Ross Erlich Featured in LA Times Article

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LAFD spokesman could avoid criminal charges after being accused of using city car to threaten Uber driver


Peter Sanders, a civilian employee and chief spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department, will go behind closed doors with a hearing officer in October to face accusations he used a city car to stop and threaten an Uber driver at a Trader Joe’s in Studio City.

The diversion program allows suspects to avoid criminal charges and an arrest record if they don’t commit similar conduct for one year.

“The suspect and the alleged victim will each have the opportunity, on separate dates, to speak about the subject incident with a hearing officer,” Rob Wilcox, spokesman for City Attorney Mike Feuer, wrote in a statement. “The suspect will be admonished and informed that their conduct could constitute a crime and that if there is any similar conduct, charges for the original incident may be filed before the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations.”

This year, the office scheduled 4,420 hearings and held 2,841. Wilcox said the office selected the diversion program based on the circumstances and evidence. He declined to comment on the evidence.

Sanders and Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Capt. Erik Scott, another Fire Department spokesman, said an internal investigation is ongoing and declined to comment.

Lou Shapiro, a defense attorney who is not involved in Sanders’ case, said other than an “outright rejection of the case, it’s the best outcome [Sanders] could get” from city attorneys. He said the hearings are usually reserved for “light stuff” and cases with no injuries. But he said prosecutors likely spotted something in the investigation and evidence to merit a hearing.

“They see a cause for concern that they need to address to prevent this from happening again,” Shapiro said.

Ross Erlich, another defense attorney not involved in the case, said the hearings are used in only about 5% of his misdemeanor cases.

“It’s kind of a slap on the wrist,” he said, adding the hearings are not public. “It’s great for the suspect and a tremendous benefit. It is, in theory, available to anybody. It is not very common.”

Read the full article here.