Rackauckas Tells 60 Minutes Jailhouse Snitch Scandal is a “False Narrative”

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas speaks during a court hearing. (Pool photo by the Orange County Register.)

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said reports the DA’s office and Sheriff used secret jailhouse informants and withheld the information from defense attorneys is a “false narrative,” according to interviews on 60 Minutes that aired Sunday night.

“So the public defender made a lot of allegations, of all kinds of criminal conduct, of terrible things,” Rackauckas said. “And believe me–and if those things were true– we should be in jail, frankly; if those things were true, that would be very bad.”

Rackauckas has maintained there is no organized network of jailhouse informants. Asked by 60 Minutes’ Sharyn Alfonsi how often his office uses informants, he said “not very often.”

“Informants are not the most reliable people around,” Rackauckas said. “They are in fact unreliable and everybody knows that.”

For the past few years Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders has filed court documents about a secret system is used by the Orange County District Attorney and Sheriff’s Department to repeatedly violate the constitutional rights of criminal defendants by planting informants next to them in jail.

The documents prompted Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals to bar the entire District Attorney’s office from prosecuting a murder case and has spurred ongoing investigations by the Department of Justice, California Attorney General and Orange County Grand Jury. And disclosure of the rights violations have led judges to overturn the convictions of at least six Orange County defendants charged with murder and other serious crimes.

60 Minutes interviewed a former jailhouse informant named Mark Cleveland, who claimed he was regularly planted next to criminal defendants in jail and guided to “fish for information that might help bolster the prosecutors’ cases.”

Cleveland told 60 Minutes that he could pick up the phone whenever he wanted and call the DA’s office and, at times, spoke directly with Rackauckas. Rackauckas said Cleveland’s account is “fantasy.”

From the 60 Minutes transcript:

Sharyn Alfonsi: How should we take Mark Cleveland’s statements that he made to us about all this?

Tony Rackauckas: I think you should assume you’re talking to an informant. And if he’s talking, he’s probably lying.

The segment aired just ahead of a hearing scheduled to begin Tuesday in the case of Scott Evans Dekraai, a mass murderer who shot and killed his ex-wife and seven others at a Seal Beach beauty salon in 2011.

Sanders has accused the DA’s office of illegally planting an informant named Fernando Perez in a cell next to Dekraai and attempting to cover it up by hiding Perez’s history as an informant. Rackauckas told 60 Minutes that Perez’s placement next to Dekraai is just “a coincidence.”

From the 60 Minutes transcript:

Tony Rackauckas: It’s getting around that there’s some kind of a conspiracy or there’s some kind of– or there’s some kind of willingness to violate people’s rights or to not give people a fair trial, that’s a false narrative. That’s just– that’s simply not true.

Sharyn Alfonsi: OK, so clarify it for me.

Tony Rackauckas:  So the public defender made a lot of allegations, of all kinds of criminal conduct, of terrible things. And believe me– and if those things were true– we should be in jail, frankly; if those things were true, that would be very bad.

Sharyn Alfonsi: But what about the allegation that the office withheld evidence?

Tony Rackauckas: The office did not withhold evidence; we have not withheld any evidence.

Sanders is arguing that Dekraai, who is in the phase of his trial to determine his sentence, should be spared the death penalty because of the egregious violations of his constitutional rights.

At the hearing this week, Goethals wants attorneys to explore the role of the Sheriff’s Department in handling evidence for the Dekraai case and answer whether the department destroyed or withheld records detailing the handling and movements of jailhouse informants.

Sanders wants to call Sheriff Sandra Hutchens as a witness. 

A full transcript and video of the entire 60 Minutes segment is available online on the CBS website. 

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • justanon

    “Cleveland told 60 Minutes that he could pick up the phone whenever he wanted and call the DA’s office and, at times, spoke directly with Rackauckas. Rackauckas said Cleveland’s account is “fantasy.”

    Wouldn’t the phone records prove who’s lying here? Where are the phone records?

  • Paul Lucas

    “Sharyn Alfonsi: How should we take Mark Cleveland’s statements that he made to us about all this?

    Tony Rackauckas: I think you should assume you’re talking to an informant. And if he’s talking, he’s probably lying.
    Tony Rackauckas: So the public defender made a lot of allegations, of all kinds of criminal conduct, of terrible things. And believe me– and if those things were true– we should be in jail, frankly; if those things were true, that would be very bad.”

