By David M. Greenwald
Orange County, CA – Orange County Prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh was fired last week after an internal investigation showed that he repeatedly withheld critical evidence that led to the DA’s office asking a judge to throw out the 2010 conviction of Paul Gentile Smith for a high profile Sunset Beach murder.
Now media is reporting that Baytieh in a memo dated December 3, 2021, alleged that during a meeting on October 1 of top prosecutors in Orange County, DA Todd Spitzer said that he knows “many black people who get themselves out of their bad circumstances and bad situations by only dating white women.”
The issue involved whether or not to try Jamon Buggs with the death penalty—a Black man charged with fatally shooting people, allegedly because of jealousy over an ex-girlfriend, who is white.
According to the LA Times, Spitzer claimed that the words attributed to him in the memo “were not correct.”
He told the Times what he actually said was that he has seen Black men date white women to “improve their stature in the community.”
According to the memo, Baytieh listed the names of eight prosecutors who attended the meeting determining whether they should seek the death penalty.
Spitzer allegedly asked about the race of Buggs’ previous girlfriends, to which Baytieh responded that the “race of the victims is completely irrelevant.”
According to Baytieh’s memo, he added that it would be “inappropriate … to consider or give any weight to the race of the victims.”
Spitzer continued, however, but Baytieh pushed back, citing the Racial Justice Act and arguing the race of the victim “should not be discussed in a decision about the appropriate punishment to seek.”
According to the memo, however, Spitzer allegedly said he “knew for sure that this black student did so on purpose to get himself out of his bad circumstances and situations.”
Spitzer told the Times that he said that the student dated white women “to enhance his status.
“The only thing I stated was that I have seen Black men date white women in certain circles in order to have others around them be more accepting,” Spitzer wrote in a January 30 letter filed in Orange County Superior Court as reported in the Times.
The memo was not sent to defense attorneys, but Baytieth attached it to a second memo that argued that prosecutors were legally required to disclose it to the defense.
It is ironic, because Baytieh lost his job in part because he failed to disclose evidence in the Smith case.
In 2012, he was named Prosecutor of the Year by the California District Attorneys Association. And less than a year ago, Spitzer praised his ethics, referring to him as a “pinnacle of integrity” and as “someone you look up to, to guide you.”
But last summer, Orange County Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders told the Vanguard a different account.
“It is indisputable that an interview of an informant related to this defendant existed and was in the possession of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. It is also indisputable that the prosecutor had a duty to discover that to the defense,” Spitzer acknowledged last summer in requesting a new trial.
“As a result of that failure to provide proper discovery I was forced to make the very difficult decision to concede that a convicted murderer sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole should be granted a new trial,” the DA wrote.
But at the same time, Sanders pointed out that Baytieth remained not only on staff but in a pivotal position.
Sanders went further, calling the decorated Baytieth “the denier-in-chief of the informant scandal,” and said that “he’s the person that the district attorney’s office put out there to say it was untrue.”
Indeed, as Sanders pointed out, Baytieth back in 2015, as reported by the Orange County Register, called it “baloney.
“The notion that there is any effort on anybody’s part, at any level, to intentionally hide evidence … is from our perspective absolutely false,” Baytieh said at that time.
Sanders pointed out that they found out this was the case as far back as 2017.
“(We) put everybody there on alert that we knew what had happened and still he kept his position in the new administration,” he said.
Meanwhile the focus now shifts back to Spitzer and his comments.
Already embroiled in a contention reelection battle against Former Marine Judge Advocate Pete Hardin, Hardin is now calling on Spitzer to resign over what he is calling “racist remarks.
“Todd Spitzer’s consideration of race while deciding whether or not California should execute a black man isn’t just appalling, it’s disqualifying,” said Hardin. “Our system of justice must be colorblind, and the chief law enforcement officer just showed himself to be anything but. Todd Spitzer’s racist remarks and dated thinking have infected cases across the office and cast a shadow over every prosecution involving a person of color.”
Hardin added, “These comments top off a career that has fundamentally undermined trust in our criminal justice system. The fact that he made these remarks so openly reflects an utter lack of awareness and a fundamental misunderstanding of Orange County values. It also speaks to the culture he has created around him; one in which he feels free to make racist comments, illegally release employee personnel information, fire subordinates to protect himself, and protect and promote his best friend who is a known pervert that sexually harassed multiple women.”
Moreover, as Hardin argues, “The implication of these racist remarks extends far beyond the instant case.”
His release points to numerous studies that show defendants convicted of killing white victims are executed at a rate 17 times greater than those convicted of killing Black victims.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 75 percent of death penalty cases involve the murder of white victims, even though blacks and whites are about equally likely to be victims of murder. A bias toward white-victim cases has been found in almost all sophisticated studies exploring this area over many years.
Hardin said, “The elected District Attorney has now shown himself to be a racist, and to ensure the fair administration of justice the Attorney General should investigate how the bigotry of Orange County’s top law enforcement official has impacted other cases involving people of color.”
He added, “Todd Spitzer must resign immediately. His failure to step aside will further degrade public trust in one of our most important public institutions. That threatens to endanger public safety when crime is up double-digits across the board and when homicides have reached a 23-year high in Orange County.”
Requests for comment from Spitzer’s campaign received no reply.