An Orange County defense attorney suffered a bloodied face and fractured nose after a brawl with a district attorney’s investigator in a courthouse hallway, his lawyer said. James Crawford was speaking with a witness in the courthouse Wednesday morning when an investigator asked him who he was and called defense lawyers sleazy, said Jerry Steering, Crawford’s attorney.
The men traded insults and the investigator threw a metal document clip at Crawford, which he threw back, Steering said. The investigator then grabbed Crawford, slammed his head into a bench and began punching him, Steering said Crawford did not strike back. The Orange County District Attorney’s office declined comment. The county sheriff’s department is investigating the incident, which was reported Friday by the Orange County Register.
Paul S. Meyer, an attorney for the investigator, told the newspaper that Crawford’s account was not accurate. “There are two sides to every story and that is certainly true here,” Meyer said. The state attorney general’s office will review the incident, which has stoked outrage among many defense attorneys. “It is an affront to the criminal justice system and to the citizens of Orange County that this DA would allow this to happen on his watch and stay completely silent,” Jacqueline Goodman, an executive committee member of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, said in a statement.
The fight comes amid a simmering scandal in the county over the Orange County district attorney’s use of jailhouse informants and handling of related evidence. Crawford recently won a new trial for a suspect in the 1998 murder of a pregnant woman over the allegations. The Justice Department is reviewing requests for a federal investigation into the county’s justice system, Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, told the newspaper.