Orange County DA's Office Shrugs Off Sheriff's Deputies Falsifying Evidence Reports [UPDATED]

from the boldly-adding-zero-accountability-to-zero-accountability dept

UPDATE: The Orange County DA's office has issued this correction:

There is misinformation in this story. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer has reopened the criminal investigations into the 17 deputies referenced in this post.

This post says that there was a decision to not charge those deputies. That is not accurate as the review is ongoing.

This is the reporting from The Appeal, which has apparently not received the same statement from Spitzer's office:

Between 2017, before the first audit began, and October 2018, the sheriff’s department referred 15 deputies to the district attorney’s office for criminal investigation as a result of filing false reports, according to the DA’s response to Voice of OC reporter Nick Gerda’s public information request. But by the end of January 2019, the DA’s office had decided not to prosecute any of the deputies, according to a motion filed last month by Scott Sanders, an assistant public defender. Two additional deputies were later submitted and also rejected for prosecution, several months later.

Original post follows:

If this were a private business, it would have collapsed under the combined weight of its unhappy customers and its own incompetence. But it isn't. We realize you don't have a choice in your law enforcement provider and all that.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department is a mess. It has been a mess for years. Some of its corruption was exposed five years ago, when an investigation by lawyers in a murder trial uncovered multiple occasions where the department had buried exculpatory information or refused to hand it over to defendants. This resulted in Orange County DA's office (including all of its 250 prosecutors) being kicked off the high-profile murder trial. The Sheriff's involvement was the strategic housing of jailhouse informants to illegally coax information out of defendants awaiting trial.

The problems uncovered here were made worse when the Sheriff's Department shredded documents ahead of a DOJ investigation and then-Sheriff Sandra Hutchens claimed the omissions made by deputies during testimony were honest mistakes -- the unfortunate result of the officers supposedly not knowing what they could and could not discuss about the Department's informant database in open court.

The same office "inadvertently" collected thousands of recordings containing privileged conversations between defendants and their lawyers. The department claimed a "software glitch" resulted in this windfall of rights violations.

Evidence-handling continues to be a problem for this department. Last year, it managed to anger one of its best friends -- the Orange County DA's office -- by constantly booking in evidence in an untimely manner. The root cause? Very succinctly, the DA's office said the Sheriff's evidence-handling protocols had "no system of accountability."

The audit of the department's extremely faulty booking process continues. And, as Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg reports for The Appeal, it's uncovering even more lax handling of criminal evidence.

Deputies booked evidence days, and sometimes weeks, after it was purportedly collected, according to an internal audit, which examined thousands of police reports filed between 2016 and 2018. Thirty percent of evidence was “booked out of policy,” according to a slide presentation describing the first audit’s findings. A second audit found that deputies had claimed to have collected evidence that was never booked.

Some deputies were far worse than others. One deputy in particular appeared to have set the curve the rest of the department was graded on.

In one investigation, the department found that Sheriff's Deputy Bryce Simpson falsely claimed he booked evidence in 74 cases, according to a motion Sanders filed last month. In 56 of those cases, no evidence was booked at all, and in 18 only some of the evidence he reported was booked.

Another young go-getter, Deputy Joseph Atkinson, claimed evidence had been booked in 26 cases where no evidence could be located. This included seven cases where Atkinson claimed to have booked drugs, leading one to wonder what actually happened to those drugs.

And yet, as angry as the DA's office was with the Sheriff's Department late last year, nothing has been done to introduce any more accountability into a system that clearly has none. The department referred 17 deputies to the DA's office for criminal investigation. The DA's office has decided none of these public servants should be punished for abusing the public's trust.

This isn't DA Todd Spitzer's fault. He defeated the former DA by running as a reformer. And while he has expressed his vast displeasure with the department's booking procedures, his office still decided none of the first 17 deputies referred to him for falsifying records should be criminally charged. That's not much of a reform and it's not going to change the culture that led to this situation. It's going to cost the DA a lot of criminal cases. Maybe once his office bleeds enough, he'll finally start taking this seriously.

Filed Under: corruption, evidence reports, orange county, orange county sheriff's department


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2020 @ 3:48pm

    Sad cycle of disappointment

    Another day, another reason not to trust law enforcement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 4:02pm

    I suppose I could find out by visiting links, but it would be nice not to have to. Is this:

    • Orange County, California?
    • Orange County, Florida?
    • Orange County, Indiana?
    • Orange County, New York?
    • Orange County, North Carolina?
    • Orange County, Texas?
    • Orange County, Vermont?
    • Orange County, Virginia?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Mar 2020 @ 4:41pm

    'I don't lead the office so much as give public statements...'

