The Incredible Reappearing Videotape

An excessive-force lawsuit against OC sheriff's deputies reveals video evidence the cops once claimed didn't exist

How is this for additional suspicion? When the defendants sued in federal court, the deputies initially refused to show the tape to their own lawyer.

Recalled Borthwick, “After a 20-minute discussion on the federal rules of evidence, the department relented and handed the tape to its attorney. Defense counsel and plaintiffs’ counsel immediately viewed the tape.”

Drum roll, please.

“The videotape was not blank,” Borthwick said.

So let’s briefly summarize the deputies’ revolving positions on the tape: It is blank; we never confiscated it; found it, but it’s blank; lost it; found it, but it’s blank; lost it; found it, but it’s blank; and finally, we don’t have to show it to our own lawyers. Under the soiled Sheriff Mike Carona administration, such acrobatics with the truth could have earned these deputies promotions and awards. Current Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has so far shown she’s less tolerant of blatant corruption.

The tape saga took one more twist when OCSD spokesman John McDonald offered another explanation on Sept. 29. It "was never missing," he said. He blamed the DA's office and Borthwick for never asking for it.

So what’s on the tape that the deputies may not have wanted a judge and jury to see and/or hear?

Based on the recording (which I’ve watched), you can tell the deputies weren’t cowering in fear. In fact, they sound like tough guys looking for an excuse to pounce.

You can hear a deputy arrest Prietto and place him in handcuffs. Prietto asks if he’s going to be read his Miranda rights, as required by law. A deputy says, “No.”

Prietto asks, “Why not?”

“Because we don’t feel like it,” replies the deputy—without a trace of fear in his voice.

The civil trial is scheduled for November.

rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com

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