Harris photo Steve Rhodes/Flickr
A deputy to Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, the Republican nominee for attorney general, defended his department's delayed reaction into allegations of criminal corruption by city officials in Bell.
Deputy District Attorney David Demerjian told the Los Angeles Times that the tips his office received a year and a half ago from several Bell police officers and a former city councilman did not provide enough specific evidence to justify a proactive investigation.
"A letter that says (former Bell city manager) Robert Rizzo is corrupt does not lead to an investigation," Demerjian told the Times. "If I look back now at what they gave me, I would have the same attitude now that I had then."
Since we first broke the news that Cooley's office was informed last year of voter fraud, bribery and corruption allegations in Bell, more questions have been raised about the potential political motives of Cooley's investigation, which began in March.
From the Times today:
The veteran officers, who met secretly with investigators at the district attorney's downtown L.A. headquarters, say they spoke of illegal vehicle seizures, voter fraud and other misconduct.
That was a year and a half ago — and the district attorney's office quickly dropped the matter, according to James Corcoran, a now-retired Bell police sergeant who believes he was the first to approach the investigators. His account was verified by the other two officers.
'I think they were busy and they didn't think it was a big deal,' Corcoran said of the district attorney's office. 'It was like 'Stand in line,' and it was a long line.'
The campaign of Cooley's Democratic rival, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, has repeatedly criticized Cooley for turning a blind eye to the investigation - charges that Cooley's campaign has repeatedly denied. Attorneys for several of the Bell defendants have also accused Cooley of fast-tracking the investigation for political reasons.
Cooley's first political ad, released more than a week ago, prominently featured the Bell scandal - as well as a less-than-flattering picture of Rizzo in jailhouse garb.
In addition to the Times, articles in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and LA Weekly have also written recently about the timing of the investigation.