Criminal Justice

Defense lawyer is left bruised and bloodied in confrontation with DA investigator

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A criminal defense lawyer was left with a visibly swollen eye and a bloodied shirt in a courthouse confrontation with a District Attorney’s investigator in Santa Ana, California, on Wednesday.

Lawyer James Crawford says the investigator attacked him and he didn’t fight back, KABC reports. Crawford’s lawyer, Jerry Steering, told a similar story in interviews with the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register and the Orange County Weekly.

The incident began when Crawford was trying to talk to a witness whom the investigator was assigned to watch. The investigator commented about “sleazy” defense lawyers, and Crawford says he replied that the DA’s office wasn’t much better. Crawford says he was referring to controversy over the DA’s use of confidential informants; according to prior coverage, the informants were said to be intentionally placed in cells next to defendants awaiting trial.

As Crawford walked away, the investigator flicked a large paper clip at Crawford, Steering said. Crawford threw it back and said an expletive, according to Steering. At that point, Crawford told KABC, the investigator “slammed my head into the bench, and he proceeded to assault me and punch me eight to 10 times in the face.”

A judge recently granted one of Crawford’s clients a new trial because of the prosecution’s failure to turn over records that a jailhouse informant in his case had been an informant in several other cases. Crawford said he doesn’t know if the investigator recognized him from the case; Steering says the ruling was the “only apparent motive” for the assault.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is investigating. The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs released a statement by its president saying many witnesses saw the fight and Crawford’s “one-sided version is simply not true.”

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