Los Angeles County DA chief of staff is suing Azusa police for public arrest for intoxication

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

Joseph Iniguez, 36, was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication on Dec. 11 after officers stopped a vehicle driven by his fiance shortly before midnight. A few hours before the trial was announced, Azusa police released several pages of documents in response to a request for public records filed by The Times. In the documents, an officer claimed that Iniguez had “bloodshot” eyes and blurred his speech when he allegedly interfered in the officers’ actions during the vehicle’s stopping.

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

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

“Iniguez started questioning me and giving legal advice. I informed Iniguez that I was not talking to him and I talked to the driver and tried to establish his sobriety,” the officer wrote in the report. “Iniguez continued to disrupt my traffic stop.”

The officer threatened to arrest Iniguez for public intoxication because of his admission that he had been drinking. In the end, the officer said he handcuffed the driver due to Iniguez ‘constant interference and then placed Iniguez.

“I could see that his [Iniguez] his eyes were bloodshot and watery, he had blurred speech, a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitted from his breath and person, he admitted to having consumed alcoholic beverages, and he did not listen to commands from officers, ”the report read.

Officers later determined 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, president of the Azusa Police Department. Wilkins, who said he spoke directly to the arresting officer, believed the incident would have been for little more than a traffic reference, if not for what he described as Iniguez ‘”warlike” behavior.

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

Iniguez also said he decided to film the meeting because Azusa police officers do not carry cameras and claimed the arrest was a retaliation for his decision to film the meeting. However, he has refused to publish footage of the meeting to The Times.

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

“On December 11, 2021, Mr. Iniguez was clear, calm, responsive and communicative … Mr. Iniguez was arrested for exercising his 1st Amendment rights while objectively documenting the investigation,” his attorney, Glen Jonas, wrote in an e -mail -mail to The Times.

“Mr Iniguez is driven by the moral imperative of protecting the citizens of society from abuse of authority,” Jonas continued. “His goal is to keep [Martinez] responsible and forcing APD patrol officers to wear body-worn cameras. “

Asked why Iniguez would not release the video, Jonas said the recording “will be released in due course, we will not address that in the press.”

An Azusa police spokesman said he could not comment on the case because the city had not yet been formally notified.

Iniguez had only been a prosecutor for a few years when he announced a longshot bid to oust the then Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey in 2019. After gaining some traction in the race, Iniguez dropped out and joined Gascón’s campaign team. Following Gascón’s victory, Iniguez was appointed interim deputy prosecutor, making him de facto deputy commander of the country’s largest prosecution service.

Iniguez has since been replaced in that position and now serves as chief of staff, but his rapid rise has been mocked by many longtime prosecutors who believe he lacks the necessary experience to have such a high rank in office.

Wilkins, the police union president, has also accused Iniguez of threatening to put the detainee on the district attorney’s so-called “Brady List,” which contains officers with problematic disciplinary histories whose testimonies can be challenged or charged in a lawsuit. The name is a reference to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires prosecutors to pass evidence that is favorable to a defendant, including evidence of police dishonesty.

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

Iniguez have denied commenting, and Wilkins did not immediately call back Wednesday for clarification on his claim.

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

Alex Bastian, a special adviser to Gascón, said any criminal case would be referred to the California Attorney’s Office because of the conflict of interest created by Iniguez’s employment. Iniguez’s position in the office has not been affected, Bastian said.

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