Attorney General Rob Bonta’s absurd and unjust prosecution of Diana Teran – Orange County Register

Last month, the California Attorney General issued shocking felony charges against Diana Teran, head of Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon’s Justice Integrity Unit – eleven of them in total. The charging documents are thin: they allege that during her work many years ago as the policing advisor to the Sheriff, Teran downloaded files documenting officer misconduct. The A.G. seems to believe that Teran later provided that information to the District Attorney’s office so that they could comply with their constitutional duty to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, including instances of police misconduct.

Under this absurd theory, long before George Gascon even considered running for Los Angeles D.A., Teran downloaded information on officer misconduct with the sinister idea of using it years later so that defendants could get a fair trial.

Everything about this prosecution reeks, and voters should be embarrassed that Bonta filed these charges in the first place – charges that will utilize tremendous resources simply to drag a public servant’s name through the mud.

Just look to the likeliest source of the allegation—ex-Sheriff Alex Villanueva, a man who oversaw one of the most corrupt sheriff’s departments in L.A. history. Under his leadership, deputy gangs metastasized and misconduct flourished—the very type of behavior that Ms. Teran had a constitutional obligation to disclose to the defense. Rather than focus on cleaning up a department and improving conditions in the crumbling jail system, he used his platform to attack political opponents—and D.A. Gascon was his primary target. He continues this behavior today. Any charges that stem from his rants should be immediately suspect.

The A.G.’s office likewise remains incredibly secretive about the allegations. And as L.A. Times reporter Keri Blakinger pointed out, the A.G.’s handling of the case post-charge is extraordinary in the worst way. The office put out a warrant for Teran’s arrest instead of simply issuing a summons. Now she has a mugshot. And after a hearing, the court set a high bond—she ended up paying $50,000—when according to the standard bail guidelines, she should have been released on her own recognizance. Is this woman charged with downloading documents a public safety risk? Is she a flight risk? Certainly not on either count.  If this behavior by the A.G. and the court seems excessive and cruel, that’s because it is.

And then there are the allegations themselves. District attorneys have an ironclad obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense, including police misconduct. If they fail to do so, a defendant may well have his conviction overturned. Certainly, in her role in the sheriff’s department, Teran knew how much misconduct existed. If she failed to ensure defendants received it — essentially, shutting off her brain to anything she learned in that role — she would have violated the Constitution, jeopardized convictions, and harmed victims. That does not seem like an outcome the Attorney General of this state should want, but it is this behavior that the A.G. appears to be punishing.

Why would Bonta, a Democrat, pursue such absurd charges? That’s the million-dollar question. But we can make some educated guesses based on the behavior we see across the state and the ability of law enforcement unions to exert political and financial muscle. In San Francisco, the peace officers union spent at least $600,000 to launch an effort to recall then-D.A. Chesa Boudin. In 2022, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association contributed over $1 million to state races, including more than $250,000 to support Bonta’s election; and in 2020, $1.2 million.

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