Mimesis Law
9 August 2020

Orange County, California: Champions of Injustice

October 10, 2016 (Fault Lines) — If you’ve ever read a story of corruption, state sponsored murder or some other appalling cruelty that simply gave you chills and you asked yourself: Does it get any worse than that?

The answer is yes. It gets worse than that, but have you ever asked yourself, just where the most corrupt place in the country is? Is there a place where the totality of corruption by government officials across the board is so flagrant, widespread, gaping and unstaunched that it’s nearly unimaginable? Yes, and that place might be Orange County, California.

The latest is a scandal erupting out of a court filing by Deputy Public Defender Scott Sanders accusing a former top Orange County Crime lab official of doctoring her analysis of DNA evidence in a murder trial so as to hide the fact that a criminalist in a prior murder trial based on the same evidence had changed his analysis to match her conclusion to aid prosecutors in winning their case. The Orange County Crime Lab is no stranger to scandal.

The pair of murders at issue happened in 1985, but the trials convened twenty years later after the senior lab official, Mary Hong reopened forensic probes into those cases. For her to reopen them for some reason, then give conflicting testimony in the cases, should give rise to other questions as well.

In the later murder trial, prosecutors could not present the original lab tech as a witness since he changed his analysis. They put Hong on the stand instead, but failed to mention to the jury that Hong was not the person who did the analysis. One of the prosecutors on these cases, Kevin Haskins, is now a Superior Court Judge. A guy on the bench with no compunction about hiding evidence does not bode well for defendants in Orange County.

But wait; there’s more.

It so happens that the very same Deputy Public Defender, Scott Sanders, while working two high profile death penalty cases, exposed the fact that for 25 years the Orange County Sheriff’s Department had been secretly running a computer information system called TRED containing information, much of it exculpatory on inmates, and a program to use informants to either compel defendants to incriminate themselves or to lie outright so that the DA’s office could win cases. This was covered by Fault Lines contributor Andrew King.

Sander’s take on it is this:

This is a due-process disaster zone. The sheriff’s department created a records system in 1990 and has pretended it is immune from court disclosure. How many more convicted defendants were cheated during the past 25 years?

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens told an ABC news7 reporter that the DA’s office knew about TRED for years. DA Tony Rackauckas stated:

The truth of the matter is we have not been privy to those records in our cases.

But wait; there’s more.

A judge kicked the entire Orange County District Attorney’s Office off a case noting:

The District Attorney is responsible for the actions of his agents. In this case, the evidence demonstrates that some of those agents have habitually ignored the law over an extended period of time to the detriment of this defendant.

The Orange County DA’s office has been retaliating against that judge ever since by repeatedly disqualifying him from cases, a tactic called “papering.”

Also, as reported by Fault Lines contributor Andrew Fleischman, a DA’s office investigator assaulted a defense attorney in the court house and the OCDA initially hid the investigator’s identity and then claimed he was acting in “self defense.”

Yes, there’s more.

There are plenty of articles on Fault lines about police union leaders; mainly regarding what comes out of their mouths. A lawsuit claims that in Orange County, the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association went after their enemies with a little more gusto, in this case conspiring to get a city councilman and a mayor, both involved in contentious labor negotiations with the union, either busted for DUI or caught in a compromising situation with a female decoy.

The problems in Orange County are not limited to police and prosecutors. A Grand Jury has described the county as “A hotbed of corruption.” and called for an ethics panel saying:

Ethics, campaign and lobbyist reporting oversight and enforcement in Orange County is deficient in a number of areas. An ethics body in Orange County would not be bureaucratic, unnecessary, irresponsible, or wasteful, as asserted by the Board of Supervisors.”

The same month, the grand jury called for oversight the FBI convened a public corruption task force. Fourteen county officials are currently under investigation for conflict of interest violations and numerous others have resigned, gone to jail or served community service, including former Sheriff Mike Carona who is serving six months for witness tampering.

If that’s not enough; a number of people were recently indicted in a ticket fixing/bribery scheme at Orange County Superior Court.

These are just a few examples of what’s going on in Orange County, California. If you think this is nothing and your county is really corrupt then: Do tell.

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  • NickM
    13 October 2016 at 12:35 am - Reply

    Take a look at Los Angeles County, just to Orange County’s north.

    Start with the recent Sheriff (Lee Baca) and Assessor (John Noguez), and all the subordinates for both who joined them as criminal defendants.

    Continue with 2 State Senators (Rod Wright and Tom Calderon) in the last couple of years. It has been a couple decades since a local Congressman got convicted, but there were 2 in the 1990s – and one was a former D.A. investigator.

    Ed Vincent got elected to the State Assembly and State Senate after being found responsible (by the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal) for election fraud while in local office (including intimidating elderly voters into casting their absentee ballots for his preferred candidates).

    Now add in local governments that are massively corrupt (Bell, Carson, Vernon, Inglewood, Hawthorne, Lynwood, Southgate, Compton, etc.), a city attorney for Los Angeles who wasn’t even legally eligible to run for the office when first elected (Rocky Delgadillo), and a myriad of special and school districts whose officials keep getting indicted (led by water districts). Dishonorable mention goes to the Centinela Valley Union High School District, where the board of a tiny district (3 high schools) voted the largest contract in the country to a superintendent, to a man who had already filed bankruptcy while superintendent and whose financial disclosure forms for years neglected to mention the business he owned or all the lawsuits against him from it.

    Police corruption – well, do you need more than Rampart?

    Sexual harassment by elected or high-level appointed officials has resulted in some very large payouts – the $500K for the John Duran case is funniest, because he was looking for sex partners on a cell phone app during council meetings.

    A couple interesting notes on some of the corruption: One of the Carson scandals involved a crooked city attorney who was also a U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee, and it turned out he was demanding kickbacks for paraprofessional contracts (realtors, appraisers, etc.) in that capacity too. One of the Inglewood scandals involved a mayor who was on the take while in office, after getting elected on a promise to clean up the city – and he was a Superior Court Judge when he ran for mayor.

    Oh, and one of the federal court clerks got caught passing confidential information about criminal case filings (warrant applications, indictments, etc.) to an organized crime syndicate.