By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Daniel C. TsangOn March 5, while Orange County District Attorney Anthony "Tony" Rackauckas celebrated his overwhelming reelection at the Sutton Place Hotel in Newport Beach, observers noticed his wife, Kay, was nowhere to be found. Her absence, explained as a need to stay home with a sick baby, still registered as an oddity.
In fact, by then, Kay Rackauckas—a deputy DA in her husband's controversy-plagued office—had already been absent for months. She still hasn't reported to work, and colleagues can't agree where she's supposed to be.
Kay Rackauckas' mysterious absence from the DA's office comes at a convenient time for her and her husband. For the past six months, the Orange County grand jury—acting in concert with state Attorney General Bill Lockyer—has investigated what sources familiar with the investigation call "possible felonies" concerning Tony Rackauckas' past four years in the DA's office.
Neither the grand jury nor the attorney general's office will officially comment on the direction of the probe or even whether it exists. But sources familiar with the investigation say the DA's top officials, including Rackauckas himself, testified last month. The Republican DA also retained as his counsel prominent Democrat Tom Umberg. Umberg, a Clinton administration official, has no criminal-defense experience but is tight with Lockyer, a fellow Democrat.
Those same sources say Kay Rackauckas' missing-in-action status coincides with the grand jury's wish to make her testify.
"She has been subpoenaed but hasn't appeared before the panel," said a source. "She's MIA, and you're not going to find her until after the grand jury disbands."
Sources couldn't say exactly why the grand jury would subpoena Kay Rackauckas. Working since 1990, she makes more than $110,000 per year, according to the county Human Resources department. By virtue of marriage, she also has access to the highest officials in one of the county's most powerful offices.
In 1997, then-deputy DA Kay Anderle married then-Judge Tony Rackauckas. A year later, Judge Rackauckas was elected district attorney. Almost immediately, critics labeled Kay another Hillary Clinton, the real power behind the DA throne.
"I'm not part of the management," she told Orange County Register reporter John McDonald shortly before her husband took over as DA in January 1999. "Now I'm in [the department investigating] sexual assault [cases], and that's where I want to stay."
Attempts to contact Kay Rackauckas were unsuccessful. A call to the Westminster branch of the DA's office where she worked until June 2001 produced nothing, save a staffer's annoyed suggestion to try the central office. Calls there yielded nothing.
Reluctantly, we contacted Tori Richards, the DA spokeswoman who recently stopped acknowledging our phone calls and e-mails.
"Kay Rackauckas never received an OC grand jury subpoena," she wrote in a May 22 e-mail.
But Richards admitted in a subsequent e-mail she had no idea if the grand jury was trying to deliver a subpoena to Kay Rackauckas. As for Rackauckas' whereabouts, Richards wrote, "She is currently on family leave because she had a baby."
If true, then Kay Rackauckas has been on family leave a long time. Her baby was born on Valentine's Day, 2001—15 months ago.
Information obtained by veteran private investigator Mike Madigan—co-author of the 1989 book The Twisted Badge, which exposed corruption in Orange County Sheriff and DA organized-crime units—seems to indicate that Kay Rackauckas has been on nearly continuous family leave since her baby's birth. According to correspondence between Madigan and county media-relations manager Diane Thomas, Kay Rackauckas received $2,000 in family home leave from Feb. 9 until April 26, 2001. Thomas said Rackauckas then continued on unpaid leave until Jan. 15 of this year but didn't provide further pay figures. (Madigan has posted the information on his website, twistedbadge.com.)
Sources familiar with the DA's office recall Kay Rackauckas visiting work with her newborn on at least one occasion last year but can't remember seeing her in the office this year.
At this rate, it's unlikely the current grand jury will ever see Kay Rackauckas. The panel dissolves on June 30, leaving barely a month to conclude its investigation into DA Rackauckas. The grand jury's options range from recommending indictments to doing nothing.
"Good luck finding her," one DA's office source said with a laugh. "We've even heard rumors she's gone to Mexico. You're not going to find her."