Defense attorney James Crawford, who recently won a victory in a court case connected to the ongoing informant scandal, said he was attacked by a District Attorney’s investigator.

Defense attorney James Crawford, who recently won a victory in a court case connected to the ongoing informant scandal, said he was attacked by a District Attorney’s investigator on Wednesday. (Courtesy of Jerry Steering)

By Sean Emery, Tony Saavedra and Scott Schwebke / Staff Writers
March 11, 2016 – Updated 8:04 a.m.

SANTA ANA – An Orange County defense attorney on Thursday launched an online petition calling for the arrest of a district attorney’s investigator involved in a courthouse altercation with Orange lawyer James Crawford.

“The criminal defense community is infuriated and we are frightened, to be frank,” said attorney Drew S. Levine, whose petition has garnered nearly 300 supporters. “It’s really disturbing.”

To avoid a possible conflict, the District Attorney’s Office has asked the state attorney general to review the incident and determine if charges should be filed.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas declined to comment Thursday. His office cited state personnel laws and the Officers’ Bill of Rights as the reason for not disclosing the investigator’s name or status.

Crawford, who last month won a big victory against local prosecutors in Orange County’s ongoing battle over jailhouse informants, said the dispute erupted Wednesday morning at the Santa Ana courthouse.

The attorney said he was speaking with a witness and an interpreter in a 10th-floor hallway when a district attorney’s investigator he did not recognize interrupted the conversation and stated defense lawyers are “sleazy.”

Jerry Steering, Crawford’s attorney, said that after a testy back-and-forth between the two men, the investigator slammed Crawford’s head into a bench and began punching him.

Neither man was immediately taken to a hospital. Crawford said he went to an emergency room Wednesday night to treat what turned out to be a fracture below his left eye.

Defense attorney Paul S. Meyer, who represents the investigator, urged the public to withhold judgment.

“There are two sides to every story and that is certainly true here,” Meyer said. “The one-sided version currently being circulated is simply not accurate. The independent witnesses and favorable evidence and injuries to the investigator will be evaluated. We believe it is in everyone’s best interest to let the investigation proceed.”

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident and will turn over the results to the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Attorney general spokeswoman Kristin Ford did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Separately, the attorney general has been investigating the District Attorney’s Office for the past year, focused on Orange County’s controversial use of jailhouse informants.

On Thursday, Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, said for the first time that the Justice Department is now reviewing requests to investigate Orange County’s fractured justice system.

One of those requests came in a November letter from three dozen former prosecutors and legal experts who declared a “crisis” in Orange County.

Rackauckas also has asked for a federal investigation.

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