NAN-OC Rally Mode on Spitzer’s Racist Remarks
By Dianne Anderson
Chances are the charges to decide the death penalty against a Black defendant are predictable whenever a prosecutor leads the case with whether he was dating a white woman, or an assumption that Black men choose white women to get ahead in life.
Just the comfort level that Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer posed, according to a whistle-blowing memo, has kept Darlene Futrel in rally mode in recent weeks.
That, along with how easily he dropped the N-word again and again in a large gathering prompted Futrel to raise voter awareness in hopes of putting a dent in the prospects of getting reelected this year.
“There’s a possibility Spitzer could get reelected, but we have to keep putting pressure on. I believe more things are going to come out because more people in the prosecutor’s office are releasing [information],” said Futrel, president of NAN-OC, under the umbrella of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
She is planning another NAN-OC protest and inviting all civil rights organizations to join in the call for the State Attorney General to investigate Spitzer’s office.
A December 3 memo released by former Senior Assistant D.A. Ebrahim Baytieh set off the firestorm, detailing a discussion Spitzer had with eight prosecutors present at an October 2021 meeting on sentencing for Jamon Buggs. Buggs is an African American man accused of a double homicide in Huntington Beach.
The memo by Baytieh was obtained by ABC Eyewitness News last month, reportedly describes Spitzer’s racist comments on whether Buggs should get the death penalty or life sentence. Spitzer, according to the memo, said Black men usually date white women to improve their social status.
After releasing the memo, Baytieh was fired from Spitzer’s office last month for allegedly improperly handling evidence on a prior unrelated case.
Baytieh, who is running for Orange County Superior Court Judge, is credited for prosecuting many hate crimes and human trafficking cases. He has received awards for Outstanding Prosecutor of the Year for the State of California from the CA District Attorneys Association, Diligent Prosecutor Award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the Sherwood Prize “for combating hate and prosecuting white supremacist gang members” from the Anti-Defamation League.
Futrel said the memo is one more indication of what’s been ongoing for years under Spitzer that NAN and other civil rights groups have tried to bring to light. Race should not have been a part of the sentencing conversation, she said, but that his discrimination practices are not limited to one comment.
“We had been calling him a racist long before this, and all this did was prove our point. I have been saying it for years. He has upcharged Black defendants and undercharged white defendants — or they get no charge at all,” she said.
Another concern is the now widely publicized slide presentation video of Spitzer at a 2019 hate crime conference, where he took special care to censor the F-word, but intentionally repeated the N-word three times.
“He seemed to take great pleasure in using that word,” she said, adding that from this point on, raising awareness of Spitzer is her priority. They will continue to keep the pressure on, and the issue in front of the voters.
“When it’s time for them to vote, they can make an informed choice. We know he’s not going to resign,” she said.
Other outreach in the works for NAN is to increase awareness, not only about the prosecutor’s office, but throughout Orange County wherever injustice exists. She believes that if NAN builds it, the community will come.
“Our best weapon is when all of us, and all the civil rights organizations come together, that’s our allies,” she said. “One thing for sure, you can’t not fight. If we don’t fight, then nothing gets done.”
Rick Callender, president of the California/Hawaii NAACP State Conferences also echoed many in the justice community that Spitzer should resign.
“Your disgusting and obviously racist beliefs disqualify you from being an elected official at any level of government. No member of modern civilized society would support or even condone these kinds of Jim Crow views,” Callender said in a tweet.
As reported by Stacy Brown with BlackPressUSA.com , a statement by Spitzer attempted to address the remarks.
“I am not perfect, but an inartful comment during an hours-long debate in a double murder case is not reflective of my core beliefs or the years I have spent fighting to make our society more equitable and our communities safe for everyone,” Spitzer said in a statement.
A report recently prepared by the ACLU of Northern California analyzed the practices and policies of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and is making urgent recommendations for reform and systemic change.
The report said District Attorneys have historically been one of the primary drivers of incarceration and disparate impacts for people of color and poor people, and that Black people are 83.5 percent more likely than white people to be charged with a felony, regardless of age or gender.
Diversion in Orange County also appears to exacerbate racial disparities, the report said, because Black people are least likely to be referred to diversion, even when controlling for the severity of charges.
“There were persistent racial disparities across the OCDA’s Office’s charging practices, and Black people were more likely to be charged with a crime, more likely to be charged with a felony, and more likely to be negatively impacted by discretionary charging practices related to wobblers, enhancements, and diversion than white people,” the ACLU reported.
For more information on NAN-OC, see https://www.nan-oc.com/
To see the ACLU report, https://bit.ly/3ChtqS0