2018 Vote #2: Greg’s (and Vern’s) Recommendations for DA and Sheriff – Now with Videos!


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[Note: This is the second in my series of recommendations for the upcoming election, which will hopefully be finished before the election.  Part 1, on judicial elections, is here.]

Republican Todd Spitzer and Democrat Duke Nguyen, pictured here after both spoke at Los Amigos on October 3, aren’t running as a slate — but for people starving for reform of OC’s justice system, they’re the team we need.

District Attorney: Todd Spitzer

Before you vote in the District Attorney’s race, listen to this October 5, 2018 episode from the NPR show/podcast “The Takeaway”,  entitled “Can Our District Attorneys Reform American Criminal Justice?” (At 50 minutes, it’s too large for us to embed easily here, so you can scroll down that page to find and download it)  It will help you understand how important this race is and how our county’s race is part of a much large struggle for reform.  The blurb for the show says this:

Advocates for police reform have long looked to lawmakers in hopes of addressing the social inequities baked into the criminal justice system. And even though criminal justice reform receives bipartisan lip service, our polarized legislature has yet to make serious headway on issues like reducing sentences for low-level drug crimes. But there’s another layer of bureaucracy that may prove effective in transforming how the system doles out justice: our nation’s district attorneys. And in what many expect could be a wave election, candidates across the country are vying to transform this crucial yet often overlooked role. Guests: John Pfaff, Inimai M. Chettiar, Holly Harris, Satana Deberry. Shaun King.  All music composed and produced by Jay Cowit. You can connect with The Takeaway on Twitter, Facebook, or on our show page at TheTakeaway.org.

Your vote in this race is the one of the most two important votes that you will cast this year — along with (for the 2/3 of the  voters with competitive races) your U.S. Representative — because your District Attorney will have much more effect on your life and those of the other three million people in your county than even your U.S. Representative.  That is especially true here and now, when cleaning up the corruption in our County’s criminal justice system — you know, the constitutional offenses that have people out gunning for Judge Goethals because he wouldn’t help the DA and Sheriff cover them up — is literally either going to happen either now or, for those of us with life expectancies of under 30 years — never.  Corrupt incumbent District Attorney Tony Rackauckas will use this term to install his chosen successor — which now seems likely to be grandstanding Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates (one whose campaign website Rackauckas gives one of the top two blurbed endorsements)– to follow him, given his sway with the all of the Supes other than Spitzer and Shawn Nelson.

I know that some people are arguing that they don’t want to “reward” Spitzer by making him DA due to his stances on homelessness.  I don’t think that he’s been as bad in substance (as opposed to style) as most people think — the Santa Ana Riverbed may have been a thriving community, but it was one flash flood from being a disaster that would have landed some leaders in jail and far more in the morgue — but I’m not going to defend his style.  If you feel that way, consider this: he will likely be replaced either by Andy Thorburn or Kris Murray — a fight we’ll focus on greatly here — and both of them are more supportive of the homeless than either Spitzer OR Rackauckas.  (The difference is that Thorburn is more credible.)  So what you’re really doing with Spitzer here is (1) getting him off of the Board of Supervisors two years early, and (2) putting him in a position where he will be able to prevent many more lives from being ruined than ever lived on the riverbed.

And when I say “save people’s lives from being ruined,” I mean NOT PUTTING INNOCENT PEOPLE IN JAIL and NOT PUTTING GUILTY PEOPLE IN JAIL FOR LONGER THAN WARRANTED because you’ve done things like NOT HANDING OVER EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE TO THEIR ATTORNEYS, and EAVESDROPPING ON THEIR PHONE CONVERSATIONS WITH THEIR CLIENTS, and USING GOVERNMENT INFORMANTS INSIDE OF PRISONS WHO WILL TESTIFY THAT THEIR TARGETS CONFESSED TO CRIMES WHETHER THEY REALLY DID OR NOT.

I really do understand the need for our society to do a better job of caring for — and NOT CREATING IN THE FIRST PLACE — our homeless population.  Like Spitzer, I’m wary of Orange County being asked to do MUCH MORE than our share — but (and I don’t know that he’d disagree) I’m happy with our being asked to do OUR FAIR SHARE towards solutions.  (He and I would probably agree that the ideal solution would be politically sustainable — people would buy into it — so that our citizens don’t spent all of their ample leisure time and discretionary income trying to evade it.)  But even if you find Spitzer wanting in this area, this … listen to me closely here:

THIS IS NOT AN ELECTION FOR WHO WILL BE ORANGE COUNTY’S HOMELESS CZAR!  IT IS AN ELECTION FOR WHO WILL BE ORANGE COUNTY’S TOP PROSECUTOR! 

WILL IT BE SOMEONE WHO HAS DEMONSTRATED NON-STOP ABUSE OF POWER AND RUINING COUNTLESS LIVES TO CREATE A “GOOD TRACK RECORD” TO IMPRESS VOTERS, OR SOMEONE WHO HAS LITERALLY RISKED HIS POLITICAL CAREER TO CLEAN UP THE CORRUPTION?

