An Orange County supervisor sent a letter Monday to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking his office to take over the Orange County District Attorney's Office, which has been rocked by allegations of the misuse of jailhouse informants.
The request was made by Supervisor Todd Spitzer — a former prosecutor fired by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and considered a rival for his job — and comes a day after a "60 Minutes" story on the so-called snitch scandal.
On Tuesday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals, who kicked Rackauckas' office off the case against Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in the county's history, is set to begin a third round of evidentiary hearings on allegations of misuse of informants in the jails.
Dekraai has pleaded guilty and is awaiting a penalty phase as the Attorney General's Office pursues the ultimate punishment. Goethals, however, said he may punish the District Attorney's Office for misconduct by removing the death penalty as an option for Dekraak, which would trigger an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the defendant.
Top news of the day
Just last week, Goethals sanctioned the District Attorney's Office on another case for outrageous governmental misconduct by prohibiting prosecutors from pursuing a first-degree murder conviction for Cole Wilkins, who's accused of touching off a collision that killed a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy a decade ago. Instead, prosecutors would have to start with second-degree murder or manslaughter in a retrial of Wilkins.
In the letter to Sessions, Spitzer said he was "writing solely on my personal behalf, not for the county or the Board of Supervisors."
Spitzer cited Sunday's "60 Minutes" report in his letter, saying his former boss "contradicted himself and the members of a blue-ribbon panel he convened to investigate his office."
Rackauckas' panel characterized his office as a "rudderless ship," but when asked about that on the Sunday TV news program, the county's top prosecutor said that was not what he heard privately from the attorneys and legal experts who served on the commission.
"Tony Rackauckas continues to argue that everybody investigating the wrongdoings in his office are not trustworthy," Spitzer wrote. "Mr. Attorney General, Tony Rackauckas cannot be trusted."
Spitzer also cited a recent legal claim filed by Rackauckas' former chief of investigators that alleged whitewashing of political corruption cases for the top prosecutor's pals and illegal electioneering by a chief of staff in the office. Those allegations have been denied by Rackauckas' office.
Spitzer also noted that one of the private attorneys who served on his commission to investigate the snitch scandal was recently hired to represent a prosecutor facing discipline from the state Bar for prosecutorial misconduct in a child abuse case in which Goethals found the prosecutor withheld evidence from a defense attorney for strategic reasons.