Los Angeles criminal defense attorney James Crawford was attacked on March 9th while inside a courthouse preparing for hearings. In fact, attorney Crawford describes an attack carried out by an investigator for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Photos after the assault and battery show Crawford with a large, swollen red and black area under his eye, other bruising on his face, and a collared shirt splattered with blood.

Crawford is a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles with a focus on white-collar crime, DUI and DWI offenses, federal crime, and domestic violence. He described his interaction with the DA’s investigator as one-sided and catching him completely by surprise. According to Crawford, he approached a witness to advise the witness of his rights. A DA investigator in charge of the witness interfered with Crawford’s communication, and the exchange escalated. Then, when Crawford noted the allegations of misconduct arising from the county’s jailhouse informant program, the investigator rushed towards Crawford and began to punch him repeatedly in the head and face. Multiple Santa Ana police officers eventually pulled the investigator off of Crawford. The investigator is currently on leave as a result of the incident.

The president of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Matthew Guerrero, has called for a “thorough, independent” investigation into what occurred, including the disclosure of any records, video, or other documents related to the incident.

While the District Attorney’s Office has not released an alternative version of events, Guerrero is currently criticizing law enforcement for its non-communicative reaction, describing it as “circling the wagons.” President of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, Tom Dominguez, has called for calm as the incident is investigated, and is arguing that defense attorney Crawford may be simply trying to “drum up a payday.”

A conviction for simple misdemeanor assault could result in up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, while misdemeanor battery has the same maximum jail sentence but a maximum $2,000 fine. In addition, a conviction would almost certainly result in the investigator losing his job and no longer being eligible for a position in a law enforcement agency. Nonetheless, the outcome of the fracas involves a number of open questions, including whether there is sufficient public trust in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to have final say over whether to prosecute a member of their own office. Any decision not to prosecute will be described as a result of an inherent conflict of interest. It is for this reason, among others, that some, including Northeastern University law professor Daniel Medwed, argue that the DA’s Office may need to be subjected to federal oversight.

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