O.C. prosecutors say confrontation shouldn't warrant recusal

Orange County prosecutors Thursday rejected the notion that they should be removed from a case against a man charged with a nightclub assault, arguing that last week's confrontation between a district attorney's investigator and another lawyer did not warrant the recusal of the whole prosecutorial office, much less the dismissal of all charges.

In a 31-page motion, Deputy Dist. Atty. Matthew Lockhart argued that the fight in a courthouse hallway, which left a lawyer bruised and bloodied, did not deny a fair trial to Adrian Arellano Arroyo, accused of participating in an August 2014 brawl outside a Lake Forest nightclub.

Arroyo's case was scheduled to begin jury selection soon, but it came to a standstill after the March 9 courthouse scrap involving defense attorney James Crawford and a D.A. investigator, identified in court documents as Dillon Alley.

The D.A. investigator was assigned to handle Berenice Muñoz, who is a key witness against Arroyo. Crawford was appointed by the court to provide legal counsel to Muñoz regarding her 5th Amendment rights.

In the 10th-floor hallway, a fight erupted — but accounts differ on how it played out. Crawford's lawyer contends that Alley flicked a paper clip toward him, which Crawford threw back. Then, Alley smashed Crawford's head into a courthouse bench, landing several blows on him.

Prosecutors countered in Thursday's motion that Crawford made the first punch, with the investigator using force out of self-defense.

In a prior motion, Arroyo's attorneys contended that the "brutal assault" by Alley was part of a "pattern of intimidation" against defense witnesses. One key defense witness refused to testify after seeing the fight, the defense motion alleged. Another declined to comply with a defense subpoena because of "intimidation" by the prosecution, the motion said.

Arroyo claimed that a potential lawsuit by Crawford would create a conflict of interest for the district attorney's office, since he may testify for Crawford in future litigation.

Prosecutors countered that such arguments were speculative.

"All he has shown is that a fight occurred. So what? It had nothing to do with him," the prosecutor's motion stated. "[Arroyo] thinks it is enough to invoke an unrelated fight and then assert that it is part of an imaginary conspiracy against him."

A judge is scheduled to hear arguments on the motion Friday morning.


Twitter: @MattHjourno

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A version of this article appeared in print on March 18, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "D.A.'s office rejects idea of recusal - O.C. prosecutors don't think hallway fight denies a fair trial to assault suspect." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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