Second District Councilwoman Pearce at a rally for Indigenous Peoples’ Day earlier this month. Photo: Jason Ruiz
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office will not prosecute Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce stemming from allegations that she drove under the influence and possibly committed domestic battery against her former chief of staff in early June.
According to a statement from the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD), the district attorney was provided with the factual findings of the department’s investigation June 29. On October 20, the LBPD received notice from the district attorney’s office that they were declining to prosecute Pearce on any of the criminal allegations regarding the June 3 incident with her former chief of staff Devin Cotter.
“The police department is no longer actively investigating this case, however, the public integrity division of the district attorney’s office is still in the process of conducting a separate review of alleged inappropriate activity and conflicts of interest,” the statement said.
Pearce, who is out of town, said in an phone interview with the Post that she was relieved that the findings were out in the open and that hopefully this issue will be put to bed.
“I’m just happy to know that they decided not to file charges,” Pearce said. “It’s vindicating to say the least.”
In a charge evaluation worksheet provided to the Post by the district attorney’s office Pearce was facing two counts of domestic violence and one count of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content greater than .08.
The charge sheet states that many independent witnesses including officers from the California Highway Patrol and the LBPD saw Cotter with “swelling, redness, and a laceration to his head and cuts to his hands” while responding to the June 3 incident. Photos were taken of Cotter at the scene but so far the LBPD has yet to honor a public records request of Cotter’s booking photo from that morning after he was subsequently arrested.
Pearce and Cotter were reportedly driving home from a concert that took place June 2 where they both drank alcohol according to the charge sheet. During the drive home, the two got into an argument when Pearce allegedly struck Cotter’s arm and then later pushed Cotter when they were outside her parked car, causing him to fall and sustain the injuries to his head, including a black eye.
The sheet also said that CHP officers observed damaged personal belongings of Pearce’s strewn on the roadway, a text to her new chief of staff requesting help and a video showing Cotter yelling he would “reveal disparaging information about suspect Pearce to the press, her husband and her employer” if she did not meet certain demands.
The latter part of the charge sheet was what ultimately led to the district attorney’s decision to take Pearce’s version of the story as fact despite both being characterized as having given inconsistent statements to law enforcement.
It also stated that Pearce had the right to defend herself in both cases when the alleged domestic violence occurred, the first being when Cotter allegedly was causing her car to swerve while still in motion along the freeway and the second when she arguably was defending her property, as evidenced by the items scattered and damaged along the side of the freeway, allegedly because Cotter had begun to throw them out the window.
“Thus, based on the totality of the evidence presented, the prosecution cannot prove that the force suspect Pearce used was not appropriate for the situations that she was facing at the time.”
However, regarding the DUI allegation, the charge sheet acknowledged that Pearce admitted to drinking and operating her vehicle until it came to a stop where officers eventually engaged the couple. Of the videos that Pearce took that night, the first was timestamped at 1:27AM according to the sheet.
She was administered a breathalyzer test at 4:20AM and blew a .06. However, the charge was not pursued because the unit used to administer the test had previously malfunctioned one month earlier, had not been checked within one month of Pearce being tested with it and was thus deemed unreliable.
Cotter was eventually arrested later that morning near Pearce’s house on charges of being drunk in public and for an outstanding warrant pertaining to a previous DUI conviction.
Pearce said that while she did admit to drinking and driving, recent consultations with groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have helped her realize that even one drink is too many and that she looks to advocate for causes like MADD’s as well as for domestic violence awareness.
“It was a scary night,” Pearce said. “I don’t believe I was the victim or that he [Cotter] was the victim. I just think it was something that we both wish hadn’t happened.”
Shortly after the incident the councilwoman claimed she had been the victim of domestic violence, although not specifically referring to the night of June 2. Cotter, through an attorney, dismissed the notion that he might have been the perpetrator of the violence.
Recently emails released by the city via a public record’s request confirmed that the two did in fact have a relationship that came to an end sometime around Cotter’s exit from Pearce’s staff earlier this year. Cotter’s former business partner, Christian Kropff presumed the role of Pearce’s chief of staff after Cotter’s exit.
Pearce confirmed Wednesday that the two are no longer dating.
While the statement released by the LBPD Wednesday revealed that no criminal charges will be brought against Pearce, a separate investigation by the DA’s public integrity division remains ongoing as it looks into whether any inappropriate activity or conflicts of interest arose during Cotter’s stay as Pearce’s chief of staff while simultaneously maintaining a romantic relationship with the councilwoman.
The statement from the LBPD noted that due to the fact that Cotter’s criminal complaints stemming from his public intoxication arrest are still under investigation by the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s office that “most documents” connected to the department’s investigation will be unavailable until a judgement is made on that charge.
The scandal stemming from the June incident has also led a small group of Pearce’s constituents to take up a recall effort as they claim that she is unfit for office and does not represent their interests.
Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz__LB on Twitter.
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