D.A. Steve Cooley won’t run for 4th term; he endorses deputy district attorney Jacquelyn Lacey

May 17, 2011 |  2:22 pm

D.A. Steve Cooley won't run for 4th term; he endorses deputy district attorney Jacquelyn Lacey
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said Tuesday that he would not run for a fourth term as the county’s top prosecutor, ending intense speculation as a crowded field of candidates vies to succeed him.

Cooley had remained coy for months about his political future, and his decision promises to have a dramatic effect on the 2012 campaign, which includes several hopefuls who promised to pull out of the race if Cooley ran again.

Cooley told The Times that many of his law enforcement supporters encouraged him to seek reelection but that he decided instead to help Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jacquelyn Lacey in her bid to become the first African American and first woman to hold the post.

“When I complete this term, I will be 65 1/2 years old,” Cooley said in a phone interview. “I will have 39 years and 10 months of public service. There’s a sense of wanting to leave on top.”

Cooley, a Republican who narrowly lost a bid to become state attorney general last year, was first elected district attorney in 2000, beating incumbent Gil Garcetti for the non-partisan post. In 2008, Cooley became the first person in more than 70 years to win three terms as L.A. County district attorney.

Cooley said the decision against seeking reelection was easy one once Lacey convinced him she was serious about her campaign. Earlier this year, Cooley promoted Lacey to the No. 2 position in the D.A.’s office.

Lacey is running against several other veteran county prosecutors, including Bobby Grace, Alan Jackson, Danette Meyers and Mario Trujillo. All but Meyers have said they would stand down if Cooley were to run for another term.

Earlier this week, Steve Ipsen, the former head of the county prosecutors’ union who ran an unsuccessful election challenge to Cooley in 2008, announced he was campaigning for the office again.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich has set up an exploratory committee and previously said he is interested in a run if Cooley decided not to seek another term.

Cooley said he respected some of the other candidates’ accomplishments as prosecutors but believed that Lacey had the management experience necessary to run the largest local prosecutorial agency in the country.

He said he had advised Trutanich against a run for district attorney but that the two remained friends.

“I’ve told him over the last several months that he should remain city attorney and not run for D.A.,” Cooley said. “He knows exactly my feelings on that.”

Cooley said he could not rule out changing his mind and running for another term if Lacey for some reason pulled out of the race. But he said he was advising his longtime supporters to back Lacey.

“I feel very comfortable clearing the decks for her,” he said. “It’s hard for her to be calling likely supporters when they respond to her with, ‘What is Steve going to do?’”

— Jack Leonard

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

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Bottom Line: Who is really being lynched here?

Jeremy Marks was charged with “attempted lynching” after he videotaped a violent encounter involving a policewoman and a 15-year-old boy. (File photo)

By BETTY PLEASANT, Contributing Editor

Story Created: Mar 16, 2011 at 7:42 PM PDT

A mass demonstration will be held at noon Saturday at Hollywood and Vine to protest wars in general and Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley’s charge of “felony lynching” against a Black high school student who videotaped a female LAUSD police officer as she allegedly beat another student for smoking, in particular.

Jeremy Marks, 18, was arrested on May 10, 2010 at the MTA bus stop near his Verdugo Hills High School after he videotaped Officer Erin Robles allegedly beating a 15-year-old student whom she caught smoking. According to ANSWER L.A., the social justice organization which formed the Jeremy Marks Defense Committee, Robles beat the 15-year-old boy with her baton, then pepper sprayed him and then smashed his head through a bus window, while Marks sat on a low concrete wall nearby and captured the action with his cell phone camera.

A couple of dozen students waiting at the bus stop watched the scuffle between Robles and the boy, whom the kids identify as “Jerry.” Some of them jeered Robles and cheered Jerry while others did the same as Marks — they documented the incident with their cell phones and produced two widely viewed YouTube videos of same. Kids in the crowd reportedly yelled obscene taunts at Robles while she was attacking the little smoker. The cops fingered Marks — and only Marks — for having videotaped the beating. They arrested him and D.A. Cooley’s office claimed Marks’ alleged yell during the fray amounted to his trying to “incite a riot during an attempt to free a suspect from police custody.”

Cooley charged Marks with several felonies, including “attempted lynching,” which carries up to seven years in prison. Marks, who was a minor at the time of his arrest, was sent to Pitchess Detention Center for adults, where, at the request of Cooley’s prosecutors who accused Marks of being a Pacoima gang member, a Superior Court judge raised his bail to $155,000.

Rochelle Pittman, Marks’ mother, is a city swimming pool attendant, and was unable to pay his bail. The youth remained in Pitchess for seven months until a Bay Area humanitarian, Google engineer Neil Fraser, read of Marks’ and his mother‘s plight in the L.A. Weekly and provided $50,000 for the youth’s bail, freeing him just days before Christmas.

