Prosecutor Says Orange County DA is ‘Unfit’ to Handle Golden State Killer Cases

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas answers questions about the charges against Samuel Lincoln Woodward for the murder Blaze Bernstein during a press conference in Santa Ana on Friday, Jan 12, 2018.
(Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

A former homicide supervisor at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office is urging Sacramento County prosecutors not to move their Golden State Killer murder cases to Orange County, claiming District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is “unfit” to handle them.

In a four-page letter, former Assistant District Attorney Michael Jacobs asked Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert to do “everything in your power” not to consolidate her two homicide cases for prosecution in Orange County, where he said Rackauckas’ office “over the years, has exhibited a long history of poor judgment, incompetence (and) prejudicial misconduct.”

Jacobs, who was fired from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and according to a published report was ordered reinstated, went on to call Rackauckas and Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens “unfit to competently handle a case of this magnitude and importance.” Jacobs is now a civil attorney.

Orange County has four Golden State Killer homicide cases against the same defendant, former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo.

The Sacramento District Attorney’s Office said no decision has been made on consolidating cases, although two meetings have been held.

Consolidating Sacramento County’s cases against DeAngelo, 72, in Orange County would endanger them of being reversed on appeal or subject to sanctions as a result of prosecutorial misconduct, Jacobs wrote in the July 17 letter.

Rackauckas’ spokeswoman, Michelle Van Der Linden, responded that Jacobs’ letter was riddled with errors and that he was working against Rackauckas’ re-election in November.

“This letter is simply a pathetic publicity ploy and political stunt that unfortunately hurts the crime victims who have waited so long to see justice in the case of a man who terrorized California for decades,” Van Der Linden wrote. “It is insulting to the many law enforcement officers who have and continue to give their hearts and souls to this case.”

Hutchens responded that Orange County is capable of handling any case, and to say otherwise is “reckless.”

“I have complete faith in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to prosecute this case, and any other, in an unbiased manner that will hold criminals accountable for their actions,” she wrote. “The Orange County Sheriff’s Department provides safe and secure jails and operates within the confines of the law.

“To venture that trying a case in Orange County places the outcome of a prolific serial killer case in jeopardy is misleading and reckless.”

In one of the largest criminal cases in state history, DeAngelo is facing 12 murder charges in Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Orange and Ventura counties. He also is suspected of more than 50 rapes and more than 100 burglaries statewide, dating back to 1974.

DNA evidence from some of the crime scenes matched samples taken from the handle of DeAngelo’s car door and from a discarded tissue, according to published reports.

In Orange County, DeAngelo is accused of killing Keith and Patrice Harrington in Dana Point as well as Manuela Witthuhn and Janelle Cruz, both in Irvine. All were killed from 1980 to 1986.

In Sacramento, DeAngelo is charged with the killings of Brian and Katie Maggiore.

Jacobs postured that the Golden State Killer case could have been cracked 18 years earlier, but Rackauckas disbanded a county task force that reviewed regional cold cases.

Rackauckas is facing a heated re-election battle in Orange County to retain his seat against challenger Todd Spitzer, a former prosecutor and now a county supervisor who paints himself as a reformist.

Jacobs was fired from the District Attorney’s Office in 2001 after reporting Rackauckas to state prosecutors for allegedly shutting down investigations into cronies. The California Attorney General’s Office had earlier warned Rackauckas about potential problems with Jacobs withholding evidence on jailhouse informants from defense attorneys.

Nevertheless, Jacobs, in his letter to Schubert, notes that Rackauckas and his 250 prosecutors were removed from Orange County’s largest mass murder case for misusing jailhouse informants and withholding evidence with sheriff’s deputies. Former Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals, now an appellate justice, was so concerned that defendant Scott Dekraai’s rights were being violated that he booted the district attorney from the case and gave Dekraai life imprisonment instead of the death penalty for shooting to death eight people at a Seal Beach hair salon in 2011.

“An absolute and total failure of Orange County’s justice system. And do you really want to entrust the pursuit of fairjustice and the protection of the rights of your victims’ families to an agency led by Tony Rackauckas, with this road record?” Jacobs wrote. “Please, please do not even consider dismissing the current pending counts against Mr.DeAngelo in your county for a consolidated filing in Orange County.”


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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