Few if anyone outside the defense team is taking Cavallo's recusal motion seriously. For weeks, the Haidl defense team had hinted at devastating testimony of the DA's corruption in the rape case. But when the moment came to reveal their hand, Haidl's defense attorneys asked the judge to keep the recusal motion under seal. Deputy DA Brian Gurwitz, who is handling the Haidl case with prosecutor Dan Hess, said the defense tactic was an attempt to win a quid pro quo from Rackauckas and a generous plea-bargain agreement before a jury can ever see a DVD that caused one veteran police detective to vomit after watching it.
During the Dec. 22 hearing, Briseno tentatively sided with the defense but flip-flopped after Gurwitz argued that he knew of "no statutory authority" to keep the public in the dark about Haidl's attack on Rackauckas. When the judge asked him how long he'd need to unravel the defense theory, Gurwitz calmly replied, "Less than a minute."
The quip was fitting. The defense had tried to file the 2001-2002 grand jury report as proof the DA should be blocked from prosecuting the case. Unless additional information is forthcoming, the report—though highly unflattering to Rackauckas—isn't connected to the alleged rape.
Briseno will hear arguments and decide the motion on Jan. 22. But with blockbuster DVD evidence, courthouse sources don't believe there's a chance he'll agree that the DA is pushing the rape case solely to bolster his career. If the motion is dismissed, the assistant sheriff will have taken his last big swing at Rackauckas for his son—and missed.
That scenario has to be a humorous one in the DA's Santa Ana headquarters. When Don Haidl awakes from his stupor, he'll realize that he's inadvertently handed the man he hates a gift. For if any California district attorney needed a public-relations makeover, it was Rackauckas, who is expected to run for reelection in 2006. Now—for the first time in his five years in office—the DA has newfound credibility. In the sensational Haidl case, Rackauckas can legitimately claim he didn't twist the criminal justice system to help a fellow Republican pal.