One chapter has closed on the ill-fated dispute last summer between Long Beach 2nd District City Councilmember Jeannine Pearce and her former chief of staff Devin Cotter. City Prosecutor Doug Haubert announced last week that Cotter has been ordered to complete community service as part of a plea agreement relating to a case filed against him for being drunk in public on June 3, 2017, and a “pending probation violation” from a previous DUI (driving under the influence) conviction that dates back to 2015.
“We hope that this is the end of the ordeal with all of the parties,” Haubert said in a phone interview on Nov. 20. “We believe that justice was served.”
In an email sent to the Signal Tribune last week, Haubert noted that, under the plea agreement, Cotter acknowledged that he had violated his probation from his previous DUI on June 3.
“His probation was revoked by Superior Court Judge Richard Goul, and Cotter was ordered to complete 10 days of community service,” Haubert told the Signal Tribune in an email. “Cotter was then reinstated on probation, and if he fails to complete his community service or if [he] violates probation a second time, he could be sentenced to up to 170 days in county jail. His public-intoxication case was dismissed, pursuant to the plea agreement.”
The Signal Tribune asked Haubert whether there was any concern over a conflict of interest with his ability to prosecute Cotter, since he was a former employee of the City. Cotter left civil service earlier this year and is listed as the owner of Bullhorn Consulting, which specializes in political consulting.
Haubert said he believed that there wouldn’t even be an “appearance of a conflict.”
“And in this case, we did not treat him any differently than we would have treated anyone else,” Haubert said, noting that his office had prosecuted other city employees and even candidates for school board in the past.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office took charge of overseeing any potential criminal charges against Pearce.
Two bitter altercations took place between Cotter and Pearce in the early morning hours of June 3. On that day, California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers discovered a car parked around 2:40am along the median of the 710 Freeway, according to a statement from the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD). CHP officers called the LBPD, who intervened when they discovered both Cotter and Pearce involved in an active dispute.
According to his attorney, Cotter sustained some injuries. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s charging documents published by at least three media outlets confirm that Cotter had cuts to his head and hands. The documents also confirmed that while Pearce and Cotter had conflicting accounts of what happened during their heated argument, they eventually agreed that Pearce had hit Cotter’s hand away from her while she had been driving the car, and after they had parked, Pearce had used two hands to shove Cotter away from her, “causing him to stumble/fall.” Pearce had been the driver of the car and passed the initial field-sobriety test, according to a statement by the LBPD.
Police officers allowed her to call a friend to take her home while officers took Cotter to his own home. However, a few hours later, police were called again to intervene between Cotter and the 2nd district councilmember, this time in front of Pearce’s property. According to a statement from Pearce’s former attorney, Pearce said she contacted the police from her car when she saw Cotter outside her home. Police found that there was an outstanding arrest warrant for Cotter related to a previous DUI conviction that dated back to 2015 and subsequently arrested him. In addition to the warrant, police arrested him on a charge of public intoxication.
Pearce herself faced criticism from the public. In August, a committee announced it would launch a recall campaign to remove Pearce from office. Social-media users scrutinized the results of Pearce’s sobriety test, which was later revealed to have been conducted long after Pearce had been found in her car with Cotter. According to the district attorney’s files published by media outlets, the DA noted that the device used to test her blood-alcohol level had been recommended to be removed from service due to accuracy concerns back in May, a month prior to her test.
While media outlets reported that the DA’s office declined to prosecute Pearce on criminal charges related to domestic violence or a DUI, they noted that the DA’s Public Integrity Division is investigating other concerns surrounding Pearce.