Los Angeles County DA chief of staff pursues Azusa police over public intoxication arrest

Dist. from Los Angeles County. Atty. George Gascón’s chief of staff on Wednesday filed a federal complaint against the Azusa Police Department, accusing officers of violating his civil rights when they arrested him last month.

Joseph Iniguez, 36, was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication on December 11 after police stopped a vehicle driven by his fiance shortly before midnight. Hours before the trial was made public, Azusa police released several pages of documents in response to a request for public registration filed by The Times. In the documents, an officer claimed Iniguez had “bloodshot” eyes and blocked his speech when he interfered with the officers’ actions when the vehicle was stopped.

According to the police report, officers first stopped Iniguez’s vehicle because her fiance, who was driving, made an illegal U-turn at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Block 900 of East Aosta Avenue. .

The arresting officer – who is identified in the documents only as “Cpl. R. Martinez ”- approached the car and said he smelled of alcohol, according to the report. He asked Iniguez’s fiancé if he had been drinking and Iniguez replied that he “was the cause of the smell and that he had consumed several alcoholic drinks,” according to the report.

“Iniguez started questioning me and giving legal advice. I informed Iniguez that I was not speaking to him and that I was speaking with the driver and trying to determine his sobriety, ”the officer wrote in the report. “Iniguez continued to interfere with my traffic stop.”

The officer threatened to arrest Iniguez for public intoxication because of his admission that he had been drinking. Ultimately, the officer said he handcuffed the driver due to Iniguez’s constant interference and then placed Iniguez under arrest.

“I could see that his [Iniguez] the eyes were bloodshot and watery, he had difficulty speaking, a strong smell of alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath and from himself, he admitted to consuming alcoholic beverages and he did not listen to orders from officers, ”the report says.

Officers later determined that Iniguez’s fiancé’s blood alcohol content was below the legal limit for driving, and he was released without incident, the corporal said. CJ Wilkins, Chairman of the Azusa Police Union. Wilkins, who said he spoke directly to the arresting officer, felt the incident would have represented little more than a traffic ticket without what he described as “belligerent” conduct. from Iniguez.

In an interview with The Times last month, Iniguez claimed he had done nothing wrong and said the arrest was inappropriate. Under California law, to be guilty of public intoxication, a person must be so drunk that they cannot take care of themselves, he argued.

Iniguez also said he decided to film the encounter because Azusa’s police officers were not carrying cameras and claimed the arrest was in retaliation for his decision to film the encounter. He declined to release footage of the meeting to The Times, however.

On Wednesday, Iniguez sued the town of Azusa, alleging he had been falsely arrested.

“On December 11, 2021, Mr. Iniguez was lucid, calm, responsive and communicative… Mr. Iniguez was arrested for exercising his 1st Amendment rights while objectively documenting the investigation,” wrote his lawyer, Glen Jonas, in an e-mail to The Times.

“Sir. Iniguez is motivated by the moral imperative to protect the citizens of the community from abuse of authority,” Jonas continued. [Martinez] responsible and require DPA patrol officers to wear body cameras.

When asked why Iniguez won’t release the video, Jonas said the recording “will be released in due course, we’re not going to argue that in the press.”

An Azusa police spokesperson said he could not comment on the pursuit because the town had not yet been officially served.

Iniguez had only been a prosecutor for a few years when he announced a long-running offer to overthrow Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey in 2019. After gaining little traction in the race, Iniguez retired and joined the Gascón campaign team. After Gascón’s victory, Iniguez was appointed acting deputy chief prosecutor, making him the de facto second-in-command of the country’s largest prosecutor’s office.

Iniguez has since been replaced in that post and now holds the post of Chief of Staff, but his rapid rise has drawn contempt from many long-time prosecutors, who believe he does not have the experience to fill a post. also high within the office.

Wilkins, the police union president, also accused Iniguez of threatening to put the officer who arrested him on the District Attorney’s so-called “Brady List”, which contains officers with a background disciplinary issues whose testimony could be challenged or impeached at trial. The name refers to a landmark United States Supreme Court ruling that requires prosecutors to turn over evidence favorable to a defendant, including evidence of police misconduct.

In the police report released on Wednesday, the arresting officer said Iniguez “said he had been falsely arrested, that he would see me again and called me ‘Brady'” when he has been freed.

Iniguez denied making the comment and Wilkins did not immediately return a call on Wednesday asking for clarification of his claim.

Iniguez was released hours after the arrest, and police records show he was apprehended on “intoxication only” charges and no further criminal proceedings were desired. In a statement released last month, however, Azusa Police claimed they referred a case to the LA County District Attorney’s office.

Alex Bastian, special advisor to Gascón, said any criminal cases would be referred to the California attorney general’s office due to the conflict of interest created by Iniguez’s employment. Iniguez’s position in the office has not been affected, Bastian said.

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