Sheriff’s Sergeant Says He Ended Jailhouse Notes on Informants Without Reading Them

JEFF ANTENORE, Voice of OC Contributing Photographer

Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, defending mass murderer Scott Dekraai, questions retired Sheriff's Sergeant Raymond Wert during trial proceedings on Monday, June 5, 2017.

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The Orange County Sheriff’s sergeant who ended the special handling log – a trove of deputies’ notes on their dealings with inmates and jailhouse informants – testified Monday he never read it and was unaware of its contents before he ordered it stopped.

The 1,157-page log has been at the center of the hearing that began May 23, which explores whether Sheriff’s Department officials withheld or shredded key documents, including the special handling log, despite a court-ordered subpoena to produce them.

The contents of the log have unraveled what’s called the Orange County’s jailhouse snitch scandal, offering a detailed glimpse into how deputies in the Special Handling unit cultivated and developed confidential informants within the jails to get confessions from inmates, without disclosing those activities to defense attorneys.

Five Sheriff’s personnel so far have invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination rather than answer questions about the log and their knowledge of it, although a sergeant and a lieutenant were then granted immunity in order to force them to testify.

The hearing is an outgrowth of the penalty trial of convicted mass murderer Scott Evans Dekraai, who has admitted killing eight people at a Seal Beach beauty salon in 2011.

Although Dekraai pled guilty to the killings in 2014, the Orange County District Attorney’s and Sheriff’s Department’s unconstitutional use of a jailhouse informant in this and other cases has stalled the penalty phase of the trial, as Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals weighs whether Dekraai’s rights were violated so egregiously he should dismiss the death penalty altogether.

The special handling log itself was secret until it was disclosed in 2016 in another murder case, prompting questions by Dekraai’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, about why it took more than three years for the Sheriff’s Department to turn over the log.

Sergeant Raymond Wert, who ended the special handling log, was among those who took the Fifth and was granted immunity. He testified at a hearing last Thursday and again on Monday.

Wert said he had never seen the special handling log until it was published by news media, but understood its purpose at the time as bridging a gap in knowledge between deputies working different shifts.

“It seemed a duplication of work to me, and unnecessary,” Wert said of why he told his deputies to stop using the log.

He claimed he didn’t know there was information about informants in the log.

“You’re saying it never crosses your mind…from 2012 to 2016, to take a peek in and see what wealth of evidence has not been disclosed in cases?” Sanders asked.

“I never looked at it and I wasn’t asked to look at it,” Wert answered.

“Honestly to look at the schedule and time that I had with other work, I didn’t have time to do it. And it was something…that didn’t seem that important,” Wert said upon further questioning.

Sanders has argued it was no coincidence that Wert ended the special handling log just days before the court was set to rule on a major discovery order.

He points to an email sent on January 22, 2013 from Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner to Deputy Seth Tunstall, who worked in the Special Handling Unit although not under Wert’s supervision.

In the email, Wagner notifies Tunstall of a hearing later that week where Goethals would rule on multiple discovery requests, which would have included the special handling log.

A day later, deputies Bill Grover and Ben Garcia wrote in the special handling log about a meeting with Wert and Sergeant Marty Ramirez.

“One of the biggest changes will be concerning this log …. it will NO LONG [sic] BE A LOG but rather a document of IMPORTANT INFORMATION SHARING ONLY,” the log reads.

Wert, meanwhile, testified Monday that he had never seen the email between Wagner and Tunstall until Sanders showed it to him in court.

“Was there ever a time when you were monitoring or had access to Seth Tunstall’s email?” asked Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy, a prosecutor with the California Attorney General’s office. “Did he share his email with you?”

“No,” Wert responded.

Murphy argued that Wert had done nothing to conceal or hide the log and it was still accessible.

“The redacted version is here in court today – it still exists,” Murphy said.

Following Wert’s testimony, Sanders is likely to call this week witnesses up the chain of command up to Assistant Sheriff Adam Powell, who has testified in a separate case that no one on Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ command staff was aware of the special handling log.

The court also heard from the husband of one of Dekraai’s victims Monday. Many families have been in attendance throughout the hearing, which is in its third week.

June 5 would have been the 53rd birthday of Christy Lynn Wilson, her husband Paul Wilson told the court Monday.

“We’re going to celebrate today, without her…and try to remember her before that coward did what he did to her,” Wilson said.

Wilson said his family would support a life sentence for Dekraai if it would mean coming to a resolution more quickly.

“I’ve got to address the whole family tonight about court today and I really don’t know what to tell them…I can’t look at my kids and give them answers, and it’s horrible,” Wilson said.

The hearing resumes Tuesday morning.

