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LA County deputy district attorney to file lawsuit against DA George Gascon

ABC 7 Los Angeles logo ABC 7 Los Angeles 2/11/2021 KABC
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The Los Angeles County deputy district attorney known for heading up the Gabriel Fernandez torture and murder case is now preparing to sue his boss, recently-elected L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon.

Prosecutor Jon Hatami, a 15-year veteran of the district attorney's office, on Wednesday filed the complaint required to sue Gascon, the County of Los Angeles and Max Szabo, Gascon's spokesman for defamation, libel, racial discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

"We have a new district attorney that is trashing his own deputy district attorney and knowingly defaming him," said Hatami's attorney, Brian Claypool.

At issue are statements made by Gascon and his staff that Hatami says were aimed at him. The complaint alleges Gascon went on a podcast before the election, talking about how his staff may react to his policy changes. He said, "Some people will be unhappy and like either become internal terrorists or they'll leave. And I know certainly how to deal with both."

Hatami, who comes from Middle East descent, says calling him a terrorist is racist and discriminatory.

LA County DA George Gascn appears on Eyewitness Newsmakers

"I am not a terrorist," Hatami said at a news conference in front of the Hall of Justice in Downtown LA.. "No deputy DAs are terrorists."

In reference to the Gabriel Fernandez case, Gascon told a local news organization that the man accused of torturing and killing the boy rubbed the prosecutor the wrong way, and that the prosecutor sought the death penalty in retaliation. Hatami called that claim "100% a lie."

On another news outlet, Szabo, Gascon's spokesman, said in a written statement "Hatami's delusional theories raise questions as to one's fitness to practice law."

"I am not unfit nor delusional," Hatami responded.

Claypool says Gascon's statements aren't just insulting, but potentially damaging to past cases. He says attorneys representing already convicted defendants can now argue that they did not receive fair trials.

"The defense attorneys on those cases are going to be... trying to get charges thrown out because your newly elected district attorney George Gascon said that one of the best prosecutors in the country is unfit to practice law and delusional," Claypool said.

Hatami says he fears the statement will now cause problems in the Gabriel Fernandez convictions.

"I guarantee you, 100%, they are going to file that appeal," said a frustrated Hatami.

Gascon's office tells Eyewitness News it does not comment on pending litigation. Los Angeles County and Szabo, both named in the lawsuit, also declined to comment.

Hatami's attorney says the lawsuit will seek monetary damages. Hatami says he wants an apology.

"I want him to get out here in front of all you all on TV and say 'I am sorry. I am sorry to Jon Hatami. He is not delusional. He is not unfit.'"

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