By Joe Tash
After graduating from law school in 1997, Dino Paraskevopoulos planned to earn an advanced degree in taxation, and had already been accepted to a master’s degree program. But before he could begin the next phase of his studies, he was hired by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, which changed his career path.
Paraskevopoulos, 42, a Carmel Valley resident and the son of Greek immigrants, enjoyed the work so much that he decided to stay on. Over the past 16 years, he has tried a broad range of felony cases, from murders to robberies to child abuse and molestation.
Recently, he was singled out for praise along with seven of his colleagues by the County Board of Supervisors for outstanding performance. Paraskevopulos was recognized for his work in convicting Santa Ysabel resident Patrick Pawlicki of child molestation.
In a proclamation, the supervisors declared Oct. 8 as “Dino Paraskevopoulos Day.”
The award was great fun for his family, friends and church, Paraskevopoulos said. “It’s an honor. But I don’t take myself too seriously.”
Paraskevopoulos said his parents moved the U.S. from Greece in the late 1960s and didn’t speak English. He was born and raised in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood, and grew up speaking Greek at home, while learning English in school. He graduated from UCSD with a degree in political science, then attended California Western School of Law.
Over the years, Paraskevopoulos has been assigned to a number of different units within the District Attorney’s office, including juvenile, gangs and narcotics. For the past eight years, he worked with the office’s family protection division, handling cases of domestic violence, child and elder abuse, including murders. This year, he promoted to assistant chief of the Case Issuance, Extraditions and Collaborative Courts Division.
“We’re the gatekeepers for the general felonies,” deciding if charges should be filed when cases are presented by law enforcement, sent back for more investigation or rejected for prosecution, he said.
Pawlicki’s case drew media attention when he fled from San Diego after being released on $1 million bail. A bounty hunter found him at a hotel in Georgia, where he had dyed his hair, mustache and eyebrows and lost some 50 pounds. He told investigators he was trying to get to Florida, where he planned to board a cargo ship bound for China, where he had business interests.
Pawlicki was convicted at trial of molesting three children, including his young daughter, who suffers from Down syndrome. Pawlicki was later sentenced to 109 years to life in prison, and won’t even be eligible for parole for more than a century.
Paraskevopoulos also prosecuted Patricia Corby, who drowned her 4-year-old autistic son in a bathtub, then drove his body to the Northwestern Division police station in Carmel Valley, where she turned herself in. She later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
“That was a very emotional case, that will be with me for the rest of my life, without a doubt,” Paraskevopoulos said.
The love and support of his wife, Politimy, and two young daughters has helped him maintain a positive outlook in spite of the tragic circumstances he encounters at work.
“Once I come home, I put [work] away,” he said. “Our time is our time and I do my best to separate work from family time.”
While he enjoys surfing and playing soccer, his children, ages 4 and 2, take up most of his free time these days — whether it’s going to the playground, the beach, or a children’s birthday party. “Raising these two kids seems to be the only time we have,” he laughed.
He finds the work schedule more manageable now that he is not trying cases on a daily basis, but is also looking to new professional challenges. Paraskevopoulos said he has applied with the governor’s office for a Superior Court judgeship, an exacting and highly competitive process.
“If that happens, it would be fantastic,” he said. “If not, I love my job, I feel I’m providing justice for victims of crime.
“I can’t complain, things are good.”