Gay Desert Hot Springs

Desert Hot Springs Commissioner Granted Restraining Order After Receiving Threats

Posted on September 20, 2022

Newsbreak.com By Ani Gasparyan, Palm Springs Desert Sun

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A Desert Hot Springs planning commissioner was granted a three-year restraining order Thursday after he said he was threatened for denying a permit to a massage therapy business

The Planning Commission unanimously denied a conditional use permit for JinDing Massage Spa during a public hearing on Aug. 23 due to the business’ previous code violations of installing a business sign without permits and operating without a business license. Planning Commission Chair Richard Duffle had made the first motion to deny the permit. 

James Cole, ex-husband of permit applicant Zhan Lu, allegedly threatened Duffle over the phone the next day for denying Lu’s permit. The City of Desert Hot Springs’ petition for a workplace violence restraining order alleges that Cole told Duffle that Lu was hospitalized after losing $50,000 in her business and that he knows where the commissioner lives and works. 

“I’m not in town right now, but if I was, I would take care of you now. I work with big companies like Walmart and Harbor Freight and I’m going to ruin you. And if I ever see you on the street, I will wipe the street with you,” Cole allegedly said, according to the petition. 

Cole allegedly threatened Duffle again in a voicemail on Aug. 26, after Duffle accidentally called his number while trying to block it and hung up. Later that same day, two of Duffle’s cars were broken into for the first time. This incident is under investigation. 

The commissioner had reported Cole to the Desert Hot Springs Police Department after the first incident and was later granted a temporary restraining order before a court hearing was held on the matter Thursday. 

During the court hearing, Cole denied making physical threats and said his voicemail to Duffle reiterated their first call. The petition quotes a voicemail recording, attributed to Cole, that said: “Look, you don’t want to mess with me dude. You’re making a huge mistake, all right? I’ll be messing with you, ok? You’re a public servant in a public place, and you screwed my ex-wife.” 

Duffle declined to comment after the hearing. The city also declined to make additional comments, citing the police department’s ongoing investigation. 

Desert Hot Springs would not confirm if any charges against Cole were filed, but jail records show he was arrested on Sept. 13 and is facing charges of making criminal threats, battery and child endangerment. The city’s petition for a workplace violence restraining order states that Cole was facing charges for battery and willful harm to a child already. 

He posted $10,000 bail and is scheduled to appear at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 8 at the Larson Justice Center, according to jail records. The restraining order also prevents Cole from being near members of Duffle’s household. An exception to the order is that Cole may go to Desert Hot Springs City Hall with a 24-hour notice, according to Commissioner Arthur C. Hester * III, who oversaw the hearing Thursday. 

Cole declined to comment on the allegations Monday. 

*An earlier version of this article misspelled Commissioner Arthur C. Hester’s name. 

Ani Gasparyan covers the western Coachella Valley cities of Desert Hot Springs and Cathedral City. Reach her at ani.gasparyan@desertsun.com. 

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Desert Hot Springs commissioner granted restraining order after receiving threats