Steiner Tries Again to Disqualify Capizzi : Courts: Supervisor refiles motion arguing that D.A. has conflict in prosecuting O.C. bankruptcy-related case.


County Supervisor William G. Steiner on Thursday refiled a motion to seek the appointment of a special prosecutor and to disqualify Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi from prosecuting him for alleged "willful misconduct" in office.

Steiner was named last week in a civil accusation by the Orange County Grand Jury--along with Board of Supervisors Chairman Roger R. Stanton and Auditor-Controller Steve E. Lewis--contending that he failed to properly oversee the investment activities of former Treasurer-Tax Collector Robert L. Citron.

In his new motion to disqualify Capizzi, Steiner's attorney, Allan H. Stokke, contended again that "prior to the bankruptcy the district attorney had direct involvement with the now recognized, unusually high interest rate revenue coming from the questionable or unlawful investments of" Citron.

The district attorney "knowingly received over $2 million from higher than usual interest earnings, which money went specifically to a gang suppression program entitled 'Target,' " according to the motion.

In addition, the district attorney "participated in the planning and funding of this unusual mid-year windfall," according to the motion.

In recommending that the grand jury accuse Steiner, the district attorney criticized the supervisor "for not having recognized that this very same interest return was unusually high and signaled possible unlawful activity by" Citron, the motion said.

"My point in wanting to file at this point is that the law requires you to file when you first become aware that [the district attorney] has a conflict," Stokke said in an interview. "We think it's important."

Steiner, who was out of town, could not be reached for comment.

Capizzi's office did not return a call for comment.

Before the accusations were issued, Steiner went to the Court of Appeal in an unsuccessful attempt to disqualify Capizzi from the case.

In the new motion, Stokke once again cites the grand jury's own concerns about Capizzi and the panel's attempt to hire a special counsel last June to assist its civil investigation into the bankruptcy.

"The grand jury did declare a conflict," according to the motion. "That conflict should now be dealt with immediately."

Under the California Penal Code, a motion to disqualify a prosecutor "shall not be granted unless it is shown by the evidence that a conflict of interest exists such as would render it unlikely that the defendant would receive a fair trial."

Such requests must be sent to the California attorney general, who then has 10 days to study the request and respond in writing.

Gary Schons, a senior assistant attorney general in San Diego, said his office had not received Steiner's new motion.

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