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Exclusive: Los Angeles Mayor Was Warned About Sexual Harassment Allegations Against DA Candidate
Exclusive: Los Angeles Mayor Was Warned About Sexual Harassment Allegations Against DA Candidate
This summer, after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti began hinting that he might change his endorsement in the contentious LA County district attorney’s race, a former Los Angeles Police Department lieutenant emailed him with a warning: The candidate Garcetti was leaning toward had sexually harassed her years earlier when they worked together in the LAPD, she said.
The former lieutenant said she wanted Garcetti to know what the candidate, former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, had done to her before the mayor issued his formal endorsement.
In the email dated Aug. 17 and sent to Garcetti’s personal email address, the former lieutenant wrote: “I am speaking out now because the voters of Los Angeles deserve to know who George Gascon, the person, really is. I had gladly left these unpleasant memories in the past until I read his statement on allegations of sexual harassment in the LADA’s office. His statement brought back the memories of how he personally, repeatedly committed against me, the acts which he claims to condemn.”
But the former LAPD lieutenant—who served as president and was on the board of the Los Angeles Police Protective League nearly two decades ago—never got a response from Garcetti, even after forwarding her email to his chief of staff, Ana Guerrero, months later to ensure the mayor received it.
Despite Guerrero confirming receipt of the email and saying she would pass along the message, no one touched base with the former lieutenant about her allegations or sought further details, and Garcetti went ahead with his endorsement of Gascón last month.
Email exchange with the former LAPD lieutenant with Garcetti’s chief of staff Ana Guerrero.
The former lieutenant—who said she told a number of people about the alleged harassment when it happened in the early 2000s, including two people who confirmed to me that she had shared the allegations with them back then—also emailed the same warning to members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff this summer.
A full copy of the email is at the end of this story.
The incident—relayed to me by the former lieutenant, who spoke on the condition that I not identify her by name—is the latest in a growing scandal facing Garcetti over reports that, for years, he ignored allegations of sexual misconduct by his now-former top aide Rick Jacobs.
In response to questions I emailed Sunday, Garcetti’s spokesperson, Alex Comisar, said: “The email to Mayor Garcetti was sent to an unmonitored personal email account and was not seen until your inquiry today. Ana Guerrero is traveling and we are unable to meet your deadline in regards to her email.”
A few hours after I received this statement from Garcetti’s office on Sunday, I became aware that Guerrero could be reached by cellphone. I informed Comisar and asked if the office wanted to add more information to its statement.
Minutes before this story was set to publish Monday, and more than 19 hours after I texted Comisar, he sent me an email updating the mayor’s office statement: “Former LA police union leader and retired LAPD sergeant [name redacted] sent Chief of Staff Ana Guerrero an email to her city email account asking about the Mayor’s endorsement in the 2020 LA County District Attorney’s race. The email made a political request and did not make any requests of the City. We can not and do not conduct political activity using city resources.”
While Guerrero is not allowed to engage in political activities as a city employee during working hours, she is allowed to do so during non-working hours, and plenty of chiefs of staff do. It’s also worth noting that despite claiming to be apolitical, Garcetti’s office in its statement takes care to mention the role that the former lieutenant played at the LA Police Protective League. This is clearly a cynical attempt at illuminating her role there to discredit her allegations. (Note: The mayor’s office statement calls the accuser a sergeant, but she retired from the LAPD as a lieutenant.)
When the former lieutenant forwarded her original email to Guerrero to make sure it got the attention of the mayor, Guerrero agreed to make that happen. The mayor’s office has not responded to the question of whether Guerrero actually forwarded the email to Garcetti. I had also asked the mayor’s office what Garcetti could have done to take action or at least learn more about the allegations.
Monday’s email from Comisar came about just as Gascón’s office was dragging its feet on responding to questions I had sent asking for clarification on its initial statement.
That statement, sent by Gascón’s communications director, Max Szabo, requires annotation in the interest of fairness and accuracy:
"Survivors must be given a voice, and DA Gascón takes allegations of sexual harassment incredibly seriously. He holds himself and the thousands whom he has had the privilege to lead to the highest ethical and professional standards, and he denies these last-minute accusations in the strongest possible terms.”
The allegations aren’t last-minute; my story is. The former lieutenant has been telling elected California officials about this conduct for months—as early as July 1, when she emailed Schiff, according to emails I have obtained and confirmed the authenticity of.
“We urge your readers to weigh the credibility of 20-year old allegations made on the eve of an election by the former president of the police union investing $1 million dollars to defeat him.”
