DA’s Chief of Staff Loses Her First Felony Case

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Susan Kang Schroeder, the District Attorney’s chief of staff and a 16-year veteran of the DA’s inner circle, expanded her resume this month by prosecuting her first felony case.

She lost.

In spite of her arguments on two felony counts, the jury acquitted accused drug seller Robert Amezcua Padilla of one felony and deadlocked on the other, with nine of the 12 jurors again voting for a not guilty verdict.

Schroeder asked Superior Court Judge Patrick H. Donahue to re-try Padilla on the deadlocked charge, but the judge Thursday turned her down.

“Based on all the evidence the Court heard in this case, and evaluated in the light most favorable to the People (Schroeder),” Donahue wrote in announcing his decision, “the Court considers that no reasonable trier of fact could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Schroeder, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ chief spokeswoman, left the courtroom immediately after the decision and went up one floor to the courtroom where the DA’s office was suffering an even greater defeat—being barred for misuse of jail informants and other ethical issues from handling the death penalty phase of Seal Beach beauty salon mass killer Scott Evans Dekraai’s trial.

Deputy Public Defender Michael Marley, who represented Padilla in the case Schroeder lost, had urged the judge to dismiss the case after the jury acquitted Padilla on one charge of planning to sell drugs and deadlocked on the other.

“The right thing happened,” he said following Thursday’s ruling.

Schroeder, 46, declined this week to discuss her first felony case or reports that she began on-the-job training at this stage in her career to enhance her resume in preparation for running for District Attorney. Incumbent Tony Rackauckas is expected to retire by 2018.

If Schroeder does run to succeed Rackauckas, lack of experience trying felony cases like murders, burglaries and major drug cases could be used against her by an opponent.

She currently oversees the DA’s news media staff and, according to the DA’s web page, “Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder provides legal and policy advice to the District Attorney, founded and co-heads the Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit, and has other case-related responsibilities.”

She also was Rackauckas’ 2014 campaign manager.

As one of the top five members of Rackauckas’ executive team, she is paid a base salary of $144,830.40 plus $84,445.36 in other pay and benefits, according to 2013 figures, the latest numbers available, according to Transparent California.

Schroeder worked for the Anaheim city attorney’s office in the 1990s, handling misdemeanor cases. She also was a spokeswoman for the state Republican Party.

According to the Los Angeles Times, she was engaged to then- state Republican Party Chairman Michael J. Schroeder in 1999 when she went to work for the newly-elected Rackauckas. Michael Schroeder, a multimillionaire, was instrumental in Rackauckas’ election. Susan and Michael Schroeder divorced last year.

Although she declined Monday to discuss her lack of felony trial experience, she testified in a different case last April about her experience.

“I’ve tried dozens of cases but I’ve never tried a felony case,” she said then in response to questions by Deputy Public Defender Scott Sanders.

As of this month, that changed.

After deliberating for two hours and 25 minutes, the jury March 4 reported “we’ve reached a verdict on one count. We are deadlocked on the other count.”

Padilla, who was arrested Aug. 3, 2014, was charged with one felony count of possessing 17 methadone pills for sale and a second felony count of possessing methamphetamine for sale.

According to court records, Padilla reportedly told two Santa Ana police officers—separately—that he intended to sell the drugs. But there was no recording of his statements.

The jury acquitted Padilla of the felony charge of possessing the methadone pills for sale. He was found guilty of simply possessing the drugs, a misdemeanor.

The jury deadlocked on the charge that Padilla planned to sell the methamphetamine.

But if Schroeder does run for DA, she now can tell voters she tried a felony case. Or, as she introduced herself to prospective jurors in the Padilla case: “I’m a prosecutor.”

  • Ltpar

    Incompetency beeds incompetency and that is becoming a trademark of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Leadership starts at the top of the pecking order and it is long since time we elect a person with those skills. We need someone from outside the Office to come in and determine just who is ding their job and who is cutting corners. Credibility is critical in this part of the Criminal Justice System.

  • Due Process

    And today the judge dismissed the other felony count per a 1385 motion by the defense.

  • Kathleen Tahilramani

    Yup, and I bet she was babysat and handheld thru the entire even and still lost it.

  • Kathleen Tahilramani

    I bet 99% of the real prosecutors in the DA’s office are LTAO.
    What a joke.

    • David Zenger

      Heh. Rackaukas teed up a no-lose case for her…and she lost it!

  • David Zenger

    Wow, so if I break into an OR and start cutting I can tell people I’m a surgeon!

    Pathetic charade.