Deputy DA files lawsuit against LA DA George Gascón

Some would call it Hatami vs Gascón. But the ongoing battle between the recently elected LA County DA George Gascón and longtime prosecutor Jonathan Hatami has taken on a new legal step. Hatami is suing Gascón, alleging he has been defamed.

Hatami has been outspoken against the DA’s reform  directives. He was the prosecutor in the case of Isauro Aguirre and Pearl Hernandez, in the torture and death of her 8-year-old son, Gabriel Hernandez. Aguirre was sentenced to death, and the mother was sentenced to life in prison.

According to Hatami’s claim, Gascón criticized him publicly, saying that Hatami had sought the death penalty because his ego had been hurt by Aguirre. The claim also refers to a comment given to FOX 11 News in December, where a spokesperson for Gascón, Max Szabo said that "These delusional theories raised questions about one's fitness to practice law." In the complaint, the quote reads as: "Hatami’s delusional conspiracy theories raise questions as to one’s fitness to practice law."

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.

Another claim is that a crime publication, interviewing Gascón about the discontent in the DA’s office, quoted him as saying "some people will be unhappy and either become internal terrorists or leave. And I know certainly how to deal with both".

Hatami says he has filed various complaints including to the Board of Supervisors, to no avail, so he is now forced to file this lawsuit. Brian Claypool, his attorney, told FOX 11 that the comments are legally actionable and that they are filing to stop the "bullying within the district attorney’s office".

Editor’s Note: After our story aired, Max Szabo contacted FOX 11 regarding a quote attributed to him in our story. The quote "HATAMI’S DELUSIONAL THEORIES RAISE QUESTIONS AS TO ONE’S FITNESS TO PRACTICE LAW" came directly from the complaint filed in this matter. In December, FOX 11 requested a comment on Hatami’s allegations that Gascon was "creating a hostile work environment and is sending people to monitor what the deputy district attorneys say on record." In response, Max Szabo told FOX 11 "These delusional conspiracy theories raise questions as to one's fitness to practice law…" but did not use Hatami’s name.  This story has been updated throughout.

FOX 11 continues to offer Szabo and the District Attorney a chance to respond on camera to the story and complaints made by Hatami and his attorney.