San Bernardino County’s lead gang prosecutor is under investigation after a series of racist and xenophobic posts he wrote on social media were unearthed. Even though there are calls for Deputy District Attorney Michael Selyem to step down in light of the deeply offensive posts, several of his colleagues have come to his defense.
Given the actual content of Selyem’s hateful rants, which, at times, stop just short of calling for violence, it’s just as troubling that Selyem’s coworkers in the DA’s office have offered such tepid excuses for a public servant tasked with administering justice.
While Selyem has deleted both his Instagram and Facebook accounts, screenshots of some of his posts are still available online. A brief low-light reel of Selyem’s postings include the following posts, courtesy of the Orange County Register:
- Regarding California Congresswoman Maxine Waters: “Being a loud-mouthed cunt in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now …”
- A Photoshopped image of Michelle Obama holding up a sign that reads, “Trump grabbed my penis.”
- Arguing with an online commenter about the police-involved shooting of a civilian: “That shitbag got exactly what he deserved. … You reap what you sow. And by the way go fuck yourself you liberal shitbag.”
- A photo of a man in a giant sombrero with the caption, “Mexican word of the day: Hide.”
- A caption alongside a Breitbart post about Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad celebrating immigrant success stories, “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.”
Selyem also professed passionate support for Donald Trump, reports the Register. In response to a post offering free tickets for Trump’s inauguration, Selyem wrote, “love that all of you liberal fucking g pussies are so filled with hate. Gonna be a long 8 years for you scumbags. choo choo trump.”
As the lead attorney of the hard-core gang unit, the 50-year-old Selyem is charged with cracking down on criminal gang activity in San Bernardino, where gang-related crime has spiked as gang members have moved from neighboring Los Angeles County. According to the Register, most of the gangs Selyem prosecutes are Latinx.
The posts were brought to the DA’s office attention on June 25; they confirmed that an internal investigation of Selyem is ongoing.
“We have been made aware of the negative comments and they do not represent the views of the District Attorney’s Office,” said outgoing District Attorney Mike Ramos in a statement Friday.
But Ramos’ successor had a puzzling characterization of Selyem’s racist rhetoric.
Because of the investigation, District Attorney-elect Jason Anderson told the Register that he was limited in what he could say, but characterized Selyem’s “tone and language in his social media postings [as] a ‘little bit salty,’” writes the Register.
Another San Bernardino attorney, Stephen Levine, offered a more robust defense of Selyem, calling him a “very disciplined and ethical member of the District Attorney’s Office.”
“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,” Levine told the Register.
Given the intensity and specificity of Selyem’s posts—other public officials and members of the community find that hard to believe.
Pedro Cala, a Los Angeles accountant, was forwarded screenshots of Selyem’s rants before the attorney deleted his account. Cala says he received them from someone who used to work in the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office.
“I fail to see how this man can be impartial in his solemn task of helping to seek truth and justice,” said Cala, who forwarded the screenshots to public officials and the Southern California News Group.
“He literally holds the lives of citizens in his hands, and it’s just not right,” Cala told the Register.
“I am disgusted by his spouting of racist, xenophobic and sexist posts,” he said. “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.”