By Michele Hanisee
Father’s Day is traditionally a time for celebrating the bond between fathers and their children. However, for some fathers, this occasion is a painful reminder of the tragic loss they have experienced due to counterfeit drugs. These grieving fathers are now stepping forward, breaking their silence, and demanding justice for their children who unwittingly consumed lethal substances disguised as harmless medications like Valium, Oxycodone, or Xanax. This Father’s Day weekend, their stories resonate as a stark warning about the grave consequences of the counterfeit drug epidemic.
Over 100,000 Americans died last year due to overdoses, and in many of these cases, fentanyl was the poisonous ingredient that led to their death. Fentanyl poisoning has become the #1 killer of adults aged 18-45 in the United States, surpassing car accidents and suicides.
Fentanyl is often consumed unknowingly, as it is mixed in with other drugs, or disguised as less dangerous prescription drugs. People think they were taking Adderall, Percocet, Xanax, or some other prescription drug and get poison instead. Life-threatening effects can occur in as little as two minutes, and it only takes a hundred-thousandths of an ounce (0.00007) which is an amount less than a tip of a pencil, to kill somebody.
Sadly, our state legislature and Attorney General, Rob Bonta, have failed to take action to address this public health and public safety crisis.
On Friday, I joined with fathers of fentanyl victims at a press conference in front of the Los Angeles offices of the Attorney General. These courageous fathers are no longer willing to remain silent. They stood in front of the Attorney General’s office and told heartbreaking stories of finding their teenage and young adult children dead in their bedrooms from fentanyl overdoses. They are urging Attorney General Bonta to put pressure on our legislators in Sacramento to take action. And the action they are seeking is so minimal, it is difficult to understand why any person with common sense would not support the legislation.
Alexandra’s law is named for the beautiful daughter of Matt Capuletto, who died of a fentanyl overdose after ingesting what she thought was a prescription drug. Alexandra’s law would require that when a person is convicted of selling fentanyl they be admonished that if they sell this lethal drug again in the future, and a person dies as a result of ingesting the fentanyl they sold, that they could potentially be charged with murder.
That is all these fathers were asking for. A warning. Yet our legislature has refused to enact this simple, and commonsense requirement.
On this Father’s Day, as families come together to celebrate the role of fathers, it is essential to remember those fathers who have been robbed of the opportunity to watch their children grow and thrive. By speaking out and demanding action from Attorney General Rob Bonta, these grieving fathers honor their children’s memory and strive to prevent others from suffering the same fate. Their heartfelt stories serve as a somber reminder that the fight against counterfeit drugs is a battle for justice and the protection of our loved ones.
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.
Below is a letter sent Tuesday by John Rees, executive director of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys to Tim Pescatello, senior manager of the Los Angeles County’s Employee Relations Division. The letter sets forth an inquiry concerning Joseph Iniguez, District Attorney George Gascón’s controversial chief of staff. Iniguez ran for district attorney in 2020, then pulled out of the race, endorsing Gascón. Many have questioned his fitness for his position. Iniguez was arrested on Dec, 11, 2021, by a Pocatello Azusa police officer and booked on suspicion of public intoxication, but the Office of Attorney General, to which the case was referred, dawdled in its investigation and the one-year period within which charges could be filed expired.
This letter serves as a request for you to confirm or deny a disturbing rumor that is gaining currency in the District Attorney’s Office (Office).
Under normal circumstances, attempts at “rumor control” between this Association and the Office would be quickly and effectively accomplished by a mere phone call, text, or email. However, the word “normal” cannot be applied to this Administration. For as you know, given the District Attorney’s extreme anti-union animus, it is all but impossible for ADDA to communicate with this Administration at all, let alone quickly or effectively. While the rumor in question may seem both wild and half-baked, we are duty bound to confirm or debunk it for the benefit of the entire Office.
Accordingly, through other than official channels, we are given to understand that the District Attorney intends to promote—at least on a short-term basis—a completely unqualified political appointee on his Unclassified Staff to the highly responsible permanent Civil Service management classification of Grade V Deputy District Attorney (DDA). Reportedly, that individual is his unclassified Chief of Staff, one Joseph Iniguez.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Mr. Iniguez is a modest little man with much to be modest about. Reportedly, prior to his meteoric rise to the top as Acting Chief Deputy (ACD) in the Unclassified Service, Mr. Iniguez was a Grade II DDA. Reportedly, prior to his assentation to the ACD position, Mr. Iniguez had amassed a less-than-stellar Office record of having prosecuted a mere four felony cases—two of which he supposedly lost. While at some point he became a Grade III DDA, to the best of our knowledge, information, and belief, Mr. Iniguez has never been promoted to the level of Grade IV DDA.
(NOTE: given that Mr. Gascon has admitted that he, himself, has never tried any cases, this could mean that three of the top four Office executives in the largest prosecutorial agency in the nation may have collectively tried a grand total of four cases.)
Why, you may ask, would Mr. Iniguez—who receives a princely compensation package in excess of $406,000 per year—be interested in taking a pay cut occasioned by being placed in a Grade V DDA position? The answer may involve a sinister and a twisted scheme.
