In 2008, Carmen Trutanich was a private lawyer making his first run for public office. He needed to be ready for an onslaught of attacks in the city attorney's race, so he hired a research firm to dig through public records and exhume all the skeletons in his background.
VR Research came back with a report that ran to 100 pages. It includes a litany of lawsuits that together paint Trutanich as a trigger-happy litigator.
Now that Trutanich is running for D.A., the report is coming back to bite him. The L.A. Weekly recently obtained a copy.
Here are five of the weirdest secrets that Trutanich dug up on himself:
1. Sued a youth soccer league for refusing to reschedule a tournament game.
Trutanich has touted his experience as a soccer coach as proof of his deep ties to the local community. But in 1989, he went a little overboard, suing a youth soccer league for refusing to reschedule his team's tournament game.
Trutanich argued that several of the 8- and 9-year-olds on the Rolling Hills Wildcats had come down with the flu. Therefore, the team should not have been forced to forfeit its game, Trutanich argued.
“When you lose sight of minority rights, the whole organization has to be questioned,” Trutanich told the Daily Breeze in 1989. “Those 12 Wildcats are a minority, and they have to be considered.”
Trutanich won a temporary halt to tournament play, but that order was quickly reversed and the tournament went on.
2. Sued Vons for a slip-and-fall injury.
In 1976, when
Trutanich was 24 years old, he slipped and fell at a Vons grocery store
in San Pedro. Trutanich sued, claiming he had suffered damages of
$100,000. The case was later dismissed, and may have been settled out of
3. Sued City of L.A. for air pollution at the port; Trutanich's client was later convicted of tampering with monitoring equipment to boost pollution readings.
In 1999, Trutanich sued the Port of L.A. and the City of L.A., among others, on behalf of a customs employee who alleged that he was exposed to dangerous levels of petroleum coke dust. That employee, Victor Nilsen, was later charged with tampering with monitoring equipment at the customs house, in order to boost the readings for petroleum coke dust. Nilsen was sentenced to a year of probation and a $5,000 fine.
4. Sued for emotional distress after his minivan was repossessed.
In 1995, Trutanich bought a minivan from a used car lot. The owner of the minivan, Robert Hunt, had left it at the lot on consignment. Trutanich knew the owner of the lot, Tony Tonsich, and employed Tonsich's son at his law firm.
Hunt accused Tonsich of cutting a below-market deal for Trutanich, and demanded that the van be returned. When Trutanich refused, Hunt had the minivan repossessed.
Trutanich sued Hunt for wrongfully repossessing the minivan. In addition to the cost of the van, Trutanich sought $50,000 for “emotional distress” and “nervous system damage.” The case was ultimately dismissed, and was likely settled out of court.
5. Was considered the “go-to guy for Trojans in trouble.”
In the mid-00s, Trutanich developed a reputation for defending USC athletes accused of wrongdoing. He represented football players accused of offenses including DUI, assault, rape, drug possession and sexual assault.
In 2006, the National Organization for Women wrote a letter accusing USC of ignoring gender-based crimes. The letter alleged that “alumni lawyers have cleared players of crime, with help of friends from the DA's office.”
Trutanich, a USC alum, wrote a letter in response: “NOW's statement is almost patronizing. It's upsetting to me when someone attacks the judicial system and has absolutely no facts…. I would challenge them to come forward with the name of the alleged crony who was in contact with me. That's a libelous statement. Who was the friend that I contacted? I never spoke to anyone in the DA's office.”
Trutanich campaign responds.
Asked for a comment, the Trutanich camp issued the following statement:
It appears that the Trutanich campaign is the victim of a theft of research materials, prepared by his 2008-09 City Attorney campaign. It is both unethical and disturbing that any member of the media would knowingly use stolen documents — which may have been altered, embellished or edited — in order to write misleading negative stories about Carmen Trutanich.
More troubling is that the stolen materials appear to have been widely shopped by the campaign of one of Carmen Trutanich's opponents — a sitting Deputy District Attorney. This opposing candidate appears to have knowingly accepted a stolen document, which also constitutes an illegal, unreported campaign contribution valued in excess of $10,000. The irony is that this person is running to be the County's top law enforcement prosecutor.
As for the rest of the report, quite a lot of it was used against Trutanich in the 2009 city attorney's race. He survived that just fine.