LA City Hall gadfly won’t face charges for racist comments directed at councilman
By: Elizabeth Chao, Los Angeles Daily News
December 22, 2016
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has decided not to file charges against Wayne Spindler, a City Hall gadfly who turned in a public comment card scrawled with racist images.The D.A.’s office said Thursday it declined to file criminal charges because there is “insufficient evidence to prove” Spindler’s actions amounted to a threat.The D.A.’s decision stems from a comment card Spindler submitted at a May 11 committee meeting led by Council President Herb Wesson. The card contained drawings of a burning cross and a cartoon figure in a Ku Klux Klan-style hood who appeared to be clutching a noose in one hand and a sign in the other that read: “Herb = N——.”
The card was directed at Wesson, the council’s first African-American president. “There is no doubt that the speaker card contained hateful and extremely outrageous words and imagery that we reject as being deeply offensive, morally wrong and socially reprehensible,” the D.A.’s office wrote in a determination note dated Wednesday. “Nevertheless, the unusual facts presented by this case raise significant First Amendment concerns that defy easy resolution.” “After much legal analysis and careful consideration, the known evidence appears insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Spindler crossed the sometimes nebulous line between constitutionally protected speech and punishable ‘true threat.’ Spindler, an immigration attorney who lives in Encino, previously said in a television interview that his comments and drawings were misinterpreted. “The cross burning is the city burning down from corruption,” Spindler said. “The hood is City Hall coming after us for our money and the tree is me and everybody getting lynched as taxpayers.”
Soon after the incident, Wesson obtained a temporary restraining order against Spindler who frequently attends council meetings. Wesson aide Vanessa Rodriguez said their office is “disappointed in the determination made by the District Attorney’s office, but will continue our work to ensure a threat free environment at City Hall.”The decision follows past unsuccessful attempts by city officials to rein in vulgar and inflammatory remarks, which are common during committee, commission and City Council hearings. In 2014, the city forked over $215,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Michael Hunt, an African-American man who was booted from a city commission meeting for wearing a KKK-inspired hood and a T-shirt with a racial slur on it.