Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ office, responding Thursday to Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s claim that it is “lax” in prosecuting hate crimes, said an outside audit showed it has one of the highest conviction rates in the state.

Spitzer, who is running to unseat Rackauckas in November, blamed a jump in hate crimes over the past three years in the county on the District Attorney’s Office’s failure to charge many cases.

A spokeswoman for the D.A.’s Office, Michelle Van Der Linden, responded that prosecutors place “a great priority” on hate crimes.

“The latest audit conducted by the California State Auditors concluded the Orange County District Attorney’s Office is one of the top leaders in California when it comes to handling hate crimes,” Van Der Linden said.

“Based on more than just stats or numbers, this assessment focused on the efficiency and effectiveness of prosecutors to combat hate crimes based on the facts available and the law,” she said. “In their subsequent report, they noted the OCDA’s conviction rate for hate crime cases over a three-year period, which was more than double the success rate in Los Angeles County and roughly five times greater than San Francisco County’s success rate.”

Van Der Linden said “the audit also pointed out that the OCDA prosecuted roughly the same number of defendants for hate crimes as Los Angeles County, despite the fact that Los Angeles County is roughly three times the population of Orange County.”

Spitzer disputed that the audit showed Orange County was one of the leaders in the state in handling hate crimes.

“In fact, the state auditor only selected four counties for specific case review,” Spitzer said, adding the counties that came under review were Orange, Los Angeles, Stanislaus and San Francisco from 2014-16.

Spitzer claimed Orange County prosecutors “rejected 14 of 15 declined cases due to `insufficient evidence.”’

Rackauckas’ office “blamed patrol officers for failing to collect `sufficient’ evidence in one such robbery-referred hate crime — scapegoating first responders for their own insufficient training mechanisms and tools, which the report faults the OCDA and Orange County Sheriff’s Department for failing to provide,” Spitzer said.

As for the conviction rate, Orange County’s prosecutors filed charges in 57 percent of police-referred hate crimes from 2004 through 2017, Spitzer said. Los Angeles County from 2004 through 2017 filed charges 70 percent of the time, he said.

Spitzer said the audit “in no way” gauges the “effectiveness” of the prosecution of cases.

“In fact, Los Angeles County garnered hate enhancement convictions in 379 hate crimes prosecutions (from 2004-2017) while OCDA achieved only 130 hate enhancement convictions — largely by `cherry picking’ hate crimes cases,” Spitzer said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *