Liars' Poker Between OCDA and Public Defender

[Moxley Confidential] OC Judge Terri Flynn-Peister denies prosecutor, deputy claims she ordered informant program cheating

Liars' Poker Between OCDA and Public Defender
Bob Aul

Accompanied by a solemn U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) official to insure she didn't reveal secrets of WITSEC, the federal witness protection program, Superior Court Judge Terri Flynn-Peister entered a hushed, crowded courtroom on June 26 and took the witness stand. As a courtesy to a colleague, presiding Orange County Judge Thomas M. Goethals waived the requirement to place Flynn-Peister under oath. But not everybody was polite after the witness left the unmistakable impression certain members of the district attorney's office (OCDA) and sheriff's department (OCSD) are liars covering up corruption.

In other words, the OCDA/OCSD's scenario that a dictatorial federal prosecutor controlled their discovery moves was hogwash, according to Flynn-Peister.

Before her 2012 bench appointment, Flynn-Peister served as an Assistant United States Attorney. One of her final cases was Operation Black Flag, a joint federal-state probe targeting the Mexican mafia and its Southern California associates with jailhouse snitches. Scott Sanders, a public defender, learned those informants worked against his client, Seal Beach salon killer Scott Dekraai, and wanted the judge's testimony to settle a corruption dispute.

But there was a problem. There's an unofficial pecking order in our courthouses, and public defenders are often treated like one-eyed stepsisters. To put Flynn-Peister on the stand, Sanders needed permission from Goethals as well as DOJ, plus he had to agree he'd limit the inquiry to Orange County Jail (OCJ) informants without pursuing WITSEC mysteries.

In February, Sanders filed a courthouse-rattling, 505-page motion that accused prosecutors of cheating. He uncovered evidence law enforcement trampled defendants' constitutional rights by employing jailhouse snitches to obtain incriminating statements from pretrial inmates who had lawyers. He also learned OCDA repeatedly failed to share exculpatory evidence with defense lawyers in multiple cases. Said the public defender, "There are things they don't want anyone to see."

Prosecutors initially balked, calling Sanders' assertions "conspiracy theories" unworthy of hearings. But Goethals, a former defense attorney and high-ranking prosecutor, disagreed. Resulting disclosures have been one-sided in the public defender's favor, including that OCDA improperly withheld more than a thousand pages and nearly 400 hours of recordings. Sanders' work also forced prosecutors to admit they botched the case against Leonel Vega, a screw-up that means a defendant sent away for life based on questionable informant work gets a new trial.

Goethals' hearings transformed Sanders into a prosecutor. Deputy DAs placed under oath to explain the messes, however, became slippery witnesses disabled by severe memory loss. They also seethed about the role reversal. Yet revelations impacted OCDA, where officials continually revamp talking points.

First, prosecutors denied problems. Then they blamed oversight. Then they blamed police for making wrong discovery decisions on their behalf. Next, they said they didn't fully understand the duty to share exculpatory evidence. Then they blamed a lousy record-keeping system and, in true bureaucratic fashion, declared the solution is to increase OCDA's budget by $630,000.

But Sanders' use of the government's own half-assed records and his relentless questioning left prosecution teams in a quandary that forced them to lob a Hail Mary pass. They admitted records had been hidden from defense lawyers, but—as with all the prior explanations—they didn't accept responsibility. The blame, according to the latest version, belonged solely to Flynn-Peister.

Erik Petersen, a deputy DA already rebuked for ethical lapses, testified he accidentally violated discovery rules because Flynn-Peister, his Operation Black Flag counterpart, "deliberately withheld" records from him. Homicide unit chief Dan Wagner said federal agents might arrest him if he gave Sanders discovery. In May, OCSD's Seth Tunstall testified he couldn't recall who ordered records withheld, but as Sanders' pursuit of the DA's office intensified, the deputy's memory dramatically improved. At a late June hearing, he'd become positive Flynn-Peister wanted the records hidden, though he was still fuzzy about specifics.

With Flynn-Peister on the witness stand, Goethals asked if she told anyone in OCDA or OCSD to hide evidence or strategized to violate defendants' rights.