    And yet he used informants prolifically and he should be in jail. and this was going on before he was DA with carona and it was being done in LA County Jails from where Hutchins came from.

    Thy should all be in jail. period.

  • John Claxton

    I worked at Theo Lacy for almost five years and Juvenile Hall almost as long. We all know they use informants. Most of the cells are wired for sounds. When an inmate or minor in one cell yells thru the vent to another person, some one was always listening, writing everything down or recording the conversations. Give me a big fat break that these tactics are not used Mr. Worthless, and that you never violate anyone’s rights like withholding evidence. You do it all the time.

  • John Claxton

    “Tony Rackauckas: The office did not withhold evidence; we have not withheld any evidence.”

    Uh Mr. T-Rack, I think the judge disagreed with you on this and many other issues. Just because you keep saying it doesn’t mean it’s true or that people are buying it. They are not.

  • Ed Romero

    I have a question for Rackauckas. Who was doing the following? While employed by the Orange County Probation Department someone was having former Inmates or Arrestees to answer my ads for room-mates. After I resigned from the Probation Department I was informed about those answering my ads for room-mates. First there was Alan who was arrested by the Garden Grove Police Department. Then there was Mark who was arrested by the Garden Grove Police Department. Then there was Steve was arrested by the Westminster Police Department. Then there was Victor who was arrested by the Orange County Sheriff. Then there was Robby who was arrested by the Orange County Sheriff. Then there was Edward who was arrested by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff, his case was transferred to Orange County. Then there was Don, I’m not sure who or why he was arrested. After I moved from Garden Grove to Stanton, there was Ernie I have no idea how many times he was arrested. Finally there was that El Salvadorian who was arrested by the Orange County Sheriff for Prostitution, he said to me after I evicted him “the Sheriff sent me here, they arrested me for Prostitution and they FIXED the case (I saw the citation and have the case #) if I would meet you and rip you off”. So somebody was doing this. I know those Drug Dealing, Marijuana Smoking, Cocaine Snorting Racist GOP Lesbians that ran the County of Orange and the Probation Department were involved but somebody higher up authorized this. So there is something in the Jail House Snitch complaints.

    • LFOldTimer

      Hey Ed,
      Are you sure you worked at County Probation and not at a house of ill repute in the City of Gomorrah? lol.

      Good God. The claims you write makes the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. If it’s anywhere close to the truth this county has gone beyond the point of no return.

      • Sharon Wright

        Thank you LFOldTimer. These guys are definitely smoking something.

  • Terry Ensor

    @shirleylgrindle:disqus Rackauckas’ must be held accountable for his alternative facts. I can’t believe his office has got away with corruption, lies, perjury, cover-ups…the list goes on.

    • LFOldTimer

      Not just the DA’s office.

      Orange County Sheriff’s Office too.

      Both of our leading LE agencies are dirty.

      Feeling served and protected yet????

      • Philmore

        Just “served” as in the online slang definition-

        Slang meaning of serve. serve means: v. To beat someone up. To violently assault a person. To deliver an unwelcomed gesture, word or an act to an individual.

        • LFOldTimer

          Yeah, if you use unconventional semantics it makes much more sense, doesn’t it?

  • Roger Gill

    This is disgusting. Our District Attorney is a criminal.

    • Sharon Wright

      Have you smelled you underwear today?

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    This is nothing new about Tony Rackauckas — he must be taking lessons from Donald Trump regarding “alternative facts”.

    • LFOldTimer

      More Trump hate. lol..

      At least Trump is not a criminal many times over like Hillary Clinton. Let me count the ways.

      Speaking of “alternative facts” – that should be Obama’s middle name. 🙂

      But naturally all that was overlooked.

      • verifiedsane

        Shirley appears to ignore both reality and the facts, so that they fit into her fantasy progressive agenda…..I guess she is more than willing to put on blinders when it suits her, while completely ignoring the well documented wrong doing of her chosen wayward political party.

        • Shirley L. Grindle

          I don’t belong to any party. Didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary – disgusted with both of them.

          • LFOldTimer

            Obama was no better than Hillary. After all, she worked under HIS supervision!!!

