Attorneys are set Tuesday to begin choosing a jury in a lawyer’s $10 million lawsuit against Orange County stemming from a courthouse brawl he had with an Orange County District Attorney’s Office investigator.
The lawsuit stemming from the March 9, 2016, fist fight involving attorney James Crawford and District Attorney Investigator Dillon Alley will essentially boil down to who started the brawl.
Crawford, who won a retrial for a murder defendant based on allegations of outrageous governmental misconduct, argues that courthouse victory led to him being “bullied” by an employee of the District Attorney’s Office.
Alley argues that he was defending himself and “the public” when he got into the fight.
Alley’s job on the day of the fight was to protect two witnesses in a bar brawl case at the Central Justice Center courthouse in Santa Ana.
Crawford was appointed to represent Berenice Gonzalez, a witness in a criminal case involving a bar brawl in Lake Forest. She was reluctant to testify because she feared incriminating herself, prompting prosecutors to offer her limited immunity.
According to his lawsuit, Crawford approached the woman to advise her of her rights as she was sitting with Alley, who asked him, “Who the (expletive) are you?” and was “angered” when Crawford said he was appointed to advise Gonzalez.
An “agitated and angry” Alley kept interrupting the counseling, the lawsuit alleges.
“Defendant Alley stated to plaintiff James Crawford that he was going to listen in on the discussion between James Crawford and Berenice Gonzalez because criminal defense lawyers are `sleazy,”’ the lawsuit alleges.
Crawford says he replied that Alley should not be “making such remarks as the `trash’ in his own agency illegally planted paid snitches in jail cells next to other inmates to illegally obtain (or to make up) self-incriminating statements from them.”
Crawford then walked away with Gonzalez, with Alley calling the attorney a “douche bag,” according to the lawsuit, which alleges Alley blocked Crawford as he tried to return to the courtroom and “chest puffed” and “mad dogged” the attorney.
Crawford walked around and past the investigator, while uttering an expletive, and Alley “threw a binder clip at (Crawford) that struck him in the back of his head,” the lawsuit alleges.
Crawford says he picked up the binder and hurled it back at Alley. As he approached the courtroom, Alley “approached the plaintiff from behind, struck him in his head and knocked plaintiff James Crawford down onto the wooden bench in the hallway,” the lawsuit alleges.
Alley “pounced on top of plaintiff,” pinned him down and them “repeatedly punch(ed) the plaintiff with his bare fist approximately eight to 10 times, delivering repeated closed-fist blows brutally and viciously pummeling plaintiff’s face and head, causing plaintiff severe injury to his face and head area,” the lawsuit alleges.
Santa Ana police and sheriff’s deputies pulled Alley off the attorney.
The state Attorney General’s Office in June 2016 declined to pursue criminal charges in the fight.
County attorneys last week attempted to delay the trial based on the sudden unavailability of what they say is a key witness who is prepared to testify that Crawford “hates authorities, particularly police officers and prosecutors” and that he “elbows and pushes prosecutors and other attorneys” and that he “uses profanity while in court to get a reaction from prosecutors and other attorneys” and that once while in the witness’ car he attempted to “flip off” a police officer, according to the judge’s ruling on the request to reschedule the trial.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ruled against the delay. He said that it was unclear when the witness, who suffered complications from knee surgery that left him in intensive care, would be available for another trial.
Carter also ruled that county attorneys should have taken his deposition sometime between the filing of the lawsuit in 2016 and the surgery. Carter also noted the county has other witnesses who can offer similar testimony.