LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon is facing a defamation lawsuit filed this week by one of his subordinates, Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami. The DDA accuses the liberal DA of attacking his character, denying promotions and racial discrimination due to his public criticism of the hotly controversial leader, according to reports.
DDA Hatami is a 15-year veteran child abuse prosecutor with the DA’s office and a vocal critic of Gascon’s progressive policies, like ending the death penalty in the state and pursuing lenient sentences for convicted murderers, FOX 11 of Los Angeles reported.
According to the lawsuit, Gascon “deliberately denied assigning (Hatami) to complex child abuse and murder cases within his jurisdiction as punishment for not going along with his directives.” As a result, Hatami said his promotional opportunities have been hindered since he’s not allowed to handle challenging cases, the news outlet reported.
Hatami said in the lawsuit that 15 other DDAs were promoted in August, however, he was denied upward mobility despite his “perfect work records, highly positive performance evaluations and numerous high-profile cases and trials.”
Hatami’s criticism of Gascon pre-dates the progressive prosecutor’s election to office last year. In March, he told “Fox & Friends,” “We now have a district attorney who is pro-criminal, anti-victim, and who refuses to follow the law.”
Hatami is of Iranian descent and has a Muslim father. Therefore, he took great offense when Gascon said on a podcast that dissenters to his new progressive policies within the DA’s office would either become “internal terrorists or they’ll leave.” According to the lawsuit, these are veiled “racially infused” remarks aimed at the DDA.
“I am not a terrorist. No deputy DAs are terrorists,” Hatami said in a news conference earlier this year, according to KABC-TV.
Gascon has been harshly criticized by peers, law enforcement unions, cities, and victims’ advocates.
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“My No. 1 job is being a dad,” Hatami said. “George Gascón has adversely affected my family and my children by calling me derogatory names, attacking my character, criticizing my cases, negatively impacting my promotional status and salary, and creating an environment that makes doing my job much more difficult than it should be.”
“I will not stand by and allow him to harm my mental health, my family, my children, and my cases,” he told The Signal.
Maxwell Szabo, a spokesman for Gascon’s transition team, is cited in the lawsuit after telling a local news organization last year, “Hatami’s delusional theories raise questions as to one’s fitness to practice law.”
Szabo also called Hatami a “liar” in a City Council meeting, according to the suit, FOX 11 reported.
Gascón claimed that Hatami sought the death penalty against a defendant, Isauro Aguirre, who was accused of torturing and beating his 8-year-old son to death, only because he had a personal grudge against the man and his ego was inflamed.
The lawsuit called the comments “knowingly false,” according to FOX.
“The county in no way intervened or gave an official public statement denouncing the defamatory language published by Gascon and Szabo,” according to the lawsuit. “The county also did not intervene to prevent and stop the hostile work environment created almost immediately after Gascon was sworn in as the Los Angeles County District Attorney in which DAs with long-standing reputations were harassed, intimidated, treated like snitches and retaliated against for speaking up about concerns over the legality of new directives.”
The DA’s office said in January that an internal grievance filed against Szabo asking for a public apology had been closed, Hatami said, and even if the allegations were true they weren’t “jurisdictional” regarding Los Angeles County’s Policy of Equity, which aims to protect the right of employees to be free from discrimination, unlawful harassment, retaliation and inappropriate conduct, FOX 11 reported.