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

  • astar2b

    What?! LoL…

  • Daniel Lamb

    Out of an abundance of caution, I want post a clarification/correction to my earlier post that I deleted. I can say with 95 percent certainty that I was intimidated by an “informant” working on behalf of the DA during what was a fraudulent prosecution against me, for which the charges were dropped. That did cause me great harm. And while I know for a fact that there was something very inappropriate going on at the 24 Hour Fitness in Anaheim Hills involving underage boys, I can not say with any certainty that Sup. Spitzer ignored claims to that affect. While I tried to notify the Supervisor, that accusation was genuine but unfair. Perhaps he did not see it. I don’t want to seem erratic but, obviously, this is not an easy situation and it’s very stressful. Such situations are never easy when you can’t trust local government officials. The last thing I want to do, however, is spread unverified inflammatory information. I don’t want to be a part of the problem. Nothwirhstanding the fact that I truly believe the situation is in fact very inflammatory. We will just need to wait and see. I apologize for the confusion.

    • Daniel Lamb

      And by the way Ms. Vo, I maintain that I was intimidated in the court house, not jail house, by a person who said he was an inmate and when I went to the Sheriff deputies present for help they acted quite strange, as if they weren’t in a position to help, and they in fact did nothing. I think that is pretty critical.

  • Irish Lass

    The OC Sheriffs department has many different “divisions” of which many nefarious deeds are done by those acting under the color of law. The pattern of cover up and false reports into the records by the Sheriff deputies is well known. Homeowners who are experiencing the RICO of illegal foreclosure have experienced horrific unlawful actions against them by these badged “officers”. The good guys in the badge know all of this and have even apologized many times for the actions of those many call the “mob” division of the Sheriffs departments. These are all third party companies, this is what most do not know. They “contract” with the courts, recorders offices and other county departments and are not working for the people but for the business of those they contract with. We MUST get peace keeping back to the badge and stop the departments acting under the color of law and deceptive of intentions. For instance, The SHERIFFS HOMELAND SECURITY DEPT, has ZERO to do with the DOJ homeland security but as a civilian one would not know that unless research was done. The SECURITY BUREAU that contracts with the Recorders office is there to protect the Office employees not the civilians coming in to record documents to save their homes or report the fraud stealing their homes, the SECURITY BUREAU was hired just like a Security officer at WALMART! They were brought in and contracted with due to so many 911 calls going into the office by civilians seeking to save their homes from the Recording fraud allowed by the employees and DA into the land records stealing titles to homes!! The ENTIRE SHERIFFS Department needs cleaning out and Sheriff HUTCHENS must be held accountable. She has ignored victimes begging for help while her department pays informants to play “catch a maybe theif” while attorneys/brokers/bankers are stealing MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS OF Dollars in equity from Orange County homeowners? Folks, the RICO OF THE HIGHEST ORDER MUST END as the entire business of Orange County is held accountable to all the violations against the county charter for violating the rights of Californians per the Constitution of the State. yes, that is part of shutting down the business of the county, when the business violates the people per the Constitutuion then it MUST be shut down and an audit of ALL BUSINESS DONE. no judge is needed as the people, Californians in Orange County have a right to stop the abuses and actions under the color of law stealing our land, homes and lives! WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH! From OC Bankruptcy years ago, Sheriff Carona fiasco and all the years of Tony Rackauckas IGNORING the crimes brought forth by victims! Sheriff Hutchens blatantly allows crimes to continue as certain crimes she picks and chooses to pretend to care about are “looked into”? ALL CRIMES must be dealt with and the people who are reporting them can NOT be treated as the criminals! We have to take the criminals out of public service NOW! No more merry go round of fraud by public servants, even if we have none left in office it is time to CLEAN OC PUBLIC SERVANT SEATS/BADGES and ALL judicial corruption. No more prisons for profit, no more pay to play and no more treating the homeless like they are unworthy of protection either. ALL Californians in Orange County deserve respect and protection, not deflection of such as criminals are allowed to steal land home and lives of millions! Time for the DOJ and FBI to clean out the criminals and bring real Justice back to Orange County California! Thank you to all the good men/women wearing badges who know the truth and who want to see honor restored! President Trump PROMISED no American would go unheard again, well LISTEN UP IT IS A PROMISE HE GAVE AND ONE YOU PUBLIC SERVANTS MUST HONOR! Read this link for further info on crimes in Orange County involving RICO OF THE HIGHEST ORDER! dopy and paste to your browser and SEE THE TRUTH OF ORANGE COUNTY CRIMINALS! It is not the man on the street you should be worried about but the one in the SEAT of public service!!
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/rene-powers/cast-of-characters-casting-away-the-integrity-of-the-land-records-for-obamacare-/657837761083707/

    • LFOldTimer

      Since 2001 we’ve become a different nation. It became readily apparent after the 2008 meltdown. Main Street got robbed while the culprits who caused the meltdown were rewarded with trillions of US tax dollars. Corporate welfare went viral while rule of law was ignored (except as it applied to the little people). All this is public information for anyone who cares to research it. The War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism turned into a War on the Average American Citizen. Freedoms were silently confiscated. (Hint: NSA illegally eavesdropping on millions of innocent Americans under the authority of the Obama administration).

