Fri. Jun 7th, 2024

High-Ranking OC Prosecutor Quits, Says DA Spitzer Jeopardized Mass Shooting Prosecution

 

A high-ranking prosecutor has quit her job of 25 years and is now joining other District Attorney staff in taking aim at their own boss – coming out with an explosive legal claim saying DA Todd Spitzer made race-based decisions, jeopardized a mass shooting case and belittled sexual harassment victims in his office who came forward against a friend he had promoted.

Tracy Miller, who oversaw the DA’s branch court offices and felony fraud units, says she left her job of 25 years last month after facing months of retaliation from Spitzer and his top deputy Shawn Nelson for refusing to go along with their unethical behavior.

In a legal claim she filed Tuesday, Miller said Spitzer made a host of improper race-based decisions – including saying he needed “a brown or a black face” from his staff with him at a meeting with the civil rights group NAACP, and “suggesting a prosecutor be assigned a case, because she was African-American.”

She also alleges Spitzer jeopardized the prosecution of last year’s mass shooting in Orange by talking to a victim without his attorney present, “discussing favorable treatment” with the witness in a separate case against him, and “seeking to withhold the true facts of that contact” by making “materially false” statements about it when interviewed about it internally.

And when Miller came forward to report sexual harassment of her female subordinates by Spitzer’s friend Gary LoGalbo  – which a county investigation later confirmed as true – Miller says Spitzer and his top deputy Shawn Nelson dismissed the victims.

“Chief Assistant District Attorney Shawn Nelson, in the presence of OCDA Todd Spitzer, would repeatedly say that Gary LoGalbo did not have real victims of sexual harassment,” Miller wrote.

“Not only was this information false, but the statement by Nelson and acceptance by Spitzer created a hostile working environment intended to silence reporters of harassment,” she added.

[Click here to read Tracy Miller’s legal claim.]

In response, Spitzer is taking direct aim at Miller, saying she’s part of a conspiracy with ex-prosecutor Brahim Baytieh to attack him as he runs for re-election.

“It is blatantly obvious that going into my re-election that both Baytieh and Miller coordinated efforts to embarrass me and deter me from my efforts to reverse the ‘win at all costs’ mentality which involved violating the constitutional rights of defendants by cheating and failing to discover evidence to the defense,” Spitzer wrote in a statement.

“These two managers were indoctrinated by a 20-year prior administration that taught you how to cheat, seek revenge, and eviscerate your enemies. Despite good faith efforts it was impossible to change their entrenched attitudes and behavior,” he added.

“This is no coincidence and the motive is clear. The Ebrahim Baytieh false memo leaked from the Buggs Special Circumstances Meeting in a failed attempt to extort me from firing Baytieh for prosecutorial misconduct and Miller’s pile-on accusations lined up perfectly with the filing deadline for District Attorney re-election just two weeks away.”

[Click here to read Spitzer’s full statement.]

Nelson, who is running for judge in the June election, didn’t return a phone message for comment.

Miller’s claim comes as DA staff rebel against Spitzer, with the prosecutors’ unions firing off a host of scathing questions they want answered about whether he’s destroyed criminal cases and faith in the justice system by injecting race and politics into law enforcement decisions.

One of the unions – the Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys – and their political action committee previously endorsed Spitzer, but are now raising the specter of pulling their support, given disclosures in recent weeks.

OC Democratic Party leader Ada Briceño and the California chapter of the NAACP have called for Spitzer’s resignation, while sources tell Voice of OC that county GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker publicly defended Spitzer at the party central committee’s meeting on Monday evening.

Three elected DAs – two of whom are from neighboring counties – also have pulled their endorsements of Spitzer, in a rare move.

Two weeks ago, Voice of OC broke the story of the existence of Spitzer’s racial remarks that complicated the death penalty case against Jamon Rayon Buggs, which is at the center of the recent controversy.

Miller’s legal claim, coming after a long career where she oversaw the DA’s gang reduction efforts, ricocheted around Orange County legal circles Tuesday evening.

In her claim, she says she quit after months of harassment from Spitzer and Nelson.

“This [hostile work] environment was created in retaliation for Miller’s refusal to adopt race-based practices, her refusal to accept race-based attorney assignments and her refusal to remain silent when race was offered as justification for Spitzer’s decision-making process,” states Miller’s claim.

She goes on to say the hostility directed at her also was “in retaliation for, and in order to disable Miller from, protecting her females subordinates who had properly and painfully reported sexual misconduct by a male superior, Gary Logalbo, who was Spitzer’s Best Man at his wedding.”

“Miller was punished for refusing to allow Spitzer to lionize the predator, gas-light, and further savage the reputation of the victims,” her claim states.

A county-commissioned HR investigation confirmed that LoGalbo sexually harassed multiple female employees at the DA’s office.

When Miller came forward with reports that her subordinates were being harassed by LoGalbo, Nelson went so far as to defend the harasser and demean one of his victims, according to her claim.

“In December of 2020, Miller reported to Nelson that Gary LoGalbo had sexually harassed another OCDA female employee. Nelson defended LoGalbo and referred to the female victim as a ‘chicken; for not coming forward earlier,” Miller wrote in her claim.

Miller says she faced retaliation for reporting another victim of LoGalbo’s in February of last year.

“Later that same day, in an Executive Meeting, in retaliation for her protected activity, Nelson presented a plan to significantly diminish Miller’s material responsibilities and effectiveness,” her claim states, including “taking away many of the specialty units Miller supervised.”

Two months later, in April 2021, Spitzer outed Miller as a witness to the harassment when he distributed a previously confidential investigation report to the entire DA’s office, according to her claim.

Spitzer then disparaged Miller in front of her subordinantes by telling her to “just shut up” when she tried to explain things, and later told a subordinate “that he was mad because of what Miller stated in the LoGalbo report,” according to Miller’s claim.

The harassment from Spitzer and Nelson continued through the year, Miller alleges, including cutting her out of discussions and threatening to take away her involvement in promoting staff.

“In retaliation for Miller’s protected activity, Spitzer and Nelson would repeatedly belittle and humiliate Miller in Executive Meetings.

According to her claim, some of the retaliatory comments made towards Miller include, but are not limited to: ‘Be quiet,’ ‘Why are you talking,’ ‘I am not asking for your feedback,’ ‘I don’t need an opinion from you. Shut up and listen.’ ”

Miller is seeking over $10,000 in her legal claim against Spitzer, which is a precursor to a potential lawsuit.

Representing her in the case are police officer-turned-employment attorney Bijan Darvish and John Barnett, who represented the police officers acquitted in the Rodney King and Kelly Thomas beatings.

Miller, who worked at the DA’s office for 25 years, was the office’s only female senior assistant DA during the year and a half leading up to her leaving in January, according to her claim.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

sited https://voiceofoc.org/2022/02/high-ranking-oc-prosecutor-quits-says-da-spitzer-jeopardized-mass-shooting-prosecution/