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Law Enforcement Officials Call For DA To Step Down Over Tampering Allegations

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Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach (credit: Riverside County DA's Office)

Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach (credit: Riverside County DA’s Office)

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textalerts180 Law Enforcement Officials Call For DA To Step Down Over Tampering Allegations

PALM SPRINGS (CBSLA.com) — The heads of several Riverside County law enforcement organizations Monday called for District Attorney Paul Zellerbach to resign in the wake of allegations that he pulled down signs belonging to an opponent’s campaign.

Officials representing Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies, D.A’s office investigators and police officers in Beaumont, Cathedral City, Corona, Desert Hot Springs, Hemet and Riverside were on hand for the afternoon briefing outside the Palm Springs Police Department.

William Hutchinson, president of the Palm Springs Police Officers’ Association, said Zellerbach – who was accused last week after he and aide Ricardo Rubio were allegedly caught outside a gas station market in Indio knocking down a large sign belonging to prosecutor Mike Hestrin – was no longer fit for office.

“Paul Zellerbach is unfit to hold the office of district attorney,” said Hutchinson. “The chief law enforcement officer of Riverside County is expected to uphold all the laws. You can’t prosecute people for not following the law when you violate the law yourself.”

Zellerbach is under investigation for two alleged incidents that occurred last Wednesday, including one in which a staffer knocked down a large “Mike Hestrin for D.A.” sign anchored at the intersection of Indio Boulevard and Jefferson Street, as well as pulling down three smaller Hestrin signs posted outside a convenience store a short distance away.

An investigator with the District Attorney’s Office, Javier Garcia, confronted the duo after he allegedly witnessed the incident. He then used a cellphone camera to film a portion of the exchange, which reportedly showed Rubio attempting to put the sign back.

Zellerbach has endorsements from most police chiefs in the county and each member of the county’s Board of Supervisors, though Supervisor Kevin Jeffries told reporters Friday that he was “re-evaluating” his position after the sign furor.

Indio police Chief Richard Twiss also signaled that he would make a decision on whether to pull his endorsement at the end of his department’s investigation.

According to Twiss, Indio Police officials are working closely with the California Attorney General’s Office to get to the bottom of what happened and determine whether actual crimes such as misdemeanor theft or vandalism occurred.

In response to the accusations, Zellerbach said Hestrin’s sign was accidentally knocked over in heavy winds while he was trying to secure his own sign. He also called a complaint against him filed by Garcia “much ado about nothing.”

In a statement, Zellerbach said, “Mr. Garcia is a strong supporter of my opponent…and an individual who has been very upset with me for my refusal to grant immunity to his son in exchange for grand jury testimony in a triple murder case.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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