Civil rights

Black civil rights leaders call for resignation of OC DA Spitzer

SANTA ANA, Calif. — Orange County Black Civil Rights leaders criticized Wednesday the way Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer is handling cases against minority defendants as the chief of the State NAACP reiterated its call for the resignation of the county’s chief prosecutor.

Spitzer has come under fire for racially polarized comments he made during internal bureau deliberations on whether to seek the death penalty against a black defendant charged with two Newport Beach murders as well as using racial slurs while citing defendants in hate crime cases as he spoke to a group of lawyers in a video that surfaced recently.

Spitzer used a racial slur while addressing the Iranian Bar Association in November 2019 as he recounted what a suspected white supremacist said while allegedly attacking a black pregnant woman in Fullerton.

Find out what’s happening in Orange Countywith free real-time Patch updates.

Spitzer defended the use of the word, noting that he was quoting what the defendant is accused of saying as he explained how he fought a judge who offered the defendant a plea bargain that Spitzer had deemed too lenient.

“Using such racist language tricks others into thinking it’s OK, perpetuating the cycle of racism and violence,” said Rick Callender, president of the state chapter of the National Association for advancement of people of color.

Find out what’s happening in Orange Countywith free real-time Patch updates.

“Spitzer’s choice of words was disgusting, tone deaf, and ultimately harmful to the black community,” Callender said. “It is clear that Spitzer is not a true ally of the black community and the (state NAACP) is calling for his immediate resignation.”

In a statement, Spitzer said, “As an elected district attorney, I have worked tirelessly to ensure that justice is served in a fair and equitable manner, regardless of race, origin or religion.

“The Orange County Chapter of the NAACP stood by my side along with many other like-minded members of our community as I successfully fought a ridiculously lenient sentence for a white supremacist who attacked a black woman. pregnant and threatened to kill her baby.

“Through multiple meetings on a variety of cases and issues within our community, Mr. (Wellington) Bennett and Mr. (David) Drakeford know better than anyone my sincere commitment to fighting for equal justice in County D ‘Orange.

“As prosecutors, we do not determine who gets arrested in this county, but we do review each case thoroughly and fairly to determine whether the facts of a case can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in court. The practice of law rests on the facts and the law and only the facts and the law.

Drakeford, the chairman of the criminal justice committee for the Orange County chapter of the NAACP, said the case cited by Spitzer was isolated, but there are several others in which his office has “overloaded” black defendants. and continued the prosecution despite exculpatory evidence.

“He says he’s looking at the cases and he has evidence to move forward, but he’s lying,” Drakeford said.

Drakeford cited a case in which a defendant entered a misdemeanor plea deal just to get it over with.

The defendant was charged with rape, attempted rape and kidnapping and “advanced four years and over $200,000 in court costs, they said, ‘OK, if you plead guilty to a misdemeanor , we’ll drop those charges,'” Drakeford said.

“They didn’t have the evidence to move forward. I told him not to plead guilty, but he said he had to get it over with.”

Spitzer has come under fire for saying in the Newport Beach double murder case that he knows black men who date white women to elevate their status, citing radio host Larry Elder as an example.

“It’s almost the opposite of what I see,” Drakeford said. “Especially in the sports industry. They don’t try to improve their status. The girls try to improve theirs.”

Drakeford said he believed police and prosecutors were targeting black defendants who dated white or Latina women.

San Clemente attorney Bryan Chehock, the latest in the district attorney race, said he ran because he thought the office had become too politicized.

“I obviously don’t know individual cases, but I look at the justice system as a four-legged stool,” Chehock said, referring to prosecutors, defense attorneys, the state bar and judges.

“You have to trust all four,” Chehock said. “The shame is that I really think Mr. Spitzer undermines the public’s trust in the district attorney’s office to be a fair arbiter of justice and you can’t have that.

“This system doesn’t work if the public doesn’t believe it works.”

Chehock noted how Spitzer bragged to the Iranian Bar Association about intimidating the judge handling the case of the accused accused of attacking a black woman to increase the sentence in the plea deal .

“He also attacks the judges,” Chehock said. “The judiciary is more important than any case and when these steps are taken, it demeans the whole process… In particular, this office cannot be treated like any political office.”

Chehock said he was not a member of any political party and did not plan to fundraise as he wanted to avoid the appearance of political influence.

city ​​news service