DA Tony Rackauckas Battles Cops In Court & Opens Second Front Against News Media

rackauckaspoolfight.jpg
Media pool photography by The Orange County Register
DA Tony Rackauckas during Monday's opening statements
Tony Rackauckas' Orange County District Attorney's office didn't just battle two feisty defense lawyers yesterday during opening statements in a case against two former Fullerton cops accused of wrongly beating a homeless man to death in 2011.

Behind the scenes, Rackauckas' office clashed with The Radio & Television News Association of Southern California (RTNA) over prosecutors wanting copies of the courtroom recordings a KCBS/KCAL cameraman made of opening statements for members of the media pool covering what is being called the Kelly Thomas murder trial.

During the lunch break, KFI-AM 640 news reporter Steve Gregory, an RTNA board member, saw someone he didn't recognize downloading media pool copies of opening statements by Rackauckas as well as John Barnett, who represents one of the accused ex-Fullerton cops.

Chris Kim identified himself as an assistant in the DA's media office.

"You must be a bonafide member of the media pool [to get access to the broadcast news feed]," Gregory told the Weekly later.

Gregory, who said he was acting in his RTNA role and not as a KFI employee, ordered Kim to stop.

"The DA isn't permitted to plug into our media feed," Gregory said. "That starts to blur the lines between media organizations and a government law enforcement agency. The feed is proprietary to us, the media. It's a big no-no for them to try taking the media feed."

Gregory's stance prompted the ire of unamused DA Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder, who stated she had hoped to put opening statements by Rackauckas as well as the two defense lawyers online for the public to see.

In a meeting held without a news organization representative present inside Orange County Superior Court Judge William R. Froeberg's chambers, Rackauckas informed the judge about the dispute.

Froeberg, who'd previously granted media pool requests to film opening statements, closing statements, verdict and sentencing, then ordered both the TV pool cameraman and the print pool cameraman from The Orange County Register out of the courtroom before Michael Schwartz, who represents accused ex-cop Manuel Ramos, gave his opening.

The dispute resulted in near universal frustration and Schroeder is ready to blame.

"It's Steve Gregory's fault," she said. "Steve Gregory screwed everyone with this stunt. It's bizarre. The broadcast news feed should be public. It's a recording of what happens in a public courtroom."

Rick Terrell, executive director at RTNA, views the DA's move as "just despicable" and "bullying."

Terrell said he's never seen a similar contest.

"The judge has no right to argue that the media has to cooperate with a DA or defense lawyers by giving them copies [of the pool feed]," he said.

Schroeder called the RTNA position "crap" and "petty."

"It's pretty ridiculous that they want to block the public from seeing everything that happened inside the courtroom," she said, noting that the DA's office now will likely only post Rackauckas' opening statement on its website as early as today.

Terrell says his organization is considering writing a protest letter to the DA and working with court officials to prevent future confrontations.

To great success over many years, courts have used media pools to lessen potential camera intrusion at trials.

News organizations who are selected as a media pool representative ethically must share all of their photographs, notes and video with other journalists in the pool.

Go HERE to see the Weekly's coverage of yesterday's opening statements.

Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

Email: rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @RScottMoxley.

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13 comments
tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

Just watching the video of the press conference and the first word up on the board next to Tony was Justice & second word was Truth which neither one of them belong in that cannon, they don't know what it means because the attorney's want a prosecution. And T. Rack used to be a superior court judge.

Fight for justiice the American Way

Give your life for everything you pay

Now it's too late you're entering Manaugua

If you'd have brought your surfboard you could surf Nicaragua - Sacred Riech

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"At the beginning of the day, Rackauckas--a former superior court judge and Republican activist who has a lengthy track record of defending cops in suspicious shooting cases over the years--told the jury these warped officers took what should have been a minor encounter with Thomas, who wasn't wanted for any serious crime, and unnecessarily killed him".

"Two Faced Tony Rackauckas".

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"It's pretty ridiculous that they want to block the public from seeing everything that happened inside the courtroom," she said, noting that the DA's office now will likely only post Rackauckas' opening statement on its website as early as today.

That kind of thing leads to a mistrial because the public isn't allowed access to everything.

Tony (The Weasel) Rackaukas.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"Thepolice report and the DA's complaint had all sorts of holes in it". - A public defender to me in my case (but I stiil had to pay wih anger management classes at a Catholic High School (which were a joke) for the behaviors of another person that has Alzheimers/Dementia disease. He was removed from the ambulance in a delirious state and couldn't even remember his own name. I have a copy of the redacted police report and the DA's complaint. I found out the public defender made $900,00 an hour for it, don't know how many hours he spent on it. But the taxpayers are the one's that paid him. 

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

Because the courts are corrupt and out of thier element, talking about things behind closed doors and won't let the public state thier opinions even if those opinions are factual. Meeting in the judges chambers in order to keep things silent.

David1947
David1947

Wow, leave it to Susan Kang Schroeder to cause an argument with the media to screw up the case for everyone.  If Schroeder hadn't tried to interfere with the media doing its job, the judge wouldn't have banned cameras from the courtroom; now nobody can see what's happening. 

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

The dispute resulted in near universal frustration and Schroeder is ready to blame.

"It's Steve Gregory's fault," she said. "Steve Gregory screwed everyone with this stunt. It's bizarre. The broadcast news feed should be public. It's a recording of what happens in a public courtroom."

No it is not Gregory's fault, they are and have been trying to cover up, they are trying to silence freedom of the press and free speech GUARANTEED by the Constitution. "These people are not your authority figures".

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"The citizens have a right to defend themselves from the police". - OCDA Tony Rackauckas 2011 on KFI AM 640 News Radio John & Ken Show.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

but the newspapers won't let the citizens read the paper online because they put up paywalls to make you pay for non secret news reports.

Piracy
Piracy

WTF? The DA's office was trying to steal the media's video footage?  Under Susan Kang Schroeder's line of argument, the DA should be able to steal articles written by the press about trials because they report what happened in a public courtroom.  I guess she isn't a lawyer because any lawyer worth their salt would understand the basics of American copyright law.

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

Dear DA, I know that you allowed a bunch of High School educated mafia trash to con you into convicting me of using a false name and/or DOB but please don't screw up this case OK. Thanks.And to the city or County or Country responsible for that deliberate act of reputation destruction: see you in federal court one day answering for why you are trying to cover up hate crimes up to and including attempted murder. You know as if this County were being run by racist murdering psychopaths masquerading as integrity.

Michael Moon
Michael Moon

I would not defend those two policeman for what they did. They can defend themselves - or use a public defender.

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