City Hall critic pleads no contest to disturbing the peace infraction

An attorney engaged in a controversy with Los Angeles City Hall has pleaded no contest to disturbing the peace, according to court records and city prosecutors.

Wayne Spindler, an Encino attorney, entered the plea to the infraction July 7 after the Los Angeles city attorney’s office agreed to dismiss charges of misdemeanor possession of an assault weapon and possession of a high-capacity magazine, an infraction, according to city prosecutors and court records.

The gun-related charges stemmed from a restraining order limiting Spindler’s contact with Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson.

Spindler was arrested in May 2016 a few days after he handed in a public comment card during a city committee meeting in Van Nuys. The card included drawings of a burning cross and a stick figure hanging from a tree. The card also included a racial slur and the name of Wesson, who is African American. Wesson said he regarded the card as threatening, according to court records.

A judge issued a restraining order preventing Spindler from coming near Wesson’s home, office or vehicle, although he was allowed to speak at public meetings, records show. Spindler, in connection with the restraining order's no firearms requirement, turned in multiple handguns and a rifle to Los Angeles police for safekeeping, records show.

The Los Angeles County district attorney, citing 1st Amendment concerns, declined to file a charge against Spindler in connection with the committee meeting, concluding there was insufficient evidence that he made a threat.

City Atty. Mike Feuer's office in April filed the charge of possessing an assault weapon.

About two weeks ago, city prosecutors and Spindler struck a plea deal allowing him to plead no contest to disturbing the peace, which was unrelated to the City Council meeting. The development was first reported last week by the website CityWatch LA.

As part of the plea agreement, the court ordered that the firearms Spindler relinquished — several pistols, a rifle and five rifle magazines — be destroyed, Los Angeles city attorney spokesman Rob Wilcox said.

Wilcox said his office agreed to the plea deal because it was "unlikely that we could prevail" on firearms charges.

"It was a generic infraction that is commonly used as an alternative charge as part of plea agreements," Wilcox said in a statement.

Spindler said in an interview that the city attorney's office has sought to persecute him since last year’s city meeting. He accused the office of incorrectly stating its case against him.

"They lost. They blew it," he said.

In January, Spindler filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city of violating his free speech and other constitutional rights. He alleged in court documents that his arrest was a “bogus attempt as a free speech suppressant.”

According to court documents, Spindler said his drawings on the comment card were satirical and protected political speech, and the person depicted hanging from a tree symbolized the city’s Department of Water and Power “lynching” residents with high water rates. He also said in court documents that the racial slur had been used by others at council meetings to refer to Wesson as a “sellout” to his constituents.

His civil suit against the city is pending.

richard.winton@latimes.com

Twitter: @lacrimes

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