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Cooley Letter Decries Pressure From Mayor

Politics: D.A. calls Hahn's push for filing hate-crime charges in attacks irresponsible.

October 12, 2002|ANNA GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley accused Mayor James K. Hahn on Friday of pandering to a "vigilante mentality" in trying to pressure prosecutors into filing hate-crime charges in two West Hollywood beatings last month.

In a letter to Hahn, Cooley accused the mayor of using the memory of Matthew Shepard, a man murdered in Wyoming because he was gay, as a political tool. The letter called Hahn's advice "professionally troubling and inflammatory."

On Thursday, Hahn told a crowd of 300 gathered to remember Shepard in West Hollywood that Cooley's decision not to file hate-crime charges in the Sept. 2 attacks had sent "the wrong message." Earlier, Hahn sent a letter to Cooley saying that the decision had "perpetuated the harm that was caused by these attacks."

Prosecutors have stated that no anti-gay epithets were yelled in either attack on Sept. 2. In one beating, one of the victims identified the alleged assailants; in the other, no identification was made. Cooley's letter condemned Hahn, a former city attorney, for judging the case without first reviewing the evidence.

"Your suggestion that I am sending the 'wrong message' in not filing a hate crime is irresponsible and panders to a vigilante mentality inconsistent with due process," the letter read. "I took an oath to uphold the law as chief prosecutor of Los Angeles County. I am responsible to the people, not the politicians."

Actor Trev Broudy was attacked on Cynthia Street after hugging his friend Edward Ulett. He was hit several times with a baseball bat and spent more than a month in the hospital before being released this week. That same morning, Christopher Roehm was also attacked.

The district attorney's office charged three South-Central men with attempted robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery, but did not file hate-crime allegations. The defendants could be sentenced to six to 19 years in prison, if convicted. An additional hate-crime charge could add two years.

The decision prompted West Hollywood city leaders, sheriff's deputies and the mayor to call upon Cooley to change his mind.

Cooley said his office has not been given any evidence that the crimes occurred because of the victims' sexual orientation. But the cases are still under investigation.

A third incident occurred Sept. 22, when a man, 55, was attacked as the suspects yelled anti-gay epithets. No charges have yet been filed in that case.

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