Yesterday, OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer pulled the pin and lobbed a media grenade at District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, alerting the media to a letter he sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking the Justice Department to take over the Orange County District Attorney’s office. Spitzer is planning to challenge Rackauckas for re-election next year, and timed this bomb for the day after “60 Minutes” aired a report about the alleged role played by a network of criminal jailhouse informants in DA prosecutions.
Spitzer urges Sessions to “take control of the OCDA by consent decree” necessitated by what he alleges ares “continuing revelations of scandal emerging from the office under D.A. Tony Rackauckas.” In his letter, Spitzer insists he is “writing solely on my personal behalf, not for the County or the Board of Supervisors,” and yet begins the letter “As Third District Supervisor on the Orange County, CA, Board of Supervisors,” prints it on County of Orange letterhead and posts it on the County of Orange website, and distributes a press release on County of Orange letterhead.
The letter is CC’d to the OC Board of Supervisors, County CEO Frank Kim, County Counsel Leon Page, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, two Assemblymembers and two state Senators from OC, all four of OC’s Republican congressmembers (but not Democratic Rep. Lou Correa). Surprisingly, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris were left off the CC list.
Spitzer is running an all-but-announced campaign to unseat Rackauckas, a fact the District Attorney spokesperson Michelle Van Der Linden when dismissing the letter as a political stunt:
“It is unfortunate that Todd Spitzer is using his current position as a County Supervisor to campaign for the office of the District Attorney, a position he so desperately covets. Meanwhile, (Spitzer) is slandering prosecutors and OCDA personnel with his false allegations in an effort to fuel his ambition and create the appearance of credibility,” said Michelle Van Der Linden, district attorney spokesperson.
“Perhaps his latest political rant is intended to divert the public’s attention from the loss of his recent lawsuit regarding his self-incriminating manifesto detailing the episode in which he handcuffed an evangelist in a fast food restaurant and/or the pending litigation from a former employee outlining his “raging temper” and “practice of governing his office through means of fear and aggression.”
“The OCDA fully anticipates Supervisor Spitzer will continue to abuse his position and the ridiculous allegations will continue as we draw closer to the election.”
In his “60 Minutes” appearance, Rackauckas rebutted the jailhouse snitch controversy as a “false narrative”:
“So the public defender made a lot of allegations, of all kinds of criminal conduct, of terrible things. And believe me– and if those things were true — we should be in jail, frankly; if those things were true, that would be very bad.”
Spitzer’s request raises some interesting questions suggesting he hasn’t thought this all the way through. For example, why would Spitzer want to be elected DA of a department under the control of the Justice Department? Does he think the feds would simply revoke the consent decree, pack and go home the moment he was sworn in?
Also, why didn’t Spitzer also request a Justice Department consent-decree take-over of the OC Sheriff’s Department, which critics allege operated the jail house snitch network which Spitzer has denounced as “illegal.” A cynic might say its because Spitzer is running for DA, not Sheriff.
All of which suggests this call for a federal consent decree isn’t fully baked and supports its characterization as a political campaign maneuver designed to capture a media cycle and generate headlines useful for campaign mailers.