To begin with, Mr. Gascon will not be the District Attorney forever. When that occurs, the successor Department Head is highly likely to replace Mr. Iniguez with someone who is considerably more qualified and capable. This means that Mr. Iniguez may have to demote to his last Civil Service rank (e.g., Grade III DDA). However, by placing him on a Grade V DDA position on a short to very short-term basis, Mr. Iniguez may claim that he is entitled to be returned to his highest Civil Service classification (e.g., Grade V DDA). Additionally, by being placed in a Grade V DDA position following Mr. Gascon’s departure, Mr. Iniguez could avoid having to serve as a Grade III DDA under other attorneys that he may have stepped on while serving in the Unclassified Service.
As you know, the position of Grade V DDA is a very important Civil Service management classification that only the most experienced and most capable Grade IV DDAs attain. Under any circumstances, it is difficult to imagine that Mr. Iniguez has meaningfully added to his otherwise unspectacular prosecutorial record.
If any of the forgoing is correct, then for the County to knowingly permit anyone so manifestly unsuited to be appointed to such a critical managerial position would be a travesty to the merit-based Civil Service system as well as to the very underpinnings of good government.
Tim, it is hoped that what we have heard and what has been related to you is merely an unfounded rumor. As always, if you have any questions in this regard, please contact me at your earliest convenience. That said, your prompt attention to this matter will be greatly appreciated.
Prosecutors Union Seeks Meeting to Discuss Gascón
Rees on Tuesday sent a separate letter to Pescatello saying:
The purpose of the letter is to briefly highlight our ongoing concerns with management of the District Attorney’s Office (Office) and to request to meet with you.
Policy changes and the management practices have resulted in numerous situations that have recently escalated to create working conditions that negatively impact service to the public and threaten the mission of the Office. We look forward to sharing information/data that may sort out the underlying issues and substantiate the hostile working environment by work unit that our members continue to experience.
Accordingly, below you will find a partial summary our ongoing concerns:
1. Since 2020, vacancy rates have increased in all levels of Deputy District Attorneys (DDA) in the Office.
2. Coinciding with staff vacancy rates, caseloads for all levels of classification have increased to unmanageable levels creating a backlog of cases and a resulting inability to meet the statutory prosecution deadlines.
3. Since 2020, retention of talented DDAs has become an issue with more DDAs leaving service by moving to other County positions, to other counties, and generally leaving County service in advance of actual retirement age than previously.
4. Recruitment has not produced enough candidates to fill Grade I DDA vacancies.<
5. Since 2020, the applicant pool for all DDA positions is historically low because of the reputation and policy direction of the current Administration.
6. Working conditions and salaries are no longer comparable to other County positions at the same grade level due to the policy changes that impact both workload and staffing.
7. Punitive transfers and reassignment of the most experienced and more senior DDAs to positions of lesser responsibility and into areas outside of their technical expertise has further created a hostile and toxic environment that is clearly a violation of the County’s Policy of Equity. More senior DDA’s are threatened with reassignment and increased commutes for any shared policy concerns that they may have expressed.
8. This Administration fails to engage in good faith interactive processes to address medical accommodations of more senior employees relying instead on transfers and reassignments to chill any discussions.
At the meeting, we will need to discuss data exchanges, sources of information and agree to an informational exchange process that directly deals with each of the above concerns. In addition, there may be a need to investigate different aspects of each allegation to find the root cause of the hostile work environment given that varying degrees of mismanagement may exist by work unit.
We look forward to scheduling a meeting in the very near future. Thank you in advance for your prompt reply.
By Eric W. Siddall
For as long as he’s been our governor, Gavin Newsom has advocated for stronger gun laws. On the national level, he has condemned lax enforcement in Florida, Texas, and Missouri, where gun laws are far less stringent than in California. On the state level, he has passed regulations to combat gun violence.
Every prosecutor would agree that gun violence is an American epidemic. We see it, up close and personal, almost every day. And we fervently believe, like the governor, that policymakers and prosecutors should do everything they can to hold people accountable when they use guns to victimize their fellow Californians.
Tragically, some elected prosecutors like George Gascón (Los Angeles) and Pamela Price (Alameda) don’t agree. Every day, they refuse to file firearms-related sentencing enhancements in cases in which a defendant uses a gun while committing a crime.
Their “so what, who cares?” approach to gun violence undermines every Californian’s common sense desire: to treat those who use guns to terrorize and kill their neighbors more harshly than those who don’t.
Governor Newsom has the opportunity to approach this de facto abolition of California gun laws with the same passion he exhibits at the state and national level.
He is right to slam gun policies in other states like Florida or Texas. But the undermining of our state gun laws by some local prosecutors is much more subtle – yet just as destructive. And Newsom should know, better than most, that getting guns out of the hands of criminals is both the right thing to do, and it’s what Californians want.
California has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, but those laws don’t matter if the people charged with enforcing them don’t care enough to use them.
We implore the governor to use his platform to make California a safer place to live, by pushing California’s elected District Attorneys to enforce our gun laws. His leadership on this issue would go a long way toward improving the lives and communities of the Californians who elected him.
Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.