A veteran prosecutor is suing Los Angeles County, alleging he has been defamed, denied promotions and had his fitness to practice law questioned because he has been an outspoken critic of District Attorney George Gascón’s reform directives.
Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami‘s lawsuit alleges retaliation, race discrimination, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
A representative for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined Tuesday to comment on the complaint filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court by Hatami, who is the prosecutor in the case of Jose Cuatro and Maria Juarez, a Palmdale couple charged with murder and torture in the death of their 4-year-old son, Noah.
Hatami was one of two prosecutors in the trial of Isauro Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez, who were sentenced to death and life in prison without parole, respectively, for her 8-year-old son Gabriel‘s death. Hatami also was the prosecutor in the trial of Renoir Valenti, the Lancaster youth soccer coach convicted of molesting 14 boys and sentence to 130 years to life in prison.
When Gascón was sworn in last December, he promised to stop enforcing California’s three-strikes law, end use of the death penalty and create a review board to hold law enforcement officials more accountable. As Hatami has continued to be critical of Gascón’s changes, the alleged hostile work and retaliation toward him has continued, according to his court papers.
“Gascón has deliberately denied assigning (Hatami) to complex child abuse and murder cases within his jurisdiction as punishment for not going along with his directives,” the suit alleges. “This in turn impacts (Hatami’s) work and ability to prove himself for desired promotions.”
In August, Gascón promoted 15 deputy district attorneys from grade 3 to grade 4, but excluded Hatami, who was due for the elevation due to his “perfect work records, highly positive performance evaluations and numerous high-profile cases and trials,” according to the complaint.
Gascón said during an interview last Oct. 27 with Crime Story, “Some people will be unhappy and … either become internal terrorists or they’ll leave. And I know certainly how to deal with both,” the suit states. The “racially infused” comment was directed at Hatami, who is part Iranian and whose father is Muslim, the plaintiff alleges.