US & Canada

California lawyer investigated for obscene slur on Democrat

Photo of Michael Selyem talking to press from earlier this year Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Michael Selyem is the lead gang prosecutor in the San Bernardino County district

A California gang prosecutor has been placed on administrative leave following a number of offensive posts made on his social media accounts.

Michael Selyem is being investigated for his language against US lawmaker Maxine Waters, former First Lady Michelle Obama and immigrants.

San Bernardino District Attorney Mike Ramos said the office had known of the "negative" posts since 28 June.

Mr Selyem's Facebook and Instagram accounts have since been deleted.

The San Bernardino Sun newspaper shared images of the now-deleted posts reportedly made by Mr Selyem, 50, on social media.

Among them include a screenshot of a comment calling Ms Waters an offensive epithet and saying: "in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this [expletive] by now".

Ms Waters had garnered attention last month for calling on supporters to publicly harass Trump administration officials over the "zero tolerance" policy at the border that has led to the separation of migrant families.

Mr Selyem has not responded to requests for comment from several US media outlets and has not made a statement of his own.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Congresswoman Maxine Waters has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration

Mr Selyem had also reportedly commented on an article from far-right media outlet Breitbart saying he was "all for white males immigrating here legally and starting a business".

"It is the terrorist [expletive] sneaking in here wanting to kill me an[d] my family that I am opposed to."

The Sun also reported that Mr Selyem shared a doctored picture of Mrs Obama with the words "Trump grabbed my penis" and made comments against Mexicans and liberals.

"The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office does not condone hate, discrimination or incitement of violence," read a 9 July statement by Mr Ramos.

"Our community and the entire criminal justice system depends on having fair, ethical, and unbiased prosecutors."

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Media captionIs there a single step to address racism in US?

The statement noted that Mr Selyem may face "disciplinary action" and "termination" pending the results of an investigation.

As the lead gang prosecutor in the San Bernardino district, his unit handles gang activity in an area where the majority of gang members are Latino.

In the wake of his online comments, critics have said Mr Selyem may not be objective in his work as a prosecutor.

Mr Ramos told reporters during a news conference on Monday that he was "offended" by Mr Selyem's comments, but said "we have had no prior indication Mr Selyem had any type of bias regarding his cases".

He said the office is reviewing Mr Selyem's cases.

California Congressman Pete Aguilar called for Mr Selyem to be fired on Twitter.

"We cannot allow racism and bigotry to have a place in our society, especially not in our government. The comments made by Deputy District Attorney Michael Selyem are unacceptable, and he should be fired immediately."

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