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Law Enforcement Officers Call for D.A.'s Resignation

"Paul Zellerbach is unfit to hold the office of district attorney," said William Hutchinson, president of the Palm Springs Police Officers' Association.

Law Enforcement Officers Call for D.A.'s Resignation

Editor's Note: The following story was originally published at 2:20 p.m. on April 28, but has been updated to include a response from District Attorney Paul Zellerbach.

The heads of multiple Riverside County law enforcement organizations publicly called Monday on District Attorney Paul Zellerbach to resign in the wake of allegations that he pulled down signs belonging to his opponent in the D.A.'s race.

"Paul Zellerbach is unfit to hold the office of district attorney," said William Hutchinson, president of the Palm Springs Police Officers' Association. "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."

Hutchinson was joined by the presidents of seven other law enforcement associations during an afternoon briefing outside the Palm Springs Police Department. Collectively, the men represent sheriff's deputies, D.A's office investigators and police officers in Beaumont, Cathedral City, Corona, Desert Hot Springs, Hemet and Riverside.

"We're here because we want the community to realize what kind of person Mr. Zellerbach is," Hutchinson said. "This is the platform for us to say, 'Enough is enough."'

Zellerbach issued a statement in response, saying, "There is nothing new here. The group holding the press conference consists of the same police unions that have previously endorsed Mike Hestrin and are funding his campaign, to the tune of over $400,000 to date.

"Hestrin is the former boss of one of the largest of these unions, so it should come as no surprise that they are doing everything in their power to defeat me and elect Hestrin," Zellerbach said.

The county's top prosecutor is under investigation for allegedly knocking 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. Both incidents occurred shortly before 10 a.m. last Wednesday.

A law enforcement officer witnessed the alleged activity at Jefferson and Indio and confronted the D.A. and his tribal liaison, Ricardo Rubio, whom the officer recorded on his camera phone apparently attempting to re-erect the sign.

A convenience store security camera captured Zellerbach in front of the am/pm on Jefferson, just off Interstate 10, uprooting the three Hestrin campaign signs and putting up one of his own nearby.

Zellerbach has said he obtained permission to take down Hestrin's signs from the store manager. He stated publicly that the incident at Jefferson and Indio was taken out of context, and that Hestrin's sign fell accidentally.

On Friday, City News Service confirmed Zellerbach wrote a personal check for $203 to compensate the county for his use of a county-owned Ford Escape SUV to tote around his signs and conduct political activity on the county's time. He was supposed to be in the Coachella Valley on official business.

Riverside Sheriffs' Association President Robert Masson was the first to call for Zellerbach's resignation, telling CNS last week that the D.A. had behaved in a manner that gravely undermined the public's confidence. The RSA has endorsed Hestrin, as has virtually every other law enforcement organization in the county.

Those that did not have representatives on hand Monday included the Banning Police Officers' Association, the Blythe Police Officers' Association, the Indio Police Officers' Association and the Murrieta Police Officers' Association.

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 CNS Friday that he was "re-evaluating" his position after the sign furor, while Indio police Chief Richard Twiss indicated that he would make a decision on whether to pull his endorsement at the end of his department's investigation.

According to Twiss, the agency is working "hand-in-glove" 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.

"At the conclusion of our investigation, we will be delivering our facts and findings to the AG's office," Twiss said. "They will make the ultimate filing decision. My official stance is: We follow the law and do the right things for the right reasons."

– Reported by Paul J. Young, City News Service.

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