On Sept. 2, 2015, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Todd Spitzer was emotional while reflecting on an incident more than five months previously at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos in Lake Forest. He handcuffed Jeobay Castellano and called police when the man would not stop trying to proselytize even when Spitzer told him he was a Christian. (File photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

By Tony Saavedra | tsaavedra@scng.com | Orange County Register
Published:  May 22, 2017 at 5:06 pm
Updated:    May 23, 2017 at 7:30 am

The day after the news show “60 Minutes” turned a national spotlight on local prosecutors’ misuse of jailhouse informants, an Orange County supervisor formally asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take over the district attorney’s office.

In a two-page letter that outlines numerous alleged and real problems, County Supervisor Todd Spitzer — a long-time political opponent of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas — said the misconduct has reached “critical proportions.”

“Immediate action is necessary in order to prevent further damage by our elected DA and (to) reverse eroding confidence in our judicial system,” Spitzer wrote on his office letterhead. “The depth, denial and cover-up of serious misconduct threatens the foundation of our criminal justice system.”

Spitzer’s plea came a day after Rackauckas told “60 Minutes” that there is no informant program in Orange County jails — something that several local judges and an appeals court have ruled in fact does exist. On the same program, Rackauckas said that anybody guilty of the misdeeds he’s accused of should “be in jail.” The U.S. Department of Justice already is investigating local prosecutors and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, an investigation that could end with federal officials in control of both departments, though Sessions’ has said publicly that he’d like the Justice Dept. to “pull back” from monitoring local law enforcement. An official with the department said Monday that the agency has the letter but isn’t talking about it.

Rackauckas’ office noted that Spitzer is expecting to run for District Attorney in 2018, and suggested that the letter is politically motivated. The office also questioned Spitzer’s judgment, pointing to 2015 incident in which Spitzer detained a fellow restaurant patron he deemed threatening.The man detained by Spitzer was released by sheriff’s deputies after the incident and no charges were filed.

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