O.C. Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas’ office has been removed from the Seal Beach murder case. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
By Christopher Goffard
March 20, 2015
For 3 1/2 years, Paul Wilson has waited for his wife’s killer to face trial, a wait protracted by lengthy evidentiary hearings probing the mishandling of the case by authorities.
On Friday, he learned the process has no end in sight, as government attorneys announced they will appeal a judge’s ruling to throw the Orange County district attorney’s office off its most high-profile murder case.
Moments after he was informed the wait might stretch on for at least another year, Wilson passed Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas in the courtroom and muttered a single angry word at him: “Disgusting.”
Rackauckas’ handling of the case of mass shooter Scott Dekraai — who has pleaded guilty to murdering eight people at a Seal Beach salon in 2011 and awaits sentencing — had become a “comedy of errors,” Orange County Judge Thomas Goethals said last week.
The judge ruled the D.A.’s office had violated Dekraai’s rights by improperly withholding evidence from the defense, and said the state attorney general’s office should handle the case instead.
In remarks at the courthouse Friday, Todd Spitzer, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, called for greater oversight of the D.A.’s office and said the case was emblematic of Rackauckas’ tendency “to botch cases.”
“The system did not fail,” Spitzer said. “It was Tony Rackauckas, the district attorney of Orange County, that failed.”
Rather than take responsibility for the “debacle” in the Dekraai case, Spitzer said, Rackauckas’ team tried to blame others, including Dekraai’s attorney and Judge Goethals.
Spitzer referred to recent remarks in the Orange County Register by Rackauckas’ campaign chairman, Michael Schroeder, describing the judge as “a disgruntled former employee of the D.A.’s office” who wasn’t fair to prosecutors.
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