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O.C. public defenders want Spitzer’s office recused from case in which he is an alleged victim

A courtroom gavel.
Prosecutors accused a senior civil engineer for the county, Danny Bruce Richards, 60, of Costa Mesa, of threatening to harm one of the supervisors at his workplace and Spitzer via email, text and video on or about July 14, according to a complaint filed six days later that was then amended on Aug. 5
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Orange County public defenders filed a motion Thursday arguing a conflict of interest prevents the office of Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer from fairly prosecuting a case alleging threats against a public official in which he is named as one of two victims.

Prosecutors accused a senior civil engineer for the county, Danny Bruce Richards, 60, of Costa Mesa, of threatening to harm one of the supervisors at his workplace and Spitzer via email, text and video on or about July 14, according to a complaint filed six days later that was amended on Aug. 5.

Officials with the D.A.'s office declined to go into detail Friday regarding those alleged threats.

In the motion filed earlier in the week, the public defenders representing Richards suggested he might not receive a fair trial because the head of the agency prosecuting him is also a key witness and victim in the case. They claimed that “the objectivity of the entire Orange County district attorney’s office is at issue.”

“The elected cannot both fairly administer justice objectively while simultaneously balancing his interest as an alleged victim,” public defenders wrote in their motion.

However, Orange County prosecutors notified the California attorney general’s office shortly after the case was filed, D.A. officials said Friday. The state’s lawyers reviewed the matter and did not find any issues that would cause them to take over for the local authorities, provided Spitzer has no contact with the lawyers handling it.

Representatives for the public defender’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors will meet on Oct. 12 to discuss the motion filed Thursday at the Santa Ana Superior Courthouse. A preliminary hearing is tentatively set for Oct. 17.

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