Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fontrunners emerge at first District Attorney candidates' forum

If the audience of around 300 at the Asian Pacific American Bar Association's Los Angeles County District Attorney candidates' forum could agree on one thing, it would be that the forum was a resounding success.

As to which of the six candidates emerged as winners, opinions are going to differ. 

The Los Angeles District Attorney candidates' forum took place in crowded
auditorium of the downtown Japanese American National Museum
An APABA representative stated that 270 guests had rsvp'd and seating for 250 was provided  in anticipation of the 'flake factor.' It was, nevertheless, a standing room only event as all seats were quickly occupied. Judging by applause that at times seemed unwarranted, it was clear that the candidates had done a good job in securing the attendance of their supporters.

APABA President Ed Song moderated the forum, initially calling on each candidate to give a short opening statement. First to speak was Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace. The Dragnet has often commented on Grace's outstanding record of back to back trial victories. However, Grace concentrated instead on the challenges facing Los Angeles with high recidivism and the as yet unknown effects of realignment; the Sacramento solution to prison overcrowding and out of control public expenditure  that will dump an estimated 15,000 felons on LA's streets in the next two years as prison ceases to be the penalty for non-violent felons.

If one thing was surprising about Grace's opening statement and, indeed, his responses to questions, it was his low energy delivery. There simply was no passion in what he had to say. It's a pity that Grace didn't tell the audience that he might be a little preoccupied; Grace is in the middle of a complex preliminary hearing on L.A.'s most prolific serial killer, Chester D. Turner, already on death row, who is charged with 4 more murders. The prelim continues Thursday.

Steve Ipsen spoke next. He is a former President of the ADDA, and soon to be a former Deputy District Attorney if the rumors are true. Additionally, Ipsen's use of the past tense when he stated that he was "proud to have been a deputy district attorney for twenty five years," suggests that his time as a prosecutor may indeed be over. His opening statement, as well as his answers, suggested that his candidacy is based on being all things to all felons; tough on violent crime, lenient on violent criminals who get probation rather than prison. It was a confusing and poorly delivered pitch, and one had to wonder whether those applauding his statements had any idea why.

If Grace and Ipsen's openings were disappointments, Alan Jackson probably emerged as the most polished and most prepared candidate. It's no secret that Jackson has carefully planned his campaign for a long time, and the preparation and planning paid off. He was supremely at ease in his delivery, with a well articulated four point plan to take the DA's Office into the future focusing on tackling public corruption, combating gang crime, modernizing prosecution to deal with high-tech crime, and taking steps to prevent youth crime.

Jackson was followed by Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey. She quickly separated herself from the other candidates by standing to deliver her statement. It was a bold move and one that left little doubt that Lacey is seriously committed to the race, and perfectly comfortable in the heat of debate. Lacey's message was, essentially, that her 10 years of experience and achievement in senior management best qualifies her to be the next DA. It was a theme Lacey effectively and consistently returned to during the questions and answer session. Lacey also stamped her authority on the proceedings by openly admonishing Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers for attacking the qualifications of DDAs currently engaged in training law enforcement. It was an attack that most agreed was unwarranted, and perhaps was attributable to a degree of over enthusiasm on Meyers' part.

And so to Danette Meyers. There is no doubt that Meyers is both passionate about her candidacy, and angry at the status quo. She decried hiring and promotion policies based on appearances rather than 'merit,' but did not provide her definition of merit. Meyers vision of her role as DA can, perhaps, best be described as 'combative.' She is not afraid to tackle cops, judges and fellow DDAs who don't see things her way. In many ways Meyers provided much of the same bluster and bravado that could have been expected from City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, if he had the guts to show up.

Last, but by no means least, was Deputy District Attorney Mario Trujillo who opened by condemning the criminal justice system as being "addicted to incarceration." Unlike most of the candidates who discussed realignment, Trujillo clearly has decided that the best plan of action is to work with Sacramento in refining realignment to achieve its stated goals. Trujillo questioned why, if the goal of realignment was to rehabilitate offenders, was the lions share of the budget for realignment being given to the Sheriff's Department? "To hire more cops to arrest and incarcerate more people?" he posited. A good point. Currently, the Sheriff's Department stands to receive $60M from Sacramento under realignment, but only $5.5M will go to community-based programs aimed at rehabilitation. It's an imbalance Trujillo promises to redress if elected.

Although, as previously stated, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich refused to participate in the forum, perhaps in fear of being confronted with his record of failures and broken promises, he did apparently dispatch his City of Los Angeles contract employee Dan Raskov to observe the forum and report back.

