Contra Costa DA attempts to block publicization of new racist texts by Antioch cops

Contra Costa DA attempts to block publicization of new racist texts by Antioch cops

MARTINEZ — The Contra Costa District Attorney has uncovered even more racist text messages by Antioch officers that are set to be turned over to defense lawyers after a judge struck down a last-minute DA attempt to limit their publicization.

In a court document filed Thursday, Chief Assistant District Attorney Simon O’Connell wrote that his office has identified 225 pages worth of never-before-seen racist texts by Antioch officers Morteza Amiri and Andrea Rodriguez, both of whom are under criminal investigation by the FBI. His failed motion argued that should the material be publicized in the media, it “increases the risk of piggybacking and the potential for further harm.”

O’Connell asked for a protective order prohibiting the dissemination of materials to the media.

Judge David Goldstein rejected the motion without hearing defense objections to it, noting the DA’s office failed to cite any legal opinions that would allow him to grant it. His ruling clears the way for the racist texts to be publicized in court records or by other means.

Already, hundreds of pages describing racist communications involving numerous Antioch officers have either been published verbatim online or described in detail. The reports included Antioch officers using racist and homophobic slurs, sharing offensive memes, and even admitting to racist practices during the course of their law enforcement jobs.

The messages were discovered by the FBI and Contra Costa DA’s office during a criminal investigation into more than a dozen current and former Antioch and Pittsburg police officers. The allegations include a range of crimes, including drug dealing, obstruction of justice, assault under color of authority and fraud.

After identifying the racist texts, Contra Costa prosecutors alerted defense attorneys in several relevant cases, including one four-defendant homicide case where Antioch officers specifically referred to the accused parties in racist ways. The DA’s office turned over two redacted reports describing some of the messages, but hundreds more have not yet been publicized.

Both reports were published verbatim online, and several internet-savvy readers were able to exploit a formatting error to un-redact the document, allowing viewers to read portions that listed officers’ names, cell phone numbers and alleged crimes in detail. An attorney for the police union subsequently threatened to sue the DA’s office for violation of privacy.

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With the protective order issue now settled, Goldstein is set to soon hear arguments from defense attorneys of four East Bay men accused of murder conspiracy, who will attempt to get charges dismissed because of the police racism. Prosecutors have already admitted the racist texts constitute a violation of the state’s Racial Justice Act, but disagree with the defense on the proper legal remedy.

Meanwhile, a federal grand jury is still reviewing potential criminal charges against the officers.