Whiskey Night

An Open Letter to DA Tony Rackauckas

Hi, Tony:

I was going to e-mail this letter in the form of a request for comment to Susan Schroeder, your media relations director, but I understand she's not allowed to talk to the Weekly. I'm working on a story about an incident involving several employees of the Orange County District Attorney's office who accompanied Santa Ana police officer Derrick Watkins to a May 20 concert at Staples Center featuring Journey, Styx and REO Speedwagon.

After an evening of alcohol-fueled guitar hero appeciation, at about 1:30 the next morning, as their car raced down the freeway through Compton toward Orange County, Watkins reportedly took out his handgun, pointed it out the window and pulled the trigger.

I understand that both the Santa Ana Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Department are investigating the shooting. But I was curious whether your agency is doing any kind of internal investigation—or better yet, whether you plan to file charges against Watkins and the rest of the passengers in the SUV, four of whom are prosecutors in your office.

I have several other questions. As Orange County's top lawman, you're the best person to answer them.

First, REO Speedwagon. REO Fucking Speedwagon. Your office has high standards regarding employee conduct—both on and off the job. So what the hell were your employees doing at an REO Speedwagon show? We all know that Styx and Journey are good, clean Christian bands. But REO Speedwagon has a notorious reputation for attracting fans that behave in a licentious manner. Some have been known to vote for Democrats, wear mullets and smoke the devil's weed.

Did you know that REO's 1973 album Ridin' the Storm Out includes a song that reminds me of your drunk employees, called "Whiskey Night"? Or was Ithinking of their later songs, "Reelin'" and "Out of Control"?

I was also wondering if you could comment on the identities of the DA employees in the car. I've been told by reliable sources that they include Larry Yellin, one of your homicide prosecutors, and Alison Gyves and Mark Geller, both gang unit prosecutors who work out of an office at the Santa Ana PD. H.G. Reza and Christine Hanley of the Los Angeles Times reported on June 14 that another passenger in the car was "the wife of a prosecutor." My source says it wasn't the wife of some low-level deputy DA, but the wife of a high-ranking DA official.

My sources also tell me that another one of your employees, Michelle Ray—who worked with your anti-gang unit until she quit a few weeks ago—was also in the car and that she first reported the incident. One source told me that none of this would have been made public if not for Ray. I tried to ask Ray about this, but she refused comment because it's still being investigated.

Ethical people can be such a pain in the ass—don't you think?

The same source also told me that your office is doing everything conceivable to keep this whole thing under wraps. That would explain why Michelle Emard—who used to be your media relations director until you sacked her last month for questioning your policy that she not even speak to reporters from our paper or the Times—never knew about the incident until she read about it in the Times.

"I was surprised when I read about it in the newspaper, because the incident took place while I was employed by the DA, and it seems to me that this is the type of situation of which I should have been apprised," Emard told me. "I was not only media relations director, but Tony's executive assistant, and in a normal working environment I would have been informed about it because this is the type of thing that is of great interest to the media and the public."

Finally, I'm especially curious whether your office is considering filing charges against the rest of the people in the car. After all, three of them were gang unit prosecutors who routinely prosecute passengers in a similar situation as harshly as if they were the actual shooter. If they were a bunch of Latino teenagers with gang tattoos, I'm confident they'd all be sitting in jail by now, facing lengthy prison terms.

Eagerly awaiting your reply,

Nick Schou

 
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