    This isn't DA Todd Spitzer's fault. He defeated the former DA by running as a reformer. And while he has expressed his vast displeasure with the department's booking procedures, his office still decided none of the first 17 deputies referred to him for falsifying records should be criminally charged. That's not much of a reform and it's not going to change the culture that led to this situation. It's going to cost the DA a lot of criminal cases. Maybe once his office bleeds enough, he'll finally start taking this seriously.

    If you promise reforms and then deliver none of it, yeah, that's kinda your fault. Unless he has basically zero influence in his office then it's on him as the head of it for the fact that none of those with badges referred to his office have actually faced any sort of penalty for their actions.

    Words matter, but not nearly as much as actions(or the lack thereof), so what he promised means less than nothing if he hasn't shown any interest in actually delivering, which is apparently the case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 Mar 2020 @ 1:48am

      Re: 'I don't lead the office so much as give public statements..

      "If you promise reforms and then deliver none of it, yeah, that's kinda your fault."

      From a cynical yet sadly realistic perspective he should have known better than to promise what he can't ever deliver. It's pretty obvious the only thing which will "reform" local law enforcement is by nailing the hides of police officers falsifying evidence to the wall.

      But if he does that the resulting smear campaign from the police union and the united resistance of anyone within law enforcement will take his career out back and shoot it. Hell, even people as high up as Bill Barr may decide to weigh in on this insignificant little public official daring to challenge the poor besieged boys in blue who won't be able to do their jobs unless they can shoot people at random without consequences, and walk away smiling from thuggery and courtroom perjury.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2020 @ 7:06am

        Re: Re: 'I don't lead the office so much as give public statemen

        You forgot the part where they confiscate the drugs and then ... well, we don't know what they do with it. My guess is give it to their mistresses before they beat them, but that's only based on the stereo-types that these thugs are creating around themselves.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Mar 2020 @ 1:36am

          Re: Re: Re: 'I don't lead the office so much as give public stat

          "You forgot the part where they confiscate the drugs and then ... well, we don't know what they do with it."

          If all they did was confiscate drugs I think i'd be more OK with the idea. I could get behind the idea of the cop going "Well, son, here's what happens. I take this little grab bag of white powder and walk away with it because it just ain't healthy for you".

          What they walk away with instead, using civil forfeiture laws are the margarita machine, the zamboni, and the fat wad of cash you had in your wallet because those are obviously contributing greatly to your criminal endeavor of not providing your local precinct with entertainment.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Clauss Drusaa, and PIs, 8 Mar 2020 @ 11:03am

            Scary Devil Monastery and his PI pals

            Really, Scary Devil Monastery, please tell us about how you use Techdirt to drum up leads for your scummy private investigator friends, while you target activists, and slander us as anti-semites, you white fuck.

            Then, explain your quasi left rhetoric (honeynet).

            What a piece of garbage you are, fake leftist.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Talmyr, 9 Mar 2020 @ 10:33am

              Re: Scary Devil Monastery and his PI pals

              And here is another shining example of why the right are unhinged paranoid hypocrites.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Bupkes, 11 Mar 2020 @ 8:57am

                Re: Re: Scary Devil Monastery and his PI pals

                Exactly where is the hypocrisy you claim?

                I am more of a communist than you are, and I can prove it, you lip-service moron, despite your name.

                Is there a right wing under communism, BTW?

                Idiot.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Bupkes, 11 Mar 2020 @ 10:02am

                Re: Re: Scary Devil Monastery and his PI pals

                Evidence or Kick in the Cunt

                You fake left shitbag.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dr evil, 4 Mar 2020 @ 7:13am

    We investigated ourselves

    You know the punch line. Maybe DOJ FBI needs to camp out in their offices?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2020 @ 10:24am

    Yerah, a mess

    Its so cool that you allow shitbag spergs like Stephen Stone and bhull242 to harass actual on the ground activists like me.

    I mean, they have done exactly ZERO to expose this shit, but you and TD regularly favor their comments, while putting me and others at risk.

    Good Job, Tim Cushing, Techdirt. Hooray111

    You people get us people killed by favoring sperg fags over actual activists

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Really Optic Gratuitous Shit, 8 Mar 2020 @ 11:12am

      Re: Yerah, a mess

      What makes you think Stephen T. Stone, Scary Devil Monastery, and that sperg bhull242 are actually in-house, ADL sponsored, chatbot Tech Dirt trolls?

      Evidence!

      Oh, never mind, They NEVER get flagged. Lets work on that. Lets drag those bitches out of their mommas basements.

      All of them, not real people in any sense.

      Blam!

      TDs comments section is merely an ADL/AIPAC/ .mil playground, no real people anywhere to be found, Tim.

      Tim Cushing, why do you cherish these three trolls so dearly?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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