California Sheriff’s Deputies Ran Illegal Snooping Program For 9 Years: DOJ
California deputy sheriffs used jailhouse informants to illegally obtain evidence for nine years, federal prosecutors say, and their actions could jeopardize hundreds of convictions.
A bombshell report from the US Department of Justice alleges that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department illegally operated a secret informant detention program from 2007 to 2016.
The report alleges that Orange County deputies “systematically” violated the rights of defendants in the way they used informants to obtain evidence to use at trial.
This includes placing informants and defendants together in solitary confinement for long periods of time, and placing informants and defendants in cages connected to water pipes or vents through which they feel more comfortable speaking.
In return, whistleblowers enjoy special treatment, such as increased access to a television room and use of telephones.
The report also explains how defense lawyers were often not informed of how “tainted” confessions were obtained.
“Anyone still in custody in a case involving illegal whistleblowers will file for a new trial,” legal analyst Lou Shapiro said.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office declined to provide The Post with exactly how many cases may be returned on appeal or may be reviewed.
Legal sources said the report serves as a strong warning to other police agencies across the country.
“It puts them on alert. Prosecutors… can be subject to scrutiny and are not invincible.
“It can’t just be a free-for-all and inmates still have protections even while they’re in custody,” Shapiro added.
The Justice Department began the investigation in 2016 after it was revealed that Orange County prosecutors committed misconduct in the way they handled the case of Scott Dekraay, who was convicted of the worst mass murder in history. Orange County.
Dekrai killed his ex-wife and seven other people at the Seal Beach hair salon where she worked in 2011.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said former prosecutors in his office used a longtime informant to obtain a “tainted” confession from Dekraai, which was also not disclosed to defense counsel.
Dekrai’s attorney, Scott Sanders, argued that the prison whistleblower scandal goes beyond his client’s case and spans decades.
The scandal ultimately derailed Dekrai’s case, and the court recused the Orange County Prosecutor’s Office from prosecuting the case.
In 2017, Dekraai renewed his request to overturn his death sentence on the grounds that the prosecution had engaged in “outrageous government misconduct”.
The court eventually agreed and sentenced Dekraay to eight consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Federal officials made additional recommendations in the report to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney’s office, including providing more training, regularly auditing whistleblower records and implementing policies to ensure all information is disclosed to the defense.
“The Department of Justice’s warning is not to jeopardize an otherwise good conviction of a guilty person by engaging in the unconstitutional practice — it’s not worth it,” said Steve Cooley, who was Los Angeles County District Attorney from 2000 to 2012.