Federal prosecutor alleges retaliation for complaints about discrimination and racist statements
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An assistant U.S. attorney in Santa Ana, California, has filed a lawsuit alleging retaliation for complaining about discrimination and racist statements by managers.
Charles Pell’s July 28 amended complaint says he consistently received outstanding ratings in his performance reviews before 2019. Around 2020, a proposed “outstanding” rating was overruled by management, including then-U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna of the Central District of California. His new rating was “successful.”
Discrimination and retaliation continued and even worsened, leading to a letter of reprimand for alleged unprofessional conduct, Pell says. The reprimand was pretextual, asserts Pell, who is white.
The negative action followed Pell’s complaints about assistant U.S. attorneys who criticized the work of a Latina prosecutor and made inappropriate comments about a Black employee, the suit says. Pell also says he believes his managers were aware that his partner is Hispanic and his child is of mixed race.
Pell also participated in a racial justice and equity working group formed after several minority and female officials in the Central District of California were replaced with younger white males. By May 2019, the “front office” management of the prosecution office was all-white, the suit says.
At about this time, the office faced multiple allegations of discrimination, including allegations that minority and female prosecutors were denied promotions or received less desirable assignments than their white counterparts, the suit says.
“This case is about discrimination in the absolutely last place it should ever exist—in a federal prosecutors’ office responsible for deciding whom to investigate, charge and imprison, and in one of the most diverse areas of the nation—Los Angeles, California,” the suit says.
The Orange County Register has coverage of Pell’s suit. U.S. Attorney’s office spokesperson Thom Mrozek of the Central District of California declined comment when contacted by the publication.
Pell says he is one of the most productive lawyers in the federal prosecutors’ office for the Central District of California, and charged an average of more than 15 cases and 20 defendants per year between 2018 and 2020.
Pell says he “verbally admonished” one supervisor for criticizing the Latina prosecutor’s work and also complained about him to Hanna and other managers.
The suit says the supervisor had described the Latina assistant U.S. attorney’s work as “shoddy” and her written product as “below GC” quality, a reference to general crimes where newly hired prosecutors are assigned. The supervisor also insinuated the Latina prosecutor was lazy by asserting she wasn’t properly prepared to charge cases, the suit says. The substance of those attacks was false, according to the suit.
Pell also says he complained in June 2020 about statements made by two other assistant U.S. attorneys with management responsibilities.
One allegedly said a Black employee was wearing his “pimp daddy outfit,” while another allegedly said the outgoing criminal chief was a “Black mamba.” Hanna did nothing “to rebuke or rectify those racist statements,” the suit says.
Pell alleges discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.