"Hey, I'm looking forward to all of this," he said. "We're going to make this department better. We're going to be accountable to the public, and we're going to do it immediately. Deputies who break the rules now are going to face substantial discipline."

Well, at least the rhetoric coming out of OCSD has changed. For example, take the case of an unsung hero in all of this. Well before I began snooping around the jail situation, reporter Aldrin Brown at The Orange County Register had already made himself an expert on the OC jails. He knew the players. He knew the issues. He wasn't afraid of the usual OCSD flak when facing scrutiny.

In 2004, Brown tried to publish what would have been the first real wake-up call for the public about our jails. Carona fought vigorously to block the story, according to multiple sources at the paper. With all the sincerity he could muster, the sheriff said he wouldn't tolerate shenanigans in his jails. His staff mocked jailhouse-abuse reports as "science fiction."

The lobbying succeeded. Register management—known at the time to be sympathetic to Carona's political rise—killed the project. Brown soon left to take an editor's job in Tennessee. His unpublished work sat collecting dust, making the county's largest daily paper a co-conspirator.

Of course, Carona and the Register had accomplices. Year after year, OC's regularly impaneled grand juries (the one handling the Chamberlain death was a separate panel) ducked their duty to inspect the local jail system for corruption. At the very time that jail deputies shamelessly abused their posts, the 2005-2006 grand jury commended these scoundrels for "their dedication and professionalism."


rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com

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