A defendant in the alcohol poisoning death of a fellow UC Irvine fraternity member has filed a motion citing the new state Racial Justice Act in seeking records from county officials regarding Orange County Todd Spitzer’s alleged racial bias stemming from racially charged comments he made about the defendant in a double murder in Newport Beach.
The Orange County Public Defender’s Office is seeking documents related to the Jamon Buggs double murder case to determine if Spitzer has shown racial bias against Zavier Larenz Brown in the underage drinking death case.
Spitzer blasted the motion from Brown’s attorneys as “self-serving.”
The four other defendants in the case have pleaded no contest. They were all offered plea deals for no jail time and community service instead.
Prosecutors, however, have offered 270 days in jail and informal probation for Brown because he has been characterized as “the heavy” in the case, which means he is considered the most culpable in the Jan. 12, 2019, death of 18-year-old Noah Domingo.
In a motion filed this week, attorneys said Spitzer “has played an unusually active role in this case to the detriment of the defendant.” Spitzer “vehemently argued” against an attempt to allow Brown get into a diversion program.
“In addition to his personal advocacy against Mr. Brown, District Attorney Spitzer has made numerous comments concerning Mr. Brown’s case to the press in both radio and print media, even using the case to pursue legislation aimed at making furnishing alcohol a felony offense,” the motion reads.
“Significantly, the defense was unaware for months that just three days before Mr. Spitzer presented oral argument in Mr. Brown’s case, the prosecutor had reached a decision of particular importance to another African American defendant named Jamon Buggs — a defendant who was also awaiting trial at the Harbor Justice Center,” the motion reads.
Spitzer has come under fire for saying during a meeting with prosecutors to discuss Buggs’ case that he knew fellow Black students in college who would date white women to enhance their social status.
The comments regarding Buggs “demonstrate racist tendencies toward African Americans by the district attorney of this county,” the public defenders say in the motion.
The attorneys are seeking a list of defendants who were charged with underage drinking cases and the ethnic backgrounds of the defendants. The motion also seeks any correspondence in the office and with police regarding Brown’s case.
The attorneys say in the motion they want to determine if there is evidence of Spitzer showing bias against Black defendants. Ultimately, the defense attorneys are seeking dismissal of the case or recusal of Spitzer’s office from prosecuting the case.
Spitzer issued the following statement about the motion:
“Typical exploitation and opportunism by the Public Defender,” Spitzer said. “The public defender in this case asked for diversion – because the fraternity brother who bought and furnished Noah the alcohol shouldn’t have to bear the burden of this for the rest of his life.
“What about Noah? What about the burden his family is having to bear having to live their lives without their son? Noah’s life mattered — and no one involved in this situation should be able to walk away and pretend this didn’t happen.
“Judge (John) Adams not only agreed, he questioned why there weren’t more charges brought against this defendant. Unfortunately, current law prevented prosecutors from filing anything more than a misdemeanor in this case.
“Not only did I fight for justice for a college student who should have never died, I felt so strongly about this issue that I fought for legislation to make furnishing alcohol to a minor resulting in great bodily injury be a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
“Playing the race card in a desperate attempt to avoid accountability is offensive. An innocent boy died because of the defendant. The conduct and the evidence we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt dictate the charges that are filed.”