Peter Hardin To Run As A ‘Progressive” Against OC DA Todd Spitzer

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Peter Hardin, a former U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan, introduced Tuesday he’ll problem incumbent Orange County District Lawyer Todd Spitzer in subsequent yr’s election. Hardin, 42, says he would search to scrub up what he sees as a scandal-ridden workplace, which has been hit with accusations of operating a secret DNA database. He additionally describes himself as a progressive prosecutor.

I spoke with Hardin lately about his candidacy. “I am not a politician,” he stated, contrasting himself with Spitzer, who was a state assemblyman and member of the OC Board of Supervisors earlier than being elected DA three years in the past. Hardin is a Democrat and Spitzer a Republican, though the workplace is non-partisan.

In describing himself as a progressive, Hardin echoes L.A. District Lawyer George Gascón, who’s amongst a cadre of latest progressive prosecutors across the nation with an agenda of rolling again prolonged jail sentences and erasing racial disparities.

However Hardin stopped properly in need of promising sweeping modifications like Gascón. As a substitute, he stated he would search to search out “an accurate and correct mannequin that matches Orange County.”

For instance, whereas Gascón has tried to finish the usage of nearly all sentencing enhancements that may add years to an individual’s jail time period, Hardin stated he would finish sure enhancements however wouldn’t say which of them.

(Spitzer has constructed a repute as a conventional tough-on-crime sort of politician, though he is now positioning himself as a progressive. Final month he issued a statement by which he stated American society has “engaged in systemic mass incarceration” and has “prosecuted individuals of coloration in a different way.” Spitzer promised to work to finish mass incarceration and to arrange a unit to evaluate allegations of wrongful convictions.)


Peter Hardin within the Sangin Valley in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Courtesy of Peter Hardin)

Hardin stated he had two desires whereas rising up in New York Metropolis: to observe his father into the legislation and to turn into a Marine. He achieved each on the identical time when, after graduating from George Washington Legislation College, he joined the Marines as a choose advocate. He finally rose to the rank of Captain and served a yr advising the First Reconnaissance Battalion commander on the legal guidelines of struggle and worldwide legislation points in Afghanistan.

Hardin landed in Orange County in 2012 after he was stationed at Camp Pendleton. He spent a yr as a deputy DA and two years as a Particular U.S. Lawyer earlier than transferring into personal observe.

As we bought began, Hardin warned he is a first-time candidate and simply getting used to coping with the media. However he stated as a result of he was a Marine, “do not maintain again.” Hardin additionally stopped to regulate his listening to aids, wanted as a result of explosions in Afghanistan broken his eardrums.

This dialog was edited for readability.

Q: Why are you operating for DA?

A: I am operating as a result of there is a vacuum of management within the Orange County district lawyer’s workplace that has led to a sea of outrageous scandals. This can be a rudderless workplace with a pacesetter that seeks the headline however does not wish to do the work. Todd Spitzer has forfeited no matter little credibility he ever had.

Q: Elaborate on what you see as essentially the most important points contained in the DA’s workplace?

A: First, Todd Spitzer has turn into the topic of a minimum of 4 sexual harassment lawsuits right here in Orange County. [Editor’s note: Spitzer has been accused of witnessing his former senior assistant and friend engaging in harassment.] He promoted his greatest pal, for instance, the most effective man at his marriage ceremony, even after turning into conscious that this man had sexually harassed his subordinates. And when these allegations started to come back to mild, Todd Spitzer allowed his greatest pal to quietly retire from the workplace with top-flight advantages.

Then there’s the proof reserving scandal. Deputy sheriffs haven’t been taking a look at proof correctly or in a well timed method. And what Todd Spitzer has achieved is cherry choose a couple of chosen officers to punish in order that he can seize the headline and declare that he is a reformer. However he hasn’t lifted a finger to deal with the underlying points. And once more, he hasn’t led with the transparency to clarify to Orange County residents what precisely the issue is.

Q: How will you take care of victims of crime as DA?

A: I wish to launch an revolutionary household justice middle to attach survivors of home abuse and sexual assault, elder abuse and youngster abuse to companies they should heal and pursue justice. I’m extraordinarily involved concerning the low charges of sexual assault reporting. We should help survivors of sexual assault in order that they really feel like they will come ahead. And that is not simply essential for right now’s survivor. It is to forestall future victims as a result of intercourse offenders are usually repeat offenders.

