Orange County District Attorney refers pre-trial publicity by prior administration to California State Bar for review

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer released the following statement regarding People v. Robicheaux and Riley:

Given the controversial procedural nature of People v. Robicheaux and Riley, upon my assuming the office of the District Attorney of Orange County, I directed my prosecutors to re-evaluate the facts with a com pletely fresh assessment untainted by any prior history or filing decision by the prior administration.

The need to be open to a complete reevaluation in this case was the result of the deep concerns I had previously expressed publicly about how the case was exploited for re-election purposes by the former District Attorney and his Chief of Staff. My objective in directing this review was to ensure that the rights of the victims in this case, as well as the rights of the defendants, are protected as is my duty under the law.

Ultimately – after the completion of this review – my office will pursue charges consistent with the facts and the law. I will have nothing less.

During this ongoing review process, I recently became aware of statements made under oath by the former District Attorney and his Chief of Staff during civil depositions relating to a civil lawsuit filed by one of the alleged victims in the case.

While I will not be releasing the depositions, it is my belief that the defendants’ counsel have released them to certain media outlets.

Many of the statements in the depositions are disturbing and confirmed to me the validity of all the accusations of impropriety that I levied against the former District Attorney and his Chief of Staff.

In a blatant attempt to besmirch my reputation in the weeks leading up to the election, Mr. Rackauckas and Ms. Schroeder coordinated with one of the victim’s attorneys to file formal contempt allegations that I had unlawfully released the search warrant executed in January of 2018 at the Robicheaux home where guns, money and drugs had been seized by police.

I had to retain my own personal attorney to defend myself against contempt charges brought at the prompting of Mr. Rackauckas and Ms. Schroeder. The Honorable Judge Jones ruled that the search warrant had indeed been unsealed since its filing with the court in January 2018 and had remained unsealed in a public file-and hence was deemed a public document. I was declared by a court of law to have simply released an already public document to the public, a completely lawful act.

As a result of these express admissions by the former District Attorney confirming the validity of the accusations of impropriety of pre-trial publicity that I levied against the former District Att orney, I decided on September 19, 2019, to declare a conflict in the handling of the criminal case. Statements made under oath by the former District Attorney and his Chief of Staff raised significant questions of fairness and objectivity which necessitated my office’s recusal. Therefore, I sent the Attorney General’s Office an official request on September 19, 2019 asking the Attorney General to take over the handling of the People v. Robicheaux and Riley case. I have full faith in the professionalism, integrity, and capabilities of my prosecutors; however, I felt that the regrettable and inappropriate actions by the former District Attorney and his Chief of Staff left me with the obligation to be especially cautious.

On September 25, 2019, the Attorney General’s Office responded to my letter with a very well-reasoned legal analysis indicating that notwithstanding any allegation of inappropriate c onduct by the former District Attorney and his Chief of Staff, under my leadership as the new District Attorney overseeing this case, it is legally and ethically my responsibility to proceed with the handling of the criminal case against Dr. Robicheaux and Ms. Riley. I accept the Attorney General’s decision regarding the issue that I do not have any conflict. Therefore, my office will continue to properly and ethically prosecute this case along with continuing with the process of reassessing the facts of the case in order to fulfill our legal and ethical obligations to the victims and the defendants in this case.

The State Bar of California has implemented severe restrictions on pre-trial publicity by prosecutors for obvious reasons. Inappropriate pre-trial publicity and the improper dissemination of case details – and certainly inaccurate statements of the evidence – can have serious implications of great legal consequence.

Therefore, I have referred all relevant records and information in the criminal case of People v. Robicheaux and Riley to the California State Bar to make a determination regarding the pre-trial publicity as initiated by the former District Attorney and his Chief of Staff. I have asked the State Bar to review specifically any possible violations on the part of Mr. Rackauckas and Ms. Schroeder of State Bar Rules 3.6 and 3.8 for holding three press conferences in the weeks leading up to the election on a case Mr. Rackauckas himself admitted under oath was motivated, in part, by his re-election efforts.

I am committed to ensuring that this case will be handled legally, ethically, and justly. The victims, the defendants, and the people of Orange County deserve nothing less.

This article was released by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.