Racially charged comments by DA Todd Spitzer send OC legal community into furor

Some prosecutors pushed to turn over Spitzer’s statements to lawyers defending the accused killer of a Newport Beach couple

Allegations that Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer made racist comments while discussing a murder case exploded Wednesday when internal memos from his office were leaked to the media. However, a Jan. 30 document written by Spitzer and released by his office within hours of the leak contend he was misquoted and taken out of context.

The furor is partially centered around memos written by former Senior Assistant District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh concerning an Oct. 1 meeting to discuss whether to seek the death penalty in the case of a Black man accused of killing a White couple in Newport Beach. According to Baytieh’s Dec. 3 memo, the group discussed defendant Jamon Buggs‘ record of domestic violence. Spitzer inquired about the race of Buggs’ previous girlfriends.

According to Baytieh’s memo, he and prosecutor Eric Scarbrough told Spitzer the question was irrelevant and inappropriate to consider in a discussion on the death penalty. The memo said Spitzer disagreed and “said he knows many black people who get themselves out of their bad circumstances and bad situations by only dating ‘white women.’ ” In a Dec. 21 correction later penned by Baytieh, he amended the line to say Spitzer “knows many black people who enhance their status by only dating ‘white women.’ “

The initial memo by Baytieh also alleged that Spitzer said he knew a Black student in college who dated only White women to get himself out of his “bad circumstances and situations.” That quote was later amended in an email by Baytieh to say Spitzer said he knew a Black student who dated only White women to “enhance his status.”