Q: In LA, DA Gascón has eradicated the usage of nearly all sentencing enhancements, arguing they contribute to mass incarceration and racial disparities. What’s your view?

A: Effectively, sentencing enhancements may end up in extreme jail sentences and people typically don’t improve public security however do value taxpayers billions. Research exhibit that extreme jail sentences may very well improve recidivism charges by undermining an individual’s potential to reintegrate again into society in a optimistic and productive method. I am not going to cast off all sentencing enhancements, however I wish to take an actual shut take a look at discovering an accurate and correct mannequin that matches Orange County and our values in our communities in a wise and strategic means.

Q: Would you decide to eliminating gun and gang enhancements (as Gascón is doing)?

A: I am not ready to reply that proper now. However I’ll hold enhancements round hate crimes, sexual crimes relating to kids and others, elder abuse crimes, and white collar crimes like fraud, the place there’s a notably giant loss. However I wish to change the tradition throughout the Orange County DA’s workplace to make sure that prosecutors aren’t form of instinctively and reflexively charging all the pieces they presumably can in an effort to begin negotiations from a place of energy.

Q: What’s your place on the dying penalty and a sentence of life in jail with out the opportunity of parole?

A: I will punish essentially the most heinous capital murders with life in jail, imprisonment with out the opportunity of parole. However I cannot pursue the dying penalty. Primarily, I wish to practice and empower my deputy district attorneys to deal with every case by itself deserves and with out blanket insurance policies.

Q: What’s your place on money bail?

A: I am in favor of ending money bail. I feel it is an outrageous system that we’ve got the place rich, harmful offenders can get out whereas of us from much less prosperous communities who might not be harmful are compelled to be caught in jail.

Q: On police shootings, are there any shootings in Orange County the place you suppose the officer ought to have been prosecuted? Additionally, would you could have dealt with these shootings in a different way than the incumbent DA?

A: I’m not conscious of any. By and enormous, our legislation enforcement officers do the appropriate factor they usually’re heroes. However I will not be afraid to prosecute officers once they break the legislation.

Q: There’s been lots of criticism of the DA’s DNA database. The UC Irvine civil rights clinic has filed a lawsuit that claims he has created a “secretive system of genetic surveillance that was by no means licensed by state legislation.” Would you retain that database?

A: It is one of many biggest examples of Todd Spitzer’s hypocrisy and the lengths to which he’ll go to get elected. He ran as a reformer who was going to do away with his DNA database. [Editors note: As a county supervisor, Spitzer had questioned the ethics of the database. After winning election, he told the Orange County Register that he was “incredibly concerned that they are misusing the DNA lab to get convictions,” and that he wanted to consult with experts about whether to keep it. ] Todd Spitzer has been in workplace and he has utterly embraced and defended this system. I agree with these lawsuits. I do not see [having a DNA database] as acceptable.

Q: Some activists say gang databases ought to be eradicated as a result of people who find themselves not gang members get tossed into them. Ideas?

A: I’ve heard sufficient from of us who’ve gotten swept up into that system to know that many, most of the entries into it are arbitrary and capricious. And I wish to take a tough take a look at that and determine how we will both reform it or do away with that.

Q: Why do you suppose Black persons are overrepresented in prosecutions and in state jail?

We talked earlier concerning the underlying points that result in aberrant habits like psychological well being sickness or drug and alcohol dependancy. Effectively, to place it merely, prosperous children go to rehab and folks, who occur to be individuals of coloration, go to juvenile corridor or jail. So one factor I actually wish to work in the direction of is ending punishment for low-level nonviolent offenses. These have swept up a disproportionate variety of of us from our minority communities into the system as properly. It is the product of a system of racial injustice on this nation, the roots of which go so deep. And I am glad that this nation finds itself after the occasions of final summer season at a reckoning level.

And I actually wish to spend time working with cops in Orange County to assist everybody in our group perceive the consequences of systemic racism. We additionally want extra range within the DA’s workplace. That will likely be one thing I’ll work with native legislation faculties, legislation faculties across the state and the area to make sure that we’re recruiting expertise throughout a broad spectrum of communities.

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