Pittman has officially requested an Internal Affairs investigation by the LAPD into the gestapo-style raid the cops conducted at her Lakeview Terrace home on the morning of Jan. 26. The multi-racial victims of the raid described the police action in terms I’ve not had to report since the “bad old days” of the LAPD in the eras that preceded the arrival here of former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton.

According to Pittman and her neighbors, Jason Glothon and Jesse Cruz, a multitude of Foothill Division cops stormed her house looking for something to bolster the district attorney’s case against Marks. The victims described a terrifying scene as the cops arrived with drawn guns and threatened neighbors and their children at gunpoint. They say the cops searched through the kids’ backpacks, conducted body searches, felt-up the baby in the crib and trashed the Pittman home.

Pittman told the L.A. Weekly that when her neighbor Glothon saw what was happening, he went to her house to get his kids, ages 11 and 13, who were there waiting for a ride to school, “and the police pointed their guns at him and told him to leave. He wouldn’t go without his kids and told them so. We were scared to death,” Pittman said.

Glothon told the publication: “There were about 10 cars and a SWAT van and it was hard to keep up with the volume of cars at the Pittman house. All the officers had guns drawn. Those were my kids at Rochelle’s door. SWAT got out with their guns drawn and went toward my children.”

According to the search warrant, DA senior investigator Cynthia Palm was looking through Pittman’s home for Marks’ phone camera images and any other “photographs, images, audio and/or video recordings of the incident … and the attempted lynching … by fellow Pacoima Piru Blood gang members.”

According to published reports, Janet Moore, director of the D.A.’s Bureau of Branch and Area Operations, said: ”There were no guns drawn. That’s not the way we do things unless some sort of threat was presented, and I have not been told that that happened.”

But, Capt. Jesse Prieto, the D.A.’s investigator who led the search, said the LAPD cops did draw their guns, but didn’t point them at residents. Uh huh.

In an apparent coordinated raid, eight D.A.’s investigators and two LAPD cops searched the Sunland-Tujunga home of student Jesse Cruz, a high school acquaintance of Marks’. Cruz’s father told the L.A. Weekly that the search of his home was harrowing, and he was not presented a search warrant for nearly an hour.

“When they pulled my son, Jesse Jr., out of his bed, they had the gun up to his head. My whole family was put against the fence outside while they searched inside.” The elder Cruz, who is disabled as the result of a series of surgeries he underwent following an accident, said his already damaged shoulder was injured by the cops, who invaded his home dressed in riot gear, with drawn guns and carrying a battering ram.

Mark Ravis, Jeremy Marks’ attorney, denounced the searches as having been “executed in a way that was terrifying to Jeremy’s family and neighbors, as well as to an important and totally innocent defense witness, Jesse Cruz.”

I requested a report from Chief Charlie Beck’s office on the status of Pittman’s request for an Internal Affairs investigation of the raids but I had not received one as of press time.

“This whole case makes zero sense,” attorney Ravis told me. ”Cooley is trying to color Jeremy as a gangbanger, when he is not. He is a real nice kid and it makes no sense for tax dollars to be used to pursue this kind of prosecution. I think something is wrong with that police officer [who beat the little smoking kid] and rather than focus on that, the police and Cooley are doing everything they can to get this one young man for something he didn’t do.”

Ravis pointed out that there are numerous named eyewitnesses (reportedly a total of 17) to the bus stop incident and they all say Marks did nothing but take pictures and said nothing. “Nobody is saying Jeremy said anything during the attack except this one officer,” Ravis said.

Pittman also vehemently denies Marks’ involvement with gangs. “He may know a gang member — all the kids do — and he may have talked to one, but he is not now and has never been involved in gang activities,” Pittman said. The mother is actively engaged with the Jeremy Marks Defense Committee in collecting petitions to get the charges against Marks dropped. She has spoken of the case before what has been described as “an uncomfortable” LAUSD Board of Education and before other organizations, colleges, universities and at community meetings.

She has attended a series of fundraisers the committee has been holding in Marks’ behalf and will, along with Jeremy and other family members, participate in the anti-police brutality contingent of Saturday’s Hollywood and Vine protest.

Jessica Bardales, an ANSWER LA organizer, called Cooley’s case against Marks, an outrage.

“Jeremy did nothing wrong; he is guilty of nothing. Jeremy’s case is evidence of the institutional racism that infects the U.S. criminal ‘justice’ system. It is trying to claim another young African-American victim. We cannot let this happen. Black and Latino youth are faced daily with police harassment, racial profiling and criminalization.”

Information: Call ANSWER L.A./Jeremy Marks Defense Committee at (213) 251-1025.

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LA District Attorney orders Gestapo-style police raid on home of Jeremy Marks

Terror tactics in the police war on video

By Doug Kauffman and Ian Thompson
January 27, 2011

Jeremy Marks shows Liberation his room after the police raid, Jan. 26.

