By Gustavo Arellano
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By Charles Lam
"I don't remember doing that," the judge replied.
About a minute later, Steiner told the lawyers to remain in the courtroom and retreated alone to his chambers. When he returned, he solemnly declared that questions about his potential personal biases are "a growing issue" in the case.
"It's not a question of what I think might be the issue," the judge said. "It's a question of what a reasonable person might think. . . . I would never shirk my constitutional obligation, but I think this needs to happen." He then recused himself.
(Another judge working with a special master later gave prosecutors most of the records they sought; no charges have been filed against Lanzillo or Impola—both former cops—though the case remains open.)
In late February, four months after Castillo's revelation, Chapman officials notified the DA's office that one of its students—not the same woman identified by Castillo—claimed to have had a lengthy, quid pro quo sexual affair with Steiner, who helped to land her a prosecutor's job within the past year. The job didn't last, and feelings were hurt.
Susan Kang Schroeder, Rackauckas' chief of staff and a close friend of Steiner's, said the DA's office immediately alerted the California Attorney General's office of the news from Chapman and recused the office from the case. University officials decline to comment on the record. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens personally endorsed Steiner's judge candidacy; her deputies are investigating his conduct. Supervisor Todd Spitzer, himself a former Steiner colleague, said he expects a "thorough" probe.
According to sources, the complaining woman—whose identity the Weekly is not revealing at this point—asserted she can describe the judge's penis in detail, as well as an alleged favored location for sex: on the carpeted floor inside the judge's chamber. Apparently, the sofa squeaked too much.
I've been told investigators want to know if judicial ethics may have been violated if the judge and his alleged prosecutor-cum-sex-partner conducted court business without opposing defense lawyers knowing of the intimacy—and how many other female lawyers or government employees might be involved in shenanigans.
Steiner, who has been transferred to more trivial cases in the Fullerton courthouse, hasn't responded to reporter inquiries. Though no charges have been filed against him, he has retained stern-faced, veteran Costa Mesa criminal defense lawyer Paul S. Meyer.
Meyer, you may recall, represented another OC conservative activist who once worked in the DA's office, became a close aide to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and is now a convicted child molester who targeted sex with seventh- and eighth-grade boys: disbarred attorney Jeffrey Ray Nielsen.
[Note: The Weekly first broke news of the Steiner investigation on our Navel Gazing news blog on March 6, 2013; This current column appeared in the paper's online edition on March 27.]