Attorneys for Black Lives Matter demonstrators confronted at gunpoint by the late husband of former Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey in 2020 can have a second deposition of the county’s former top prosecutor under certain limitations, a judge has ruled.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Theresa M. Traber heard arguments from both sides on Friday, then took the case under submission and ruled Tuesday, Jan. 17. She said the deposition should take place within a week and last a maximum of two hours. Lacey’s spouse, David Lacey, died Sept. 5.
“The court directs plaintiff’s counsel to focus on the substance of the discovery it seeks from Ms. Lacey and forego any reliance on blown-up photographs of her now deceased husband or other aggressive techniques that may interfere with the truth-seeking process and subject Ms. Lacey to unnecessary stress as she continues to grieve her loss,” according to the minute order prepared by the judge’s clerk.
Traber ordered Lacey to answer specific questions, including any plans she and David Lacey may have devised together or advice and aid he requested about how he would confront the protesters, whether to use a firearm in doing so and what to do after the confrontation. The BLM lawyers maintained Lacey, on the direction of her attorney, wrongfully refused to answer some questions based on the spousal communication privilege during her first deposition. They contended that a crime-fraud exception to the privilege applies if a communication was made, in whole or in part, to enable or aid anyone to commit or plan to commit a crime or a fraud.
Lacey’s lawyers stated in their court papers that none of the deposition questions objected to by Lacey’s attorneys pertained to statements Lacey allegedly made to enable or aid her spouse in committing or planning to commit a crime.
“Rather, the questions posed to Mrs. Lacey concerned confidential spousal communications about topics such as whether Mr. Lacey expressed concerns for his safety or remorse for his conduct, firearm and firearm safety unrelated to the incident and conduct or statements after the incident had already occurred,” Lacey’s attorneys stated in their court papers. During her deposition, Lacey explained she was upstairs and out of the sight line of her front door during the entire incident, Lacey’s attorneys stated in their court papers.
“In response to numerous questions, she confirmed that she had no knowledge of or involvement in the interaction on her porch between her husband and the protesters,” Lacey’s attorneys stated in their court papers. Lacey’s lawyers further noted in their court papers that the plaintiffs do not allege that Lacey came to the front door or that she was present during the interaction.
“Rather, plaintiffs allege … that Mrs. Lacey aided and abetted Mr. Lacey’s decision to cock, load and then point the handgun directly at plaintiffs” and that both Lacey’s negligently failed to look at their Ring app, where they would have seen that the visitors were “simply unarmed peaceful protesters,” Lacey’s lawyers stated in their court papers. The suit also alleges false imprisonment by the 65-year-old Lacey. The confrontation occurred when members of the group showed up at the couple’s residence the morning of March 2, 2020.
Melina Abdullah, Dahlia Ferlito and Justin Marks brought the complaint the Laceys in October 2020, claiming they suffered emotional distress from the incident. Their lawyers maintain in their court papers that the Laceys were aware the demonstrators were there to confront Jackie Lacey and not her husband.
Jackie Lacey also knew, or should have known, that confronting uninvited guests at her front door with a loaded firearm was unlawful, the BLM lawyers state in their court papers.
“Surely neither Mr. Lacey or Mrs. Lacey believe that have a right to confront and threaten those uninvited visitors with a loaded firearm,” the BLM lawyers state in their court papers. “And in doing so, it is reasonable that Mr. and Mrs. Lacey communicated about who would confront the protesters, how they would be confronted and what they would do after the confrontation.
“All of those communications are relevant, unprivileged and necessary to show Mrs. Lacey’s compliance and whether she aided and abetted her husband in the assault of plaintiffs.”
For several years, protesters, including members of Black Lives Matter, gathered sometimes in the hundreds outside the Hall of Justice, where Lacey’s office was located, every Wednesday to protest against Lacey, she says, adding they came with signs, noise-amplifiers and drums and chanted slogans such as, “Bye, Jackie” and “Jackie Lacey Must Go.”
Abdullah is a professor and former chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies at Cal State Los Angeles and a co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter. She and other BLM demonstrators went to the Laceys’ home seeking to confront her for allegedly refusing to meet with them to discuss issues of community concern. Lacey was criticized by Abdullah and other activists for declining to prosecute some law enforcement officers involved in fatal on-duty shootings during her two terms in office.
David Lacey opened the door after the plaintiffs rang the bell and video images show him pointing a gun and saying he would shoot if the visitors did not get off his porch. The encounter occurred a day before Lacey — the first woman and first Black prosecutor to hold the top post since the office was created in 1850 – – was forced into a runoff with former San Francisco County District Attorney George Gascón, who ultimately was elected.
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