National News

Top gang prosecutor on leave after offensive social media posts

Posted July 9, 2018 9:24 p.m. EDT

— WARNING: This post contains profanity and language readers might find offensive.

A top prosecutor in California was placed on paid administrative leave after allegedly making disparaging and racially-charged social media posts, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office said on Monday.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Selyem, the lead prosecutor in the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office gang unit, is accused of making offensive posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter referencing Rep. Maxine Waters, Michelle Obama and Mexican immigrants, according to the San Bernardino Sun. The paper provided screen shots of some of the posts, which were made by accounts that have since been deleted.

District Attorney Mike Ramos released a statement Monday condemning what he called "discriminatory comments," and said that Selyem has been placed on administrative leave while the office conducts an investigation. The investigation could result in disciplinary action that possibly includes termination, the statement said.

Selyem's open cases will be reassigned and another prosecutor will be assigned to look over closed cases "to make sure that justice was done," Ramos told reporters Monday.

"Our community and the entire criminal justice system depends on having a fair, ethical, and unbiased prosecutor. We must insist on that," said Ramos, adding that he was "offended" by the posts.

Calls to phone numbers and messages to email accounts for Selyem were not returned on Monday.

Slurs, profanity, and a doctored photo of Michelle Obama

In one social media post, Selyem lashed out at Rep. Maxine Waters, who has been a staunch critic of President Donald Trump.

"Being a loud mouthed c**t in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now...," Selyem wrote, according to the Sun.

Selyem also posted a doctored photograph of Michelle Obama holding a sign that read "Trump grabbed my penis," the paper reported.

Another one of Selyem's posts showed a man with a large sombrero with the words, "Mexican word of the day: 'Hide,'" according to the Sun.

In an argument about a civilian who was shot by a police officer, the paper said Selyem wrote: "That s---bag got exactly what he deserved. ... You reap what you sow. And by the way go f--- yourself you liberal s---bag."

Possible impact on legal proceedings

Ramos told reporters he was concerned that the comments regarding police-involved shootings, which his office investigates, would harm their ability to assure the public that cases are being investigated without bias.

The district attorney said officials tried to balance Selyem's First Amendment rights with the impact his posts could also have on prosecutors in San Bernardino and nationwide.

"Really where it crosses the line for the district attorney and the district attorney's office is how it impacts the men and women that serve our office every day, and their ability to take a case to court ... to seek justice," Ramos said.

"I have had the honor of knowing thousands of DAs, and their ethics and integrity are just outstanding and pure," he said. "And this is the kind of behavior and language that is going to call that into question -- and rightly so."

The district attorney said he was also worried about how the postings could impact legal proceedings, including triggering court motions from defense attorneys.

"I'm concerned about jurors being selected in our county to determine a case that is impacted by statements from an attorney in this office," Ramos said.

He said a conviction review unit would revisit cases if defendants felt they experienced bias. But Ramos said there has been "no indication" of any bias in Selyem's cases.

Ramos said his office doesn't have a specific social media policy, but has policies regarding professional conduct as a prosecutor.

"You're a prosecutor 24/7. It's not an 8-5 job. It's what you do every day," he said, referring to advice he gives his staff.

Ramos said he became aware of Selyem's social media posts on June 28, after he received complaints from other attorneys in his office.

The prosecutor said he didn't think the comments have impacted the office's morale.

"I think our lawyers every day ... they're fighting for justice," Ramos said.