After years of state and local officials aggressively covered up their behavior, the Department of Justice has issued a report stating that Orange County, California Prosecutors and Sheriffs aggressively and egregiously voilated the law through the use of jailhouse snitches, denying defendants their rights to an attorney and due process.
I’d like to see these corrupt law enforcement officials in jail:
For years, some of Orange County’s most powerful figures sought to downplay accusations that prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies were using jailhouse informants in a way that ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution.
Then-Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas decried the situation as a “media witch hunt” in 2017, even after the so-called snitch scandal sparked a retrial in a murder case and wrecked proceedings against the defendant in the worst mass shooting in county history. A civil grand jury investigation somehow arrived at the conclusion that the entire situation was a “myth.”
Even a years-long investigation by the California attorney general’s office ended with a whimper: No public accounting of the scandal was given, and no criminal charges were filed against sheriff’s deputies who, a judge ruled, “lied or willfully withheld material evidence” about the informant scandal in court.
But on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division confirmed what attorneys, activists and crime victims have long been shouting: that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and district attorney’s office systematically violated the constitutional rights of defendants for the better part of a decade.
In a scathing 63-page report, federal investigators said the two agencies repeatedly violated defendants’ due process rights from 2007 to 2016, when the Sheriff’s Department housed jailhouse informants near high-profile inmates to elicit confessions.
In many cases, the inmates had already been charged with the crimes they were being prodded to discuss, making the tactic a clear violation of their 6th Amendment right to have an attorney present.
“This report’s findings represent a critically important development for the county’s justice system. We have been alleging since 2014 the same civil rights violations analyzed by the Department of Justice, and now we finally have a governmental agency that describes why we were right and lays out just how bad the conduct has been by both agencies,” said Orange County Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, who first uncovered the scandal.
While it isn’t uncommon for jailed informants to offer information to prosecutors or investigators, deputies with the Sheriff’s Department’s Special Handling Unit built a stable of snitches to launch at defendants charged with serious crimes.
The sheriff’s department essentially enlisted jailhouse informants as unofficial deputies, with the approval of the District Attorney’s office.
They knew that this was illegal, and they did not care.
Others feared the report didn’t go far enough. Paul Wilson, whose wife, Christy, was among Dekraai’s victims, said the Department of Justice should have named specific prosecutors and deputies who failed to meet their duties.
“That’s the only thing that is going to make change, is to name names and hold people accountable,” Wilson said. “I know Spitzer is sitting in that big chair … and I know Barnes is too, and they’re just laughing this thing off.”
The goal of these investigations should be more than accusations directed at organizations.
People need to go to jail.