It’s true that the Los Angeles Police Protective League invested $1 million in support of Gascón’s opponent, incumbent LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, during the primary, but with Gascón and his accuser both veterans of the LAPD, it is not unusual that his accuser was once affiliated with the LA Police Protective League. It’s important to note, however, that there are just a handful of LAPD officers who have leadership positions in the LAPPL as the former lieutenant did. During part of the period of time the former lieutenant says Gascón was harassing her, 2003-2004, she was on the board of the league. She no longer has a leadership position or a membership in the league; in fact, the former lieutenant hasn’t been with the LAPD for years and doesn’t live in LA County anymore.
Also, addressing the age of the complaints seems to be a strange tactic for someone vying to become a prosecutor—a job that includes charging people for crimes that may have taken place years ago.
“Ultimately, this 11th hour ploy is an underhanded tactic intended to distract voters from the public documents the LA Times has sued to force Jackie Lacey to disclose. There is a culture of harassment, retaliation, and fear that has come to define Jackie Lacey’s two terms in office, and unlike these decades-old politically motivated accusations, those allegations come with receipts."
Again, there is no ploy involved here. This story is being published the day before the election because it took me time to persuade the former lieutenant and others to speak to me. She informed multiple elected officials of these allegations months ago. And as the former lieutenant notes in her email to Garcetti and others, it is Gascón’s reaction to what I agree are very credible allegations about Lacey’s office that prompted her to speak up.
Gascón served in the LAPD for more than two decades, achieving the rank of assistant chief before leaving in 2006 to become chief of the Mesa, Arizona, police department. Before becoming San Francisco’s district attorney in 2011, he was its police chief for two years.
(Personal disclosure: In 2009, I was working for then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom—who now serves as the governor of California and has endorsed Gascón in his race to replace Lacey—when Gascón was appointed chief of the San Francisco Police Department. I got to know Gascón over the next two years as I continued to work for Newsom, including when I briefly served as Newsom’s deputy chief of staff of operations in his mayoral administration.)
The controversy swirling around Garcetti over allegations that he hasn’t responded when observing or being told about sexual misconduct within city government is damaging Garcetti’s standing in national politics and could potentially harm his chances of being considered for a Cabinet position should Joe Biden win the presidential race, according to three sources who spoke to me—though today he was scheduled to campaign on behalf of Biden in Nevada.
Garcetti continues to aggressively deny that he ever witnessed Jacobs engage in any sexual misconduct. When asked last week by the LA Times if he had, he responded, “No, absolutely and categorically no.”
But more than 20 sources have told me otherwise, and Matthew Garza, Garcetti’s former LAPD bodyguard, said in a lawsuit he filed against the city this summer that Garcetti repeatedly witnessed Jacobs sexually harass and assault him. In my last story, I revealed that, according to a source, Garcetti had told an adviser in 2018 that he was surprised the city hadn’t been sued while Jacobs was his deputy chief of staff for three years. Including Garza and myself, at least four men have accused Jacobs of sexual misconduct. I revealed in my Oct. 19 story that Jacobs forcibly kissed me repeatedly over a 10-year period when we would encounter each other at political, social and charitable functions.
Jacobs has repeatedly denied that he ever engaged in any sexual misconduct.
Garcetti has since separated himself from Jacobs. He told the LA Times on Wednesday that after hearing the latest allegations, he asked Jacobs to take a leave.
“It was a mutual decision, but I did ask him to right now have us be separated from that,” Garcetti said to the Times. “I think that has to happen.”
According to the Times, Garcetti last Monday told reporters: “Given these new allegations, I reached out and [Jacobs] does not represent me, and we are not working together. He has stepped back, I understand, from all of his both political and his nonprofit work, as well. And he does not represent me.”
Allegations Against Gascón—and an Endorsement
The former lieutenant accusing Gascón of sexual misconduct spoke to me reluctantly; she had to be convinced to share her story through two intermediaries. At first, she agreed to have several conversations with me off the record, but later she granted me permission to report out her story—on the condition that she not be named.
She also let me review the emails she sent to Garcetti and his chief of staff.
In her August email to Garcetti, the former lieutenant detailed her allegations against Gascón:
“During a period of time, while I was the President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, he made several sexual advances toward me, and continually attempted to manipulate situations to attempt to start a sexual relationship. Finally, after several attempts and several ‘no's’, I began to avoid any meeting with him. I did not file a sexual harassment complaint at the time, although several people in the Department were aware of his continual sexual advances toward me. George Gascon did not only harass me; he tried to ruin my reputation by falsely telling others he had slept with me. I believe he did that as a revenge attempt to trash my reputation in the Department because I refused his sexual advances.”
The former lieutenant said in her email to Garcetti that she didn’t speak out publicly at the time ”because I was a female at a level much lower than he was and was concerned about the retaliation he could unleash on not just me, but my members. It does not mean that I did not say anything. I was very vocal to George and his friends that his behavior was intolerable.” Also, “I had no reason to bring forward his treatment of me to the general public because he left Los Angeles and the Department in the mid-2000s.”
