Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas has fired an investigator who two years ago raised concerns about the district attorney's ties to a Newport Beach businessman.
Lyle Wilson had been on paid leave since February 2001, when Rackauckas accused him of mishandling an investigation involving Patrick Di Carlo, a close friend and political contributor to the district attorney.
Rackauckas did not return calls seeking comment about why Wilson was fired and why it took nearly two years to reach the decision.
Wilson's dealings with Di Carlo became a key element of an Orange County Grand Jury report last summer that accused Rackauckas of interfering in criminal investigations involving political contributors.
The controversy started in 2000 after Wilson was assigned to investigate allegations that Di Carlo had been extorted by a business associate with ties to a New York Mafia family. After Di Carlo complained that Wilson mistreated him during an interview, Rackauckas ordered the investigator off the case, according to public records.
Rackauckas suspended Wilson and his supervisor, Barry Foye. He accused the pair of stealing evidence after a tape-recording of an interview with Di Carlo turned up missing. He also accused Wilson of investigating Di Carlo after he was ordered off the case and of talking about the case with news media in violation of office policy, records show.
To avoid a conflict of interest, Rackauckas asked the state attorney general's office to review whether laws were broken and asked the Riverside district attorney's office to determine whether Wilson and Foye violated department policies.
The attorney general's office concluded that there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by either man.
Wilson declined to comment on his termination. Another district attorney employee, veteran homicide prosecutor Mike Jacobs, was fired by Rackauckas in 2001 after asking the state attorney general to investigate his boss for obstructing justice in the Di Carlo matter.
The district attorney's office cited several reasons for Jacobs' firing, mostly notably that he allegedly gave the attorney general false information about Rackauckas.
"Mike Jacobs was fired for the same reason Lyle was fired: They went public with their concerns that Mr. Rackauckas intervened in the Di Carlo investigation," said Jacobs' attorney, Dennis Moss. "And they were vindicated by the grand jury."
Wilson worked as a district attorney's investigator for 13 years.
Wilson told Riverside investigators that he kept the copy of the tape recording because he suspected a "conspiracy to cover up what I had uncovered" about Di Carlo, according to the Riverside County report.
Wilson has said he became suspicious of Di Carlo when he gave conflicting answers about his investment banking operation. Foye said he authorized Wilson to follow up on those suspicions and shift the investigation toward Di Carlo.
A few days later, Rackauckas ordered Wilson off the case.
Rackauckas' handling of the Di Carlo matter was investigated by the state attorney general as well as the Orange County Grand Jury, which in June issued a highly critical report.
Both the grand jury and Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said Rackauckas should have asked an outside agency to investigate Di Carlo's extortion claims to avoid a conflict of interest.