D.A. declines to file charges in school board member threat case

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: David Barlavi speaks at the Saugus Election forum held in James Foster Elementary School Thursday, September 13, 2018. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office decided to not file formal charges against the alleged parties in a criminal complaint filed by Saugus Union School District board member David Barlavi.

In the complaint, Barlavi alleged he received death threats in response to his use of a “raised fist” gesture during the flag salute at two public meetings.

A picture taken during the Jan. 7 meeting of the SCV Water Agency’s board meeting shows Barlavi, who represents the school district’s Trustee Area No. 1, with his right hand over his heart and his left hand in a fist raised in the air. He repeated the gesture once again during the Pledge of Allegiance before the school district’s Feb. 5 meeting.

The gesture, which Barlavi said indicated his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, drew criticism from members of the public both in person during the meeting and later online. Many of those who objected said the gesture was disrespectful and “unpatriotic.”

Barlavi said he filed the complaint alleging the incitement of possible violent and criminal action against him after he had received threats after a video from one of the SUSD board meetings was posted on YouTube.

Lt. Ignacio Somoano, of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Detectives Bureau, said Thursday that the matter had been handed over to the D.A.’s office, but criminal charges would not be filed against anyone, as of now.

“At this point, the information we were able to gather was submitted to the D.A.’s office,” said Somoano. “We did conduct an investigation into possible inciting violence and criminal threats (against Barlavi). At this time, they’re not filing charges.”

Somoano added that the matter is no longer active. However, it remains possible that charges could be filed in the future.

“So, new information or evidence could be re-presented to the D.A.’s office,” said Somoano. “There are crimes on the books and there is free speech. People do have to keep in consideration there are laws and the way the laws are designed to be enforced.”

A spokesperson with the  Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

Barlavi did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, but during Tuesday’s board meeting, he said he would present a public statement at the board’s next meeting, scheduled May 7.

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