Top aide to Los Angeles D.A. George Gascón arrested on suspicion of public intoxication
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s chief of staff was arrested by Azusa police on suspicion of public intoxication this month, authorities said Tuesday.
Joseph Iniguez, 36, was arrested during a traffic stop about 11:35 p.m. on Dec. 11 in the 900 block of East Alosta Avenue, according to a statement released by the Azusa Police Department on Tuesday afternoon.
L.A. County jail records show Iniguez was released early the following morning. The grounds for the release, according to the records, cited a section of the state’s penal code that allows an officer to release a suspect if they were “arrested for intoxication only, and no further proceedings are desirable.”
Iniguez’s case was referred to the district attorney’s office to determine whether criminal charges should be filed, according to the police department’s statement. Given the apparent conflict of interest created by Iniguez’s position in the D.A.'s office, the case likely will be redirected to the California attorney general’s office.
In an interview Tuesday morning, Iniguez said he and his fiancé were driving home from a wedding and had stopped at a drive-through restaurant in Azusa when they were approached by police. The stop was initiated because of a traffic violation on a city street, according to Azusa Police Lt. Rocky Wenrick.
Iniguez said officers suggested his fiancé was driving drunk and ordered the fiancé out of the car. Out of concern for his fiancé's well-being, Iniguez said he stepped out of the vehicle to film the interaction with police.
“I decided to get out of the car, stand near the car, on the passenger side, and I began to record,” Iniguez said, adding that he was concerned because he did not believe Azusa police employ dashboard or body-worn cameras. “I wanted to record to preserve whatever was going to happen between that officer and my fiancé, because he was not DUI.”
Iniguez said he was never ordered to get back into the vehicle, but was ultimately arrested for public intoxication. He said his fiancé was briefly handcuffed and detained, but not arrested. Wenrick confirmed Iniguez’s fiance was released at the scene.
Iniguez alleged officers arrested him as punishment for filming the encounter, but offered no information to support the claim. He did not immediately provide The Times a copy of the video he made during the traffic stop.
Iniguez said he has filed an internal affairs complaint against the officer who arrested him. Wenrick, the Azusa police spokesman, declined to comment on Iniguez’s allegations.
As of Tuesday evening, Wenrick said police were unaware of any video footage of the incident besides what Iniguez shot on his phone. Azusa police officers are not currently equipped with body-worn cameras and the department has not seen any footage recorded by Iniguez.
Alex Bastian, a special advisor to Gascón, said the office was aware of the incident.
“The district attorney has the utmost confidence in Joseph,” Bastian said. “It’s a personnel matter so we can’t get into the specifics at this time.”
A former defense attorney and high school teacher, Iniguez was a young deputy prosecutor who made a name for himself when he launched a long-shot bid to unseat former Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey in 2019.
Iniguez — an LGBTQ candidate who was critical of Lacey’s treatment of defendants of color — eventually dropped out and joined Gascón’s campaign last year.
After Gascón’s victory, Iniguez was elevated to serve as the office’s interim chief deputy prosecutor, effectively making him the second-in-command of the largest prosecutor’s office in the U.S. It was a decision that drew the ire of some longtime deputy district attorneys. Gascón recently called on his former chief deputy in San Francisco, Sharon Woo, to take over that post, and Iniguez moved into the chief of staff role.
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