We've all heard the saying, "Don't believe everything you read." Well, I saw this played out in spades after reading the now infamous article posted by Andrew Blankstein in the LA Times. Here's the lesson -- while a story can be "true" for editorial purposes, it may not express the essence of what really occurred. And for those of you who know my style of "telling it like it is," I will not disappoint you now. I am here to give you the down-low on my departure from the DA's office. And if you don't believe me, feel free to subpoena my personnel file and read it for yourself.
In February 2009, two months before the release of my book, Predators and Child Molesters: A Sex Crimes DA Answers 100 of the Most-Asked Questions, I delivered notice to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office that I wanted to resign from the office. Though it was a difficult decision, I cited, both in person and in my letter, my desire to pursue a career in the media. I wanted to support victims on a macro-level, as opposed to dispensing justice one victim, one case, and one jury at a time.
On March 16, 2009, I arrived at my "exit interview" where I began the process of turning in my badge, ID, books, Blackberry, etc. Then, my boss asked me why I hadn't considered taking a leave of absence instead. He noted that this would be a good option for me, as it would give me the chance to see if media was in fact what I wanted to do, while still keeping the doors open.
"Why not?" I agreed. Thus far, the DA had been more than willing to let me pursue television opportunities, so long as cases discussed were not being handled by our office. I could write, speak, do whatever I wanted so long as the opinions were my own and not those of the DA. So, with no "trial of the century" in view, (except for Chris Brown -- which I never said bupkus about) I went off on my leave.
During that time, I blogged, wrote, spoke, and realized the huge impact one can make on society via the power of the media. As a prosecutor, public speaking and "performing" are not new for me. Many of the same reasons that I love being a trial lawyer are why I love communicating via television, radio, and the internet.
The biggest difference between popular media versus a courtroom setting is that people watching TV, listening to the radio, or reading are doing so because they want to, not because they received a summons (that they could not get out of) in the mail.
Now, let's fast-forward to July, 2009. On Friday, July 17, 2009 I was contacted by the producer of Larry King Live to join a high-profile panel discussing the death of Michael Jackson. And why wouldn't I want to be one of them? My book was out and the panel would be discussing an investigation into the activities of one of the most (if not the most) prolific entertainers of all time. I was especially interested because this celebrity had once been accused of criminal behavior as a suspected pedophile, an area I had considerable experience dealing with. There was lot to be learned from this case -- about custody, children, how we view those accused of sexual assault, how assets are divided, and rights sold -- yes, this was the case that had it all.
Given that Michael Jackson had a case under review in the LA District Attorneys office in 1993 and given the fact that all the reports indicated this was a case that the AG's (Attorney Generals) Office was handling, I really didn't think twice when I said, "Sure."
So there it was -- I went on, did my thing, left and enjoyed the rest of the weekend without a second thought. Come Monday morning, I received a message from my boss, who simply requested I return his call. I did so two hours later because I thought he was telling me it was time to return to work.
The immediate thought of "being called back to active duty" was a jolt of reality. Suddenly, the answer became clear. I don't want to go to back, I wasn't ready to go back, I liked what I was doing -- all these ran through my mind.
I dialed my boss and began to gear up for my marching hours. But I was totally taken aback when my boss said, "You were on Larry King on Friday, right?"
"Yes," I said.
"Well, you can't do that," he continued.
"But isn't the AG's office handling the Jackson case?" I asked.
"No, we are, it's our case and you can't talk about it. Otherwise it looks like you are representing our office's opinion on the case. "
"I totally get it," I replied and apologized. My mind began racing, and I barely paid attention as he softened somewhat, saying that it didn't seem I'd said anything wrong. He even complimented me on my appearance.
There was no discussion of my leaving, a resignation, firing or anything of the sort. The conversation ended with me saying that I might get in touch with him later on.
Why would I get back in touch? Because since the Larry King Live show, unbeknownst to my boss, I had been getting calls from media across the country. They didn't just want to talk about Jackson, but about other cases where there were legal issues and injustices.
People wanted my help and wanted me to advocate on their behalf. With my email inbox overflowing with requests for media about Jackson and people who needed my advocacy on other cases, I realized the day had indeed come. My courtroom work as a prosecutor was over.
Instead, I would represent "The People" in print, on camera, in classrooms, through speeches -- all of which I had been juggling while being a DA.
So there it is. No, I wasn't paralyzed, nor was I "hemming and hawing." It was clearly time to resign. Two hours later, I sent in my resignation thanking Mr. Cooley and the LA District Attorney's Office for their continued support.
I told them it was better for me not to "try to walk the extremely tight line" of being both a prosecutor and an outspoken advocate. I would now, officially, be pursuing my other endeavors.
I received a lovely email back thanking me for my service to the office and the People of Los Angeles County. And that's all there was to it -- until someone thought there was a story and the LA Times decided to write it as such.
Today, I want to thank both the LA Times and whoever contacted the LA Times with the "news" of my resignation. It did nothing but catapult me into the media, giving me an entree to many new media outlets and to wonderful people I would never have known.
So, yes there are two sides to every story and as a prosecutor I always try to look to both sides and be fair. As a journalist and a legal commentator, I do the same. That is why I wanted to share my story with you. As you continue to read articles and listen to broadcasts, remember to separate the spin from the facts, the hype from the truth and most importantly, know this: it is not always black or white. Neither is life!
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