Sources: OC Register
Santa Ana police officer Brandon Sontag is a criminal and a disgrace to the uniform he once wore. Due to a recent judge’s ruling, despite the wishes of the city or the department, he will once again wear a badge. Thanks to a restraining order and some disciplinary red tape, Sontag was ordered to be reinstated by the department that once fired him – and had made it clear he was not welcome.
The raid on the Sky High Holistic cannabis dispensary in May 2015 ruined the lives of the owners; fighting with the city for years to win a mere $100,000 settlement to recoup their losses. The raid, which was questionably legal, and determined to have been unauthorized, also uncovered gross misconduct by the three officers conducting their sweep. Brandon Sontag was one of those officers who upon entry, attempted to disable all of the video cameras in the store. An obvious attempt to shield their own misconduct – evidence of foresight of their crimes.
They missed the one hidden camera that ended up being the three officers’ undoing. In maintaining some semblance of integrity, Sontag and his cohorts were fired by Chief Carlos Rojas. Sontag appealed his termination to the city personnel board, who voted 5-2 that termination was not appropriate and that he should have been suspended instead. This called for his reinstatement and delivery of backpay since his firing. This decision was then overturned by the city council, who agreed the termination was appropriate. When the case made its way to court, the judge put a temporary restraining order on the city council’s decision and ruled Sontag, despite his being a criminal, should be put back on the streets.
Sontag’s argument does not deny the fact that he committed a felony theft of a controlled substance from the Sky High Holistic dispensary. Instead, his lawyers argue that the decision of the city personnel board stands, and the judge agreed. “Based on the record before the Court, the Court finds that Plaintiff is likely to prevail on the merits of his claims, and/or the balance of hardship tips in his favor and/or Plaintiff would be likely to suffer irreparable injury, absent an ex parte temporary restraining order, and the requested relief serves the public interest and legislative intent related to the relevant statutes.” Basically, the judge stated that Sontag may suffer continued harm if not reinstated, until the situation can be resolved.
The reality is that Sontag will ride a desk until the city finds another way to fire him. Having a history of committing criminal acts during legally questionable raids would bring his credibility into question in any criminal prosecution he may attempt to be involved with, moving forward. The city spokesman would not comment on the matter, but would only confirm they’ll comply with the court order. Complying with the court order may also just mean cutting Sontag a paycheck for sitting on his couch at home, which is another likely outcome. Sontag and the officer involved were criminally charged a year ago, in March 2016. Unfortunately, the DA would not charge them with a drug crime, as she stated she could not prove the edibles the officers ate contained any marijuana.