            Have you ever reviewed all the deep-seated scandals under his administration that NO ONE appointed a Special Counsel to investigate?

            If you forgot about them I’d be happy to remind you.

            What a sham!!!

          • justanon

            What cr*p!

            Obama had a Republican Congress that INVESTIGATED EVERYTHING and FOUND NOTHING!

            To even try and compare the complete CHAOS AND IDIOCY that is the hallmark of the trump administration to Obama’s presidency shows just what an alternate reality you hypocritical right-wingers inhabit!

            EIGHTEEN EFFING DAYS, KNOWING THEY HAD A COMPROMISED NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR!!!!!

            NOTHING in Obama’s administration can compare to that!!!!

          • verifiedsane

            Shirley, you didn’t attack Hillary in your original comment..But you did make an unfounded ad-hawk attack upon the President without providing any substantive evidence to back it up your claim, or to directly tie President Trump to the actions of DA Tony Rackauckas…that clearly shows your party leanings and political bias for all to see..so please don’t waste our time trying to walk back your statement…you said it…DONE!

          • LFOldTimer

            Trump hating is a fad, Verified.

            Humans are easily influenced. We like to feel like we’re part of the group. So we often say things even if they don’t make sense to feel like we belong.

            When you get the chance read Chapter IX on the “Herd Instinct” in Freud’s book Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego.

            It’s on-line for free and explains the concept very well.

          • Shirley L. Grindle

            Have it your way if that makes you happy. At least I put my name to my comments .

          • verifiedsane

            Yes….we are very aware of your name Shirley….That is no excuse for ignorance, bias, and unfounded left wing group think attacks on the President…Oh, by the way…as a touted advocate government watch dog; how’s that laughable Ethics Commission Plan and County Government Oversight working out for you? 🙂

          • justanon

            One is POTUS and one is not. HRC is irrelevant at this point, we do NOT need to play the right-wing nut game of “but, but … Hillary” as she is not in power.

            We DO KNOW however, that are so-called POTUS has issues with facts, the truth, the rule-of-law, respect for the Constitution and the separation of powers and OUR NATIONAL SECURITY.

          • verifiedsane

            From the anarchist peanut gallery, Diaper boy throws in their meaningless two pesos…. 🙂

          • justanon

            Lil’ Joey McCarthy weighs in, but he forgot his “commie” dig.
            Lil’ Joey must be having a big sad.

          • verifiedsane

            Didn’t need to remind everyone…it’s self evident…..diaper boys shows off that hammer and sickle symbol they wear so proudly just fine every-time they comment without any help from me… 🙂

          • justanon

            How’s that Seth Rich ‘bombshell’ working out for you, lemming?

          • Sharon Wright

            Then go sit down and be quiet.

      • Shirley L. Grindle

        Time will tell whether Trump is in the same boat as Hillary with regard to his/her criminal activities.

        • LFOldTimer

          Hillary is given.

          Trump is a question mark.

          See the difference yet?

          • justanon

            Duh … Hillary is NOT POTUS, trump is.

            But reality check, partisan liar, HRC was NOT found guilty of ANYTHING.

            Although there IS a huge amount of evidence piling up to show that not only is trump dirty and corrupt, but that he also attempted to obstruct justice and REMEMBER HE HASN’T EVEN BEEN IN OFFICE FOR FOUR MONTHS!!!!

            This IS the MAJOR sh*t show that all you right-wing nuts accused Obama of and now you HYPOCRITES are saying.. “corruption, what corruption?, national security breaches, what national security breaches?, Saudi payments, what Saudi payments? …etc.”

            We get it, it’s only a crime if a Democrat does it, lol!!!!

          • Philmore

            I’ll fix your mis-spelling – “It’s NEVER a crime if a Democrat does it.” If doubtful, search YouTube for Jim Comey’s July 5th news conference. Or for a bigger forehead slap, look at the current class action suit against the DNC for fraud by Sanders supporters, where the DNC contends it is under NO OBLIGATION to follow its OWN CHARTER and run fair impartial primaries! Can’t make this s**t up!

          • justanon

            Right dumb a**, HRC was investigated up the wazoo by the Republicans and they got bupkis. Nine, count ’em, nine investigations into Benghazi and nothin’.

