District Attorney’s Chief of Investigations Suddenly Leaves Job

Craig Hunter, a former Anaheim deputy police chief, served until recently as chief of the DA's Bureau of Investigations. (Photo by Orange County District Attorney's Office)

The man in charge of criminal investigations for the Orange County District Attorney’s office suddenly left his job Monday, but a DA’s spokeswoman said state personnel laws prohibit the office from saying why.

“Effective immediately, Craig Hunter is off duty and not expected to return,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced to his staff in an email Monday morning.

Hunter’s second-in-command, Assistant Chief Lou Gutierrez, “is currently on a leave of absence,” Rackauckas added.

“Due to the protection afforded by the Police Officers Bill of Rights and the laws protecting personnel matters, the OCDA is prohibited from discussing the facts surrounding the employment status of its employees,” spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden wrote in a statement.

Hunter and Gutierrez couldn’t be reached for comment.

But Van Der Linden’s statement indicated the “action” taken involving Hunter and Gutierrez happened quickly.

“The OCDA will continue to take swift and appropriate action to maintain the excellent work done on a daily basis by the Bureau of Investigation, which is nationally recognized in many areas including gang prosecution, Human Exploitation And Trafficking, and DNA investigations,” she wrote in her statement.

The DA investigators’ union also wrote in a letter Monday that “actions” were “taken against” Hunter and Gutierrez earlier that day.

In his email to staff, Rackauckas said “given this situation, I have asked Commander Ron Seman to step into the role of Lead Commander and keep me actively informed and up-to-date on the activities of the Bureau [of Investigations].”

“As of this morning, I am beginning a nationwide search to fill the important position of Chief of the Bureau, which I anticipate will take some time,” the DA wrote.

In his letter Monday to Rackauckas, an attorney for the DA investigators’ union said the District Attorney’s office recently ordered the investigators to attend an “information gathering interview” that could be connected to Hunter and Gutierrez’s departure.

“Amazingly, our members were informed that as witnesses, they are not entitled to representation during this interrogation,” wrote Adam E. Chaikin, the attorney for the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.

The letter didn’t say what issue the District Attorney’s office wanted to interview the investigators about, but said it was “possible” the subject was related to Monday’s “action” against Hunter and Gutierrez.

The letter cited state law giving law enforcement officers, including the investigators, a right to have representation with them during interviews that are likely to lead to “punitive action” against the officer.

The union’s letter also says some of the DA investigators “may have testified to the Grand Jury,” and warned Rackauckas that the investigators should not be asked about their testimony because revealing anything about the grand jury’s subject matter is illegal.

“Compelling a member to disclose that the member attended the Grand Jury proceeding is entirely improper as it would force the member to engage in an act of contempt of court,” the letter states.

“Further, such questions could arguably be viewed as coercion and/or intimidation of a Grand Jury witness, thereby interfering with and/or obstructing the Grand Jury process.”

The letter doesn’t say what the grand jury’s subject matter may have been. The county grand jury is known to be investigating the ongoing jailhouse informants scandal, which involves allegations of illegal actions by both the DA’s office and Sheriff’s Department.

The Bureau of Investigations, which Hunter led, has a staff of 242 employees who help prosecutors prepare criminal cases, including 146 sworn investigators, according to the DA’s office.

After retiring from the Anaheim Police Department in 2012, Hunter received a substantial annual pension in addition to his District Attorney salary, according to payroll data posted by the website Transparent California.

In 2015, the most recent year available, Hunter received over $180,000 in pension payments as well as $304,000 in salary and benefits from the District Attorney’s office, according to the website. It adds up to $484,000 in total compensation that year.

That same year, Hunter sparked controversy when it was revealed that he tried to outsource part of his DA staff’s work to a longtime colleague from his time at the Anaheim Police Department, and that Hunter didn’t disclose his connection to the contractor in his recommendation.

During his career, Gutierrez has handled numerous sex crime cases, including sexual assaults.

In 2004, he was credited with helping extract a confession in a cold-case 1983 murder of a prostitute in Laguna Beach.

Two years ago, Hunter was the subject of allegations that he sent and received sexual text messages – including nude photos – using his county-owned cell phone.

