Jackie Lacey, currently seeking a third term as Los Angeles County District Attorney, returned about $13,000 to 13 individuals connected to serious crimes throughout her home county.

The donors ranged from the parents of a man awaiting a murder trial, a Sun Valley felon convicted of trying to smuggle missile parts to Iran, and a Glendale used car dealer previously sanctioned for an illegal campaign donation.

The contributions are at odds with the district attorney’s prior public statements on the ethics of campaign donations. During the 2012 race, Lacey condemned an opponent for taking money from a man convicted of fraud.

“Zero tolerance of public corruption has to start in the campaign,” Lacey said after then-rival Alan Jackson denied knowledge of the contribution. “Jackson cannot just shrug this off and say, ‘I didn’t know.’ The fact is it is his job to know — his most important job.”

This is not the first time Lacey has faced scrutiny for her campaign contributions. She was criticized two years ago for a plea deal her office made with a donor; a criminal defense attorney who had served as her campaign finance director. In that case, prosecutors allowed one of the donor’s clients, a firefighter charged in a violent assault, to plead guilty to a misdemeanor — a decision criticized in court by a veteran LAPD detective.

“No donor of mine has ever received different treatment than any other resident of L.A. County because it is my job to uphold the law for every person in L.A. County,” Lacey said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times after the problematic donors had been brought to her attention

Experts on the subject agree with Lacey and say that reason is why District Attorney candidates must be very vigilant about who they accept donations from, and should quickly and proactively return any that may seem improper.

“Because district attorneys occupy such a special area of trust and we rely on them to prosecute fairly, they should impose upon themselves a higher standard,” said Jennifer Rodgers, a Columbia University law professor who has helped devise a set of best practices for prosecutors receiving campaign donations in previous instances.

The Los Angeles Times said Lacey declined an interview request, but in a written statement she took "full responsibility" for accepting the contributions.

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