3 snitch scandal investigations threaten change for sherrif, D.A.
A year ago, the county’s justice system looked to be emerging from the jailhouse informant scandal. Today, it’s melting down. What happened?
Ten months ago, at a community forum in Santa Ana, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens told the crowd that her deputies did not cultivate a secret network of jailhouse informants to illegally gather confessions from accused criminals.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas sat nearby, nodding in agreement. He too denied wrongdoing in his department, later saying allegations that prosecutors routinely misused informants and withheld evidence from defense attorneys were nothing but the wild imaginings of a public defender and the inaccurate reporting of a media that didn’t understand the facts.
“You’ve heard the conspiracy theories… ” Hutchens said, referring to allegations about a network of jailhouse informants and a computer database known as TREDS, that would show how deputies track informants in county jails.
“None of it is true.”
Actually, that’s still being sorted out. And because of that, as 2016 comes to a close, Orange County’s justice system is in crisis.
At least three investigations — by the Orange County Grand Jury, the California attorney general and, as of this month, the U.S. Department of Justice — are actively looking at the scope and depth of missteps by local prosecutors and Sheriff’s Dept. jailers.
Documents suggest investigators almost certainly have moved beyond the question…
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