graduated, cum laude, from Santa Clara University Law School in 1989 where she was a recipient of the Emery Law Scholarship and a member of the Law Review.
Cathy Dreyfuss, Directing Attorney
Cathy brings over 25 years experience as a practicing attorney. Her previous experience includes working as Deputy Public Defender in Los Angeles County, Staff Attorney with the Death Penalty Project of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Directing Attorney for the Indigent Criminal Defense Appointments Program of the LA County Bar Association, and most recently a Deputy Public Defender in Humboldt County. Cathy oversees cases involving claims of innocence based on DNA evidence.
Rhonda Dyer, Database Administrator
Rhonda Dyer customizes, manages and troubleshoots the database programs NCIP uses. Her expertise with Microsoft programs such as Excel and Access and her ability to customize other programs to suit NCIP’s needs have been invaluable. Much of her time in this part-time position is spent managing NCIP’s largest program, Amicus Attorney, which houses information on the 7000+ people and 3000+ files related to the project. Rhonda is retired after a career at Hewlett Packard and, in her spare time, she and her search and rescue dogs seek lost people in remote locations for local law enforcement organizations.
Kelley Fleming, Staff Attorney
Kelley received her JD from Whittier Law School in 2007, after having been a teacher for several years. She was practicing in the field of special education prior to serving as a Deputy Public Defender in Humboldt County. She supervises NCIP students under the supervision of Cathy Dreyfuss and maintains a caseload of her own focusing on claims of innocence involving DNA evidence.
Todd Fries, Research Attorney
Todd Fries graduated cum laude from Santa Clara Law in 2009 with a certificate in Public Interest and Social Justice after completing his Bachelor of Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles. Mr. Fries began working for the Northern California Innocence Project in 2007 as a clinical student and returned to NCIP as a research fellow as part of the law school’s post-graduate fellowship program. He is currently a full-time research attorney for the Veritas Initiative, NCIP’s research and policy entity.
Paige Kaneb, Supervising Attorney
Paige Kaneb is a recent cum laude graduate of the University Of San Francisco School of Law and graduated from Hamilton College in 2000. Prior to working at the Innocence Project, Ms. Kaneb interned at the Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office as a law clerk and worked for the Institute for Global Justice researching ways to sue and prosecute oil companies and banks for corrupt practices linked to extreme poverty and human rights abuses in Equatorial Guinea.
Amy Kennedy, Case Manager
Upon completing her Bachelor of Science from Santa Clara University in 2006, Amy Kennedy became a Jesuit Volunteer with the Innocence Project-New Orleans for a year-long placement. After completing her year in New Orleans, she returned to Santa Clara to work at NCIP. She has since graduated from Santa Clara Law and has become an attorney.
Sandy Lichau, Office Manager
Sandy Lichau has worked at the law clinic since 1971. Prior to joining Santa Clara University she studied at San Jose State University and worked at the law firm of Tunney, Carlyle & Bennett. Ms. Lichau provides direct administrative support to the director, legal director, development director, attorneys, and case manager, and guidance and support to the law students.
Audrey Redmond, Marketing Communications Manager
Audrey Redmond joined the Northern California Innocence Project in 2008 heading the Marketing Communications Department. She handles marketing and communications for NCIP, including external and internal communications, events, printed materials such as newsletters and brochures, online content development, media relations ;and mail and email campaigns. Audrey earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a Marketing concentration from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
John Scardamaglia, Staff Attorney
John received his JD from Santa Clara Law in 2009. While in law school, he served as a certified law clerk for the District Attorney's Office and as a judicial extern in the Santa Clara County Superior Court. He was a research assistant with the Northern California Innocence Project, where he has remained active since graduation. He supervises NCIP students under the supervision of Cathy Dreyfuss and maintains a caseload of his own focusing on claims of innocence involving DNA evidence.
Jessica Seargeant, Research Attorney
Jessica Seargeant graduated from Santa Clara Law in 2009 after having completed her Bachelor of Arts at the University of California, San Diego. Ms. Seargeant started working with NCIP in 2008, first by taking the course during law school and then working as a research assistant. After being admitted to the California State Bar, she came back to NCIP as a part of the law school’s post-graduate fellowship program, transitioning into a full-time research attorney at NCIP, focusing on prosecutorial misconduct at the Veritas Initiative.
Ronda Swenson, Paralegal
Ronda has a Masters Degree in Education and has earned substantial units toward obtaining her PHD in Human Services with a specialization in Criminal Justice. Prior to joining CDP, she worked in the criminal defense field for over twelve years as a paralegal for a criminal conflicts panel. Ronda has spent the last five years working as a social worker/investigator for dependency attorneys, a job close to her heart since her family has taken in foster children for almost 20 years. Ronda handles case review and investigation focusing on claims of innocence involving DNA evidence.