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Husband of Seal Beach massacre victim claims O.C. district attorney defamed him

O.C. District Atty.
O.C. District Atty. Todd Spitzer has been named in a claim seeking $250,000 in damages.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A man whose wife was killed in the deadliest shooting in Orange County history has filed a defamation claim against District Atty. Todd Spitzer and his spokeswoman Kimberly Edds.

Paul Wilson is seeking $250,000 from the county for “defamation and slanderous accusations ... that were given to the press and released to the public.”

The information released to the public was an Aug. 12 press release from Edds that was in response to a rally held outside of the district attorney’s office building. Wilson gathered with other families of victims of the Seal Beach massacre in criticism of Spitzer.

Wilson said he held the rally in response to a video from December 2019 that had surfaced showing Spitzer praising two prosecutors at a retirement party even though they were part of an illegal jailhouse snitch scandal. Because of the scandal, Scott Dekraai, the man who killed Wilson’s wife and seven others, was spared the death penalty.

“We can’t explain Mr. Wilson’s behavior or why he’s become best friends with the attorney who defended his wife’s killer,” the press release reads.

“The prosecutors in Orange County’s worst mass murder committed prosecutorial misconduct and prevented the victims’ families from having the killer sentenced to death,” the release says. “Mr. Wilson has every right to be upset about that. But that frustration has morphed into an unrelenting scorched earth campaign against the Orange County district attorney’s office and demands to fire people who have already left the office or were never even involved in that prosecution.”

Reactions are mixed to District Atty. Todd Spitzer’s Feb. 10 announcement of guiding principles to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

The press release references Wilson’s friendship with Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders.

Wilson became friends with Sanders after he discovered the illegal use of jailhouse informants. Sanders was counsel for Dekraai in the case.

“Mr. Wilson and the man who defended his wife’s killer have not been shy about their campaign to turn Orange County into the next San Francisco by putting the rights of criminals over the rights of victims and replacing prosecutors with anti-incarceration advocates,” the press release says.

Wilson said the claims in the press release are not true.

“Every newspaper, every media that was there [at the rally] was told this is about Todd Spitzer’s video and his flip-flopping on the Dekraai case and the attorneys,” Wilson said. "... Come on, they didn’t have to go out and make a press release against that ... You can’t write that stuff about me. None of that’s true. Not one word of that’s true.”

Edds responded to Wilson’s claim by email earlier this week.

“When you make yourself a self-appointed public figure and continually involve yourself in political discussions, you make yourself fair game for anyone to have an opinion about you,” Edds said. “There is no doubt that Paul Wilson has appointed himself a public figure and he stands shoulder to shoulder with an assistant public defender and his progressive ideas. Paul Wilson put himself in the political arena and anyone is free to express their opinions about what he says or does.”

The press release also claims that Sanders wants to run for district attorney.

“No one in the DA’s office had any reason to believe I was running for DA,” Sanders said Thursday. “All of it including my supposed agenda was completely made up. I asked them for evidence and suddenly cat’s got their tongue. It was all completely fabricated in order to convince people we aren’t really fighting for what we believe in and instead have ulterior motives. Of course, this type of behavior doesn’t exactly square with an office that issues a press release every few days trumpeting its commitment to truth and integrity.”

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