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Dallas prosecutor suspended after seeking “a break” from law enforcement during DWI arrest

Dallas Police Cruise

Dallas prosecutor suspended after seeking “a break” from law enforcement during DWI arrest

The office of Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson has suspended Leah Lucius, an assistant district attorney, after she was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk. Lucius, who has has been working with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office since July of 2015, apparently made her situation even worse by asking the arresting officer “for a break.”

According to the Dallas Morning News, after she crashed her car into a tree and a fence in the early morning hours of July 8, Lucius said to the arresting officer: “Give me a break. We are Facebook friends.” Lucius also allegedly offered up her concealed handgun license when asked to produce her license and then declined to undergo field sobriety testing.

Johnson has suspended Lucius without pay pending an investigation. It will be up to the district attorney to decide whether Lucius abused her authority to the point where termination is appropriate.

According to NBC News in Dallas, police reported that “Lucius gave a partial, incorrect phone number and said she’d had a couple of glasses of wine over a five-hour period.” Lucius was taken to the hospital, where her blood was drawn to determine her alcohol level. A warrant was later issued for her arrest and Lucius turned herself in Tuesday morning.

New Orleans D.A. ordered to reveal names of prosecutors who issued fake subpoenas

DA Leon Cannizzaro

New Orleans D.A. ordered to reveal names of prosecutors who issued fake subpoenas

Orleans County District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has been ordered to disclose the names of all the prosecutors in his office who used “fake subpoenas” to compel witnesses to talk with them. Cannizzaro was given 20 days to produce the names of prosecutors who engaged in the practice during 2017. He then must provide the same information going back to 2013.

As In Justice Today previously reported, Cannizzaro sought to jail a domestic violence victim after she refused to respond to a fake subpoena his office sent her demanding that she meet with them. The documents had the word “subpoena” at the top of the page even though they had not been signed by a judge, meaning that disobeying them would not be a criminal offense.

The district attorney faced a substantial backlash about the fake subpoenas, with some calling for Cannizzaro to be removed from office. A spokesman for Cannizzaro said the fake subpoenas would no longer go out and would be replaced with documents that said “notice to appear.”

The ACLU of Louisiana asked Cannizzaro to provide information identifying the lawyers in his office who issued or authorized the fake subpoenas. When he refused, the organization sued under Louisiana’s open record laws.

Civil District Court Judge Nakisha Ervin-Knott agreed that the information was a public record and ordered Cannizzaro to comply.

The MacArthur Justice Center and The Lens, a non-profit news site that first reported on the fake subpoenas, have also sued Cannizzaro’s office asking for information.

The use of fake subpoenas is not the only controversy that Cannizzaro has generated concerning witnesses. The New Orleans Advocate recently profiled a shooting victim who was jailed after Cannizzaro’s office feared he would not testify against the man accused of shooting him at trial.

Cannizzaro has also jailed rape victims who refused to testify against their attacker. The New Orleans Advocate reported that in 2016 one woman was jailed for eight days after refusing to testify against the man who raped her.

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Scandals continue to mount for Orange County D.A.

DA Tony Rackauckas
Office of the Orange County District Attorney

Scandals continue to mount for Orange County D.A.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, currently serving his fourth term as the elected prosecutor of the sixth most populous county in the United States, has vowed to seek reelection in 2018. Although he won reelection in 2014 with over 73% of the vote, the longtime prosecutor has been plagued by scandals that put his political future in doubt.

In January 2016, a special committee — established by Rackauckas himself — concluded there was a “failure of leadership” at D.A.’s office which “led to repeated problems with the handling of jailhouse informants and helped erode confidence in criminal cases that rely on their testimony.”

The California Attorney General and federal authorities are currently investigating his office over allegations that he planted jailhouse snitches in the county jail — and that Rackauckas’s office was aware that those snitches had been proven unreliable in the past.

A grand jury convened in Orange County also investigated the snitch issue. Although it “found no definitive evidence of a structured jailhouse informant program operating in the Orange County jails,” the Grand Jury did find “discovery violations in a small number of cases,” and, perhaps most critically, that “[b]oth the Orange County District Attorney and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department allowed employees to drift from the core organizational mission of their agencies and this lax supervision has unfortunately resulted in the erosion of trust in the criminal justice system.” (OC Weekly reporter R. Scott Moxley, who has covered Rackauckas and his office closely, ridiculed the Grand Jury’s findings.)

Rackauckas’ office was also removed from the death penalty prosecution of Scott Dekraai after the presiding judge became angry at prosecutors’ failure to turn over evidence to Dekraai’s lawyers. Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals said prosecutors failed to turn over important evidence multiple times and found Sheriff’s deputies “intentionally lied or willfully withheld material evidence from the court” — and that the district attorney’s office was responsible for the acts and omissions of those deputies.

Two investigators who worked for Rackauckas also claim that the district attorney interfered in multiple investigations and engaged in cover ups when police broke the law. A former chief investigator in the office has alleged that Rackauckas interfered in public corruption investigations that involved people who’d supported him.

Rackauckas couldn’t even launch his reelection bid without a scandal. Earlier this year, ACLU attorney Brendan Hamme and another person protesting against Rackauckas were hit by a car driven by a supporter of the district attorney outside a fundraiser for Rackauckas as he launched his reelection bid. No one was seriously hurt, although Hamme was taken to the hospital and then released.

Earlier this week, Rackauckas got his first opponent for the 2018 election. How much these and other scandals will these burden Rackauckas’s reelection efforts remains to be seen.

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