But with Gascón’s return to Los Angeles, his entrance into the LA County district attorney’s race and recent comments he made about not tolerating sexual harassment, the former lieutenant said she couldn’t sit quiet any longer while Gascón “pretends to condemn behavior that he has repeatedly engaged in.”
“I was angry at the utter hypocrisy of that statement,” she wrote to Garcetti.
“If the District Attorney isn’t protecting victims of sexual harassment in her own office, it highlights her inability to protect victims in the broader community,” Gascón said in the Feb. 24 statement. “This is not an isolated incident, at least 15 people have been terrorized by a widespread culture that burries [sic] sexual harassment by retaliating against the victim. No one should have to work in fear, and this failure falls directly on management.”
In the four years I’ve spent reporting about sexual misconduct, something I’ve learned is that when an alleged perpetrator of sexual assault or harassment denies that they engaged in such behavior or displays what some consider hypocrisy, it can often prompt people who have been silent about an incident to come forward. The email the former LAPD lieutenant sent to Garcetti is reminiscent of the letter Christine Blasey Ford sent California Sen. Dianne Feinstein after Brett Kavanaugh was named a Supreme Court nominee.
When the former lieutenant heard that Garcetti was considering pulling his endorsement of Lacey and instead backing Gascón in the district attorney’s race, she felt she needed to act.
“George Gascon, like many other men placed in a position of power, abused that position to try to obtain personal sexual gratification. He needs to own up to his misconduct,” the former lieutenant wrote to Garcetti in August. “I am writing to you because I believe you need to know the truth about the man you have endorsed. People have asked me to come forward publicly, however, I don't believe my one statement alone would influence his campaign, however, I do believe there are several others out there. I have a pretty nice, quiet life at this point and really don't want any attention, however, you really need to know the man you are allowing to be associated with your reputation.”
According to the former lieutenant, Garcetti never replied to her email. The email address she sent her letter to is one I have always identified as the mayor’s personal email address and was confirmed by three other sources. After she didn't receive a reply, the former lieutenant forwarded the original email to Guerrero on Oct. 4, a Sunday, with a simple note: “I sent this to the Mayor in August, and never heard back. Before he endorses George he should think about this. There are others as well.”
That night, Garcetti tweeted his formal endorsement of Gascón: “I’m proud to endorse @GeorgeGascon for L.A. District Attorney.”
The next day, Oct. 5, Guerrero responded to the former lieutenant’s email, telling her: “I will forward your email to the appropriate address.”
The former lieutenant said she still hasn’t received a response from the mayor.
In addition to a high-ranking LA city attorney confirming to me that the former lieutenant told her about Gascón’s alleged harassment around the time it was taking place, I also spoke to a prominent Los Angeles-based communications consultant who said the same.
The consultant told me that while at a party where Gascón was in attendance, the former lieutenant asked him to help her avoid any situations where she would be alone with Gascón. The former lieutenant wasn’t worried that Gascón would assault her, the consultant said; rather, she wanted to avoid a situation where Gascón might pressure her or make her feel uncomfortable.
A second woman—a former LAPD detective—told me that Gascón made an advance on her when they were working together in the mid-’90s.
In interviews with me, the women, who are both retired and have no connection to each other, decried the boys club atmosphere of the LAPD that they said allowed the alleged misconduct to thrive.
The former LAPD detective said that Gascón told her, “You and me can have great sex.”
“I thought, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’” the former detective told me in an interview.
She said she told Gascón that she had a boyfriend (she didn’t) as a way to change the subject. “I didn’t want to burn any bridges,” she said. The former detective told me that Gascón was known to have friends who worked in position control—the department in the LAPD that would determine if she could be reassigned to another division within the police department, which she wanted to do.
The former detective said that while Gascón had always been friendly to her in the past, his demeanor changed after she made it clear she wasn’t interested in sleeping with him.
“It was clear he was pissed off at me,” she said.
The DA’s Race
In a year when George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer sparked protests across the country and led elected officials to be forced to deal with systemic racism within politics and law enforcement, Lacey’s reputation as a DA who isn’t tough on members of law enforcement who break the law has led to a flood of support for Gascón. Lacey is the first Black woman to serve as LA County district attorney, but her critics include many prominent and powerful Black politicians and activists, including members of Black Lives Matter. Critics argue that she doesn’t prosecute law enforcement officials for unlawful killings or misconduct, though Lacey has said she can’t prosecute cases that she can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lacey’s husband has also complicated her bid for reelection. On March 2, David Allan Lacey pointed a gun at unarmed Black Lives Matter protesters who were outside the Lacey home. Later that day, Lacey apologized for her husband’s conduct. Since then, her husband has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of assault with a firearm by California state prosecutors. He pleaded not guilty to those charges in early October.