            Yet, we had a POTUS LIE our country into war (Bush) with no repercussions and now we have a POTUS who KNEW he had a COMPROMISED NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR on board for eighteen days and it’s suddenly ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

            CONSERVETIVES ARE HYPOCRITES!!!

          • Philmore

            Your selective comprehension of what you read is always good for a laugh, as long as the mistake is not made of anyone thinking they are having a serious interchange with you.

        • Sharon Wright

          Spare yourself. Ignorance is embarrassing.

      • Sharon Wright

        So true. It’s like watching the movie Dumb and Dumber. These people are so myopic in their thinking that they are a danger to society.

        • LFOldTimer

          You found something that we agree on.

          Thank you.

    • Sharon Wright

      Ignorance is bliss…

  • Jessica Davis

    @unfrgvn82:disqus Out with the DA!

    • Sharon Wright

      Our DA has more than you will ever have!

  • Jessica Davis

    @@unfrgvn82:disqus you are so right. It’s time to get rid of this liar of a DA. Orange deserves better.

    • Sharon Wright

      Yeah, you are the Judge and Jury. What a joke!

  • OCservant_Leader

    Apparently, the OC DA Tony believes in “alternative facts” – and can therefore easily lie on National TV.

    Too bad 60 minutes didn’t go further into how the OC BOS, CEO & CoCo approved the destruction of Sheriff’s “jail informant docs” while under Court Subpoena.

    OC Public Official’s collusion (RICO) is the real crime.

    • Sharon Wright

      Jealous?

      • OCservant_Leader

        Susan Kang-Schroeder…Shut-it.

  • LFOldTimer

    Wow. Talk about a major case of denial.

    Really dumb for him to go on national TV and say these things. He must be desperate.

    Normally the author-i-tays would say “I can’t comment since this matter is under formal investigation”. But suddenly T-Rack is able to shoot his mouth off freely about it??? ha. Funny how they make the rules up or change them as their go along, isn’t it?

    I can only imagine the politics happening behind close doors on this scandal. No doubt it’s “let’s make a deal” time with the Feds. Hopefully the Feds will show some integrity and come down on the DA’s office and OCSD like a ton of brick. It’s so very obvious what’s doing on here. It’s a violation of the US Constitution to plant informants next to inmates who are charged with crimes and have appointed attorneys to collect incriminating information.

    God almighty, a high-school kid learns that those under arrest have basic rights to protect against self-incrimination and basic Sixth Amendment rights in 10th grade civics class.

    More over-the-top national embarrassment for the County of Orange compliments of our local heroes that we pay like orthopedic surgeons to protect and serve.

    Watch the Supervisors remain mum. They will tell us that they can’t comment on an active investigation while Tony Rackauckas shoots his mouth off on national TV!!!!

    HAH!!! Good Christ. What a bunch of thugs.

    • Sharon Wright

      And you must walk on water?

      • LFOldTimer

        Are you related to justanon, by chance?

  • RyanCantor

    Right. Everyone is a liar, except for Tony.

    Orange County needs a new DA.

    • LFOldTimer

      Be careful what you wish for.

      Spitzer might be on deck.

      Do you prefer Dracula over Frankenstein?

      • verifiedsane

        There is got to be someone qualified with something called “integrity” who will throw their hat into the political ring to stop this madness…

        • LFOldTimer

          I nominate Judge Thomas Goethals or PD Scott Sanders.

          Otherwise, it’s a roll of the dice.

          With Spitzer it’s automatic craps.

          • Sharon Wright

            You must be smoking too much weed.

          • LFOldTimer

            What makes you say that?

            I’ve never smoked weed.

            Don’t you want integrity in the corner office at DA headquarters?

    • Sharon Wright

      Get a life.

  • verifiedsane

    Just what I suspected…..Lying Tony Rackauckas goes on 60 minutes and digs the criminal DA’s office hole even deeper….why the Feds don’t have this criminal and his cohorts in handcuffs is beyond puzzling, and frankly quite disturbing….we appear to have two set of laws in this country; a special set of laws for the ruling oligarchy, and then the laws that are rigorously enforced against everyone else…. 🙁

    • Sharon Wright

      Get real.

      • verifiedsane

        It doesn’t get more real than a criminal District Attorney, Sheriff, and their subordinate lackey’s….Wright is just nutty Wrong….Do you work in the DA’s office, or are you just one of their sleazy mistresses?