Deputy District Attorney Marcus Musante was, as anticipated, in the audience as an observer. Musante announced his candidacy last week, too late to be included in the forum. Musante promises to 'spice up' the race and has launched his campaign website We look forward to more from Marcus at the next forum.

Jackson's performance at the forum was undeniably strong, with Lacey and Trujillo in close contention. The remaining candidates have some catching up to do. Your thoughts?



Anonymous said...

Have to agree, Jackson was ahead of the pack, but the others are close and I expect Trujillo will raise his game now that he's seen what is needed. I saw Trutanich's suv drive by slowly, but he must have figured he wouldn't be welcome. He was right about that.

Anonymous said...

Have to disagree, Danette was the only candidate who impressed and that's what everyone I heard was saying as well. She was straightforward, obviously experienced and talked about a lot of the concerns that DDAs & DPDs have that nobody seems to care about. Alan didn't receive much applause from the audience compared to Danette and Mario - didn't seem like audience was really moved by what Alan had to say. He was definitely prepared, as was everyone else, but it looked like he was regurgitating lines he memorized and an audience full of lawyers isn't impressed with that.

Anonymous said...

Of course you are distorting the truth once again, but you're pathetic and your assessment of the forum is totally wrong. As you creepily oiled your way around the room, no one is surprised on this poorly written piece. Jackson and Lacey are clones and people who want 10 more years of Cooley will vote for one of them. The others clearly are tired of the BS.

Anonymous said...

What is up with Lacey accusing Ipsen of not being on the special circ committee. I asked him about that. He said yes he was on it and sat right next to Jackie. Peter Bozanich was the chair and they handed out certificates to the committee members. But, I am not surprised that Lacey would say such a thing. Bad memory or low blood sugar??

Anonymous said...

8:51 Ipsen told you he was on the special circ committee, so it must be true? Is it possible Ipsen wasn't telling the truth to you?

Was he on the special circ committee before or after he was found by the supreme court to have been deceitful in a special circumstances double murder case? That was when he was found to have committed prosecutorial misconduct.

Maybe he was confused about the supreme court and the special circ committee, they do have similar initials. Ipsen came across as a complete jerk and I would say his best chance is to get out of the race and support Marcus Musante. They have more in common with each other - they are both borderline crazy. Ipsen blames the DAs office for prison overcrowding. Shows his complete disregard for juries who find defendants guilty, and judges who sentence them. What a surprise.

Danette Meyers is the only candidate who has a viable vision for the future of the office. She has my vote.

Anonymous said...

Lame response to a Cooley lover who can't look in the mirror and face the fact that Cooley is a joke and for the last 10 years has done nothing about alternative sentencing. Ipsen blasted the office and told the truth which is why Lacey makes up stuff and defends her boss that makes her "glow". BTW, Betty Pleasant was there. I am sure her recount of the events will be more accurated then Berger's puckered up lips which are logded you know where. Are you going to say Betty Pleasant is not so pleasant like before? You just keep recycling the same old lame arguements. What debate did you attend? The one for the hearing impaired. Seriously, none of what you posted was what I witnessed. Meyers emerged as the clear winner. Listening to Lacey was like watching Charlie Brown "WA WA WA" - couldn't tell what she was taking about. Jackson sucked up to Cooley the entire time. Trujillo and Ipsen told the truth about the problems with crime in LA. And Bobby Grace was sort of generic.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it but Jackson was the class of the field last night. That doesn't mean I like him or would vote for him. It does mean that the others need to study the videos and figure out where they went wrong. Jackson was better answering questions and staying on topic. That's because he was prepared and had the answers at his fingertips, the others were wasting time talking while they figured out what they wanted to say. When they finally got to their answers, most people had turned off. There's a long way to go until the election, and I'm sure Lacey, Trujillo and Meyers will not give Jackson such an easy time at the next round.

Anonymous said...

LA Weekly has a much better review of the forum than the garbage written by Joe Friday, who everyone knows is really David Berger.

LA Weekly The Informer

It's written by a real reporter, not some limey scumbag tabloid vandal.

Deidre said...

Having followed Jackson for over a decade, I am sure I'm a bit biased. I knew 10 years ago he would make a great DA. That being said, nothing can be taken for granted. Jackson does his homework, but more importantly he has a down home style most of us can relate to...He doesn't have to put you down to make himself big. He's the only one on that panel that complemented all of his colleagues on stage. He has a grace and sophistication that will be hard to surpass. But there is a lot of work ahead.