New York Times Calls for Federal Investigation of OC District Attorney’s Office

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In an editorial with the headline “Dishonest Prosecutors, Lots of Them,” the New York Times castigated the Orange County District Attorney’s Office Wednesday for the ongoing jailhouse informants scandal.

The Times’ editorial board did not pull any punches, describing the actions of prosecutors as “blatant and systematic misconduct” and calling on the U.S. Justice Department to launch an investigation.

The piece digested the scandal, which began last year when Scott Sanders, the lead public defender for mass murderer Scott Evans Dekraai, filed a 505-page motion that described how prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies for years withheld evidence from a network of informants they ran inside the county jails. The editorial included links to articles published by Voice of OC and several other local publications.

Here’s an excerpt:

Prosecutors who bend or even break the rules to win a conviction almost never face any punishment. But even given lax controls, the blatant and systemic misconduct in the Orange County district attorney’s office in Southern California stands out. In a scheme that may go back as far as 30 years, prosecutors and the county sheriff’s department have elicited illegal jailhouse confessions, failed to turn over evidence that is favorable to defendants and lied repeatedly in court about what they did.

These unconstitutional abuses are all the more troubling because Orange County is not some corrupt backwater with one rogue prosecutor. With more than three million residents, the county itself is more populous than nearly half the states in the country. Its district attorney’s office employs 250 prosecutors. In March, a California judge, Thomas Goethals, removed all of them from the county’s highest-profile murder prosecution in years because misconduct had tainted the entire office’s handling of the case. He reassigned the case to the California attorney general, Kamala Harris, a ruling her office is appealing…The Justice Department should conduct a thorough investigation. But there is no indication that’s going to happen.

And here are links to Voice of OC’s ongoing coverage:

Court Opens Records Alleging Improper Jailhouse Informants

Testimony Provides Rare Look Into Use of Jailhouse Informants

Murder Conviction Vacated After Jailhouse Informants Network Exposed

Murders Forgotten: How Far Did Prosecutors Go to Hide Informants Network?

Wozniak Lawyer Chronicles 30 Years of Alleged Abuses by Local Law Enforcement

Please contact David Washburn directly at dwashburn@voiceofoc.org.

  • Clark Brubaker

    Voice of OC…..outstanding work on these issues that effect every person’s rights. The scales of justice must be clean , free from tampering, free from being rigged and corrupted…..
    Keep the light shining on coverup. Thank you.

  • Clark Brubaker

    Whewwwwwww…nice….thank you New York Times for calling attention to problems in this orange county California system that can easily be one sided justice…rigged…corrupt.

  • LFOldTimer

    If the location of the controversary went unmentioned in that NY Times editorial one would think the author was describing some 3rd world banana republic in Central America or Central Asia. Certainly not a thriving metropolis in a 1st world nation. Embarrassing. And as far a I can see there’s not one straight arrow in the bunch with the exception of Sanders. Whether it’s the DA’s office or the Sheriff’s office – all circle the wagons and go into damage control mode. No acknowledgement. No accountability. Just like the 3rd worlders do. What the heck happened to my Country?

    • Kathleen Tahilramani

      In many “3rd world countries”, at least there is an open admission of corruption. Everyone knows about the corruption and the corrupt do not pretend to be “God fearing, apple pie and motherhood honest leaders,” It is hard to stomach the hypocrisy where the corrupt put on this phony act.

      • LFOldTimer

        I used to always take it for granted that the guys with the badges were a cut above unless they proved otherwise. But over the last several years based on my observations I’ve had a change of attitude. Now I assume they’re unprofessional and untrustworthy until they prove they aren’t. If the leaders of the PS organizations exhibit behavior that appears to conflict with their sworn oaths of office why would I think the rank and file are any different? In any organization the workers mimic the leaders. In the 3rd world the people inherently know the system is corrupted. But the leaders don’t readily admit to it. They are seen attending church on Sunday too. The 3rd world cops hold community relation forums with their citizens for show. I’ve seen some scary similarities between them and us especially in the last 15 years. It bothers me. My Country should be better than that.

      • David Zenger

        Ironically, in Third World countries it actually costs a lot more top pervert government than it does in OC. Consider the disheartening fact that here you can get a Supervisor to push through a zone change or a General Plan change, or gut a Specific Plan for a mere $2000 campaign contribution. I know. I’ve seen it done over and over again.

        • LFOldTimer

          Not speaking directly in relation to Board members, per se, but who is naive enough to believe that all political contributions, in whatever form they take, are recorded on a Form 460? Come on.

          • David Zenger

            But, see, you don’t even have to illegally bribe a Supervisor. Seriously, two grand is all you need. Maybe even less. They are the cheapest dates in the State.

          • Kathleen Tahilramani

            Believe me David Zenger is not naive, I’m sure he is more than well aware of the many ways people disguise a contribution.

        • Kathleen Tahilramani

          Very true. It’s actually a bit funny how little it takes for these folks to sell out. Good deal for OC big business!

          • David Zenger

            It is funny how cheap it is to get things done that don’t benefit the public or are, actually, inimical to the Public Trust.

            Here are some of the gifts I saw granted to campaign contributors:

            Ridiculous construction change order payouts
            Fixed fee project management contract
            Fixed fee lobbying contracts
            County assumption of private liability
            Public work on private property
            County acquisition of worthless land to bail ot developer

            And then of course, the real developers dream come true:

            Specific Plan changes
            General Plan Changes
            Approval of projects that violate CEQA and/or County’s own code,

            etc., etc. etc.

            There is a huge ethical problem, all right. Unfortunately, Shirley’s plan won’t touch it.

          • Kathleen Tahilramani

            Unfortunately, Shirley’s plan won’t touch it.

            That is a point everyone needs to consider seriously.

  • Steve Downing

    This also says a lot about the qualifications of our Attorney General who is now running for a Senate seat– as she appeals a judges ruling to take this stew of corruption away from the OC prosecutorial thugs. Sick stuff

  • Steve Downing

    It is sad that the only large mainstream newspaper to publish an editorial about this Hammer Happy Prosecutor’s office is from New York.

  • Paul Lucas

    We will never get that investigation though now will we?

  • Bob Brock

    The corruption in Rackauckas’s office runs deep. His politically cozy relationship with Scott Baugh and many in the old guard of the GOP makes him politically untouchable in the inner circle, but the public is beginning to wake up to his corrupt ways because it is directly affecting public safety in our community.

    • David Zenger

      “His politically cozy relationship with Scott Baugh and many in the old
      guard of the GOP makes him politically untouchable in the inner circle”

      And vice versa, Bob, I assure you.