Los Angeles state chief of staff is suing Azusa police for arrest through public poisoning

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s chief of staff filed a federal lawsuit against the Azusa Police Department on Wednesday, accusing the officers of violating his civil rights when they were arrested last month.

Joseph Iniguez, 36, was arrested on December 11 on suspicion of public drunkenness after officials stopped a vehicle belonging to his fiancée just before midnight. Hours before the lawsuit was published, Azusa Police released several pages of documents in response to a request for public records submitted by the Times. In the documents, an officer alleged that Iniguez had “bloodshot” eyes and blurred his speech when he allegedly disrupted the officers’ actions during the vehicle stop.

According to a police report, officers initially stopped Iniguez’s vehicle because his driving fiancé made an illegal U-turn in a McDonald’s drive on the 900 block on East Alosta Avenue.

The arresting officer – who in the documents only as “Cpl. R. Martinez “- approached the car and said that according to the report, he smelled alcohol. He asked Iniguez’s fiancé if he had been drinking, and Iniguez replied that, according to the report, “he was the cause of the odor and had consumed several alcoholic beverages”.

“Iniguez started questioning me and giving me legal advice. I told Iniguez that I did not speak to him or the driver and tried to assess his sobriety, ”the officer wrote in the report. “Iniguez continued to disturb my traffic control.”

The officer threatened to arrest Iniguez for public drunkenness for admitting to drinking. Ultimately, the officer said he handcuffed the driver for Iniguez’s constant interference and then arrested Iniguez.

“I could see his [Iniguez] The eyes were bloodshot and watery, his speech was slurred, a strong smell of an alcoholic drink streamed from his breath and himself, he admitted to drinking alcoholic beverages and he did not listen to orders from officers, “it says in the report.

Officials later found that Iniguez’s fiancé’s blood alcohol level was below the legal limit for driving and he was released without incident, Cpl said. CJ Wilkins, the President of the Azusa Police Union. Wilkins, who said he spoke directly to the arresting officer, believed the incident would have been little more than a traffic penalty had it not been for what he described as “bellicose” behavior on the part of Iniguez.

In an interview with the Times last month, Iniguez claimed he had done nothing wrong and said the arrest was inappropriate. Under California law, to be guilty of public intoxication, a person must be so drunk that they cannot support themselves, he argued.

Iniguez also said he chose to film the encounter because Azusa police officers didn’t wear cameras, claiming the arrest was in retaliation for his decision to film the encounter. However, he has refused to release footage of the encounter to the Times.

On Wednesday, Iniguez sued the city of Azusa on charges that he had been falsely arrested.

“On December 11th, 2021, Mr. Iniguez was clear, calm, responsive, and communicative … Mr. Iniguez was arrested for exercising his 1st mail rights to the Times.

“Mr. Iniguez is driven by the moral imperative to protect the citizens of the community from the abuse of authority,” continued Jonas. “His goal is to keep [Martinez] To be accountable and to force the APD patrolmen to wear body-worn cameras. “

When asked why Iniguez would not publish the video, Jonas said the recording will be “released in due course, we will not contest this in the press”.

An Azusa police spokesman said he was unable to comment on the lawsuit because the city had not yet been officially served.

Iniguez had only been a prosecutor for a few years when he announced a sweeping offer to depose the then Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey in 2019. After Iniguez had not gained much speed in the race, he retired and joined the Gascón campaign team. After Gascón’s victory, Iniguez was appointed provisional deputy district attorney, making him the de facto deputy commander of the country’s largest public prosecutor.

Iniguez has been replaced in that position and is now Chief of Staff, but his rapid rise has drawn contempt from many longtime prosecutors who believe he lacks the experience to hold such a high position within the office.

Wilkins, the police union president, has also accused Iniguez of threatening to put the arresting officer on the district attorney’s “Brady List,” which includes officers with problematic disciplinary histories whose testimony could be challenged or challenged in a trial. The name refers to a landmark US Supreme Court decision requiring prosecutors to produce evidence favorable to a defendant, including evidence of police misconduct.

In the police report released on Wednesday, the arresting officer said Iniguez “stated he was falsely arrested, said he would see me again and called me ‘Brady'” “when he was released from custody.

Iniguez has denied making the comment and Wilkins did not immediately call Wednesday to seek clarification on his allegation.

Iniguez was released hours after his arrest, and police records show that he was arrested “only for intoxication” and no further prosecution was wanted. However, in a statement released last month, Azusa police alleged they had referred a case to the LA County Attorney’s Office.

Alex Bastian, a special adviser to Gascón, said all criminal cases would be referred to the California attorney general because of the conflict of interest created by Iniguez’s employment. Iniguez’s position in office is not affected, said Bastian.

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