By Luke Kyaw and Matthew Torres
SANTA ANA, CA – Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer has been under fire since taking office back in Jan 2019 when he replaced the former 20-year Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
Incumbent Spitzer faces strong first-time candidate Pete Hardin for the position of Orange County District Attorney this coming Election Day on June 7.
Since Spitzer’s installation as DA, his political opponents claim, his career has been shrouded by controversy and scandal. During his first year in office, a major evidence booking scandal put the integrity of the OCDA into question.
An audit of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) in 2018 concluded that deputies had mishandled cases through a “lack of consistent and accurate entries with 30 percent of evidence booked outside of policy,” according to news reports.
As a result, the public started to question whether evidence had actually existed when prosecutors from Spitzer’s office had pressed charges in many of their cases over the past two years, claim opponents of the current DA.
In a letter to Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, Spitzer wrote, “I have concerns that my office has filed and prosecuted criminal charges against individuals based on OCSD reports that inaccurately stated evidence had been booked.”
And, Spitzer has also been accused of misusing taxpayer money by offering misdemeanor defendants leniency or dropping charges if they agree to surrender their DNA to a private database run by the OCDA.
The University of California, Irvine School of Law has since filed a lawsuit on behalf of local taxpayers against the county for this practice that they have deemed “coercive.”
Challenger Hardin is a former prosecutor in the U.S. Marine Corps, Deputy District Attorney and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney. He also was a member of several high profile litigation law firms.
Running his campaign with a slogan, “Justice With Integrity, Accountability, and Transparency,” Hardin paints himself in stark contrast to the current OCDA’s Office that has been racked with scandal.
In a press release released this Tuesday, Hardin wrote his campaign has raised over $640,000 since it started in March. He claimed that this “outpouring of support [showed how]…Todd Spitzer has shattered the public trust” and that it is time to end his “downhill tenure.”
However, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Hardin, either.
According to the Washington Post, there was a memo written by Hardin’s supervisor, ADA Jennifer Contini, in 2015 that talked about Hardin’s reputation as a “womanizer” who would ask out defendants whom he had prosecuted.