Here’s what’s going on right now — and I’ve been meaning to write about this but haven’t had time, so I’ll put it here and repeat it later.  Rackauckas is attacking Spitzer for supposedly promising to “bring the ACLU to run the office.”  He’s doing that because he’s hoping to leverage people’s opposition to the ACLU on First and Fourteenth Amendment issues — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, rights of minorities and women — where it takes absolutist positions that famously makes even its own members uncomfortable, even when they know that those positions are constitutionally correct.

What Spitzer wants to do is to agree to ACLU monitoring — which, incidentally, costs the ACLU money that could otherwise make by winning lawsuits against Rackauckas — of its actions related to criminal procedure issues — the ones found in the Fourth through Eighth amendments of the Bill of Rights.  These rights are very important, and people generally appreciate what the ACLU does to make sure that criminals have rights to counsel, that juries can’t exclude minorities, that fines can’t be excessive, etc.  But Rackauckas is trying to capitalize on people hating that the ACLU won’t let them erect crosses on government buildings.  Different division of the ACLU, folks!

And why is Rackauckas doing this?  Just to win an election?  I don’t think so.

Rackauckas wants to prevent ACLU review of OCDA files that could end up getting Rackauckas in deep trouble.

Remember, we only know PART of the story of how Rackauckas has had his prosecutors cheat on behalf of him and his cronies.  The ACLU — WHICH WOULD BE BARRED FROM LITIGATING ANY CASES WHERE IT IDENTIFIED PROBLEMS THROUGH INTERNAL MONITORING — is going to help identify many more — and provide advice about how to solve them before they lead to further litigation — and injustices.

Spitzer has identified the OCDA’s “win at all costs” mentality — rather than a “ACHIEVE JUSTICE in all cases” mentality that he wants to bring — as one of the main problems with the ACLU’s office.  (And he should know it well, having been Rackauckas’s top lieutenant when he discovered oozing corruption in the Public Advocate/Guardian’s office that turned out to be centered around a woman named Peggy Buff who — unbeknownst to Spitzer — was Rackauckas’s mistress (and now his wife)  and was therefore entitled to the largest possible serving of Rackauckas’s “benefit to cronies,” the appetizer for which was Spitzer being fired.

(That’s the county we’ve been living in!  Can you understand why I’m begging people to vote this OC version of a corrupt Southern Sheriff out before he continues his dynasty?)

The prospect of real reform terrifies Rackauckas, whose main concern here is to keep his racket going.  More than anything else that means having a successor who will not serve him with the justice he has earned.  I don’t know what conversations Rackauckas may have had with Michael Gates in the pase about protecting him — but I sure look forward to being able to find out.  Sadly, we’ll probably never find out if Rackauckas wins, his Assistant District Attorneys remain terrified of his retribution, and the stables aren’t cleaned out for decades.

Don’t worry about “rewarding Spitzer” for what he did in a very different office.  Worry about whether you want to reward Rackauckas for the even more clearly evil things he has done in THIS office.

Sheriff: Duke Nguyen

Rackauckas could have pulled off a lot of the constitutional violations that he has without any help from outside of his own office.  But for the crown jewel of them — the one that should finally be his undoing — he needed to have a partner: Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.  She runs the jails; it was her office that set up snitches to, while working for the government, engage accused prisoners in conversations without their lawyers’ presence or permission.  How much law do you have to not know to allow THAT to happen?  (I presume, but do not know, that she also had a role in helping the DA’s agents eavesdrop on their conversations with their lawyers.)

Don Barnes was her top lieutenant.  He was in a position to know what was going on — and to stop it, even if it meant blowing the whistle on it.  Barnes and Hutchens share responsibility with Rackauckas for murderers being released onto Orange County’s streets for violations of their constitutional rights.  Barnes is endorsed not only by the OCGOP, but by two of our worst and most craven Democratic officeholders, Rep. Lou Correa and Asmb. Tom Daly, whose seal of approval for a Republican (like Kris Murray and Lucille Kring) has generally meant that they’re corrupt, idiotic, or both.

Against Barnes, we have a straight arrow named Duke Nguyen, who started his career in Santa Ana and matured in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  He is currently a detective for the — wait for it! — Los Angeles District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division.  He has an impressively bipartisan list of endorsers, none of whom seems to be an embarrassment.

We desperately need a reformer like him in the Sheriff’s Department.

NOTE: Vern will (I’m betting) be able to post videos of the talks that Spitzer and Nguyen gave at Los Amigos on October 3.  Those of you who have any doubts about either one, please watch or listen to those videos before you vote.  If you’ve already sealed your vote-by-mail ballot without voting for either — unseal it and correct it, or get a new one!  We need reform in these two offices that badly!

and Vern just saw the above Bat-Signal…

Todd’s opening statement, as introduced by Brett Murdock.

Questions and answers, pt 1

More questions and answers.

Duke Nguyen, Sheriff candidate.  (I missed the first couple minutes)


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)