Los Angeles City Hall politics revealed from an insider's point of view.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich responds to critics; blames 'poor paperwork' by LAPD

Carmen Trutanich, the Los Angeles City Attorney, responded to criticism arising from the dismissal of 'many cases' against the Occupy LA protesters by pointing the finger of blame fairly and squarely at the Los Angeles Police Department.

In an interview with the Daily News, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office made it clear that their  inability to move forward aggressively with the prosecution of the Occupy LA protesters was due to "paperwork errors made by police officers during the Nov. 30 raid." the Daily News reported.

According to Trutanich, "Los Angeles Police Department officers listed the wrong arresting officer on the arrest sheet" and that City Attorney's Office was "frustrated with the LAPD's handling of the Occupy L.A. arrests." 

The problem appears to be due to the City Attorney's Office not being given enough time to prepare the cases for trial. State law requires arrested persons charged with minor misdemeanors such as trespassing to be brought to trial within 30 days, which apparently was not enough time for the City Attorney's Office. Had the Occupy LA protesters been issued tickets instead of being arrested, the City Attorney would have an extra 15 days to prepare for trial.

The problems faced by the City Attorney's Office were, perhaps, complicated by the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays, which may have robbed the prosecutors of critical time, "With more time, the City Attorney's office could have researched and corrected the arresting officers' name," Trutanich said of  the shoddy paperwork given to him by LAPD.

Additionally, Trutanich was working flat out on his campaign to become District Attorney and had to attend many fundraisers in order to meet his self-imposed $1M campaign war chest target by the December 31, 2011 deadline. Simply put, he may not have had enough time to check the paperwork supplied by LAPD because he had more pressing concerns.

Despite being so badly let down by the LAPD, the City Attorney clearly does not believe that the mistakes made by LAPD officers will pose any problems for future prosecutions as "a second batch of 24 cases will be heading to court later this month," he said. "It's a teachable moment" one prosecutor opined, "The City Attorney's Office is taking this as an opportunity to teach the Occupy LA protesters a lesson about the First Amendment, and LAPD can also learn a lesson about how to prepare their cases."

Trutanich's harsh criticism of the LAPD was not warmly received by everyone. District Attorney candidate Alan Jackson's campaign strategist, John S. Thomas, told the Los Angeles Dragnet that "The next District Attorney needs to stand with law enforcement, not throw them under the bus when it is politically convenient. Mr. Trutanich appears to be too busy collecting special interest cash and exploiting his elected position with city contractors to run the City Attorney's office. Not only did Trutanich throw the police under the bus, he backed up and ran over them again."

The Los Angeles City Council was expected to consider the City Attorney's proposal to sue the Occupy LA protesters for the costs of the clean-up operation. It is unclear whether consideration of that proposal will be taken any further given the paperwork problems identified by the collapse of these criminal cases.

LAPD officers did an outstanding job in bringing the Occupy LA protests to an effective and peaceful end. While they can be proud of their commitment to protect and serve all the people of Los Angeles, there are "a few wrinkles that the LAPD needs to work out," Trutanich said. The LAPD should be grateful for the sound advice and opportunity to educate themselves that they are being given. Contributions to the Draft Trutanich for District Attorney movement can be made at his campaign website.

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