By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
After winning a civil suit, the normally stoic DA puts his head down and sobs uncontrollably . . . oh, wait, that was that other guy
Orange County’s three-term district attorney would make a great poker player. You can’t tell when Tony Rackauckas is holding four aces or a pair of deuces. Or, for that matter, when he’s just won a major personal victory inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
On Feb. 9, Rackauckas sat stone-faced and silent as he heard a court clerk read two verdicts in his favor from a civil lawsuit filed by a former deputy prosecutor, Joseph P. Smith. I waited to see a hint of emotion for what seemed like an eternity and then, blam!
Somewhere from deep within the DA’s bowels, he . . . pursed his lips and slowly nodded his head. Twice.
I’d like to see time-lapse photography of Rackauckas’ face if he ever wins SuperLotto. There’d probably be a shoulder shrug and a yawn before any smile. Could there be a man more temperamentally different from the effusive Mike Carona, our convicted felon ex-sheriff?
Smith had accused Rackauckas of unlawfully retaliating against him for squealing to the California attorney general’s office in 2001 about perceived wrongdoing by the DA in his bitter, chaotic first term. At the heart of the complaints were allegations of trading DA investigators’ badges for contributions and doling out prosecutorial goodies for well-connected campaign contributors—usually from the Newport Beach multimillionaire class.
During testimony, Rackauckas claimed that he supported Smith’s right to visit the AG’s office. Indeed, he stated that he encourages his deputies to rat him out to higher authorities if they feel he’s misbehaved. To prove his point, he noted that he once complained to the AG in the 1980s when he was dissatisfied with then-DA Cecil Hicks’ decision to whitewash a bad cop shooting.
What pissed him off, the DA testified, was Smith’s decision to leak his concerns to the press before giving the AG’s investigation a chance to start. It also didn’t help that his deputy was telling other deputy prosecutors and cops that the top DA was “a crook,” Rackauckas said. In response to the insubordination, Smith was ordered to prosecutorial Siberia: a tedious unit collecting unpaid child-support payments.
The six-man and two-woman jury deliberated less than five hours before siding with Rackauckas. What prompted their decision is unknown: They fled the courthouse after the two-minute verdict hearing like there was a fire sale at Nordstrom. But their action should help the DA glide into next year’s re-election bid without strong opposition.
“The lawsuit was frivolous and a great waste of taxpayer dollars by a disgruntled former employee,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, T-Rack’s spokeswoman.
That’s the implication of a wrongful-termination lawsuit filed late last month in Orange County Superior Court by Brian E. Dugger, who spent 14 years as a TBN broadcasting engineer.
You may recall a 2004 Los Angeles Times revelation that Crouch denied he had homosexual tendencies but paid $425,000 to silence Enoch Lonnie Ford, another onetime male TBN employee who’d said he and the wealthy televangelist had a sexual affair.
In the latest court action, first reported by former longtime Timesman William Lobdell at his site, WilliamLobdell.com, Dugger says he met Crouch while working at the network’s Tennessee offices in the mid-’90s. The filing stops short of claiming the men slept together, but alleges that Crouch “persistently” invited Dugger, then a TBN employee in San Antonio, to “private dinners typically followed by drinks at his home.” In 2000, according to the lawsuit, the televangelist “insisted” that the men live closer. Dugger relocated from Texas to the Christian broadcasting network’s headquarters in Tustin.
If Crouch was content to associate privately with Dugger, his relatives in Southern California were apparently aghast. Shortly after Dugger’s transfer here, Jan Crouch, the elder Crouch’s wife, infamous for showcasing big hairdos and heavy black eye makeup on broadcasts, and Danny York, a TBN vice president, began pressuring him about his sexuality.
“[Dugger] was told not to dress so ‘gay’ or to wear jewelry, as it would identify him as a homosexual,” the lawsuit alleges. “Thereafter, throughout his employment, he was continuously harassed, mocked, taunted and told not to look gay.”
According to the suit, Paul Crouch Jr., who has assumed greater control over TBN operations from his father in recent years, participated in the abuse, telling Dugger he “should quit being gay and act more straight.”
The court filing details other stories:
• In 2002, Junior told him that a picture on his personal website was “really gay,” that he needed to pay more attention to what “girls are into” sexually and that he should “pursue sexual relationships with women instead of men.”