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
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.
OH, HEAVENLY FATHER!
Did televangelist Paul Crouch Sr., founder of fervently anti-gay Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), secretly date a gay employee?
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.”
• Junior sent him “explicit” photographs of penises, vaginas, breasts and male-female couples engaging in intercourse.
• Junior prompted laughter from an April 2004 TBN audience by stating that “Brian has a mangina.”
Dugger, who is seeking $650,000 for lost wages and $1.9 million in punitive damages, says Paul Crouch Jr. told him that TBN was “not a place for fairies” before he was fired in 2007.
If true, you have to wonder if Junior consulted his daddy before making such ?a statement.
John Casoria, a TBN representative, called Dugger’s lawsuit “mainly a work of fiction.”
WILL CARONA BECOME A SPY-WARES SALESMAN?
After his Jan. 16 federal conviction for sabotaging a federal grand jury investigation into law enforcement corruption, Carona threw himself a victory celebration at a local restaurant, according to Rick Reiff at The Orange County Business Journal.
Then, while the ink was drying on his felony conviction, Carona got federal Judge Andrew Guilford’s permission to fly to South Florida, home of Hank Asher, the former cocaine trafficker our ex-top cop thanked (along with God) minutes after his trial.
In 2003, Asher—now a wealthy government contractor to federal spook agencies and whose company helped George W. Bush win Florida in 2000 by purging thousands of likely Democrats from voting rolls—secretly gave an illegal $250,000 to then-Sheriff Carona in hopes of him parlaying his national fame from the kidnapping, rape and murder of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion into a U.S. Senate seat.
Now that that isn’t going to happen, at least Asher might get a new salesman out of the deal: Don’t be surprised to see Carona, who is set to learn on April 27 whether his punishment will include prison time, hawking Asher’s spy wares in the future. According to published reports, the businessman with the questionable past likes to surround himself with ex-cops.
One problem here, Hank: Carona—a glorified bailiff who never made a real arrest or solved a crime before he became sheriff in 1999—only pretended to be a cop.
Despite federal election regulations requiring politicians to itemize specific details about all campaign transactions over $200, Huntington Beach Congressman Dana Rohrabacher recently paid himself more than $16,791 while offering few details on his mandated public disclosure reports. In December, Rohrabacher accounted for $4,657 given to his wife under the category “campaign manager,” and he says he used $2,219 to pay a phone bill. (Did you dial an adult sex line, Dana?) But Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show the 11-term congressman also deposited three checks totaling $9,914 in unspecified “reimbursements.” Surely it’s a coincidence that the amount is just under the $10,000 threshold for banks to report deposits to the IRS.
LORETTA SANCHEZ’S PICTURE IS WORTH $5,900
According to FEC reports, that’s how much OC’s lone congressional Democrat paid (with campaign contributions) for her provocative 2008 Christmas card.