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Attorneys seek to pull Garcetti deeper into aide’s sexual harassment suit

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti could be compelled to give sworn testimony in a sexual harassment case.
(Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg)

Attorneys for a police officer suing the city over alleged sexual harassment by a former advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti are attempting to pull the mayor deeper into the case.

In a court motion filed Friday, the attorneys are demanding Garcetti give sworn testimony about the former aide, Rick Jacobs.

They also want Garcetti to answer questions about a second alleged incident involving the mayor they say is relevant to the case, according to documents filed with the motion.

LAPD Officer Matthew Garza, a former bodyguard to Garcetti, sued the city in July, alleging that Jacobs, a longtime confidant and fundraiser for the mayor’s campaigns and causes, harassed him over a period of several years. Jacobs has denied wrongdoing.

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Since then, three other men have come forward to say they were also harassed by Jacobs.

Garza says Garcetti witnessed some of the inappropriate behavior but did not stop it. The new filing from his attorney Greg Smith says the “mayor is a key percipient witness who has personal factual information” to the officer’s case.

Garcetti has denied seeing any harassing behavior and said he cut ties with Jacobs after the additional allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced last week.

Still, the controversy has become a political liability for the mayor, who worked for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign vetting possible running mates and is seen as a candidate for a top job in the administration if the former vice president is elected.

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In laying out his argument to the judge for why Garcetti should be deposed, Smith attached a letter he wrote to Deputy City Attorney Douglas Lyon earlier this month. In it, Smith argued he should be allowed to ask the mayor about a 2019 incident that Smith claims is the subject of an internal affairs investigation by the LAPD.

Smith said in the letter that the investigation centers on an alleged domestic altercation of some kind involving Garcetti in 2019 and whether LAPD officers took steps to keep what happened secret at the request of the mayor. Garza was recently interviewed by LAPD investigators about the allegations, Smith said.

Smith argued in the letter that it’s relevant to Garza’s case because the allegation reflects larger behavior patterns in the mayor’s office.

In a reply contained in the court file, Lyon acknowledged the LAPD had opened an investigation into a citizen complaint. But he turned the focus back on Garza, saying the officer “breached his duties as a police officer by sharing information he obtained during an Internal Affairs investigation.”

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Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar on Saturday denied there was an altercation involving the mayor. He also said there was no cover-up.

“This is 100% false. There is not a shred of truth to it,” Comisar said.

The Times could not verify the validity of the allegations or determine whether the probe was still ongoing. The letter states the date of the alleged incident was Jan. 24, 2019. Garcetti was in Washington, D.C., that day, according to his public schedule.

Josh Rubenstein, a LAPD spokesman, declined to confirm the existence of the internal affairs investigation, nor any details of the allegations, citing the ongoing litigation.

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Under LAPD rules, complaints like the one that led LAPD’s internal affairs office to launch an inquiry must be investigated.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer responded Saturday by saying, “Although Mr. Smith prefers to litigate this case in the press, we will review his filing and respond in the court at the appropriate time.”

As is common in lawsuits, the legal skirmish over the deposition is part of broader jockeying by Smith and lawyers for the city over steps Garza’s legal team should be permitted to take in gathering evidence to bolster their case. A main flashpoint has emerged over Smith’s demands that Garcetti and several others in the mayor’s office be deposed.

Smith’s filing states that “since mid-September of 2020, defendant city of Los Angeles has repeatedly and obstinately refused to produce Mayor Eric Garcetti for deposition in this case.”

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Lyon, in an Oct. 28 letter to Smith that is included in the filing, responded that Smith must try to get information through other avenues before he is entitled to depose the mayor.

“We have not refused to ever produce the mayor for a deposition,” Lyon wrote.


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