Several weeks ago, a Newport Beach police supervisor raised concerns that the Orange County District Attorney’s office was trying to “cover up” prosecutor Todd Spitzer’s racist comments, according to a memo recently. published that he sent to a judge.
Court Depweg, an acting lieutenant in the police department’s Detective Division, told a judge in a Feb. 3 memo that he had warned the DA’s homicide division chief that his office’s “actions would affect our working relationship in the future and it was disappointing that he and so many of his colleagues tried to cover up this matter, because we all know that “covering up is always worse than crime”. “
In the memo, the lieutenant described the DA’s office as going behind the backs of victims and police by telling the court and defense that they would not be seeking the death penalty against Jamon Buggs, an accused black man. of killing a white couple. at Newport Beach. The memo also cites what the lieutenant described at the time as “reports from multiple sources” that DA Todd Spitzer had made “an unsolicited, derogatory, and racist comment about black men/people.”
Police and prosecutors work as partners within the prosecution team during a criminal case, and it is highly unusual for a police officer to speak directly to a judge to criticize the actions of the office. of the prosecutor or to weigh outside the prosecutor’s office on what information should be shared with the court or the defense. Newport Beach police declined to comment further on the memo on Thursday.
Spitzer said that at the time the police memo was written, his office was “very limited in what we could say because we had already gone to the judge and the matter was before the courts.” . Spitzer previously said he was misquoted and taken out of context regarding racial comments.
“It is completely understandable that there is some confusion among other parties because ongoing litigation has prevented us from discussing the details of the proceedings,” Spitzer said.
“When my homicide manager told me the Newport Beach police had questions about the status of the case and asked if I would take a phone call, I told him they could call me. at any time,” Spitzer added. “Nobody ever called me.”
DA spokeswoman Kimberly Edds said they had already contacted the judge the day before the police memo was sent and met with the judge the next day.
The formerly sealed memo was sent to Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg L. Prickett, who released it Thursday, a day after internal memos describing Spitzer’s racist comments were leaked to the media. The registry had previously requested that documents filed in the case be unsealed, citing the potential significant public interest.
In a note on an Oct. 1 meeting regarding whether to seek the death penalty in the Buggs case, former senior assistant district attorney Ebrahim Baytieh wrote that Spitzer inquired about the race of former girlfriends by Buggs.
According to Baytieh’s memo, other people in the room told Spitzer that the issue was irrelevant and inappropriate to consider when discussing the death penalty, but Spitzer disagreed and “said he knows many black people who get out of bad circumstances and situations by dating only “white women”. Baytieh then wrote a correction changing the line to say that Spitzer “knows many black people who improve their status by only dating ‘white women’.”
Baytieh in the original memo also alleged that Spitzer said he knew a black college student who only dated white women to get out of his “bad circumstances and situations”, an edited quote more late to say that Spitzer said he knew a black college student who dated only white women to “improve his status.”
In his own memo to the judge, Spitzer defended himself by writing that he was trying to determine potential racial connotations in the Buggs case and other mitigating factors. According to the memo, Buggs wanted to kill the man he believed was dating his former girlfriend, who is white. And the female victim’s appearance was similar to that of Buggs’ girlfriend, the prosecutor added, raising questions about whether he misidentified the woman before killing her.
Spitzer fired Baytieh a week ago, publicly saying the firing was the result of an investigation into whether Baytieh withheld evidence in a 2010 murder case, resulting in the conviction being overturned. But Baytieh’s defenders argue he was in fact fired for acting as a whistleblower regarding racial comments.
In her memo, Baytieh argued that Buggs’ defense attorney should have been made aware of Spitzer’s comments under the recent Racial Justice Act, which allows attorneys to challenge a conviction based on racial bias. Spitzer disagreed and removed everyone at the meeting – including himself – from handing over the case.
This change in the prosecution team appears to be what prompted Depweg, the acting lieutenant of the Newport Beach Detective Division, to write his memo to Judge Prickett, who is presiding over the Buggs case. Depweg in the memo expressed concern that the case had been assigned to a prosecutor who was not part of the prosecutor’s homicide division and that the former prosecutor had told him he could not. tell them more about Buggs’ criminal case.
Depweg wrote that he raised concerns about a potential cover-up while having lunch with Steve McGreevy, head of the district attorney’s homicide unit. McGreevy replied that “he fully understood my position,” Depweg wrote.
Buggs, a Huntington Beach personal trainer, was arrested days after the bodies of Wendi Miller, 48, and Darren Partch, 38, were found at Partch’s home in the 2100 block of East 15th Street in Newport Beach. He is currently awaiting trial.