TimesOC: Orange County’s top prosecutor denies accusation of racist remarks

Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter.

It’s Friday, Feb. 18. I’m Ben Brazil, bringing you the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

Orange County’s top prosecutor is in hot water this week after a former colleague alleged that he made racist comments about a Black defendant.

Ebrahim Baytieh, who was recently fired by Spitzer, claimed in a Dec. 3 memo that during a meeting in October, Spitzer said he knows “many Black people who get themselves out of their bad circumstances and bad situations by only dating white women.” The statement was in reference to the case of Jamon Buggs, a Black man charged with killing two people allegedly due to jealousy over his white ex-girlfriend.

My colleague Hannah Fry reported this week that Spitzer told her that he did not say what was alleged in the memo. He told Fry that what he actually said was that he has seen Black men date white women to “improve their stature in the community.”

According to the memo, Spitzer also drew on his own experiences and referenced a Black student he knew in college who he said only dated white women “to get himself out of his bad circumstances and situations.” However, in a Jan. 30 letter filed in Orange County Superior Court, Spitzer wrote 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.”

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

Baytieh was fired following an independent investigation into allegations that he withheld evidence from defense attorneys in a murder case. Spitzer believes the memo was written in retaliation for launching the investigation.