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Complaint filed against O.C. dist. atty.

Republican National Committee treasurer raises the issue of the lawyer's ethics to the state bar.

September 30, 2008|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

A state Republican party official who accused Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas and spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder of engaging in a political vendetta against him has filed an ethics complaint against them with the state bar.

The dispute stems from a letter written in 2005 by Timothy J. Morgan, treasurer of the Republican National Committee and a former committeeman from Santa Cruz, to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supporting parole for Paul A. Guardado, who is serving 17 years to life for a 1979 killing in Westminster.

The letter was written on the committee's letterhead and led to a proposed resolution against Morgan at the state GOP convention in Anaheim over the weekend.

Rackauckas and Schroeder are both Republicans, and she is the wife of Michael Schroeder, former state party chairman. Morgan, an attorney, was rules committee chairman for the California Republican Party when Michael Schroeder was its head. The two men had a falling out over how to spend party money.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, October 01, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 54 words Type of Material: Correction
Ethics complaint: An article in Tuesday's California section about Timothy J. Morgan filing an ethics complaint with the State Bar of California against Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas and his spokeswoman, Susan Kang Schroeder, identified Morgan as a state Republican Party official. Morgan lost his position in the state GOP earlier this year.

When Guardado had a court-ordered parole hearing in August, Rackauckas wrote to Morgan asking him to withdraw his support for the inmate. The state board denied Guardado's bid for parole then and again last week when he had his scheduled 2008 hearing.

Before the August hearing, Rackauckas' office released copies of his letter to Morgan and Morgan's letter on behalf of Guardado. Rackauckas chided Morgan for not contacting him and said Guardado was unremorseful and unwilling to assume responsibility for the killing.

Morgan's letter to the district attorney, which he sent Friday and made available to The Times, accused Rackauckas and his spokeswoman of misrepresenting the facts of the case in an attempt to affect the outcome of the parole hearing.

He noted that a federal judge found that Guardado had expressed remorse and admitted guilt.

"I don't know about you, but I learned in law school that presenting facts known to be untrue to make a case is unethical," Morgan wrote. "And your bald attempt to inflame the public and induce me to withdraw my letter are unethical."

Rackauckas was unavailable for comment Monday.

In the complaints filed with the state bar, Morgan accused Rackauckas and Schroeder of unprofessional conduct for allegedly prejudicing Guardado's parole hearing through comments about the inmate and the case.

Last week, Schroeder released a copy of a resolution she submitted at the state GOP convention that sought to censure Morgan for supporting Guardado.

If Guardado is released, he will be given "the chance to finish off his prior victim's family," Schroeder said in the resolution. On Monday, Schroeder said she reached this conclusion because Guardado once sent flowers to the victim's family from prison.

Morgan's letter said that Schroeder's conclusion is "wholly without evidence and wholly irresponsible" and that she implied that "I support letting Mr. Guardado out in order to do such a thing."

On Monday, Schroeder said Morgan "is still wrong on his facts" and his letter to Rackauckas is a "shabby publicity attempt to turn the public's attention away from his defense of the undefendable."

Schroeder's resolution was not heard because there was no motion for discussion. Instead, the GOP secretary was instructed to send a letter to the parole board saying that Morgan's support of Guardado does not represent the party's position or that of the Republican National Committee.

--

hgreza@latimes.com

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