Ahkai Bernstine, 22, was charged with five felonies and four misdemeanors, all related to the Aug. 29 incident in unincorporated Richmond. The charging records — filed Tuesday by the California Attorney General’s office — allege Bernstine abducted his own infant son and punched his girlfriend’s father in the face, “causing serious injury.” He is also charged with burglary for allegedly forcing entry into their home and with misdemeanor counts of resisting police.
The attorney general took over the charging decision after Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton recused her entire office from the matter, citing her familial connection to Bernstine, who was initially arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor battery. Bernstine posted bail within hours of his arrest, records show.
But in court records, Contra Costa County Sheriff investigators described the confrontation as much more serious than misdemeanor conduct. They allege Bernstine went to his girlfriend’s home after demanding to know her whereabouts, then locked himself in a bathroom with his infant son before trying to leave with the child. He allegedly punched his girlfriend’s dad in the face, causing him to lose consciousness and suffer a broken collar bone, police said.Authorities arrived as Bernstine was allegedly trying to leave with the child. Police wrote in court records that while Bernstine was the boy’s biological father, the girlfriend told police, “He is not listed on the birth certificate and there is no custody order or finding of paternity” for the boy. As Bernstine was being arrested, he told authorities that his mother was the district attorney, a sheriff spokesman said.
Earlier this year, Becton’s former second-in-command of the district attorney’s office, Venus Johnson, accepted a chief deputy position at the attorney general’s office. Her new role there started before the Aug. 29 incident. A spokesperson for the attorney general said Johnson “did not have a role in approving the charges,” which were filed, “by our line prosecutors out of the San Francisco Appeals, Writs, and Trials Section in the Criminal Law Division.”