Friday, November 7, 2003
Judges’ Pique Caused Release of Suspects, ADDA Head Charges
Election Foes of Oki, Wesley Join Ipsen at Press Conference as Dukes Defends Jurists’ Conduct
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The top two judges in the county’s criminal justice system deliberately put dangerous criminals back on the street several months ago because they were upset at prosecutors for not getting cases filed earlier, the president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys charged yesterday.
The events of May 28, Steven Ipsen said at a press conference on the steps of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, were part of “an intentionally engineered plan to send some kind of warped message to the DA’s office.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Dan T. Oki and David S. Wesley were blamed for the release of alleged carjacker Jerrell Patrick and dozens of others after the Memorial Day holiday.
Patrick was charged with murdering a Los Angeles man, Lawrence Middleton, about a month after being released from jail and was picked up in Arizona in September in connection with that case.
Ipsen was joined yesterday by several candidates who have filed to run against the two judges in the March 2 primary, as well as by Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs President Roy Burns, victims’ advocates, and relatives of Middleton.
Ipsen also criticized the Commission on Judicial Performance for its decision not to investigate a complaint filed by the ADDA against the two judges. “This needs to be investigated,” he declared.
Burns said the deputy sheriffs were “appalled” that court officials “would be part of a conspiracy to put felons back on the streets.” He added that his organization, which has previously said it would spend up to $1 million in a campaign to unseat county Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke, “will do what we can financially” to help candidates running against the two judges.
He did not say which candidates or how much money, saying the matter would be discussed by the ALADS board today. He also expressed some confusion after the press conference as to the respective roles actually played by Oki and Wesley in the events, and said he would have to speak to Ipsen to get clarification.
Presiding Judge Robert A. Dukes issued a statement backing Oki, who was the supervising criminal court judge in May and now hears civil cases, and Wesley, now the supervising judge after having served as assistant supervising judge under Oki.
“As Presiding Judge...I have personally reviewed the circumstances surrounding this regrettable incident,” he said. “I am convinced...that the actions taken...were appropriate given the circumstances.”
He criticized Ipsen, whose organization actively recruited opponents for the pair.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Ipsen has sought to bring the court as an institution into a political controversy, created by him, related to certain events that transpired on May 28,” the presiding judge declared. “Mr. Ipsen has injected an inappropriate element of very personal politics into a situation best addressed as it has been collaboratively and in a forthcoming way by the responsible individual agencies of the justice system.”
Dukes Cites Improvements
Dukes acknowledged that the court “has a share of the responsibility” for what occurred and has “learned the lessons that May 28 taught.” Dukes blamed the “extreme surges of criminal caseloads that are precipitated by holiday weekends” for the problem, but said the court has been working with prosecutors, defense attorneys, and law enforcement to avoid a recurrence of what occurred after Memorial Day.
Wesley issued a statement through his campaign consultant, Cerrell Associates, Inc. He called Ipsen a liar and said he is trying “to intimidate judges required to make difficult administrative decisions.”
The court where Patrick and other defendants were arraigned on May 28, he said, closed at 6 p.m., not 4:30 as claimed by the ADDA.
“The Court never ordered [Patrick’s]’ release,” Wesley said. “It is unclear why [Ipsen], who should know better, would make such incorrect allegations.”
Efforts to obtain a response from Ipsen were not successful, as the ADDA president’s cell phone apparently failed while he was talking to the MetNews.
Wednesday was the deadline for judicial candidates to file declarations of intention to run, except in the five races where the incumbent did not file. Candidates for those five seats have until 5 p.m. to file their papers at the registrar’s Norwalk office.
Four judges—Marcus Tucker, Richard Hubbell, Rosemary Shumsky, and James Wright—had indicated last month that they would not run.
The fifth judge, Nancy Brown, had previously indicated that she was undecided. But Brown told the MetNews that the back problems that have kept her off the bench in recent weeks will force her into retirement, probably early next year.
“After 35 years, I have done my civic duty,” she said. Her retirement plans, she said, are to “travel and travel and travel” as much as her health permits.
In other election-related developments:
•Deputy City Attorney Miguel Dager and Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo filed declarations of intention to run for the seat being vacated by Tucker. They join Deputy District Attorney Daniel Feldstern in the race.
•Deputy District Attorneys Larry Diamond and Laura Priver and Workers’ Compensation Judge John Gutierrez filed for Brown’s seat, joining Deputy District Attorney Edward Nison. Gutierrez lost a close race for the court two years ago.
•Deputy Attorney General Robert Henry filed for Shumsky’s seat, while Superior Court Referee D. Zeke Zeidler took out papers to run in the race. Both have campaign experience, as Henry ran for the Assembly in 1980 and came in second in a field of four in the 1992 Superior Court race won by Judge Joyce Karlin; Zeidler won two terms as a school board member in Redondo Beach and finished second to George Nakano in a Democratic primary for the Assembly in 1998.
Candidates who previously filed in that race are Deputy District Attorneys Patrick David Campbell and Craig Renetzky and Torrance attorney Michael Shook. Renetzky lost a runoff to Richard Naranjo two years ago.
Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Asha Greenberg, a former Santa Monica City Council member, had previously taken out papers to run for that seat.
•Superior Court Commissioner Donna Groman and Sherman Oaks attorney Mitchell W. Roth filed for Wright’s seat, joining Deputy District Attorney Judith L. Meyer in the race.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company