PALM SPRINGS, Calif.. - Riverside county district attorney Paul Zellerbach spoke to reporters for the first time since becoming the center of an investigation last week. VIdeos show Zellerbach tampering with campaign signs for his challenge, Mike Hestrin in Indio. "I have no intention to resign, nor do I see any reason to resign," said Zellerbach, before a speaking engagement in Palm Springs.
Several police associations from around the county called for the D.A. to resign at a news conference in Palm Springs on Monday. The Palm Springs Police Officer's Association was one group that asked Zellerbach to resign. "We have to take a stand and let everybody know that this is unacceptable," said William Hutchinson, president of the Palm Springs Police Officers' Association. "It's unethical and they should not want an individual of that caliber representing them in this county."
The groups also addressed the initial cell phone video that spurred the allegations. Zellerbach says it was taken by Javier Garcia Sr., a DA investigator. Zellerbach accused Garcia of targeting him, because he refused to give his son immunity in the Pinyon Pines triple murder case. Now, officers fear Zellerbach's statement could change the outcome of the case. "I'm very worried and it has been compromised," said Robert Masson, president of the Riverside Sheriff's Association. "He might have a different opinion but it is."
Copies of a federal lawsuit filed against Zellerbach and a prior admonishment by the Judicial Committee about conducting political business on duty were also brought up at the press conference. The lawsuit filed by former district attorney prosecutor Christopher Ross says Ross refused to prosecute a murder case because of a lack of evidence. It accuses Zellerbach of discrimination and harassment in retaliation. "When you have the lead district attorney, the head law enforcement official wanting to come after you for his own personal agenda, it's unacceptable," said Hutchinson.
in a statement, Zellerbach said this: "There is nothing new here. The group holding a press conference today consists of the same police unions that have previously endorsed Mike Hestrin and are funding his campaign, to the tune of over $400,000 to date. Hestrin is the former boss of one of the largest of these unions, so it should come as no surprise that they are doing everything in their power to defeat me and elect Hestrin."
Before his speaking engagement, Zellerbach stood by his actions. "I had permission from the gas station owner to put my signs up and to remove signs that were up in the gas station for which permission had not been granted by the owner."
Zellerbach went on to say he's also dealt with his own sign-tampering issues. "This is not a one-way street," said Zellerbach. "Over the last few weeks, I've had over 500 of my campaign signs stolen throughout Riverside county."
He won't say who he thinks might be taking his signs, because that's not his major concern. The DA spoke to a group of valley republicans about his accomplishments since taking over the position in 2011, and says that's what really matters. "This campaign is not about signs. It's about issues, it's about the competency to run the DA's office which I've been doing for the last three and a half years and that's where I want to focus my efforts."