DA’s Office: Claims by Public Defender Are ‘Defamatory’

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The Orange County district attorney’s office struck back late last week against allegations by the public defender’s office that prosecutors declined to charge local high school coaches allegedly involved in a kickback scheme because a top DA investigator appeared to be involved in a similar scheme.

In a motion filed Oct. 25, Deputy District Attorney Matthew Lockhart wrote that public defenders are making “wild defamatory accusations” against the DA’s office in a failed effort to protect their client.

The accusations are “specious ranting of the accused in a desperate assertion of a strawman defense,” Lockhart wrote in his court submission.

Lockhart was responding to a motion filed last month by the public defender’s office that referred to the DA’s decision not to file charges in an alleged kickback scheme that included high school coaches from throughout Southern California and Laguna Hills-based Lapes Athletic Team Sales, a sports equipment supplier

In the motion, Deputy Public Defender Adam Vining alleged that the reason the charges weren’t filed against the coaches is apparently because DA Investigator Rick Bradley was involved in a separate “illegal kickback scheme” with the now-defunct company.

“The District Attorney’s Office has failed to pursue the matter despite sufficient evidence, giving rise to the appearance of protecting its own,” Vining wrote.

Vining filed the motion as part of a separate case in which his client, Kirk Lotzgesell, is accused of embezzling from a law enforcement football league that was run by Bradley. He argued that suspicions surrounding Bradley present a conflict of interest for the DA’s office and that Lotzgesell’s case should be handled by the state attorney general.

In his motion, Lockhart wrote that public defenders have not submitted any evidence to back up their “baseless accusations” against Bradley and the DA’s office.

“All [Lotzgesell] does is make outlandish accusations and demand the court get rid of the entire DA’s Office. Much more is required, primarily evidence to support the claims which defendant asserts support the motion to recuse. Defendant fails totally in his endeavor,” Lockhart wrote.

The public defender’s motion to have the case transferred to the  attorney general “should be swiftly denied,” Lockart added.

Earlier this year, after reports by Voice of OC and PBS SoCal, an investigation by the Capistrano Unified School District alleged that three high school football coaches accepted bribes from Lapes Athletic Team Sales and, in doing so, stole more than $80,000 from the district.

Lotzgesell is a former Buena Park police officer facing a felony grand theft charge for allegedly stealing more than $60,000 from the Orange County Cop Bowl charity football league when he served as treasurer from 2007 to 2009.

Vining alleges in his motion that Bradley, who was president of the Cop Bowl at the time of Lotzgesell’s alleged crime, took part in his own kickback scheme with Lapes Athletic Team Sales in 2007.

In his role as president of the charity, Bradley received “thousands of dollars” of free sporting goods from the supplier in 2007, yet still collected checks for the equipment from team members, Vining wrote.

To support his case, Vining cites company documents suggesting that more than $2,000 of equipment was provided to Bradley at “N/C,” or “no charge.”

The DA’s office, meanwhile, says those claims “do not withstand minimal scrutiny and should be rejected as much ado about nothing.”

“Bradley was the contact person for OCCB [the Cop Bowl] with Lapes so the fact that his name was on an invoice does not prove or imply the product was for him,” Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Henderson wrote in a court declaration.

Bradley told Henderson “that his connection with Lapes was as a contact point and to pick up merchandise needed for players at Lapes and bring them to team practices or games,” Henderson wrote.

Bradley added that any “no charge” invoices “could have meant that the individual players paid for the uniforms in advance, because of the need to add logos and numbers, and suggested there may have been a shipping invoice of completed team uniforms which were delivered at the same time and in which there was no payment due,” according to Henderson.

The district attorney’s and public defender’s offices did not return messages seeking comment.

A court hearing on the motion is scheduled Tuesday morning.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/nicholasgerda.

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