Responding to allegations by his political opponent that he failed to aggressively prosecute O.J. Simpson in 1989 for beating his wife, Los Angeles City Atty. James K. Hahn said Thursday that he has made domestic violence his No. 1 priority since his election 12 years ago.
Flanked by a dozen domestic violence activists on the steps of City Hall, Hahn said he started fighting for battered women a quarter-century ago as a law student, helping them get restraining orders against abusive husbands. As city attorney, Hahn reestablished a special prosecutorial unit on domestic violence, lobbied for about 30 bills on the topic, donated cameras to the Police Department to help document injuries, and has achieved a 94% conviction rate against batterers.
Further, the number of domestic violence homicides in the city has dropped from 52 in 1992 to 21 last year.
“Every day, our office has been in the forefront of fighting violence against women and children since I became city attorney. This is not some issue that I just discovered in an opinion poll,” Hahn said. “This campaign is about a record.”
Hahn’s opponent in the April 8 election, Encino lawyer-developer Ted Stein, said last week that Hahn is partly responsible for the 1994 slaying of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman because O.J. Simpson did not serve any jail time after pleading no contest to the domestic violence charge in 1989. Simpson was acquitted in the double killing, but found liable for their deaths in civil court and ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages.
Hahn and his deputies say they requested jail time in the 1989 Simpson case during off-the-record discussions in the judge’s chambers. But court transcripts show the city attorney’s office asking only for fines and counseling, with no mention of Simpson spending time behind bars.
“It’s all bark and no bite,” Stein said Thursday of Hahn’s record. “The person who claims to be a leader in domestic violence in fact never asked for jail time . . . for a guy that beat his wife silly and she’s black and blue all over. Jim Hahn is a master of public relations, but not a master of being effective on domestic violence.”
At the news conference, Hahn called Stein a “Johnny-come-lately” to the fight against domestic abuse, and several activists decried Stein for making political hay out of the double killing.
“I’m very angry that . . . someone like Ted Stein would stand up and use domestic violence as a platform for political gain,” said Maria St. John, who described herself as a “recent survivor” of battering.
Other battered women’s advocates praised Hahn as a leader on the issue.
“He’s far from soft on domestic violence. His policies and directives have sent a new message into the community that domestic violence is a crime,” said Diane Miller, president of the city’s domestic violence task force.
Stein, however, brushed off the comments. “Jim brought 15 women to a press conference today--I could call a press conference tomorrow and have 50 women,” he said. “He does much better with his PR than he does with results.”
Hahn released a list of “domestic violence accomplishments,” topped by the fact that he revived the Family Violence Unit upon his election in 1985 and that it is now the largest such operation in the country, handling about 21,000 domestic cases a year.
“In the city of Los Angeles, unfortunately, there’s a great deal of domestic violence and he files the cases,” Stein said. “That’s not a credit to him.”
Hahn has also helped write numerous pieces of legislation, and lobbied for others, that strengthen penalties for domestic violence. He worked on a bill that extended domestic violence to include same-sex relationships and launched an employee education program on the subject.