July 2007 Ethics Dunces

L.A. Prosecutor Rocky Delgadillo

Here's the problem: if you are going to insist that the law hammer a scofflaw celebrity in order to send a message, you have an obligation to be certain your own conduct is consistent with the message you want to send.

You see, Rocky Delgadillo, the Los Angeles prosecutor who jailed Paris Hilton for violating her probation when she drove with a suspended license, is the same Rocky Delgadillo who never mentioned a 2004 incident in which his wife crashed his own city-issued car …driving with a suspended license, just like Paris.

Michelle Delgadillo 's license was suspended beginning in July 2004 after her personal vehicle "bumped another car" earlier that year, according to the prosecutor's spokesman. Mrs. Delgadillo did not file a report to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, but the other driver involved in the accident did. When she didn't provide proof of insurance to the DMV, the prosecutor's wife's license was suspended. Shortly thereafter, Michelle Delgadillo crashed her husband's city-issued GMC Yukon into a pole. She got a ticket and paid a $186 fine, but was not cited, oddly, for having a suspended license.

"I realized that I should have spoken up earlier. That was a mistake," the City Attorney told a news conference. "I mishandled the situation and I apologize."

Tell that to Paris. Admittedly, spouses are not responsible for the conduct of their partners. When Yankee star Alex Rodriquez's wife decided to wear a T-shirt to a game that read "Fuck you," it implicated her understanding of civil public behavior, her regard for her famous husband's public image and Arod's taste in female companionship, but he was still ethically in the clear. But since Delgadillo apparently had stood by and let his wife avoid any serious consequences from almost exactly the same offense that he insisted Hilton pay for with prison time, an apology isn't good enough.

Especially since his wife makes Paris look like a model citizen. You see, in 1998, a Highway Patrol officer charged her with driving with an expired Montana license, without valid registration and no insurance. When she didn't appear in court a month later for her arraignment, the judge in the case issued a $2,000 bench warrant that is still in effect! Under that warrant, Delgadillo is subject to arrest. It also should have stopped her from getting the California license that later was suspended.

So let's summarize, shall we? The prosecutor who said, in connection with his prosecution of Paris Hilton, "If law enforcement officials are to enjoy the respect of those we are charged with protecting, we cannot tolerate a two-tiered jail system where the rich and powerful receive special treatment," has a wife who chronically drives without a valid license and insurance, crashed a city-owned car while driving illegally, and has not responded to an outstanding bench warrant for nine years. If Paris deserved jail time, and she did, this woman should be clapped in irons. But Hubby has connections, you see.

Sadly, this kind of favoritism is common. That doesn't mean that there should not be serious consequences when it is discovered. Here is what needs to happen:

  • First, the city needs to fire Rocky Delgadillo. He has embarrassed the city and called the City Attorney's Office's integrity into serious question.

  • Second, the California Bar should consider punishing him for professional misconduct. He had an obligation to inform his client, the city, about his wife's behavior, and arguably had an undisclosed conflict of interest in his prosecution of Hilton.

  • Third, the City should prosecute Michelle quickly and hard. She needs to go to jail. All of the arguments her husband raised in connection with Paris apply to her, but in spades.

Then, and only then, is the Scoreboard interested in hearing Mr. Delgadillo's apology. Does the scofflaw conduct of her prosecutor's spouse give added weight to Paris Hilton's claims that she was treated unfairly? Absolutely not. But the message the prosecutor said he intended to send, that the rich, powerful and well-connected have to obey laws like everyone else, won't be delivered until his wife is wearing an orange jumpsuit and he's checking the Want Ads.




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