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State Says Lie Led to Taping of D.A. Office

Lockyer spokesman says secret recordings confirm the falsehood by unnamed top official.

November 23, 2002|Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writer

The state attorney general's office said Friday that its secret-recording operation at the Orange County district attorney's office was launched after prosecutors came to believe that a top district attorney's official lied to law enforcement.

Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, said the investigation did not result in any criminal charges. He did not disclose the target of the probe but said it was not Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas.

The attorney general had directed Michael Clesceri, the assistant chief of investigations for Rackauckas, to secretly record conversations with fellow employees.

Barankin said the recording occurred last year after Rackauckas requested the attorney general's help in a case. Rackauckas wanted the office to determine whether two investigators in his office stole audiotapes relating to a case involving a friend, Newport Beach businessman Patrick DiCarlo.

DiCarlo had sought Rackauckas' help because he said he was being extorted. Rackauckas assigned the two investigators to the case.

But DiCarlo later complained that the investigators treated him more like a suspect than a crime victim.

Rackauckas pulled the investigators off the case and accused them of taking audiotapes related to the probe.

"During the course of that investigation, we received reliable information that a high-ranking official in the district attorney's office had lied," Barankin said.

He declined to describe the lie.

The attorney general's office asked Clesceri to work as an operative, secretly recording conversations with employees in the office.

"We authorized the use of a wire for the exclusive and narrow purpose of trying to corroborate whether that official had indeed lied," Barankin added. "This was for a narrow purpose, a very narrow window of time and for a specific reason. We were able to corroborate that that official had lied, but we did not file charges."

Lying to a law enforcement official under certain circumstances could be a crime and "at a minimum, it's unethical," he added.

Rackauckas declined to comment for this story.

Some details of Clesceri's work for the attorney general were outlined in a letter that his lawyer sent to the office last week.

According to the letter, officials in the district attorney's office learned of Clesceri's undercover work and have tried to question him about it.

On Nov. 13, Clesceri's lawyer, Michael Stone, sent the office a letter requesting that Clesceri not be questioned about his undercover work because of an unspecified medical ailment. He also indicated that Lockyer's office had instructed Clesceri to remain silent.

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