The family of Jeremy Marks awoke on Jan. 26 at 7:00 am to the sound of nearly 30 Los Angeles Police Department cops bursting into their house in full tactical gear, guns drawn. They searched the house, taking all computers, cell phones, cameras and trashing Jeremy’s bedroom, his parent’s bedroom and the living room.

Police vehicles filled the streets of the predominantly African American neighborhood in Lakeview Terrace. Neighbors were prevented from going into or out of their homes. A next door neighbor had guns pointed at him for trying to retrieve his children from Jeremy’s front porch, where they went every morning to be taken to school by Rochelle Pittman, Jeremy’s mother.

Pittman asked to see a search warrant. She knew that, by law, police must show a valid search warrant before entering a home. But there was none. For nearly 45 minutes, neither the police nor the District Attorney’s officers showed her anything. She continued to demand it until a warrant was produced well after the raid had begun.

And when Pittman asked, many of the invading cops refused to provide their names or badge numbers—a requirement under California law.

As the search ended three hours later, the house interior was unrecognizable. In addition to electronic equipment, Jeremy’s notes, papers and legal documents were seized—many of these documents are privileged attorney-client communications.

Every item used to communicate with the outside world about Jeremy’s case was taken from every member of Jeremy’s family, including his parents’ and siblings’ personal possessions.

The raid took place as Jeremy’s mother was attempting to gather herself and bring her kids and the neighbor’s kids to school. The neighbor’s children were at the front door when police came up with shields and shotguns ready.

Pittman recounted to Liberation at the scene that she shouted, “Let me get my granddaughter! Let me get my granddaughter!” as the police barged into the house. Pittman also demanded to wake up her son, Jeremy.

It was less than one year ago that Aiyana Stanley Jones, a seven-year-old girl, was murdered by Detroit police in a similar raid. Pittman knew better than to trust the police with her children and grandchildren. She did not want the cops to startle her son or give them any opportunity to harm him.

The truth behind the racist raid

The pretext for the raid, ordered by Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley’s office, was an attempt to gather evidence surrounding the May 10, 2010 incident near a Verdugo Hills High School bus stop.

That afternoon in May, Los Angeles United School District Police officer, Erin Robles, beat up a 15-year-old African American student, allegedly for smoking a cigarette. Jeremy, 18, quietly videotaped the incident. But because he was on probation at the time, the police arrested him on charges of “attempted lynching.”

The L.A. District Attorney’s office claims Jeremy yelled something during the incident, which they claim amounted to trying to “incite a riot during an attempt to free a suspect from police custody.” This charge is baseless, as bystander videos of the incident show.

For taping the incident, Jeremy was thrown into jail near Santa Clarita and kept there until December 2010. During that time, his mother’s tenacity began to win support for his case.

Now, nine months after the incident, it is hard to understand why D.A. Cooley would need to order a Gestapo-style raid simply to gather evidence. He could have uncovered evidence through simple discovery before trial or by issuing subpoenas. But he did not.

In fact, the same day of Jeremy’s house raid, a community source told Liberation that the home of another Verdugo Hills High School student was raided. This student has no criminal charges pending. He was targeted because he posted videos of the original incident on Youtube. These videos show that Jeremy did nothing illegal.

Why the sudden need to shut down an entire community with an army of heavily armed cops—just to collect some cell phones, computers and video that has been publicly available on the Internet for nine months?

The raids were clearly an act of intimidation and terror with the purpose of instilling fear in those targeted. Jeremy’s pre-trial hearings will begin in February. Cooley and the cops seek to get leverage so that the case will end before going to trial. They want to intimidate Jeremy and potential witnesses in order to influence the outcome.

All along, they have wanted Jeremy to accept an unjust plea deal that would send him to prison for nearly three years. But neither Jeremy nor his mother will admit “guilt” when, in fact, he did absolutely nothing wrong.

After the raid, Pittman told Liberation, “I’m not afraid. We’re not afraid. All this shows is that the D.A. knows that they do not have a case.”

The D.A. and the police are truly fearful of Jeremy’s case because of its potential to spark outrage in the African American community and with progressive people in general. They also want to stop people from exercising their constitutional right to videotape police. That is all that Jeremy did—he recorded a police officer beating a young student.

The powers that be would like to sweep Jeremy’s case under the rug before more people learn about the supreme injustice involved. Videotaping officers throughout the country is exposing an ongoing epidemic of police violence. It is viewed by young people and people of color as a method of self-defense.

Terror tactics utilized by the police expose the role of the state as an instrument of repression aimed at working families. But this harsh reality has not deterred Jeremy, Pittman or the rest of the Marks family. On the contrary, it has strengthened their resolve to fight back.

Just hours after the raid, these Liberation reporters accompanied Pittman to the Foothill Police Station as she filed a police misconduct complaint. And community supporters, including the Congress on Racial Equality, the ANSWER Coalition, the PSL and others are organizing a rally and press conference with Jeremy and his family at D.A. Cooley’s headquarters on Friday, Jan. 28.

Click here to sign the petition demanding “Drop all charges against Jeremy Marks!”