Top aide to DA Gascón suing Azusa police officer over public intoxication arrest

A top aide to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who is suing the city of Azusa over his arrest last month for public intoxication, had bloodshot eyes, smelled of alcohol and interfered with officers who initiated a traffic stop, reveals a report detailing the incident.

Joseph Iniguez, 36, who is Gascon’s chief of staff, questioned police and advised his fiancé, not to cooperate with an officer who pulled over his black Tesla just after 11:30 p.m. Dec. 11 in the 900 block East Alosta Avenue, according to an eight-page police report obtained by the Southern California News Group.

Iniguez, who was a passenger in the car, “exited the vehicle and began telling (the driver) that he did not have to answer any questions nor did he have to conduct any field sobriety tests,” says the report submitted by Azusa police Cpl. R. Martinez. “I could see that his (Iniguez) eyes were bloodshot and watery, he had slurred speech, a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from his breath and person, he admitted to consuming alcoholic beverages and he was not listening to commands from officers.

“He also was pointing out the fact that we (officers) did not have body cameras and told (the driver) not to believe everything the police were saying.”

Police eventually put Iniguez in handcuffs, placed him in a patrol car and drove him to the Azusa jail, where he was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor public intoxication.

About three hours later when he was released from jail, Iniguez told Martinez he would see him again and called him “Brady,” the report says. Law enforcement officers who have a record of knowingly lying in an official capacity are placed on a so-called Brady list under a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland. Prosecutors then must notify defendants and their attorneys whenever an officer on that list is involved in their case.

Iniguez, who could not immediately be reached for comment, filed a lawsuit Thursday, Jan. 6, in U.S. District Court against the city of Azusa and Martinez alleging that his civil rights were violated during his unjust arrest. He is seeking unspecified damages.

“The extent and falsity of this reporting caused plaintiff extraordinary shame and embarrassment, emotional and psychological distress and the physical manifestations of such distress and embarrassment,” the lawsuit says. Iniguez, it claims, now suffers from “sleeplessness and debilitating anxiety.”

Iniguez was aware Azusa police do not use body-worn cameras or dashboard recording devices in patrol vehicles, according to the lawsuit. As a result, he got out of the Tesla and began to record the interaction with Martinez with his cellphone to ensure it was documented.

“Officer Martinez walked over to plaintiff and told plaintiff that he was in public and intoxicated and that plaintiff would be placed under arrest,” the suit says. “Officer Martinez further stated, ‘All you had to do was enter the car but you’re indicating to me that you’re incapable of following simple directions for your safety and the safety of the public. Therefore, you’re being placed under arrest for public intoxication.’ “

However, the complaint alleges Martinez never warned Iniguez to get back in the Tesla before he was arrested and appeared frustrated that he informed the driver of his constitutional rights, the complaint alleges.

Later, after being booked at the Azusa police station, Iniguez was placed in an intake cell that was cold, dark and isolated, according to the suit.

“Plaintiff did not have shoes or a jacket while in custody; as a result, the cold was oppressive and injurious,” the suit says.

About 90 minutes later Martinez allegedly returned to the cell to inform Iniguez of what happened to his fiancé. “It was clear from Officer Martinez’s physical demeanor that he was attempting to intimidate plaintiff,” the suit states.

Glen Jonas, who is Iniguez’s attorney, predicted he will prevail in court.

“Mr. Iniguez is driven by the moral imperative to protect the citizens of the community from abuse of authority,” he said in a statement. “His goal is to hold Officer R. Martinez accountable and to compel patrol officers of the APD to wear body worn cameras.

“We will attain a verdict that Officer R. Martinez is guilty of false arrest and we will demand that all patrol officers of the Azusa Police Department join in the 21st Century by wearing body worn cameras. The bully tactics of Officer R. Maritnez (have) set in motion a chain of events that we hope will result in accountability and transparency within the Azusa Police Department.”

Alex Bastian, a special adviser to Gascón, declined to specifically comment on Iniguez’s arrest or lawsuit Thursday evening because it involves a personnel matter. Any potential criminal matters arising from the incident will be forwarded to the California Attorney General’s Office for review to avoid a potential conflict of interest, he said.

Information was not immediately available regarding whether the Attorney General’s Office is investigating Iniguez’s arrest.

Iniguez, a former defense attorney who joined the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in 2015, had planned to challenge former District Attorney Jackie Lacey in 2020, but later threw his political support behind Gascón. After Gascón took office, he named Iniguez as interim chief deputy, but in July 2021 gave that post permanently to Sharon Woo, with whom he worked in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. Iniguez then became his chief of staff.

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