OC sheriff runner defends accused gang member

SANTA ANA, Calif. /*Bill Hunt*/ is hoping to become /*Orange County*/'s top cop, but he is facing criticism for helping with the defense of Victor Lua, an alleged gang member.

Authorities allege that the 20-year-old is a member of a Santa Ana gang called "F-Troop." He is accused of attempted robbery, use of a firearm and street terrorism. The former Orange County sheriff's lieutenant is now working as a private investigator, helping the defense.

"We were shocked to see he was defending or helping defend hardcore gang members that have a horrendous impact in our community," said /*Santa Ana Police Department*/ Chief Paul Walters.

Though criticized, Hunt makes no apologies.

"This is America. We're innocent until proven guilty," Hunt said.

If Lua is convicted, Hunt may be seen as helping a convicted gang member. Hunt doesn't see it that way.

"How am I helping by presenting facts to the court so a jury that is supposed to be arbiters can make a decision?" asked Hunt, who added that he's working the case because he believes that Lua is innocent.

Hunt has the endorsement of several law enforcement agencies in his run to replace Sandra Hutchens as sheriff. As of Monday, however, he has one fewer.

At least one union has a problem with Hunt's involvement with the defense of an alleged gang member. The Santa Ana Police Officers Association is no longer supporting him.

"They have a right to support me or not support me," Hunt said.

Walters, who has endorsed Hutchens, says Hunt needs to make a choice.

"You need to make up your mind. You're going to be supporting and defending them or are you going to be the chief law enforcement officer?" Walters said.

"I'm standing up for our constitution and our sixth amendment right. I feel like I'm on the right side of this issue," said Hunt.

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