Ronald Freitas, a former San Joaquin County assistant district attorney still employed as a juvenile prosecutor, has filed a civil lawsuit against District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar, alleging age and gender discrimination, defamation and breach of contract during a series of events that led to his demotion one year ago.
“Defendant Verber Salazar’s conduct was despicable and she acted with knowing disregard because as the District Attorney of San Joaquin County she is charged with enforcing the law and protecting all of the citizens of San Joaquin County, so she was aware of the likely harmful consequences of her conduct, and she deliberately failed to avoid those consequences,” the 24-page complaint filed by Stockton-based attorney Scott Malm says.
The District Attorney’s Office posted Freitas’ complaint on its Facebook page Tuesday night, along with a statement.
The statement says, in part, “The District Attorney has not been formally served with the lawsuit. This brief statement is being made in accordance with the District Attorney’s policy of transparency and continued efforts to build trust with the community. The District Attorney denies all allegations and unsubstantiated characterizations made in the lawsuit. This matter is an internal employment matter and much of the process that has occurred is subject to certain restrictions. … At the legally appropriate time … the District Attorney will respond to each of the claims in accordance with legal process.”
Freitas alleges in his complaint that Verber Salazar told him in 2010 that she would appoint him as an assistant district attorney if he supported her when she first ran for the position in 2014. But when Verber Salazar was elected in 2014, she chose another attorney in the office, Scott Fichtner, as her assistant, Freitas’ suit says.
The complaint claims that Verber Salazar’s “paranoia grew” after she took office. The document says Verber Salazar told people the FBI was tapping her phones, she “kept the blinds closed in her office for fear of lip readers and drones with cameras or recorders;” and that she complained “a mole in the office” was disseminating information.
Freitas, 57, also alleges Verber Salazar joked about his age and commented one time that he was “80 years old.” Additionally, he cites three complaints against Verber Salazar by unnamed employees who he claims received payments “in excess of several hundred thousand dollars of taxpayer funds.”
As it came time for Verber Salazar to seek reelection, Freitas was promoted to an assistant district attorney position and asked by the D.A. to serve on her campaign committee, Freitas’ complaint says. Freitas says Verber Salazar had told others she was afraid he would oppose her in her race for reelection.
On March 20 of last year, after it was too late for Freitas to file to run against Verber Salazar in her reelection race, she allegedly told Freitas to choose between early retirement and a demotion.
Freitas says he filed an equal-employment complaint at the D.A.’s office the next day, and three hours later was placed on administrative leave by Verber Salazar. He says he was “falsely imprisoned” by an armed police officer while his employee ID, keys, cellphone and laptop were being removed from him his office.
Eventually, Freitas says, the officer led him out of the building with “a loaded pistol with the hammer cocked back” and with “several extra magazines of ammunition.”
Finally, Freitas says, he was demoted one year ago and replaced as assistant district attorney by Kristine Reed. The complaint says, “Ms. Reed is female, and is younger than (Freitas) and lives in Sacramento, so she is not a political threat to … Verber Salazar.”
Freitas and his attorney did not respond to interview requests Wednesday. Verber Salazar, who ran unopposed in winning a second term last year, did not respond to a text message, and a spokesman from her office Office declined comment.