Former prosecutor argued with DA over race comments
SANTA ANA, Calif.
An award-winning California prosecutor fired last week has raised questions about racially-tinged remarks made by his boss, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, while reviewing a double murder case in which a man Black has been charged, according to documents released Wednesday.
Spitzer denied making any inappropriate comments on Wednesday and said now-sacked prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh was being investigated for withholding evidence in an old murder case and made the allegations in an attempt to smuggle him. threaten and keep his job.
Baytieh, who is running for election to be a judge, wrote an internal memo in December saying comments made by Spitzer during a discussion about whether to seek the death penalty for defendant Jamon Buggs should be reported to the man’s attorney or a judge under a recent California Racial Justice Act.
He wrote that the county’s top prosecutor asked about the race of Buggs’ former girlfriends — a question that Baytieh and another prosecutor deemed irrelevant.
However, according to the memo, Spitzer disagreed, saying, “He knows many black people who get out of bad circumstances and bad situations by only dating ‘white women’.”
Buggs pleaded not guilty to shooting a man and woman, both white, at a Newport Beach condominium in 2019. His next hearing is in March.
On Wednesday, Spitzer said race was an issue in the case because authorities suspect Buggs targeted the man because he mistakenly believed he was dating Buggs’ white ex-girlfriend.
Buggs may have confused the woman he killed with his ex, Spitzer said, adding that he had to answer such questions when weighing something as serious as the death penalty.
“These are open and frank conversations. Every word is not measured. We talk about life and death,” Spitzer said by phone. Baytieh “tried to portray it as something racist and inappropriately motivated. It wasn’t anything like that.
Spitzer said he called a meeting of prosecutors in January and turned over information about the conversation to the judge as a precaution, though he doesn’t think the new California law requires it.
Baytieh was fired not because of the memo, Spitzer said, but because an independent investigation determined Baytieh withheld evidence in the 2010 conviction of a man in the murder of his drug dealer. marijuana.
Baytieh has pursued this case, and the man will now get a new trial.
Baytieh is a former California prosecutor of the year campaigning to become a judge. He was fired from his position as a senior assistant prosecutor overseeing homicides, sexual assaults and other cases.
A message left with Baytieh was not immediately returned. His election campaign is backed by Republicans and Democrats and a slew of law enforcement officials.
The release of the memo comes in a county of more than 3 million that has been riled by recent hateful incidents ranging from racial slurs at a school basketball game to anti-Semitic fliers left outside the houses.
Spitzer, who has spoken out about hate incidents in the county, said he decided not to seek death for Buggs because it would be difficult to make such a case due to evidence that Buggs suffered traumatic brain injury as a young footballer.
A message was left for Buggs’ attorney, Michael Hill.