Attorney General Reviewing Possible Charges in Courthouse Beating

James Crawford, a defense lawyer, after he was beaten by Dillon Alley, a district attorney investigator at the Central Justice Center in downtown Santa Ana. (Photo credit: Jerry Steering)

James Crawford, a defense lawyer, after he was beaten by Dillon Alley, a district attorney investigator at the Central Justice Center in downtown Santa Ana. (Photo credit: Jerry Steering)

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The state Attorney General is reviewing whether to file charges following allegations that a district attorney’s office investigator attacked and pummeled a defense lawyer in Santa Ana’s downtown Courthouse last week.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department wrapped up its investigation late last week and “turned over all the facts information we have to the Attorney General’s office for filing consideration,” said Sheriff Lt. Mark Stichter.

Meanwhile, the March 9 incident has ignited a furor in the legal community, with attorneys signing a change.org petition demanding the arrest and prosecution of Dillon Alley, the DA investigator who allegedly attacked defense attorney James Crawford after the two hurled insults at each other. Alley slammed Crawford’s head into a bench, placed him in a headlock and “pounded the shit out of him,” according to Crawford’s attorney, Jerry Steering.

Many of the petition’s signers say the fact that Alley wasn’t arrested on site is proof of a double standard that shields law enforcement officials from accountability.

Alley started the fight by calling Crawford “sleazy” and a “douchebag,” Steering said. Crawford said “fuck you” in response and began to walk away, but then the investigator threw a binder clip at the back of Crawford’s head, according to Steering. Crawford threw it back, and that’s when the investigator pounced, Steering said.

Alley’s attorney Paul Meyer and the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, which also represents DA investigators, have disputed Crawford’s account of the incident but haven’t publicly offered an alternate version of events.

“The one-sided version currently being circulated is simply not accurate,” Meyer told the Los Angeles Times.

Photos provided by Steering show Crawford with heavy swelling around his left eye and wearing a shirt stained with blood.

“It’s very simple, if you say fuck you to a cop in front of a bunch of people… no cop in the world is going to take that,” Steering said. “If they didn’t have frail egos they wouldn’t be cops.”

A DA investigator beating a defense attorney is an extremely rare event – Crawford said he’s never heard of it in over 30 years of suing police agencies – but the incident is even more high-profile because Crawford recently managed to have a murder conviction overturned as a result of the ongoing jailhouse snitch scandal.

The change.org petition has called for Alley to be arrested and prosecuted for “felony assault.” It accuses the DA’s office of having a culture that allows abuse of criminal defendants and intimidation of their attorneys. And the perception of a double standard is a common thread in the comments from many of the 1,351 signers to the petition.

“Had Mr. Alley been a public defender Iinvestigator and attacked a prosecutor, we can be reasonably certain that he would have been arrested immediately,” reads the petition started by Irvine-based attorney Andrew Levine. “It’s time to hold the employees of prosecution to the same standards.”

Steering agreed that, had the tables been turned, Crawford would have been arrested and charged immediately. The investigator is a peace officer and seen by the police as one of their own, he said. And he claims to have taken thousands of depositions of police officers in which they say they wouldn’t arrest their partner even if he or she committed a crime.

However, a spokesman with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and an expert on policing said things aren’t often as cut and dried as Crawford and his attorney claim.

“It’s about gathering all of the facts and information, that’s how any investigation is looked at. Sometimes all those facts and investigation are gathered at the time the incident occurred, sometimes a little later on,” said Stichter, the sheriff’s spokesman.

Curtis Cope, a retired lieutenant from the Huntington Beach Police Department and a police training consultant, said whether officers would have arrested Alley at the time depends on a number of factors.

First, it is important to know whether an-duty officer with jurisdiction over the courthouse witnessed the incident; and whether Crawford asked for the investigator to be prosecuted, Cope said.

Steering acknowledged that Crawford did not demand that Alley be arrested. But, he said, it was Santa Ana police and sheriff’s department investigators who pulled Alley off of his client. It was also reported that there were witnesses who fingered Alley as the aggressor.

“They just don’t do [make the arrest] because they’re cops,” Steering said. “Who is going to make them? Pope Francis?”

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • cactuspie

    Thanks OCSDPOS, for reminding me law enforcement is never to be trusted. Especially with cleaning your own house.

