An offensive Halloween skit has turned into an ongoing problem for the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office.
In November, ABC10 posted photos from the D.A.’s office Halloween party. Employees were seen dressed as dwarves; signs were held saying “Dwarves Lives Matter,” making fun of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Now, a public defender is using the incident to argue that the district attorney should be recused in a case involving a black teenager.
The public defender, Dana Myers, filed a motion that accuses the district attorney’s office of “systemic bias against African Americans,” based on the Halloween skit.
Myers’ client, Jason King, pled no contest to second-degree robbery when he was 17. His attorney at the time, Aliyah Abdullah, has since been charged with felony violations related to theft. In the motion filed, Myers writes that Abdullah had been hired to perform legal services, but failed to perform them.
Now, King wants to withdraw his guilty plea.
“The allegation is the original attorney representing the defendant was ineffective in handling the guilty plea,” McGeorge School of Law professor Michael Vitiello said. King’s public defender, Dana Myers, declined to speak about the case.
Vitiello explains Myers’ argument as such: “The district attorney is taking inconsistent positions in the case against the former attorney. Contending that the former attorney is involved in criminal misuse of client funds, and at the same time saying to the defendant, you had competent counsel when you entered your guilty plea.”
This is where the Black Lives Matter skit comes in. Vitiello says Myers is alleging that the reason why the district attorney is not allowing King to withdraw his guilty plea is bias against African Americans.
The motivation to withdraw the guilty plea comes now that King has been charged with violating his parole. King is facing felony charges that include engaging in and recording sexual acts with a 17-year-old, once he had turned 18.
“It would be very unusual for the state to try this case, but for the fact it was a probation violation,” Vitiello said.
The district attorney’s office rejects the public defender’s claim.
“This Office engages in no systemic bias against or for any protected class of people including but not limited to groups of people based on race, ethnicity, national original, gender, sexual identity, or religion,” deputy district attorney Robert Himelblau wrote in an email.
Himelblau added that the charges facing King’s initial attorney are irrelevant in this context.
“Incompetence is not a factual or legal requirement of the charges,” Himelblau wrote.
The next hearing in King’s case is set for Dec. 19.