President – Don Christensen, Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Ret.)
Don Christensen, Colonel, USAF (Ret.) served as chief prosecutor for the United States Air Force between 2010 and 2014. He served as a trial counsel, defense counsel or military judge for every year of his 23-year career in the United States Air Force.
Christensen has served as an Assistant Staff Judge Advocate, Area Defense Counsel, Circuit Defense Counsel, Deputy Chief Circuit Defense Counsel, and Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, as a deployed Staff Judge Advocate, Chief Circuit Trial Counsel, and Staff Judge Advocate and as a Military Judge. He has tried over 150 courts-martial as a trial and defense counsel and has presided over 100 trials as a military judge.
He was born in Sturgis, South Dakota and received his law degree from Marquette University Law School. A third generation Air Force officer, he received his commission as a second lieutenant through ROTC and entered active service on 15 July 1991. Christensen is licensed to practice law before the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.
Christensen has received numerous awards and decorations including the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Air Force Achievement Medal.
Executive Director – Becky Burke
Becky Burke is a lawyer who has dedicated her career to fighting for social change. She has worked extensively with domestic violence survivors, shooting victims, and those seeking political asylum. She has brought suit on behalf of military personnel exposed to toxic chemicals while on deployment.
Becky attended the University of Virginia School of Law and began her career at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. Before coming to Protect Our Defenders, Becky was Director of Lawyers for a Safer America, a pro bono program supporting the legal efforts of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Program and Policy Director – Christina Knowles
Prior to joining Protect Our Defenders, Christina Knowles was a fixture on the Massachusetts non-profit scene. She has been at the helm of several organizations, including serving as the Executive Director of the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s groundbreaking initiative to end the wage gap. Christina also worked in the MA State House as a Legislative Aide, Chief of Staff, and Executive Director of the Caucus of Women Legislators.
Christina has held key leadership positions in many legislative campaigns, and is particularly proud of her role in passing laws on paid sick leave, equal pay, transgender equal rights, and banning the shackling and restraint of pregnant inmates.
Communications Director – Brian Purchia
Brian Purchia is the Communications Director for Protect Our Defenders and has been with the organization since its launch. Described by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark as “genuinely innovative,” Brian has served as a news media adviser and spokesman for former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Change.org, Green For All and other social change organizations. Brian was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as Newsom’s “go-to guy for social media” for his implementation of a groundbreaking new media strategy called “gutsy” and “brilliant” on NPR.
In Newsom’s new book Citizenville, the current Lt. Gov. of California says, “as I started my second term as San Francisco Mayor I was dismayed as how far behind we still were technologically. Police cars weren’t equipped for email. City websites weren’t set up to take meaningful feedback online. We were surrounded by some of the best and brightest minds technology, but were still operating as though we were in a time warp. I hired a former Voice of America reporter named Brian Purchia as my new media director and asked him if he could figure out how to fix this problem. That was the beginning of a two-year period in which we transformed our city government. We started digitizing, mashing up, and opening up everything we possibly could — far beyond what I had initially imagined when I brought Brian in.”
Brian is recognized as a “Gov 2.0” leader for his work to improve civic engagement by making government more accessible through tapping into the power of social media. Before working in government and for social change organizations, Brian worked in media, as a reporter in Washington, DC.
Senior Programs and Services Manager – Angela Lee
Angela Lee has a Masters degree in Criminology from George Washington University, where she was awarded both a University Fellowship and a Graduate Assistantship. She also won the Graduate Excellence in Research and Writing Award for her Master’s thesis on media representations of police violence.
Previously, Angela served as the Communications Director for SurvJustice, an organization that focuses on campus sexual violence issues. Working to advocate for sexual assault survivors reinforced Angela’s passion for improving policies that impact them, and she joins Protect Our Defenders, eager to continue this work.
Prior to moving to Washington, D.C., Angela worked in the editorial and marketing departments at Mochi Magazine, which is geared towards Asian American readers. At Mochi, Angela served as a copy editor and also wrote articles on a variety of topics, such as gender issues and the stigma of HIV among Asian women. She later transitioned to the marketing department where she was responsible for developing and implementing strategies to increase readership. In 2008, Angela earned her B.A. from Boston University in International Relations, with a focus on international systems and world order, and minor in Journalism.
Communications Manager – Max Wertheimer
Max comes to Protect Our Defenders with experience in communications, social media, and public policy. He has previously worked in the Office of Government Affairs for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Max has also worked at Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations firm, specializing in crisis communications. Throughout his career, Max has worked for political campaigns, advocacy organizations, government agencies, technology companies, labor unions, law firms, and telecommunications companies.
Communications Manager – Galen Alexander
Galen Alexander is communications and policy strategist with expertise in civic technology, federal policy and legislation, and renewable energy. He has served as a spokesman and integrated marketing strategist for tech companies, advocacy organizations, and politicians. Before joining Riff City, Galen worked at NextGen Climate leading a messaging and public relations team. He has also worked for a number of Congressional Representatives on Capitol Hill, and on electoral campaigns. Galen thrives in high pressure environments and lends a steady hand during times of crisis.
Programs and Services Manager – Adelaide Kahn
Adelaide Kahn received her Master’s degree in Criminology from George Washington University and is pursuing her passion to advocate for victims of injustice. She worked for various non-profit organizations before joining POD, including the Family Court Assistance Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School and the Los Angeles J. Paul Getty Museum. At the Family Court Assistance Project, Adelaide worked to place potential clients with lawyers and law students offering pro bono legal assistance to the larger Madison community. Although hailing from Los Angeles, CA, Adelaide received her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations with a focus on global security from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012.