Spitzer Sworn in as DA, Promises Changes at Prosecutor’s Office

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Orange County’s new District Attorney, Todd Spitzer was sworn-in to office Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 at Chapman University.

Orange County’s new District Attorney, Todd Spitzer, said during his swearing-in ceremony Monday night there will be sweeping changes at the prosecutor’s office.

“There’s a lot of people in here tonight who are sitting on pins and needles.  You have no idea what I’m going to be like as District Attorney. Some of you are elated, some of you are scared to death,” Spitzer said to a crowd of over 600 people at Chapman University in Orange. The crowd included elected officials from throughout the county.

Spitzer, pulling out the DA’s budget from the County budget book, said the DA has solely focused on the conviction rate too long.

“What about recidivism rate? What about mental health services for the defendant? What about how we’re doing in terms of helping people not reoffend? What about collection and distribution of restitution? What about satisfaction of the victim?” Spitzer asked.

His answer: “There’s a lot of other factors to the success of a prosecutor other than a conviction rate … so we’re moving to a model called the whole prosecutor. And you’re going to be judged by how you approach your cases.”

Spitzer also said the prosecutor’s office can help offset crime by restructuring the juvenile division and helping children before they become adults. “The best and brightest” and “most experienced” prosecutors will be moved to the juvenile division, he said.

“Twelve and under — no criminal prosecution from now on.”

Changes will also be made to the DA’s emblem, Spitzer said. It will now include the blindfolded Lady Justice holding the scale and a sword. The old emblem had only the scale.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Orange County District Attorney shared during his swearing-in ceremony the changes he will make to the DA’s emblem.

“Justice carries a big-ass sword. But she also has a big blindfold,” Spitzer said, adding it’s a metaphor for the DA’s office to ethically and morally prosecute cases.

Leading up to Spitzer’s swearing in ceremony and speech, rock and roll music played. Songs such as “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and “Thunderstruck” by ACDC played while elected officials and members of the public filled the Memorial Hall Auditorium at Chapman.

Former County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, once a political opponent of Spitzer and now his chief assistant district attorney, introduced Spitzer to the crowd. There were also acoustic guitar covers of Tom Petty songs “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and “Won’t Back Down” played by South County musician Phil Vandermost before the oath of office and after Spitzer’s speech, respectively.

During his speech, Spitzer said the office will be “by the book do what’s right — regardless of political consequences.”

After the ceremony, Spitzer told Voice of OC the DA’s office needs to be “transparent” and avoid politics.

“It’s a reason I’m not endorsing any elected officials. I didn’t get to that in my speech, but I’m not going to be political. The DA’s going to call balls and strikes and the DA has no business being involved in political activity in this county,” Spitzer said. “Everybody in the county looks to the DA to be the person that’s making decisions about elections and public official conduct.”

When asked if he would help fundraise for people’s campaigns, Spitzer said he hasn’t made a decision about that yet.

“I don’t know, I’m not counting that out yet. But I will not be publicly endorsing or putting my name on anybody’s campaigns or things like that.”

Spitzer, a former county supervisor, defeated incumbent District Attorney Tony Rackauckas in the November election. Rackauckas held the post for two decades.

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.