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Re Mayor Garcia Allegedly "Hiding" Facebook Comments Critical Of His Animal Shelter Stance: DA's Office Takes No Position On Allegations, Says It Handles Criminal Matters And If There's Any Legal Remedy It's A Civil Matter; Director Of Non-Profit "No-Kill Advocacy Center" Indicates He's Mulling Possible Add'l Steps is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(Sept. 13, 2018, 7:20 p.m.) -- Following-up on a story reported by in August, has learned that the L.A. County District Attorney's office has responded to an August 6 complaint letter submitted by the Director of the Oakland-based non-profit "No Kill Advocacy Center" (focuses on animal shelter practices) that alleged Mayor Robert Garcia had hidden critical public comments made to his Facebook Mayoral page and his "public figure" page and requested an investigation into whether Garcia "attempted to place unconstitutional restrictions on members of the public as to their First Amendment rights to free speech and to petition their government for a redress of grievances."

In an August 13 response (provided by the DA's office to on request, treated as a Public Records Act matter), Los County DA Head Deputy Alan Yochelson stated:

"We take no position" as to whether or the complaint letter's allegations are true, and noted "that 42 U.S.C. section 1983 establishes a civil remedy as opposed to a criminal penalty. As such, a violation of this law is unenforceable in a state criminal proceeding." Mr. Yochelson's letter continued: "[W]ith limited exceptions that do not apply here, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office prosecutes violations of California law. Therefore, this office has no jurisdiction and cannot institute an investigation." And added: "You may wish to consult with private legal counsel to learn if there are civil remedies available to you. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention and we are sorry we cannot be of more assistance."

The DA's office letter redacted the complainant's name [per standard DA policy] but it's not a secret; the complainant was Nathan Winograd, Director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, who announced his complaint letter when submitted. On August 14, Mr. Winograd submitted additional previous instances of Garcia allegedly hiding Facebook comments and now (under publicized pressure) "unhiding" them, but it didn't change the DA's office's conclusion. [Scroll down for further.]

In a September 7 Facebook dispatch, Mr. Winograd acknowledged the DA's office conclusion, calling it "unfortunate but not the end of the matter." He wrote in pertinent part:

While the Mayor "unhid" the comments (a total of 56 of them on just two posts), a victory for free speech, the comments were hidden prior to an election in which he was a candidate and the issue of shelter killing was front and center. Unhiding the comments after winning the election is not enough. The next step is to ask the county grand jury to investigate, since their mandate is broader. And failing that, there is also the possibility of filing a lawsuit alleging deprivation of constitutional rights...

...When Mayor Garcia or any other self-serving public servant violates the constitutional rights of rescuers and No Kill advocates, they must, can, and -- if we stand up to them -- will be held to account.

Mr. Winograd is a Stanford Law School graduate and a former criminal prosecutor and attorney...and the legal issues raised -- alleging violation of 1st Amendment and statutory rights regarding social network pages operated by a government official -- could apply in contexts beyond animal shelter issues.






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