  • Paul Lucas

    AG Kamala Harris is useless in the area of holding T Rack and other DAs accountable for breaking the law. She has filed an appeal to avoid having to take over the Dekrai case in which T Rack and his whole crew has been recused. If AG Harris does decide to take action on this event, you can bet that they will do it in a way that scuttles the possibility of a conviction such as T Rack did in the charges he filed against the murderers of Kelly Thomas. The people of California should be aware of how derelict AG Harris has been in her fiduciary duty so they don’t make the mistake of promoting her to the US Senate.

  • Judy Allen

    Alley MUST be a follower of Donald Trump…. “carry ’em out on a stretcher”.

  • kburgoyne

    Clearly both demonstrated immaturity in their verbal exchange, but the investigator crossed a rather clear legal line when he began the physical assault. The immature verbal exchange seems like yet another example of the assault on common civility by those who want to excuse their incivility behind claims they shouldn’t have to be “PC”, with the predictable next step of completely breaking down civilized society into violence. Regardless of both parties demonstrating immaturity, the one who transitions from verbal to physical assault is the one who has crossed the legal line.

    • David Zenger

      Yeah but this isn’t just about two immature dudes, one of who turns violent.

      This is about an Officer of the Court getting beat up by a DA cop in a courthouse in retribution for his shining the light on DA misdeeds to get his client a new trial.

      That’s pretty sinister. And sadly, those who run our justice system will do everything they can to make the episode vanish evermore.

    • LFOldTimer

      Any man of self-respect would respond to some dirt bag who publicly spewed unprovoked demeaning pejoratives at him then threw a binder clip and struck him in the head. Immature? What was Crawford supposed to do? Cry? Or ignore the dirt bag and thereby encourage him to do it a 2nd, 3rd or 4th time? I was taught to never run from a schoolyard bully. It always worked for me. Men need to act like men to protect their dignity. I don’t blame Crawford at all for his response. If the gist of the story is accurate it’s an incredible injustice that the assailant wasn’t booked into Theo Lacy. More in your face double-standards. More Banana Republic behavior at the top. Worse than savages.

  • RyanCantor

    Ho hum, nothing to see here, move along.

    . . . this is ridiculous. What has to happen for Orange County to get a new DA?

    Seriously? What has to happen?

    • Shirley L. Grindle

      The voters have to wise up to the fact that we have a “rotten apple” for a District Attorney and in his tenure as DA he has lowered the standards of that office. The handwriting was on the wall regarding Rackauckas’s mode of operation from the very first days he took office.

      • Steve Downing

        The criminal justice system is broken OC criminal justice is broken and corrupt. The culture needs to be changed. A total enema is required.

      • Debby Bodkin

        Ms. Grindle, “rotten apple” is too polite for DA Rackauckas. His corruption has destroyed many lives, careers, families and reputations. He must know something about someone in a position of power and influence to maintain his Teflon coating without facing a federal indictment himself. Who could be afraid of TRack, so afraid that all of TRack’s conflict of interest, obstructions of justice, prosecutorial misconduct, denied due process crimes and possibly, bribery crimes are swept under the rug? The crimes committed by TRack and Kang Schroeder are far more serious than those committed by former OC Sheriff Mike Carona….. who is protecting them?

  • LFOldTimer

    In a just world an assault this serious would have resulted in an immediate arrest. I understand there were witnesses to the incident and cops pulled the DA investigator off Crawford. An assault this serious would never catch a blind eye by the authorities. Had this lawyer laid a single finger on the cop he would have been taken into custody on the spot and charged with an assault on an officer. The photo is worth 10,000 words. There was no report of the cop being injured. Trust me, if the cop suffered an injury the police union would be screaming about it to the media at the top of their lungs.
    This just another example that we live in a police state and the ones who enforce the laws are held to a much lower standard that the average citizen. The ‘higher standard’ claim is a bald-faced lie. There are two separate books of law – one for the enforcers and another for everyone else. ‘Equality under the Law’ is one of the biggest lies in our society. It’s a shame that it’s still taught in our schools.
    No wonder the average citizen has lost faith in those who are sworn to obey and follow the law. How are leaders who secretly promote two sets of laws really any better than those in lockup at Central Jail?

  • David Zenger

    If there were even a scintilla of evidence pointing to Crawford as in any way culpable in this affair he would have been hauled off to the Central Jail Intake without his feet touching the ground.

    Let’s face it, this whole thing was physical rebuke for the humiliation of Henry Rodriguez getting a new trial thanks to the Sheriff contrived, DA abetted snitch scandal. But this time, even with the POBR cover-up they have gone too far.