The lead hard-core gang prosecutor in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office is under investigation for a series of offensive rants on social media, triggering demands for his dismissal.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Selyem, who joined the D.A.’s Office 12 years ago, targeted outspoken U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, former first lady Michelle Obama, Mexican immigrants and the victim of a police shooting in Facebook and Instagram posts labeled by one critic as “hateful rhetoric.”
Of Waters, Selyem said: “Being a loud-mouthed c#nt in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now …”
In an online argument with someone over the police shooting of a civilian, Selyem wrote, “That s—bag got exactly what he deserved. … You reap what you sow. And by the way go f— yourself you liberal s—bag.”
It was unclear which police shooting Selyem was referencing, and whether or not it was an open case in San Bernardino County or had occurred elsewhere.
Selyem also posted a doctored picture of Michelle Obama holding a sign saying, “Trump grabbed my penis.”
Selyem, a 50-year-old resident of Placentia, is the lead attorney in a unit tasked with cracking down on criminal gang activity that surged as members moved inland from Los Angeles County in search of more affordable housing. Many of those gangs are predominantly Latino. One of Selyem’s posts showed a man in a giant sombrero with the words, “Mexican word of the day: Hide.”
Internal complaint made June 25
The District Attorney’s Office has been aware of the posts since June 25, when someone in the office complained. Since then, Selyem has been the subject of an internal investigation, sources said.
Selyem hung up on a reporter when reached by phone. He did not return calls and emails seeking comment on the posts that appeared under his name. Both his Facebook and Instagram accounts have been deleted.
In a statement Friday, outgoing District Attorney Mike Ramos said: “We have been made aware of the negative comments and they do not represent the views of the District Attorney’s Office. Since this is a personnel matter I cannot comment any further.”
District attorney’s spokesman Chris Lee would not say whether the office has an official policy on social media postings, or, if not, whether it is now considering implementing such a policy.
Some already have called for Selyem’s termination, saying the posts were not only offensive, unprofessional and beneath the dignity of a public prosecutor, but that anyone who publicly espouses such sentiments cannot impartially administer justice.
“It is disgusting that a public official sworn to protect the public would have these ugly viewpoints,” said Zeke Hernandez, president of the Santa Ana League of United Latin American Citizens No. 147. “The district attorney needs to take any and all appropriate action to let the public know that it does not agree with Selyem’s hateful rhetoric.”
That includes Selyem’s dismissal, Hernandez said.
‘Beyond a simple error in judgment’
“This has gone beyond a simple error in judgment,” he said. “It is clearly outside the boundaries of civil service norms. Law enforcement personnel and officers of the court system should not incite violence.”
Brian Levin, a Cal State San Bernardino professor who teaches criminal and hate crime law, said the district attorney needs to take this “incredibly seriously and address it forthwith.”
“Such declarations are deplorable, reprehensible, disgusting and bigoted and have no place in the public domain of a trusted public official,” Levin said. “It’s shocking if these allegations are true.”
Before his accounts were deleted, Selyem’s rants were captured in screenshots sent to Los Angeles accountant Pedro Cala, who then forwarded them to public officials and the Southern California News Group. Cala received them from someone who once worked in the District Attorney’s Office.
“He literally holds the lives of citizens in his hands, and it’s just not right,” Cala said. “I am disgusted by his spouting of racist, xenophobic and sexist posts. A person that harbors these types of views, and feels such courage to espouse them with impunity, does not belong in the District Attorney’s office administering prejudiced and jaundiced jurisprudence.
“I fail to see how this man can be impartial in his solemn task of helping to seek truth and justice.”
The deleted posts also included pictures of friends and family, dogs and artsy shots of elaborate cocktails and glistening wine glasses. There were photos of cakes decorated with the Grateful Dead’s skull logo, sports team rivalries, and a newspaper ad for a lost cat named Satchi.
Selyem apparently is an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump. Beneath a Facebook post offering free tickets to Trump’s presidential inauguration, Selyem wrote, “I love that all of you liberal f—–g p—–s are so filled with hate. Gonna be a long 8 years for you scumbags. choo choo trump”
Beneath a Breitbart News post about the Budweiser Super Bowl ad that celebrated the immigrant success story of the beer empire’s founder, Selyem wrote: “I am all for white males immigrating here legally and starting a business. It is the terrorist a–holes sneaking in here wanting to kill me an (sic) my family that I am opposed to. I cannot believe how shallow democrats are. They must really think people are stupid. I guess that is evident because they actually thought Hilary (sic) Clinton could win a presidential election… TWICE!!! LMFAO!!!”
Lawyer comes to his defense
Seylem graduated from UCLA’s School of Law in 2004 and went to work in the Central Hardcore Gang Unit of the D.A’.s office in 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile. He has endorsements for trial practice, litigation and legal writing.
San Bernardino attorney Stephen Levine called Seylem a “very disciplined and ethical member of the District Attorney’s Office.” After seeing screenshots of the posts Friday, Levine’s opinion didn’t change much.
“I of course oppose Mr. Selyem in court on a regular basis,” Levine said. “I also was friends on Facebook and Instagram. I do not defend the tenor of his posts but defend his right to his beliefs. I have seen no evidence that his personal beliefs have influenced his professional responsibilities and prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Doug Poston, president of the San Bernardino County Public Attorneys Association, the union representing county prosecutors and deputy public defenders, declined to comment Friday, citing the internal investigation. A former hard-core gang prosecutor himself, Poston did confirm that Selyem is a member of the union.
District Attorney-elect Jason Anderson said in a telephone interview Friday he was limited in what he could say given Selyem’s conduct is the subject of a pending personnel matter, but he did say Selyem’s tone and language in his social media postings was a “little bit salty.”
“It’s not a reflection of the image I would like to portray of the D.A.’s Office,” Anderson said. He said Selyem’s comments on the police shooting could be an even bigger issue if he was referring to a case that is still under investigation or review by law enforcement.
“I don’t want someone commenting on an officer-involved shooting in a public forum if it is something that the DA’s office is currently reviewing or determining if it’s a justified shooting,” Anderson said.
Laurie Levenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School and a former federal prosecutor, found Selyem’s comments “appalling and unprofessional.”
“It certainly reflects poorly on his office, so I hope they take the matter seriously in their internal review,” Levenson said in an email Friday. “It is also likely that he has seriously hurt his credibility with his colleagues, opposing counsel and the judges. Lawyers, especially public servants, should be held to the highest standards of civility.”
By TERI SFORZA
and JOE NELSON