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Touching? Massaging? Garcetti says he saw none of it. Deposition could haunt his career

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at a news conference in July.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has denied allegations that he witnessed his onetime political aide Rick Jacobs inappropriately touch the mayor’s longtime bodyguard, and denied that he heard Jacobs talk explicitly about sex, saying such behavior would be “completely out of character” for Jacobs.

Garcetti’s testimony was taken in a deposition this month by attorneys for Los Angeles Police Officer Matthew Garza, a former member of Garcetti’s security detail who has filed a lawsuit claiming he was harassed by Jacobs. The Times reviewed a transcript of the deposition Thursday.

In his deposition, Garcetti was asked about Garza’s allegations that Jacobs massaged Garza’s shoulders, pulled him in for a hug and called him “handsome.” Garcetti said he didn’t witness such behavior.

“Certainly not massaging. I don’t recall him touching either,” Garcetti said.

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The mayor also said that he never saw Jacobs forcibly hug anyone or kiss anyone outside of Jacobs’ loved ones. “I’ve never seen anything that looked more than a courtesy greeting,” Garcetti said.

Garza sued the city in July, alleging that Jacobs made crude sexual comments and inappropriately touched him between 2014 and 2019. Garza’s lawsuit states that Garcetti witnessed the inappropriate behavior and that on some occasions, the mayor laughed at Jacobs’ crude comments.

Jacobs has denied that he harassed Garza and called his lawsuit “a work of pure fiction.”

Jacobs raised millions of dollars in support of Garcetti’s 2013 mayoral campaign and was a top City Hall deputy before stepping down in 2016. He continued to work as a political consultant for Garcetti and helped run two nonprofits associated with the mayor before stepping away from those roles last year.

A sworn LAPD officer since 1997, Garza began working on Garcetti’s security detail in October 2013. He alleges Jacobs would extend his hand for a purported handshake, but then pull Garza toward him to give a “long, tight hug,” while simultaneously saying, “I love me my strong LAPD officers” or some other “inappropriate comment,” according to the suit.

Jacobs also repeatedly talked about his young gay lover, his lover’s penis and having “rough sex” with his gay partners, according to the lawsuit.

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Garcetti, in his deposition, was asked about the lawsuit. “The whole — the whole — I mean it came out of thin air, the accusations,” the mayor said.

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“Certainly accusations about the untruths about myself and what I was accused of witnessing or doing or not doing. The entire thing. And just, you know, somebody putting forward this without any communication of or reaching out that it was a legal lawsuit, I was, you know — it made me sad and — and shocked,” Garcetti said.

Garcetti was asked if he witnessed or observed Jacobs say anything or take any inappropriate action toward Garza on trips to New Hampshire and Mississippi in 2018. “Absolutely not,” Garcetti said.

At one point in the deposition, Garza’s attorney Greg Smith asked whether Garcetti saw anything between Garza and Jacobs that made Garza appear to look uncomfortable. “No. And if I had, that would have stuck in my mind,” the mayor replied.

Garcetti was also shown a photo that appeared in The Times of Jacobs placing his hand near the crotch of a man as the two posed for a group photo at a convention in Miami in 2017. Garcetti stands next to the two men and others, smiling and giving a double thumbs-up gesture.

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Asked to explain why his former aide made the gesture, the mayor replied: “No. You’d have to ask Mr. Jacobs.”

Garcetti added he “absolutely” did not see the gesture at the time. The mayor also said he has not discussed the photo with anyone.

“I’ve stated on the record while not knowing the context of the photo or any of the detail, how quick, how long it was there, et cetera, whether it was a gesture or not, I have stated on the record that I find, at least what was captured here, offensive, yes,” Garcetti said.

Garcetti was also asked if he heard Jacobs talk explicitly about his sex life with his boyfriend, as alleged by Garza.

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“Absolutely not,” Garcetti said. “And Amy [Wakeland] and I both knew his boyfriend, and that’s never the tone he used in what was a very caring and nice relationship. Absolutely not. That would have jumped out like a grasshopper on a blank piece of paper.”

At another point, Garcetti was asked whether he heard Jacobs make an explicit comment about wanting to have sex with another person. “No. It — not only did I not hear it, it’s completely out of character,” Garcetti said.

The mayor also said he didn’t hear Jacobs tell a joke about a man’s body part. “I would have — not only did I not laugh, I did not hear it, I did not laugh. Had I heard it, I would not have laughed, and I would have taken action.”

Garcetti’s deposition followed the depositions of several other people in the mayor’s office in the lawsuit.

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A former Garcetti aide, Henry Casas, testified that he was repeatedly hugged and given unwanted shoulder massages by Jacobs. Casas testified that it was “common knowledge” inside the mayor’s office, from the chief of staff to low-level aides, that Jacobs engaged in inappropriate behavior toward male employees.

Others, including Ana Guerrero, who has served as the mayor’s chief of staff since 2013, said she didn’t see Jacobs act in a sexually inappropriate way.

Two men told The Times last year they were inappropriately touched by Jacobs.

Garcetti was also asked about allegations made by journalist Yashar Ali, who accused Jacobs of giving him unwanted kisses on the lips and, in one story, quoted several anonymous sources who accused Jacobs of bullying and harassing behavior.

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Ali reported that Garcetti told an advisor, “I can’t believe Rick worked at City Hall for three years and we didn’t get sued,” according to the anonymous advisor’s account.

In his deposition, the mayor was asked if he made comments to that effect. The mayor denied making such remarks.

Asked about the mayor’s deposition, attorney Smith said: “My client, Officer Garza, was disappointed with the tone and content of the mayor’s testimony. In the end the truth will come out.”

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Garcetti said in his deposition that he met Jacobs in 2003 or 2004 when Jacobs was working on former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s campaign for president. He said that Jacobs has been a good friend but that he has not interacted socially or professionally with him since October.

The mayor said he called Jacobs that month to end their working relationship, telling him, “I thought it was important that given everything that was accused — that he was accused of, for his rights, for the rights of the accuser, for everything else that was happening, an independent investigation — it was best for us not to be working together, for both him, for me, and for everybody involved.”


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