LAPD officer alleging sexual harassment by Garcetti aide says he feared retaliation

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Dakota Smith
·4 min read
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Los Angeles City Hall and other government buildings in downtown Los Angeles close to the public in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak on Monday, March 16, 2020. ( Photo by Nick Agro / For The Times)
LAPD Officer Matthew Garza said he didn't speak out about alleged harassment by a top aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti because he feared retaliation. Above, L.A. City Hall. (Nick Agro/For The Times)

Los Angeles police officer Matthew Garza, a former bodyguard to Mayor Eric Garcetti, testified that he worried he would face retaliation if he reported the sexual harassment that he alleges he endured by a former top aide to Garcetti.

"I would have been ostracized," Garza said in a deposition taken last month and reviewed by The Times. "I would have been removed from the [security] detail. If I made that big of a deal of it, if I had sought out a complaint with the sexual harassment division within the city, I no doubt would have been retaliated against. The mayor and his staff is extremely vindictive."

Garza sued the city in July, alleging that former aide Rick Jacobs made crude sexual comments, massaged his shoulders and hugged him between 2014 and 2019. Garza alleged that the harassment happened in front of the mayor, but that Garcetti did nothing to stop it.

Jacobs, who left city employment in 2016 and no longer advises the mayor, has denied the allegations. Garcetti said in his deposition that he did not witness inappropriate behavior by his former aide.

Garza told attorneys representing himself and the city that he worried that accusing Jacobs would cost him his security detail assignment, which came with a set schedule that allowed him to be with his family, including a daughter with a disability.

Garza said Jacobs was "an extremely powerful man" in the mayor's office and influenced Garcetti's decisions.

Speaking about his fear of retaliation, Garza pointed to an instance in which top aides in the mayor's office helped remove a veteran fire marshal from his job after he clashed with inspectors in his department and the fire union pushed for his ouster.

Garza said he was privy to the mayor's staff's phone conversations about the marshal. "They were trying to ruin his career," Garza said.

At one point, a city attorney asked Garza whether he had made profane comments about Garcetti to a fellow security detail officer and vowed to "get him" after controversial comments by the mayor. Garcetti, speaking at a church following the death of George Floyd, referred to "the killers that we are" in describing the need to redirect LAPD funds to minority communities.

L.A.'s police union criticized Garcetti, who later said he was referring to society’s “collective burden” to address high mortality rates among Black Angelenos, not to police.

Garza said he was bothered by the mayor's comments, but disputed the attorney's suggestion that they led to his lawsuit. "That is not my motivation for this lawsuit, sir," Garza said.

Garza also testified that he was molested as a child by a priest and last year sued the Catholic church after the state lifted the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases. Garza called Jacobs’ behavior “triggering” for him.

In other testimony, Garza said that Garcetti and his wife, Amy Wakeland, made critical remarks about Black Lives Matter, a group that has protested at Getty House since at least 2015. Garza left the mayor's detail in 2019.

"We had Black Lives Matter that were protesting at his house for what seemed like weeks on end, and ... he'd engage with us in conversations about how, you know, he didn't support their rhetoric and how he thought they were radicals and idiots and how it was disturbing his — his whole, you know, life at home," Garza said.

Garza testified that he heard Wakeland "on numerous occasions" refer to the demonstrators in profane terms and ask if they could be arrested.

Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar disputed the account.

"These are flat-out lies that do not reflect private feelings or public statements made by the mayor and Ms. Wakeland," Comisar said in a statement to The Times. "The mayor and Ms. Wakeland strongly support the movement for racial justice, the centering of Black lives in the conversation about the future of law enforcement, and the urgency shown by the activists fighting for change.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.