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Ex-Deputy Ross Loses Bid to Delay Hearing on Firing

Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles County hearing officer Tuesday rejected a plea by Sheriff’s Department Investigator Rickey Ross for a month’s delay to prepare his fight to overturn his firing after a Sheriff’s Department representative warned that postponement would mean the loss of a key witness.

Ross was charged last February with murdering three South-Central Los Angeles prostitutes with his service handgun. The accusation was dropped in May when prosecutors said the original weapons tests linking Ross to the slayings were wrong.

But Ross had in the interim been fired by the Sheriff’s Department, forcing Tuesday’s administrative hearing before the Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission. During the hearing, Sheriff’s Sgt. Susan Weekly warned that the request by Ross’ attorney, Howard Weitzman, to continue the proceedings amounted to an “untimely delaying tactic.”

The key witness, Jimmie Joann McGhee, 21, of Denver, was scheduled to testify this week at the administrative hearing on the Ross case. Weekly said McGhee, who is currently serving a six-month prostitution sentence at the Sybil Brand Institute for Women, could be released at the end of this month, or no later than early August, a move that could make her unavailable for testimony if the hearing was delayed a month.

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Weekly said McGhee planned to return to her Denver home after her release. County administrative hearing officers do not have out-of-state subpoena power, Weekly noted.

But after Tuesday’s hearing, a Times reporter asked a Sheriff’s Department spokesman, Richard Dinsmoor, to check McGhee’s official prison release date. Dinsmoor said McGhee cannot be released before Aug. 31, a date that contradicted Weekly’s hearing statement.

Dinsmoor said McGhee’s release date included credit for good behavior, work time and the early release program, which takes into account crowded prison conditions.

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Asked about the contradiction in dates, Weekly said McGhee had “provided me with the information.” Weekly, who works for the sheriff’s civil advocacy unit, said she never checked with the Custody Division to determine McGhee’s official release date.

The decision by hearing officer Arnold L. Faber to restart the Ross hearing on Friday angered Weitzman, who signed on as Ross’ attorney over the July 4 holiday.

“You’ve been . . . utterly unreasonable,” declared Weitzman, who has had a number of high-profile clients, including auto maker John Z. DeLorean.

Weitzman told Faber he will seek a stay of the decision from a Superior Court judge in an effort to gain more time to study the controversial case.

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“I’m not prepared to go forward,” he told Faber. “I want 30 days to get ready. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”

Bear the Cost

Since the three-day hearing into Ross’ efforts to regain his job had been scheduled to begin Tuesday, Faber ruled that Ross will have to bear the cost--about $650--of Tuesday’s aborted session.

Ross, 40, of Rialto, an 18-year department veteran, was fired April 27 by Sheriff Sherman Block for allegedly abusing alcohol and drugs and soliciting sex from a prostitute, McGhee, according to Block’s job termination letter to Ross.

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McGhee was in a car with Ross when he was arrested by police last February, according to Block’s four-page letter. McGhee told investigators she “was a prostitute who exchanged sexual favors for drugs,” the letter said. She said Ross “provided a small piece of cocaine,” which the two were smoking, when police approached the car, the letter said.

In a subsequent interview with The Times, McGhee confirmed that both she and Ross “smoked a hit.” But she said she lied to police when she told them Ross had provided the cocaine for fear she would get a stiff prison sentence. Actually, McGhee said, she bought the cocaine with $10 Ross gave her.


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