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Arresting Video

In the days after his incendiary video sparked protests in Inglewood and outcry across the nation, itinerant disc jockey Mitchell Crooks was seeking finder’s fees from media outlets and intervention by the county District Attorney‘s Office to erase an outstanding warrant for his arrest on past criminal convictions. That strategy backfired late Thursday morning when agents from the D.A.’s Bureau of Investigation arrested him on the sidewalk in front of the CNN offices in Hollywood.

The D.A. agents hustled Crooks first to their offices in the criminal-courts building downtown, then to the grand jury, and finally to the jail ward at County-USC -- all before he was allowed to speak to his lawyers. Crooks was not informed of any constitutional rights, and was not permitted to post bail.

”We didn‘t need to,“ said Curt Livesay, chief deputy to District Attorney Steve Cooley. Livesay pointed out that Miranda rights apply only to statements that could be used against a suspect and said his office has ”no interest in bringing charges against Crooks.“ Livesay added that Crooks was wanted on a no-bail warrant, so there was no question of speedy release.

As for access to an attorney, Livesay said, ”The legal standard is ’in a reasonable time,‘ which normally means after booking.“ He added that he informed Crooks’ attorney, Dean Masserman, where he could find his client while Livesay was appearing on a live radio talk show, which was broadcast about the same time that Crooks was appearing before the grand jury. ”I passed on the information on the air,“ Livesay said.

County supervisors took issue with Cooley‘s handling of Crooks; Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke worried that the D.A. was ”giving L.A. County a pretty bad name.“

D.A. Steve Cooley said in an interview that Crooks forced Cooley’s office to act when Crooks attempted to sell his tape. ”It was essential that the original tape was secured“ before it could be edited or altered, Cooley said Tuesday. ”It was merely a matter of gathering evidence.“

On Friday Crooks was flown to Placer County, where officers booked him into custody at 6:21 p.m. to serve a drunk driving--related jail term.

Masserman, the Beverly Hills attorney representing Crooks, denounced his arrest during television interviews Friday, and complained that Cooley‘s office had improperly denied him access to his client on the day of his arrest. ”What’s going on now is an atrocity,“ Masserman told Connie Chung of CNN. ”They‘re trying to cast a cloud over what happened in Inglewood: and that was the beating.“

Cooley spokesman Joe Scott countered that ”Crooks brought this on himself,“ and brushed off Masserman’s complaint, contending that a brief view of Crooks being wheeled down the hall for cautionary X-rays satisfied Crooks‘ right of access to an attorney.

According to records produced by scott, Crooks initiated contact with the D.A.’s Office at noon on Monday, the day after the story broke. Investigators would have routinely asked Crooks to vouch for the authenticity of the tape and turn it over to prosecutors.

Crooks called in but vowed ”to be completely uncooperative with you,“ according to a transcription of his phone message. ”I‘ll let the video speak for itself,“ Crooks reportedly said, adding that ”I have a couple of things I want to be taken care of.“

Scott said Crooks left a callback number but did a not answer repeated calls, preferring instead to call in on his own schedule.

In another message left Tuesday, Crooks was more explicit in his request. ”I’m sure that you‘ve already figured out my background,“ Crooks volunteered. ”I want to let you know that if my record is completely wiped out I will completely comply and completely work with the District Attorney’s Office.“

Separate teams of D.A. investigators tried to catch up with Crooks as he made guest appearances on radio and television. Livesay contacted Crooks by phone on the popular Ken & John talk show on KFI-AM 640. Livesay asked Crooks to cooperate. Crooks responded that he was too fearful.

Crooks was finally snared in Hollywood while waiting for a friend to deliver him a copy of the videotape, the investigators believe, which he planned to take to a meeting with a television producer. An editorial in the Times later suggested that Cooley wanted a camera crew on hand for the arrest.

However, CNN assignment editor Sarah Weisfeldt said in an interview that there were no news cameras. ”CNN had no idea this was going to happen,“ she said, adding that the arrest was captured on a security camera, and that a crew was then dispatched immediately.

Crooks also complained through his attorneys of physical mistreatment. Masserman told CNN that Crooks was ”banged up against a wall,“ and ”tethered and handcuffed like Hannibal Lecter or something.“

Asked to respond, Cooley said that Crooks had been duly arrested and that no formal complaints had been lodged.

Spokesman Scott insisted that Crooks had attempted to flee and had been restrained as a result. Crooks was taken to a medical ward for examination because he complained he was beaten up, said Scott.


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