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Three prosecutors lining up for L.A. County D.A.'s race

Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley praises Jacquelyn Lacey, but says he is still deciding whether to seek a fourth term. Danette Meyers and Alan Jackson are also preparing bids.

January 06, 2011|By Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times

The election for Los Angeles County district attorney is nearly two years away but the job has already attracted the interest of three top prosecutors from within the office, and L.A.'s city attorney on Wednesday refused to rule out his own candidacy.

Assistant Dist. Atty. Jacquelyn Lacey became the latest to take a step toward running for the county's top law enforcement post, announcing Wednesday that she is forming an exploratory committee to raise money for the 2012 campaign.

Lacey, one of the office's top managers, had long been considered a possible candidate. She currently oversees an operation in the office that includes more than 500 prosecutors throughout the county.

In her 24-year career with the office, Lacey handled several high-profile cases, including the 1996 murder trial of Richard Leon, who was convicted of killing two clerks in separate robberies during a cocaine-fueled crime rampage. Leon was sentenced to death and remains on death row.

Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said he was pleased that Lacey had shown an interest in running for the office, adding that she was held in high regard by prosecutors. But he stopped short of offering his endorsement for her or any other candidate.

"I think it's premature," he said. "I'd like to see how the field assembles and how they perform during the electoral time-frame."

If elected, Lacey would become the county's first female and first African American district attorney.

So would Danette Meyers, a veteran deputy district attorney who announced her candidacy late last month. Meyers, who has tried dozens of murder cases in her 24 years in the office, is handling the high-profile case of actress Lindsey Lohan, who is on probation after two drunk driving arrests in 2007.

The third confirmed candidate is Alan Jackson, who successfully prosecuted music producer Phil Spector for murder in 2009. Jackson regularly appears as an expert on NBC's "Unsolved Case Squad" on "Dateline." His campaign said in a statement last week that the registered Republican has raised more than $100,000 in political donations.

Among possible office outsiders mentioned as contenders are former L.A. City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and the current city attorney, Carmen Trutanich.

Delgadillo did not return a call seeking comment. But his former campaign strategist, Kam Kuwata, said they have not talked seriously about joining the race.

Trutanich, a former deputy district attorney, won his 2009 city election race with the strong backing of Cooley. He declined to rule out running for the position but said he would only think about joining the race if Cooley was not seeking reelection.

Cooley has said he would consider running for a historic fourth consecutive term if no qualified candidates stepped up or if what he called an "undeserving and unworthy" contender appeared to be headed for victory.

"I am keeping my options open," Trutanich said Wednesday. "Am I going home and saying, 'Dear, call me Mr. D.A.?' No, I'm the city attorney of Los Angeles and I'm very proud to be holding this job."

Trutanich said he did not consider a pledge he signed during his 2009 election campaign as an obstacle to seeking the district attorney's post.

In November 2008, Trutanich called on his opponent in the race, then-City Councilman Jack Weiss, to join him in swearing to seek a second term should he become city attorney and to promise not to run for another office while serving in the post. The pledge called on the election winner to pay a $100,000 personal fine to an after-school program and to take out full-page newspaper ads declaring "I AM A LIAR" if he violated the pledge.

Trutanich said that the pledge was a challenge to his opponent and that Weiss never agreed to sign it. He also said that circumstances had changed since his election victory.

DOCUMENT: Read the pledge signed by Trutanich

Trutanich said he initially believed that Cooley would serve as district attorney for another two terms and that the two men would work together in their respective prosecutorial offices. And he decried budget cuts that his department is undergoing because of the city's financial woes.

"You know what's cool about this conversation? I'm on the shortlist and people are bouncing my name around," Trutanich said. "I like the fact that I think I could do a good job there. I'm not arrogant enough to take on my buddy."

jack.leonard@latimes.com

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