Sustained pain

LB Councilmember Pearce’s allegations of domestic violence involve threats and harassment

Longbeach.gov
Long Beach 2nd District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce has claimed that she is the victim of stalking and harassment. In the early-morning hours of June 3, both CHP and Long Beach Police officers intervened in a dispute between Pearce and her former chief of staff, Devin Cotter. An attorney for Cotter says his client sustained his own injuries.

Long Beach Councilmember Jeannine Pearce’s allegations of domestic violence use a broader definition of said crime to include harassment, threats and stalking, which she says took place before and after a police stop early on a Saturday morning last June.

Pearce hasn’t since shied away from her public duties to represent the 2nd District and has shown up to city council meetings and other public events. However, in a statement released through her attorney last month, Pearce said that her private life has been under threat, especially in the weeks after a heated argument with her former employee.

In one statement issued through her attorney on June 26, Pearce broke her initial silence about the June 3 police stop and the eventual arrest in front of her home of her former employee, Devin Cotter. In the weeks that followed, Pearce had told media outlets that the incident was a private matter and declined to comment on the issue at length. She offered only a partial explanation of the events last month.

“While I am personally focused on healing and supporting my daughter in understanding the alteration in our lifestyle as a result of the need to take measures to protect my personal safety, which is standard practice for victims of domestic violence,” she wrote in her statement, “I continue to devote myself professionally to representing and championing the 2nd District. Unfortunately, since late last year I have experienced escalating threats, harassment and stalking.”

Last month, the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) released its own statement that described the chain of events that led to Cotter’s arrest. At 2:40am on June 3, California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers first discovered both Pearce and Cotter in a car facing southbound and parked along the median off the Golden Shore exit on the 710 Freeway. After CHP officers questioned both Pearce and Cotter, they called LBPD officers to investigate a “possible domestic-violence and driving-under-the-influence incident.” Pearce, who had been driving the car, passed her field-sobriety test.

“LBPD did not find sufficient cause for arrest related to a domestic-violence incident or driving under the influence,” the press release stated.

Officers drove Cotter to his home, and they allowed Pearce to call a friend to take her home. However, the police statement went on to describe a second clash between the councilmember and her former chief of staff. When Pearce returned to her house around 6am, Cotter confronted the councilmember once more. Pearce drove away and called the police, who arrested Cotter for public intoxication. They also learned that Cotter had an active warrant for $50,000 for a previous DUI conviction.

In a second press statement, the LBPD acknowledged that they had presented Cotter’s case to the city prosecutor’s office on Monday, June 26.

In a follow-up email to the Signal Tribune on June 30, Sgt. Brad Johnson of the LBPD said that detectives are still investigating the allegations of domestic violence.

“Once the investigation has concluded, the facts will be presented to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office for filing consideration,” Johnson said in an email to the Signal Tribune. “It would be premature for the department to provide further details until all aspects of the investigation are completed and the case has been presented.”

In her press statement last month, Pearce had also disputed one detail about her police stop.

“I want to be clear that I asked for the presence of the police officers at both scenes,” Pearce said, “and I was not pulled over by law-enforcement.”

Pearce’s attorney, Michele Dobson, explained in a phone interview why Pearce only spoke out recently. Dobson said that even in the weeks after June 3, Pearce claims that the harassment, stalking and threats had not stopped.

“All we simply wanted to do,” Dobson said in a phone interview last month, “was to address the concerns about why Ms. Pearce was more scared as a private individual lately, because silence […] wasn’t allowing her to be able to have a personal life.”

Dobson said during her interview that the councilmember had been scheduled to speak with police last week and would offer more details after that time. Pearce could not be reached for comment this week.

During her interview last month, the Signal Tribune asked Dobson about the allegations of domestic violence and whether Pearce had suffered any physical injuries.

“Not on June 3,” Dobson said. However, she declined to offer more information, explaining that they had to talk to the police department first and ensure they could talk about Pearce’s “other complaints.”

Attorney Bryan Schroeder has been representing Cotter since June. In an interview last month with the Signal Tribune, Schroeder said that he knew of no investigation related to Cotter surrounding stalking or harassment. He confirmed he is only defending Cotter against the charges related to the misdemeanor of being drunk in public.

“I can tell you that Mr. Cotter has, in no way, been the perpetrator of any domestic violence in any way, shape or form,” Schroeder said. “Any allegations or insinuations as to that effect are completely false.”

At the time of his interview last month, Cotter’s attorney offered only one clue as to what happened in that car parked off the median 710 Freeway. The Signal Tribune asked Schroeder about the allegations of domestic violence.

“The only investigation I know of that is part of this matter as it relates to Mr. Cotter is related to injuries that he sustained,” he replied.

Cotter’s attorney did not immediately respond to further requests for an interview from the Signal Tribune this week, days after Dobson said Pearce had been scheduled to speak with police detectives.

According to his LinkedIn page, Cotter left his job with the City of Long Beach in February, and now he is the owner of Bullhorn Consulting, a Long Beach firm that specializes in political campaigns and government affairs. Cotter filed the company’s articles of incorporation last December, according to state records.

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