California Attorney General Xavier Becerra's office is now at the helm of the investigation into a hit-and-run incident that occurred outside a reelection fundraiser for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas in Costa Mesa this month. A sedan driven by Gary Campbell struck American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) staff attorney Brendan Hamme and local activist Jordan Hoiberg while the pair protested the June 6 event at Turnip Rose Elite Catering. Campbell sped off into the night while Hamme took an ambulance ride to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach for treatment of his injuries.
The next day, T-Rack's reelection campaign issued a statement calling the small crowd of about 15 protesters an "aggressive mob" that blocked cars and confronted guests exiting the event. The ACLU of Southern California welcomes the news that the state Attorney General is taking over the reigns of the investigation after such comments.
"Rackauckas was clearly not qualified to overseen an unbiased investigation, and not just because his policies and conduct in officer were being protested," Hector Villagra, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California, said in a press release. "Less than a day after the incident—long before a police report was filed—his campaign manager issued a statement calling the protesters an 'aggressive mob.' Eyewitness accounts strongly refute that characterization."
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Jordan Hoiberg, the second man grazed in the "T-Wreck," denies he blocked traffic that night. "We were walking across a driveway completely within our rights as pedestrians," he says. "We were chanting peaceful slogans—not even particularly loudly. It was just a normal street corner protest." The Socialist Party USA activist also laughs off claims passenger Collene Campbell made in the OC Register about the hit-and-run. "The idea of an ACLU attorney jumping on the hood is just patently absurd," Hoiberg says.
The protest took aim at the ongoing jailhouse snitch scandal under Rackauckas' watch at the OCDA's office. Hoiberg hasn't been in contact with either the Costa Mesa Police Department or the Attorney General's office since then, but is reviewing his legal options,.
"In some parts of the country, it's seen as open season on rightful protesters," Villagra continued. "That should not be accepted in California or anywhere else. We look forward to the attorney general conducting a fair and unbiased investigation of this alarming incident."
The ACLU is in possession of cellphone footage of the incident, but isn't releasing it at this time.