Editor’s note: The Current Report contributor Dr. Ronda Hampton outlines Kamala Harris’s role in the investigation against the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department in the death of Mitrice Richardson after she was released from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s station September 17th, 2009, under suspicious circumstances. Richardson was experiencing a mental health episode when she was booked for failure to pay an innkeeper and possessing less than an ounce of marijuana. Shortly after midnight, Richardson was released with no money, cell phone or means to get herself to safety. Her naked, partially mummified remains were found less than six miles from the station, and 1.5 miles from her last known location. This is a factual account of Harris’s participation in the investigation which ultimately led to no sanctions against the Sheriff’s Department and their responsibility in Richardson’s death. – Cece Woods, Editor in Chief
By Dr. Ronda Hampton
As we are approaching one of the most seemingly contentious presidential elections in recent times, the nation is faced with making a historic decision. A vote for Joe Biden is also a vote for the first female in one of the highest offices in this country as well as the first woman of color. For those in the democratic party who will vote strictly party line, the political record of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris may mean very little in their vote decision (this is also the case for those in the Republican party who vote strictly party line). For those who are influenced by the political backstory of the candidates, this election may be one of the most difficult decisions of a lifetime, at least it is for me.
In September of 2009 Mitrice Richardson was suffering a mental health crisis at Geoffrey’s restaurant in Malibu, CA when the staff at the restaurant called the local sheriff’s department to come and “pick her up” because she was acting “crazy”. While the welfare and institution code 5150 required that Mitrice Richardson be evaluated by a mental health professional, the arresting officer decided to take her to the jail instead. For reasons unknown, she was never provided a psychiatric evaluation for her “unusual” behaviors at the restaurant but instead was released from the Malibu/Lost Hills sheriff’s station in the dead of the night with no money, no car, no means of caring for herself and in a compromised mental state. Her partially mummified, naked, skeletal remains were discovered approximately 11 months later. While it is was no surprise that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s departments own investigation of themselves determined that there was no wrongdoing in the handling of Mitrice Richardson’s death and disappearance, there remained many unanswered questions:
1. Why was she arrested?
2. Why was she not taken for a psychiatric evaluation even when the arresting officer called her “ditzy”?
3. Why were her car keys, phone, and purse not taken with her to the station?
4. Why was her car towed?
5. Why did the captain of the station lie about the existence of a video?
6. Why, more than 10 years later, will the LASD not release the video of her at the station?
5. Why did the LASD detectives remove her body from the site where her remains were discovered against the orders of the coroner.
It was these and many more question which lead to my request that, then Attorney General Kamala Harris, investigate the case of Mitrice Richardson. A complaint which was submitted on October 5, 2015 contained over 500 pages of exhibits highlighting potential violation of law enforcement policy and possible criminal acts on the part of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s. Approximately six weeks later, on November 16, 2015, a letter received from the office of the Attorney General stated that after careful evaluation, my inquiry warranted no formal action and that “The records you provided do not create a reasonable inference that the actions of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department or its employees violated the law”. That it took a mere six weeks to investigate potential evidence contained in more than 500 pages of documents lead me to conclude that the “investigation” was disingenuous and that Harris’s relationship with former
Sheriff Jim McDonnell may have impacted her decision to formulate the opinion that no part of the handling of Mitrice Richardson’s case warranted any punitive action.
With the devastating news the office of the Attorney General did not find evidence to support any action be taken against the LASD, I contacted Mitrice Richardson’s father, Michael Richardson, who penned another letter asking for a reconsideration of Mitrice Richardson’s case on December 15, 2015 and in February of 2016, Kamala Harris agreed to reconsider the investigation. While it was never clear as to why she agreed to reconsider Mitrice Richardson’s case after claiming that her office had carefully evaluated my documents (which were mailed back to me), it is speculated that after local news outlets began to publish news articles about her decision that there was no wrongdoing on the part of any officer, she began to get backlash from communities in Southern California. This backlash was problematic as she was beginning her campaign for the Senate race. The thought that Kamala Harris only agreed to a reconsideration of Mitrice Richardson’s case as a result of her bid for the senate was heightened by the fact that during her bid for senate, she actually touted Mitrice Richardson’s case on her Wikipedia page as one of her accomplishments. A few weeks prior to her announcement as Joe Biden’s pick for VP, Mitrice Richardson’s case was “scrubbed” from Kamala Harris’s wiki page as if Mitrice Richardson had never existed.
Mr. Richardson and I had no real confidence that there would be an earnest investigation and joked that most likely she would drag out the “investigation” until after her run for senator was over and then again announce that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the LASD. On December 16, 2016, ten months after she reconsidered the investigation of Mitrice Richardson’s case and about six weeks after she won her bid for senate November 9, 2016, she cleared the LASD of any wrongdoing and no one was surprised.
There are those who are not pleased with me speaking out about Mrs. Harris and her actions while she was the Attorney General of California for fear that it may cause a loss of votes. I have been speaking out against Mrs. Harris and her actions on since 2015 and it is not going to change now. I have no power over anyone’s vote, I am not a person of any influence, I do not have a national platform with which to share Mitrice Richardson’s story but what I am is one individual impacted by a tragedy that Kamala Harris had the opportunity to correct and she chose otherwise.