On April 8, 2015, attorney David Gernsbacher laid out the claims in an email to Hunter’s wife, and included Rackauckas and the county Board of Supervisors, according to a copy of the email obtained by Voice of OC.

“I am writing to let you know that your husband and Chief Investigator of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Craig Hunter, recently had a sexual relationship – in the form of sex texts, nude photographs and telephone calls – all of which he and his friend…solicited from my now fiancée,” Gernsbacher wrote.

“…all of these sex texts and lewd naked pictures were received and transmitted using Craig’s county supplied and/or paid cell phone, clearly in violation of county and (one would hope) the Orange County District Attorney’s policy),” Gernsbacher added. Many of the messages took place during business hours, he said.

In an interview, county Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he spoke with Hunter about the allegations after they came to his attention.

“I called the attorney who wrote the complaint and confirmed that it was legitimate. And I called Craig Hunter and I confronted Craig Hunter about it,” said Spitzer, a political adversary of Rackauckas’ who is widely expected to run for district attorney next year.

“When I confronted him about what the allegations were, he did not deny [it]. And I was surprised,” Spitzer said.

Spitzer said he turned Gernsbacher’s complaint over to the county’s attorneys, who then turned it over to Rackauckas’ office.

The results of any internal investigation into the sexting allegations have not been made public.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

  • Pingback: Two More OC District Attorney Investigators Allege Misconduct, Interference with Investigations — Political News()

  • Pingback: SOTN: Alternative News & Commentary()

  • LFOldTimer

    How old is this Hunter character anyway? The article failed to tell us. He looks like mid to late 50’s. Just a guess. Did God forget to turn the hormones off?

  • OCservant_Leader

    OK what happened was…

    1. Hunter tattled to the Grand Jury,
    2. The County went into attack mode for retaliation – guns blazing,
    3, Hunter lawyers up – Golden Parachute supplied, and
    4. Taxpayers get the Bill & the Shaft,
    5. Next.

    Interesting that the “Sexting” wasn’t even a problem for the BOS, DA or CoCo Paige…for TWO years — until the perfect opportunity arose to use it against him and to their advantage. Right.

    This is OC Family Corruption 101.

  • LFOldTimer

    “Two years ago, Hunter was the subject of allegations that he sent and received sexual text messages – including nude photos – using his county-owned cell phone.”

    And this guy was in charge of s*x crime investigations for two years after the fact??? hah. WT*?

    “I am writing to let you know that your husband and Chief Investigator of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Craig Hunter, recently had a s*xual relationship – in the form of s*x texts, n*de photographs and telephone calls – all of which he and his friend…solicited from my now fiancée,” Gernsbacher wrote.”

    I heard on the radio yesterday that “his friend” referred to in the attorney’s message was a cop. The cop was named by the radio announcers. Who was this cop and what department did he work for??? I think the people should have a right to know. Or is that “protected” information under the Police Officer Bill of Rights too??? hah.

    “In 2015, the most recent year available, Hunter received over $180,000 in pension payments as well as $304,000 in salary and benefits from the District Attorney’s office, according to the website. It adds up to $484,000 in total compensation that year.”

    Oh, but he’s a hero and he deserves! hah.

    “In an interview, county Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he spoke with Hunter about the allegations after they came to his attention.”

    Of course since hound hog Spitzer has his eye on the DA’s office he was all over this story like stink on cr*p. But if other reports of malfeasance come across his desk they’re ignored unless he can squeeze some political expediency out of it. hah. Look at Wahoo and the evangelist story. He’s actually spending 10’s of thousands of County taxpayer dollar in an effort to cover that up and putting Norberto though the ringer for basic information that any newsman should be entitled to without question.

    Let’s pray that we have someone with integrity run for the critical DA job in 2018. PLEASE someone come out of the dugout who lives by a moral code to run our justice system. I’m tired of living under a bunch of thugs who even the cops and prosecutors in Tijuana ridicule and scorn as unethical slobs.

  • justanon

    “Golden Parachutes for are flying everywhere for OC’s ruling oligarchy”

    “Golden Parachutes” what “Golden Parachutes”?

    Or is this just more of the VOC resident ‘genius’ not reading the article and/or using his ‘big words’ without comprehending their meaning?