      The fish always rots from the head down. Adults aren’t much different from children in many important ways. They mimic and copy those above them. As the local authorities see total disrespect for the law at the national level they say to themselves “Well. if they (mommy and daddy) can do it and get away with it then so can we”. And it’s all downhill from there. And we continue to slide downhill as you read about all the disregard for black letter rule of law at the very top of our local justice system. All the way at the very top. Chaos has ensued and most people don’t even have the guts to express what they see with their very eyes. lol. The ones who are in the middle of it are scared to say anything out of fear of retaliation and loss of employment. This is really not much different than the old Soviet Union when you get right down to it. We are becoming what we spent trillions of dollars to destroy. Very sad to watch my beloved country slowly evolve into the exact opposite of what our Founding Fathers intended.

  • LFOldTimer

    This article did not mention that OCSD Commander John Briggs, who was in charge of deputies at the jail, also testified under oath at the hearing. it was reported that he testified “deputy sheriff’s spent a great deal of their time cultivating and utilizing informants”.

    While Sheriff Hutchens INSISTS that her jail did NOT have an informant program IN SPITE OF rulings from several courts and the conclusion of the Fourth
    District Appellate Court that informant misuse was widespread in Orange
    County.

    Now what rational human would believe that Hutchen’s top executives in the jail knew about the systemic use of informants but she didn’t have a clue??? LOL!!!!

    And this character Sergeant Wert was a SUPERVISOR in the Special Handling Unit and never read his own deputies notes or reports on the jail informants??? WHOA!!! That’s what supervisors DO!!! They monitor the work of their subordinates!!! And since informant cultivation and use, according to Commander Briggs, took up a “great deal of their time” that would imply that Wert was ignoring a substantial amount of work performed by those who worked for him??? UNBELIEVABLE!!!!

    Check this out:

    http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/2016/orange-county/raymond-a-wert/

    This stuff is so over the top. As much as the taxpayers spend on OCSD we have every right to expect the utmost in integrity and total compliance with the laws and the US Constitution. These are the same jokers who hook other people up for violating the laws. And now the judges and high courts are telling us that the enforcers were engaged in systemic wrongdoing!!!

    Where are the the ones who are supposed to be in charge of County operations and protecting the reputation of County government? Why the silence??? Why is NO ONE in County government calling out OCSD???

    ARE THEY ALL IN ON IT??????

    • verifiedsane

      They are either directly up to their necks in it, or (just as disturbing), they are silently condoning the illegal behaviors…

    • OCservant_Leader

      YES – they are ALL in on it!

      They are collaborating their testimony…its all a show.

      • LFOldTimer

        Of course.

        A well-orchestrated show in attempt to circle the wagons. The ones who took the Fifth already stepped in it up to their hip bones so refusing the take the stand was not an option for them. One can’t turn back the hands of time. lol. But even the cops who refused to perform their sworn professional duties and testify in criminal cases kept their jobs. lol.

        I know how seriously you take this stuff, OCservant. And you should. It goes to the very heart of our justice system which is the backbone of our civilization.

        But please understand – the characters in this sordid theatrical performance don’t take it seriously at all. They feel insulated and protected from harm. They think those above them have their backs. And so far – they’ve been right. The Board of Supevisors won’t even talk about it. lol. So their wager has paid off. Our final line of defense are the Feds. If they fold – it’s over. We’re done as a civilization.

        It’s really not much different than how a common gang of street thugs run their organization. They have each other’s backs through thick and thin – regardless of the behavior of their homies. One organization wears a badge and the other doesn’t. Otherwise the similarities far outweigh the differences.

  • Jack Milliken

    Never read it? I smell BS

    • OCservant_Leader

      Yea- “Never read it”? but I bet he was TOLD what was in it. They are playing games with semantics.

  • verifiedsane

    “The Orange County Sheriff’s sergeant who ended the special handling log –
    a trove of deputies’ notes on their dealings with inmates and jailhouse
    informants – testified Monday he never read it and was unaware of its
    contents before he ordered it stopped.” Oh really! The judge isn’t buying it, the public isn’t buying it….Does the DA and Sheriff’s office really believe that anyone following these hearings is stupid enough to buy this load of horse manure….why the Judges hammer hasn’t been dropped on these lying criminals is beyond befuddling…

    • OCservant_Leader

      NOBODY IS BUYING IT!!