O.C. D.A. made racist comments in case of Black defendant, former colleague alleges

An Orange County prosecutor who was fired last week previously wrote a memo detailing racist comments he alleged his boss, Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer, made while discussing the case of a Black murder defendant, according to copies of the internal documents obtained by The Times.

Former prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh alleged in a memo dated Dec. 3 that during a meeting of top prosecutors on Oct. 1, Spitzer said that he knows “many black people who get themselves out of their bad circumstances and bad situations by only dating white women.”

Spitzer was discussing the case of a Black man, Jamon Buggs, charged with fatally shooting two people, allegedly because of jealousy over an ex-girlfriend, who is white, according to the memo.

However, Spitzer said on Wednesday that the words attributed to him in the memo were not correct.

What he actually said, he told The Times, was that he has seen Black men date white women to “improve their stature in the community.”

Spitzer fired Baytieh, who was once a close advisor, last week, citing an investigation into whether Baytieh withheld evidence from defense attorneys in a different murder case.

Baytieh’s firing and the disclosure of the memos, which were first referenced by nonprofit news site Voice of OC, come at a politically charged time.

Spitzer is running for reelection, with the primary in June, against two former Orange County prosecutors. Baytieh is running for Orange County Superior Court judge.

In the Dec. 3 memo, Baytieh listed the names of eight other prosecutors who attended the October meeting on whether they should seek the death penalty or life in prison for Buggs.

During a discussion about prior allegations of domestic violence against Buggs, Spitzer asked about the race of Buggs’ previous girlfriends, according to the memo.

Baytieh replied to his boss that the “race of the victims is completely irrelevant.”

According to Baytieh’s memo, he added that it would be “inappropriate … to consider or give any weight to the race of the victims.”

But Spitzer persisted, the memo said.

After Spitzer made the remark about why Black men date white women, Baytieh said he pushed back again, stating again that the race of the victim should not be discussed in a decision about the appropriate punishment to seek. This time, according to the memo, Baytieh cited a recently signed law called the Racial Justice Act.

Spitzer then drew from his personal experience, according to the memo.

In college, Spitzer said, he knew a Black student who dated only white women.

According to the memo, which was addressed to defense attorneys in the Buggs case, Spitzer allegedly said he “knew for sure that this black student did so on purpose to get himself out of his bad circumstances and situations.”

Spitzer contends he said that the student dated white women “to enhance his status.”

“The only thing I stated was that I have seen Black men date white women in certain circles in order to have others around them be more accepting,” Spitzer wrote in a Jan. 30 letter filed in Orange County Superior Court.

Spitzer alleges Baytieh wrote the memo to retaliate against him after he commissioned the investigation into Baytieh’s actions in the other murder case.

“After reading his memo, I was completely and utterly disgusted by his characterization of a conversation regarding the race of Buggs …” Spitzer wrote in the Jan. 30 letter. “Not only was it inaccurate, but it attempted to show my statements in the worst possible light, without explanation or context.”

A defense attorney representing Buggs declined to comment.

Baytieh did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The Dec. 3 memo was not sent to the defense attorneys, according to a source with knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the case candidly.

Instead, Baytieh attached it to a second memo addressed to Spitzer, arguing that prosecutors were legally required to inform the defense about the comments.