    Either way, another fail for the crank crowd. Lol!

    • verifiedsane

      I thought you’d be off to Berkeley to riot with your anarchist pals against free speech…..if you don’t get the concept moron: Huge multiple pensions equate to a golden parachute knuckle head.. tax payers pay for those pensions & burden that will eventually bankrupt California…Now go away little worthless fly on the wall…you have nothing to add to any conversation except silly attacks, Diaper Boy….

      • LFOldTimer

        Darnit! I just read that Ann Coulter cancelled her scheduled appearance at UC Berkeley. I was hoping that it would draw justanon away from the comment boards for a few days and give us some relief. She could vent her vitriol at Ann and spare us for a 72 hours or so!

        And you’re right. A $180,000 pension for a former cop in his 50’s is an insult to the taxpayers.

        Do the stinking math! According to CalPers the average lifespan for a retired cop is 80. So let’s say a cop starts collecting his or her pension at 56. And let’s say the pension benefit was $180,000. So the total number of years the benefit is active would be 24. 24 x $180,000 = $4,320,000. And that doesn’t include any add-on’s like COLA (or health benefits). Otherwise you’re looking at over $5M.

        I guess our board expert whiz kid justanon doesn’t consider that a “golden parachute”!!! LOL.

        Verified, many Americans would prefer to live under Tijuana’s system. The cop pulls you over. You slip him a couple or three Jackson’s and you’re on your way. No pensions. No six figure salaries. It would be much cheaper for all of us. And it wouldn’t be any more corrupt than what is happening in OC today!!! Just read the news. Article after article of police and prosecutor corruption!!!

        I’M JUST BEING PRACTICAL!!!! 😉

        • justanon

          You can be outraged by the size of someone’s public pension, but that doesn’t make it a “golden parachute”.

          Words have meaning and the little VOC pustule keeps using words he either doesn’t know the meaning of or doesn’t bother to read the articles he comments on.

          Nowhere in this article does it say that Hunter is receiving a large payout for leaving which would be the definition of a “golden parachute”.

          • verifiedsane

            Diaper boy needs to pack up their bags and move to Venezuela where there is a system of government they wish for & understand….It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that justanon is another George Soros and Saul Alinsky communist puppet with no thoughts of their own.

          • LFOldTimer

            A parachute signifies a safe landing.

            If $180,000 a year like clockwork for an anticipated 24 years doesn’t represent a ‘safe landing’ I don’t know what does. But you’re the expert on so many different topics. So I defer to your expertise. You’re the brains on this board. 😉

            Oh, I would never stand in the way of your “facts”, your Majesty. The queen is ALWAYS fully clothed.

        • verifiedsane

          Hunter is now OC’s Anthony Wiener….just another highly paid politically connected twisted freak with power prancing off into the sunset hand in hand with diaper boy justanon singing “somewhere over the rainbow”. This must bring many happy tears to everyone’s eyes…. 🙂

          • LFOldTimer

            Anthony Weiner. That’s pretty funny.

            I assume that the DA’s office has actually prosecuted perps for sending nak*d photos electronically. Particularly when they were uninvited.

            This entire county has gone to hel* in a hand basket. And still no public discussion about ANY of this stuff by the BoS, as far as I know.

            I guess they all just sit there like morons as the reputation of the County of Orange gets flushed into the netherworld. The entire nation laughs at us while the BoS whistles past the graveyard!!! LOL!!!

            Boy, do I ever feel protected as the house of cards slowly sinks into the cesspool hole.

      • justanon

        Ha, ha, ha … nice try, but FAIL again!

        No, a pension is not a “golden parachute” .

        An example of a “golden parachute” are the millions of $$$’s Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes got when they were forced out of Fox for sexual harassment.

        Words have meaning dumb *ss !!!!

        • LFOldTimer

          Don’t you have a Pink Hat rally to attend? lol.

          You should apply for a Community Organizer Aide position in Obama’s new Organizing for Action social crusade organization. You could follow Obama around with a shoe shine kit and a bag of anatomically correct gummy bears. lol.

          I see you have your dictionary out again. Look up “sycophant” while you’re at it. LOL!

          • justanon

            Ha, ha, ha, who knew that being able to use a dictionary was so subversive!!!

