OC Groups Push Against Spitzer and to Get Out the Vote
By Dianne Anderson
Sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits shrouding the Orange County District Attorney’s office have the local National Action Network chapter pushing harder this last week to get Black and Brown voters to mail in their Primary ballot.
At stake, Darlene Futrel said the numbers with Spitzer at the helm show a pattern of upcharging Black people and undercharging – if at all – white people.
Futrel, president of the National Action Network Orange County Chapter, demanded Spitzer resign two months ago on the heels of reported racist statements and data showing race bias in sentencing.
NAN OC and other Orange County organizations met at Attorney General Rob Bonta’s Office with a letter written by the ACLU calling for an investigation. Among several groups that signed in support include The Peace and Justice Law Center, Transforming Justice, Orange County United Communities for Peace, and Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative.
Futrel said that although Spitzer is downplaying allegations, she feels that voters won’t be deceived.
“If you don’t know the facts, he will convince you otherwise, that’s what a litigator does. They convince you to believe the story, whether it’s the truth or not,” said Futrel,
Some of the controversies are around a December 3 memo obtained by ABC Eyewitness News released by former Senior Assistant D.A. Ebrahim Baytieh detailing a discussion Spitzer had with eight prosecutors last October regarding sentencing for Jamon Buggs, a Black man accused of a double homicide. In seeking the death penalty, Baytieh described Spitzer’s comments about whether Buggs was dating a white woman, and that Black men choose white women to get ahead in life.
After releasing that memo, Baytieh was fired from Spitzer’s office for allegedly improperly handling evidence on a prior unrelated case.
A statement by Spitzer attempted to address the remarks after they surfaced.
“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 had said in a statement as reported by Stacy Brown with the Black Press USA.
Futrel also shed light on the so-called OCDA’s SPIT & ACQUIT program, which she describes as an invasive and illegal practice of DNA profiling. She feels that genetic surveillance is a violation of civil and Fourth Amendment rights.
“[It’s by] collecting DNA from anyone charged with a misdemeanor and in some cases upcharging a simple traffic violation to a misdemeanor for the sole purpose of scaring you into providing them with your DNA in exchange for dismissing trumped-up charges,” she said.
Another case in point shows how justice is based on race in the county, Futrel added. Tatiana (Tia) Turner, a Black activist who tried to flee from a mob of white supremacists during a peaceful march in Yorba Linda, is being charged with attempted murder.
She said no charges have been filed against Don Wallace, a white man, who deliberately drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protestors.
“At the end of the day, our most reliable tool for holding Todd Spitzer accountable will be our vote. Our vote is still the most powerful tool for change and the freedom to choose goes hand-in-hand. It’s like trying to separate the wet from the water – you can’t have one without the other,” Futrel said.
In another past report, the ACLU of Northern California analyzed race bias in practices and policies of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, stating that Blacks are 83.5 percent more likely than whites to be charged with a felony, regardless of age or gender.
“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.
Eugene Fields, vice chair of the Black Democrats of Orange County, said this election holds a tremendous amount of weight.
Fields, who is also on the California Democratic Party Black Caucus executive board, said people of color must show out in force so Black and Democrat candidates can have a fighting chance.
The top two vote-getters for all elected offices in the Primary will go on to compete in the November election.
“Especially minority Democrats don’t get out and vote because they don’t feel like these elections matter to them – they do,” he said. “We’re talking here in Orange County, we can possibly vote in a new District Attorney. We could possibly flip the makeup of the Board of Supervisors in terms of having a Democratic majority.”
The Orange County Black Democrats have been meeting on Zoom, and at times at a park pulling about 25-30 participants. But, he said they are asking the community to do a bigger part in the process by filling out the ballot and mailing in their vote.
“We’re here to help you to decide who you want to vote for, or even candidates to come and speak to us if you choose to reach out to a segment of the population you don’t have access to,” he said.
June 7 is the last day to vote by mail or at their polling places that open from 7:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m.
Some voters will hand their ballot to the mailman, some will drive it down to the Voter Registrar’s office, while others like the old-fashioned way of standing in line for the “I Voted” sticker.
“You fill it out and sign it and put it back in the mail. There is no postage that voters have to pay. There is no excuse for people not to vote,” he said.
To get involved with the Black Democrats of Orange County, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on NAN-OC, see https://www.nan-oc.com/
To see the ACLU report, https://bit.ly/3ChtqS0
To see the ACLU letter, https://bit.ly/3wGYFnh