Lacey told reporters she received a text from Garcetti the evening of Oct. 3 after she participated in a heated campaign debate with Gascón. Garcetti, according to Lacey, told her he was switching his endorsement based on 20 years of friendship with Gascón.
Garcetti wasn’t the only one to pull his support. Lacey has lost more than a few top endorsers, including members of Congress like Schiff and Rep. Ted Lieu and the speaker of the California Assembly, Anthony Rendon.
In the March 3 primary, Lacey earned 48.7% of the vote while Gascón received 28.2%, leading to this week’s runoff election. The last time an incumbent LA district attorney lost to a challenger was in 2000, when Garcetti’s father, Gil Garcetti, lost to Steve Cooley, who was Lacey’s mentor and served as LA district attorney until 2012.
Lacey has the endorsement of a slew of law enforcement unions and associations, Sen. Feinstein, a handful of members of Congress, four members of the LA Board of Supervisors, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and, most notably, the first Black woman to serve as mayor of San Francisco, London Breed. In a scathing op-ed in the Los Angeles Sentinel, Breed wrote “Gascon is Always Looking Out for Gascon.”
Gascón has endorsements from the LA Times; many non-law enforcement labor unions; elected officials including Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders; and a slew of big-name celebrities.
Below is the full email that the former lieutenant sent to Schiff on July 1. She sent the exact same email, with different introductions, to Garcetti, Guerrero and several members of the LA County Board of Supervisors. I have reviewed and confirmed all emails. Only one official, a member of the Board of Supervisors, responded and noted to the former lieutenant that she would be voting for Lacey.
From: [Name and Email Redacted]
Sent: Wednesday, July 1, 2020 10:42 AM
To: Adam Schiff [Email redacted]
Subject: Endorsement of George Gascon for Los Angeles County District Attorney
Dear Congressman Schiff;
First, I want to thank you for your service. Your conduct and example during such a difficult time has been nothing short of spectacular, and I will be forever thankful that you stood up against so many people that are concerned with themselves and their power, rather than what's good for the American people.
I am writing to you because of your endorsement of George Gascon for Los Angeles District Attorney's Office in the hope that you would reconsider. I worked with George for many years at the Los Angeles Police Department, and, for a time was a golfing partner. I was an avid supporter of his for the position of Chief of Police, which in hindsight, I was happy he wasn't selected.
I am speaking out now because the voters of Los Angeles deserve to know who George Gascon, the person, really is. I had gladly left these unpleasant memories in the past until I read his statement on allegations of sexual harassment in the LADA's office. His statement brought back the memories of how he personally, repeatedly committed against me, the acts which he claims to condemn.
When George said in a statement that "nobody should have to work in fear 'of successful harassment, and failure to stop harassment falls on "management, " I was angry at the utter hypocrisy of that statement—he was "management" and he had a sense of entitlement based upon his position in the Department. During a period of time, while I was the President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, he made several sexual advances toward me, and continually attempted to manipulate situations to attempt to start a sexual relationship. Finally, after several attempts and several "no's", I began to avoid any meeting with him. I did not file a sexual harassment complaint at the time, although several people in the Department were aware of his continual sexual advances toward me. George Gascon did not only harass me; he tried to ruin my reputation by falsely telling others he had slept with me. I believe he did that as a revenge attempt to trash my reputation in the Department because I refused his sexual advances.
I was proud, in 2000, to be the first woman to serve as President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. I did not speak out then because I was a female at a level much lower than he was and was concerned about the retaliation he could unleash on not just me, but my members. It does not mean that I did not say anything. I was very vocal to George and his friends that his behavior was intolerable.
I had no reason to bring forward his treatment of me to the general public because he left Los Angeles and the Department in the mid-2000s. However, with his return to Los Angeles and his false claims on his campaign website and his statement about sexual harassment, I decided not to sit quietly by while he pretends to condemn behavior that he has repeatedly engaged in.
I am not looking to benefit from this personally. However, the people of Los Angeles County need to know the truth about George Gascon, not the image he is currently trying to manufacture regarding sexual harassment claims in the workplace.
George Gascon, like many other men placed in a position of power, abused that position to try to obtain personal sexual gratification. He needs to own up to his misconduct.
I am writing to you because I believe you need to know the truth about the man you have endorsed. People have asked me to come forward publicly, however, I don't believe my one statement alone would influence his campaign, however, I do believe there are several others out there. I have a pretty nice, quiet life at this point and really don't want any attention, however, you really need to know the man you are allowing to be associated with your reputation.
Thank you for your time and reading this letter.