            Just some of the CRAZY you and your lickspittle have unleashed :

            ” you’d be off to Berkeley to riot with your anarchist pals against free speech”
            “worthless fly on the wall”
            “apply for a Community Organizer Aide position in Obama’s new Organizing for Action social crusade organization”
            “follow Obama around with a shoe shine kit and a bag of anatomically correct gummy bears”
            “vent her vitriol at Ann”
            ” expert whiz kid”
            ” your Majesty. The queen is ALWAYS fully clothed.”
            ” needs to pack up their bags and move to Venezuela ”
            ” just another George Soros and Saul Alinsky communist puppet who is sent to comment sections just to instigate trouble ”
            “These kinds of asinine subversive actions are taken directly out of the far left Dumocratic play-book”

            WOW!!! I don’t think even Alex Jone’s could whip himself in to such a hate-filled frenzy over a … definition!

            You two are hilarious, like your boy trump, you’re not even aware how painfully ignorant and foolish you appear to anyone with half a brain. LOL!!!

          • LFOldTimer

            Based on the venom that you’ve dished out on the comment board I’m surprised you’re such a sensitive snowflake.

            Would you like me to post your vulgarities and vicious denigrations directed at other commenters? But there are only so many hours in the day and only so much space on the comment board. lol.

            Didn’t your mother ever teach you that what goes around eventually comes around?

            I hate to have to be a substitute mother on a comment board.

            Now off to your Pink Hat rally. Your comrades await you!!! lol.

          • justanon

            Not “sensitive”, just amused.

            You and your lickspittle are so h*ll-bent on pigeon-holing, name-calling and insulting those you disagree with you can’t even see how CRAZY you are, lol!!!

            It’s VERY REVEALING when those ‘insults’ are gathered together though, isn’t it? It literally screams…CUCKOO!!!

            My “venom” towards you is based on your bigoted, racist and heartless comments, snowflake.

            I don’t need to make cr*p up, like you and your little flunky do.

            You two are so steeped in right-wing conspiracy theories that you make fools of yourselves trying to connect those you disagree with, with your deranged notions. In short, you’re your own worst enemy. LOL!!!

          • LFOldTimer

            Like I said previously, you have the board personality of a rattlesnake.

            You constantly and vehemently attack while offering little or nothing of substance to the various topics of public interest.

            I view you as the Darth Vader of the comment boards. lol. Your vitriol is second to none.

            You are a nuisance and a liability to the comment section. Not an asset.

            Now go stand on the street corner of Bristol and Sunflower with your Pink Hat on and tell everyone who passes how Donald Trump ruined your life! lol

          • verifiedsane

            Diaper boy is the idiot that thought they were clever….another epic fail for the Saul Alinsky communist instigator….. 🙂

          • verifiedsane

            Diaper boy goes whaa whaa whaa over the truth…to funny

          • justanon

            Ha, ha, ha … another dictionary FAIL for the crank crowd.

            While the word “sycophant” perfectly describes your relationship with your lickspittle sidekick, verifiedinsane, it has ZERO relevance to anything I have written.

            But thanks for reinforcing my original point, which is that you two yahoo’s in your frenzy to pontificate DON’T BOTHER TO BE ACCURATE, INFORMED OR RELEVANT IN YOUR COMMENTS!!! LOL!!!

          • LFOldTimer

            Did you find your dictionary at “factcheck” too??? ha. Did they give you a 5 for 1 deal? ha.

          • justanon

            What a sad and pathetic come back.

            Why is it that you right-wingers have no sense of humor?

          • LFOldTimer

            Compared to you I’m Robin Williams!!!! lol.

          • justanon

            Yeah, you’re as funny as a dead guy.

            Don’t you know any LIVING comedians? LOL!

          • LFOldTimer

            You.

  • David Zenger

    $500k a year off the taxpayer and he couldn’t keep his nose clean.

    • LFOldTimer

      Very bizarre behavior. Makes me wonder what else was in the mix here?

  • verifiedsane

    Look up in the sky citizens: Golden Parachutes for are flying everywhere for OC’s ruling oligarchy….as another nasty corruption and criminal cover-up rides off into the sunset….