By Darling Gonzalez
ORANGE COUNTY, CA – Orange County District Attorney candidate Pete Hardin reported on multiple injustices in the OC DA’s office, using a recent ACLU report demonstrating lack of transparency, racial disparities, and low police accountability.
The ACLU report, entitled “In(Justice) in Orange County—A Case for Change and Accountability,” details a lack of transparency with current OC DA Todd Spitzer and key evidence demonstrating lack of improvement in the office.
After the ACLU requested charging data from the OC DA’s office, DA Spitzer denied the release of data from his tenure and instead only provided Spitzer’s predecessor Tony Rackauckas’ data.
However, the ACLU obtained Superior Court records from 2019 and 2020 through the Voice of OC and provided data demonstrating that low-level offenses were the most common charges and showed key disparities in the OC DA’s charging practices.
“There were persistent racial disparities across the OCDA’s Office’s charging practices, and Black people were more likely to be charged with a crime, more likely to be charged with a felony, and more likely to be negatively impacted by discretionary charging practices related to wobblers, enhancements, and diversion than white people,” the ACLU report noted.
The ACLU’s report has recommended for the OC DA’s office to improve on these injustices by listing key improvements to internal policies in the office.
These internal policy recommendations include filing wobbler charges as misdemeanors and “eliminating the use of sentence enhancements, which are a major contributor of extreme sentencing and racial disparities.”
Under “Police Accountability,” the ACLU commented, “Even when publicly available information suggests gross police misconduct, the OCDA’s Office declined to file charges in every instance,” after reviewing the 24 police shootings between 2019 and 2020.
The ACLU also recommended that certain actions be taken by the OC DA’s office, including the creation of an independent office that can investigate and hold police accountable for their illegal conduct.
Although the ACLU’s report details plenty of the racial disparities and injustices in Orange County’s DA’s office, Hardin’s statement alleges racist remarks made by DA Spitzer and refers to an article in the Los Angeles Times titled, “O.C. DA. made racist comments in the case of Black defendant, former colleague alleges.”
The story notes that, while discussing the case of a Black man, Jamon Buggs, former prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh claimed that DA Spritzer had said that he knew “many Black people who get themselves out of their bad circumstances and bad situations by only dating white women.”
The Times story includes a response made by DA Spitzer where he explains to The Times that Baytieh’s claim was incorrect and clarified that his comment said that Black men date white women “to improve their stature in the community.”
Hardin noted that Spitzer has been involved in an evidence booking scandal, a jailhouse informant scandal, and has defamed a victim of OC’s deadliest mass shooting.
According to Hardin’s press release, there is a changing electorate with Democrats now outnumbering Republicans in Orange County, with a 4.1% voter advantage.