@THE GUSS REPORT-In a Van Nuys court room on Friday, the illegal gun possession charge hastily filed by LA City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office against City Hall critic Wayne Spindler (photo above) died a death as curious as its life.
The gun charge started out earlier this year with the threat of a felony, but LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey refused to prosecute it. Feuer subsequently attempted to prosecute it as a misdemeanor, but Spindler turned down the plea offer from veteran Deputy City Attorney Eugene Hall, Jr., who then downgraded the charge to just an infraction, not for a gun charge, but for illegal possession of too-large gun magazine clips. As the City’s case against Spindler crumbled, Hall Jr. left a series of voicemail messages for Spindler including one from last week in which he said, “we are prepared to give you pretty much everything you want.”
But Spindler didn’t bite at the City’s further reduced offer.
During plea negotiations, Spindler says that Hall, Jr. failed to disclose, but that he learned from an LAPD detective to whom he was trying to turn in those clips, there was a recent injunction against the ban on large magazine clips, and he was not going to plead to something which is not currently a crime.
Ultimately, Judge Andrea C. Thompson put the matter to rest with Hall offering, and Spindler pleading No Contest to the equivalent of a prosecutor’s consolation prize: a non-criminal disorderly conduct citation – a ticket – even though disorderly conduct was never actually alleged in the case.
Feuer’s and Hall, Jr’s insistence on getting Spindler on a threadbare citation is a penny-wise, pound-foolish move that could eventually cost the taxpayers a fortune.
Judge Thompson sentenced Spindler to virtually nothing. No jail. No probation. And a $200 fine, which was entirely offset by the portion of a day Spindler spent at a police station during the booking process.
“When the jury in my civil rights lawsuit against the city sees the evidence in this case, and how Feuer’s henchmen yanked me from my car at gunpoint without probable cause or a charge, they will not allow the government to get away with it,” Spindler said outside the court room. “There is now a pattern of prosecutorial abusiveness in order to intimidate me out of my civil rights suit. I will not only get significant damages, I’m seeking their law licenses.”
The trouble between Spindler and Feuer started in spring 2016, when Feuer obtained a temporary restraining order against Spindler for submitting to LA City Council president Herb Wesson speaker cards with hostile, racially tinged content that prosecutors eventually determined was not criminal. But as part of the TRO, which Spindler is presently appealing, he was required to surrender his guns, which he did at that time.
But Feuer’s office did not file the gun charge against Spindler until spring 2017, shortly after Spindler filed his civil rights lawsuit against the city. Spindler claims that the city filed it in retaliation for his civil suit, and the evidence strongly suggests he can prove it.
As documented in my April 3, 2017 CityWatch article, Los Angeles Times reporter Emily Alpert Reyes published an article on March 29 in which she stated that Feuer’s office filed the gun charge against Spindler, which was factually untrue on the date that her article was published, and remained untrue for the six subsequent days after it was published.
Spindler said on Friday, “[Mike Feuer’s deputy, Eugene] Hall, Jr., did not file the gun charge against me until the morning the CityWatch article was published in order to cover his backside, not because a crime was committed. The record clearly shows that my gun was grandfathered.”
And Spindler points to a smoking gun to prove it.
During the discovery process of the gun case, Spindler determined that Hall, Jr., did not run a background check on the gun’s history until June 2017, months after he filed the charge, and that it proved Spindler had not violated the law. Hall, a prosecutor with more than 28 years of experience, filed the charge without knowing whether any criminal act had actually occurred. “It was a retaliatory prosecution and sloppy journalism,” Spindler said, also pointing to the Times’ and Alpert Reyes’ failure to fact-check.
Outside the courtroom on Friday, when asked to explain why he filed a criminal charge without proof that a crime had been committed, Hall, Jr. politely declined to comment. Feuer and his spokesman, Rob Wilcox, did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
Spindler indicates that he is filing California Bar Association complaints against Feuer and Hall, Jr. He also intends to seek damages against the Times and its reporter Emily Alpert Reyes for intentional infliction of emotional distress, interference with his law practice and false light, estimating his haul from the City and the Times will be in excess of $1 million.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.