Whistleblower of sexual misconduct at Los Angeles District Attorney's Office claims she's facing retaliation

Saturday, May 19, 2018
Whistleblower of misconduct at LA DA's office claims she's facing retaliation
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An email details how a Los Angeles district attorney blew the whistle on suspected sexual harassment of a female deputy district attorney by a male supervisor.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An email details how a Los Angeles district attorney blew the whistle on suspected sexual harassment of a female deputy district attorney by a male supervisor.

It's an alarming allegation for the largest district attorney's office in the nation, where 1,000 lawyers are sworn to prosecute criminal behavior. The email was sent to District Attorney Jackie Lacey and other high-level officials.

"I am reporting a crime of sexual assault by one of your deputy district attorneys," the email said.

In court documents, the whistleblower said that raising the alert has made her a target and wrote that she "cooperated in a County of Policy and Equity sexual harassment investigation and because of my cooperation with the investigation, I have been retaliated against."

The whistleblower claims that her supervisor was punishing her by giving a better plea deal to a defendant in one of her cases over an African-American defendant in a separate case - which is prosecutorial misconduct.

An attorney for the defendant was alerted and asking questions.

"I'm not sure exactly where this is going to go your honor. My client appears to be now a pawn in a fight within the district attorney's office about the treatment of some district attorneys but also the handling of this case," defense attorney Mark Werksman said.

Lacey denies retaliation against the whistleblower and bias in the plea deals.

"We just, we checked that up and down and discovered it just wasn't there," she said.

Lacey said there is no question regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. She knows it exists and was once a 20-something lawyer facing the men.

"As a woman in the office, you dealt with it by trying to ignore it, changing your clothing, hoping that it would stop or go away," she said.

Sexual harassment at the D.A.'s office made headlines last year, when high-profile deputy attorneys Beth Silverman and Tannaz Mokayef sued the county and their supervisor Gary Hearnsberger.

Hearnsberger was placed on two years paid administrative leave and then retired. The county paid the two plaintiffs $700,000.

Then the #MeToo movement sparked, taking down prominent figures in Hollywood all the way to the state legislature.

At the D.A.'s office, Lacey said reports of sexual harassment have increased. As for the actions of the whistleblower who reported it? Lacey praises that.

"That is courageous to do that because you could in fact ignore it, which so many people have done. It's been right under their nose and they've ignored it and gone on and not done anything," she said.

A supervisor is currently on paid administrative leave in connection with the whistleblower's complaint of harassment. LAPD said there is no investigation of a criminal sexual assault.

Lacey said the work of the D.A.'s office is not impacted by the behavior of a few.

"I by no means want the public to get the impression that justice is in danger by these personnel issues - it is not," she said.