Is the DA's Office Race a One-Man Show?

[Moxley Confidential] Plus, Costa Mesa's cop-conspiracy case is on pause

Is the DA's Office Race a One-Man Show?
Bob Aul

Given that the district attorney's job is the most powerful public office in Orange County, a place with a population greater than about 20 U.S. states, you might guess the competition for the elected position would be fierce. Police and deputies can arrest anyone they want, but the DA decides who gets prosecuted and who doesn't. He—there's never been a female occupant in the seat—even controls secret grand juries that can ignore or expose politically sensitive shenanigans. Did you know the DA also is protected by a frown-frozen, armed security detail that lends visual stature to the government job?

Yet as I write this column, the 5 p.m. March 7 candidate filing deadline for this year's local elections is looming, and only one person, at least on official paper, wants to be DA: Tony Rackauckas. The Republican incumbent since 1999, Rackauckas might not remember the thrill of campaign combat. He last faced an opponent 12 years ago. Nevertheless, despite his advanced age of 71, the DA, who also loves fishing in the Pacific Ocean with friends, insists he's ready and willing—even eager—to serve a fifth, four-year term.

We reported on our news blog, Navel Gazing, last week that Brea's Greg Diamond, a member of the Orange County Democratic Party, an employment lawyer, political blogger and fiery Occupy Wall Street activist, announced he intends to challenge Rackauckas. Diamond, who is hoping to raise about $30,000 for the necessary filing fees, sees the present DA as both incompetent and corrupt. He is motivated to run by the thought that he wouldn't be able to vote against Rackauckas—a former homicide prosecutor and county judge who won the unanimous endorsement of the local GOP in February—unless there is another name on the ballot.

Bob Aul

Details

But it's a certainty the one person on the planet who wants to be DA more than anyone else—including Rackauckas—is Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a former prosecutor and Republican state Assemblyman. When Spitzer faced term limits in Sacramento after 2008, the DA brought him back to the office in a teacher-pupil, grooming arrangement that by all accounts was supposed to lead Spitzer into the DA's job after this year's election. By August 2010, however, the deal crashed with dueling press conferences: Spitzer labeled Rackauckas a crook and liar, and the DA described him as an emotionally unhinged egomaniac.

Though the public name-calling receded long ago, don't think for a second the animus between the men has diminished. They truly don't like each other. Indeed, it's not beyond reason to believe Rackauckas—who abhors campaigning—is running for re-election this time to block a better-financed, always-campaign-ready Spitzer, more than 17 years his junior, from taking the post.

The Rackauckas camp is amused after learning in recent weeks Spitzer quietly commissioned what they claim was a $35,000 poll to test the waters to challenge the DA this year. According to Mike Schroeder, Rackauckas' longtime pal and informal but potent campaign adviser, the supervisor at least tentatively planned to renege on his 2012 supervisor's race pledge to serve his entire, four-year term by filing candidacy papers at the last hour. The poll allegedly prodded voters for name recognition and perceptions about Spitzer, Rackauckas, ex-state Senator Dick Ackerman, as well as Schroeder's ex-wife and Rackauckas' chief of staff, Susan Kang Schroeder. The last-minute, sneak-attack idea may have crumbled—if it really has—in part because two consultants Spitzer hired for the task left their jobs, according to Schroeder.

Rumors persist that the DA hopes to block Spitzer from grabbing the office in 2018 as well by retiring before his next term ends and allowing a majority of the Board of Supervisors to hand-pick his interim replacement: Susan Kang Schroeder. If such a plot exists, a Michelle Steel victory over Alan Mansoor to replace John Moorlach on the board increases chances for success. Steel and Schroeder, both Korean Americans, are close.

Spitzer did not respond to requests for comment.

*     *     *

COP CONSPIRACY CASE ON PAUSE
An Orange County judge continues to ponder a January request by lawyers for the Costa Mesa Police Association, a cop-union law firm and the firm's private detective to kill a lawsuit filed by Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer, the Republican who says he was the target of a 2012 conspiracy to intimidate him for opposing police pay and benefit hikes.

Inside the county's Central Courthouse, the case is at a literal standstill—no depositions, no discovery—until Superior Court Judge Gail A. Andler rules on a defense motion declaring that even if Righeimer is correct in all of his factual assertions the defendants were engaged in constitutionally protected activities.

Christopher Lanzillo, the PI for Upland-based Lackie Dammeier McGill & Ethir, tailed Righeimer home from a bar, called 911 and reported the mayor had been swerving on the road. A Costa Mesa cop went to Righeimer's home and gave him a sobriety test, which he easily passed because he'd consumed two Diet Cokes at Skosh Monahans.

Jerrold Abeles, an attorney for the firm, labels Righeimer's lawsuit "patently frivolous" and a publicity stunt because the controversial 911 call is "absolutely protected" from liability. "The law has taken a back seat to political showmanship," Abeles maintains. "The plaintiffs' grandstanding pleadings contain pages of irrelevant, media-ready theater that are not only patently protected by the First Amendment, but that the plaintiffs never connect to any particular cause of action."

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4 comments
fixithair
fixithair

TRUTH. The whole truth and nothing but the truth is what we need to look closely at when considering re-electing Mr. Tony Rackauckas. He has a history of good and not so good (as do we all), but lately I suggest his competency for good judgment is in question. Perhaps for the sake of Mr. Rackauckas we should NOT re-elect him.

There is a time for all good men to step aside and let another attorney that has shown himself capable to take over. I think that time has come. I have a fondness for sports but even I would consider it cruel to put an old horse that was once a grand champion on a race track. I’m not calling Mr. Rackauckas an old hag just that there are better choices to be had.

A possible reason Tony had no opponents in the past is because of the respect his colleagues have for the man (not a bad thing). In sports time demands retirement like that of Michael Jordan to whom many hated to see leave the basketball COURT. I’m sure that can also be true of the OCDA that has held his position for so long. Think about it…even our county supervisors have to leave their seats after a couple of terms. Tony’s had a good long run.

Now about competency and sound judgment. Tony went after violating the constitutional rights of citizens that have been through the grinder of probation and parole from going into parks, beaches and harbors. This was a massive waist of both staff time and money. He could make a better impact by supporting educational measures than punitive ones. Either his knowledge of the law is lacking or the understanding of it’s real purpose and function. Either way as a DA he should know better.

Another example: Why would the DA. take a murder case recently to which he flopped? Although he is an attorney and can do such but as DA isn’t his position more that of a leader and administrator? It would be like having our sheriff standing on the corner giving out parking tickets. Can she do it? Yes, would she be as proficient as her staff that does it every day? Probably not. Again we need a DA that exercises good judgment. TRUTH

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

In case it helps Superior Court Judge Gail A. Andler, the criminally filthy behavior alleged in this lawsuit IS EXACTLY WHAT I HAVE WITNESSED Orange County, CA law enforcement commit since before Loretta Sanchez was a member of Congress. It would seem to me that using Orange County CA resident taxpayer dollars by men of law and under oath to deliberately target and harm US born American citizens within the territory of the United States is illegal.

If Orange County, CA has reached a state of such moral depravity that this sort of criminal filth is OK, I would suggest you invest in reinforced umbrellas because a tsunami of world vomit will one day descend upon you.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Assuming TRack does not have a challenger for the upcoming DA election, 16 years of pay to play politics is a disgrace to the U.S. justice system.  Anyone who is not a member of the inner GOP circle in the OC might as well pack it up and get out of town as ongoing patterns of corruption will only destroy more lives. 

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

"Pack it up and get out of town" ???

Every Orange County CA political / law enforcement leadership sociopaths' wet dream.

 
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