Lawyers for Los Angeles County and District Attorney George Gascon have responded to an amended lawsuit filed by a veteran prosecutor who alleges that he suffered a backlash for being a critic of Gascon, saying some of the plaintiff’s s claims were filed too late and that still others should be resolved instead in a workers compensation claim.
The defense attorneys filed their court papers on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court in response to the amended lawsuit brought May 13 by Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, who now alleges eight causes of action compared to the five in his original complaint filed last Sept. 3.
“Plaintiff fails to state facts sufficient to constitute claims upon which relief can be granted…,” the defense attorneys state in their court papers. “Insofar as plaintiff seeks recovery for alleged physical and/or emotional injury based on conduct by defendants that neither contravenes fundamental California public policy nor exceeds the risks inherent in the employment relationship … the exclusive remedy for these alleged injuries is an action or a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act.”
Other Hatami claims were filed outside the statute of limitations, according to the defense attorneys’ court papers.
Hatami alleges he has been defamed and denied promotions because he has criticized Gascon’s directives. His new complaint also alleges he was harassed and discriminated against because of his heritage, his religion and his complaints. Hatami is part Iranian and his father is Muslim.
Instead of putting a stop to the alleged disparate treatment, Gascon’s office ratified it by refusing to promote him, the amended suit alleges.
“Gascon maliciously embarrassed plaintiff by calling him an `internal terrorist,’ refused to promote him and disparately removed or failed to assign plaintiff cases that would typically be designated within his jurisdiction,” the amended suit alleges.
Among the cases Hatami has been assigned is that of Jose Cuatro and Maria Juarez, a Palmdale couple charged with murder and torture in the death of their 4-year-old son, Noah. He also was one of two prosecutors in the trial of Isauro Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez, who were sentenced to death and life in prison without parole, respectively, for her 8-year-old son Gabriel’s death.
When Gascon was sworn in December 2020, he promised to stop enforcing California’s three-strikes law, end use of the death penalty and create a review board to hold law enforcement officials more accountable. When Hatami criticized Gascon’s changes, he found himself in a hostile work environment, according to his amended complaint.
“Gascon has deliberately denied assigning (Hatami) to complex child abuse and murder cases within his jurisdiction as punishment for not going along with his directives,” the amended suit alleges. “This in turn impacts (Hatami’s) work and ability to prove himself for desired promotions.”
In November 2020, Gascon said in an interview on Spectrum News 1 the only reason the plaintiff sought the death penalty in the Gabriel Fernandez case was because his ego had been hurt by Aguirre, that Aguirre had rubbed Hatami the wrong way, that Aguirre was not the “heavy” in the case and that Aguirre had refused Hatami’s plea deal, according to the suit.
The comments were “knowingly false” and were meant to damage Hatami’s reputation and fitness to carry out his duties, according to the amended suit.