O.C. Supervisor Todd Spitzer calls for federal oversight of district attorney’s office

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer asked federal authorities Monday for an emergency takeover of the Orange County district attorney’s office, citing what he called “continuing revelations of scandal.”

Spitzer’s letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions noted a recent liability claim filed by the office’s former lead investigator that accuses Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas of campaign misconduct and interfering in political corruption investigations.

That investigator, Craig Hunter, left the office in April amid accusations that he sent sexually explicit texts while on duty.

Spitzer’s letter also cited a May 17 ruling by an Orange County judge that said Orange County prosecutors engaged in “serious misconduct” during the 2008 murder trial of Cole Wilkins, who is facing retrial in the 2006 death of an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy.

“The district attorney’s actions have left the county, the courts, the judicial system and the public no other course of action,” Spitzer wrote.

Spitzer urged Sessions to take control of the district attorney’s office by emergency consent decree, a legally binding agreement in which federal authorities can force reforms at an agency.

Rackauckas’ office fired back with a statement accusing Spitzer of misusing his office as supervisor and “slandering prosecutors and OCDA personnel” in an attempt to regain credibility and win reelection. Spitzer’s term ends in 2020.

“It is unfortunate that Todd Spitzer is using his current position as a county supervisor to campaign for the office of the district attorney, a position he so desperately covets,” said spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden.

The California state attorney general and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating allegations that Rackauckas’ office used a network of jailhouse informants to obtain incriminating evidence and harsher convictions against defendants in high-profile murder cases.

Spitzer and Rackauckas have been engaged in a bitter public feud for years. Their disagreements can be traced to 2010, when Rackauckas fired Spitzer — then an assistant district attorney who was being groomed as his replacement — amid accusations that Spitzer had misused his position.

As a supervisor, Spitzer has repeatedly called for greater oversight of Rackauckas’ office, calling it “probably the most disrespected district attorney executive team in California.”

Rackauckas’ office, for its part, characterizes Spitzer as a nakedly ambitious, grandstanding politician who has long wanted the district attorney job. Last year, Rackauckas accused Spitzer of falsely identifying himself as an assistant district attorney on a robocall promoting a campaign ethics ballot measure.

Spitzer, at a dueling news conference that day, said he clearly identified himself as a supervisor on the call and called Rackauckas paranoid.

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