"No," she replied.

Goethals followed up: Could your memory be wrong?

"No."

Did you ever refuse Petersen a request for records?

"No. . . . I was never involved in any details about what was given over [to defense lawyers in state cases]."

In fact, Flynn-Peister said, she advised the operation's case agents to notify her if an informant solicited incriminating statements for OCDA from pretrial defendants. She didn't want snitches used to violate constitutional protections. She also assured Goethals that nobody—including Petersen or Tunstall—ever got her permission to bury evidence.

In other words, the OCDA/OCSD's scenario that a dictatorial federal prosecutor controlled their discovery moves was hogwash, according to Flynn-Peister. She stated Petersen had access to all Operation Black Flag records, except ones pertaining to sensitive WITSEC and wiretapping issues. Sanders pounced, asking the judge if she restricted Petersen's cases in any way. "I could not interfere and stop disclosure [of evidence] if it was relevant to a state prosecution," said Flynn-Peister, who described her attitude as "so be it" about defense lawyers obtaining records on the informants—habitual liars Oscar Moriel and Fernando Perez—because they were entitled to the information.

During early stages of Goethals' hearings, Keith Bogardus and Stephan Sauer served as OCDA's brainy sparring partners with Sanders, but DA Tony Rackauckas replaced them with a combative Howard Gundy, who had been booted from the homicide unit. Gundy possesses an agile intellect that doesn't square with his hamfisted insistence that Sanders is the villain. He concedes OCDA has been "sloppy," but, he says, the errors weren't intentional. Echoing a mentality espoused at the upper ranks of his office, his theme has been simple: Deny, deny, deny.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
11 comments
NoCuteNameinOC
NoCuteNameinOC

I appreciate the excellent reporting and wish more people would take the time to read and understand the corruption issues in OC.

Anonymous
Anonymous

IMO, DA Rackauckas and his merry men/women prosecutors have been violating the civil rights of unsuspecting individuals for many years.  This includes violating the privacy and safety rights of individuals never charged with any type of criminal or civil violation of the law--not to mention the individuals who sit in the OC jail for YEARS awaiting a criminal trial. 

Rackauckas should have been held accountable back in 2002 when former AG Bill Lockyer investigated him for multiple questionable prosecutorial decisions and the destroying of careers of any one who dared challenge Rackauckas in a public re-election relating to the OC District Attorney elected position.  The FBI and USDOJ are bordering on the same type of illegal and unethical behavior that DA Rackauckas and his Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder have continued for many years, especially, if they play the ostrich and refuse to thoroughly investigate these very corrupt public officials.

Personally, I am awaiting a California appellate court's decision involving the OC jail inmate that were charged with the murder of John Derek Chamberlain that occurred on October 5, 2006.  That legal question has been before a California appellate court submission since January 31, 2014 and a decision is due by the end of July 2014.  Let's see just how much illegal prosecutorial decisions have put others behind bars illegally. 

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

Sounds like the OCDA//OCSD are engaged in "Operation Passing The Buck". :-(


And why they hell would they need a jailhouse informant on the Dekraii case when a conviction is pretty much guaranteed? (I would hope).

silvad153
silvad153


$9­­­­­­­­­7­­­­­­­­­/­­­­­­­­­h­­­­­­­­­r­­­­­­­­­ ­­­­­­­­­p­­­­­­­­­av­­­­­­­­­iv­­­­­­­­­d­­­­­­­­­v­­­­­­­­­ b­­­­­­­­­y G­­­­­­­­­oog­­­­­­­­­le­­­­­­­­­, I­­­­­­­­­ am ­­­­­­­­­making ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­good ­­­­­­­­­salary ­­­­­­­­­from ­­­­­­­­­home ­­­­­­­­­$5500­­­­­­­­­-­­­­­­­­­$7000/week ­­­­­­­­­, ­­­­­­­­­which ­­­­­­­­­is ­­­­­­­­­amazing, ­­­­­­­­­under ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­year ­­­­­­­­­ago ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­was ­­­­­­­­­jobless in ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­horrible ­­­­­­­­­economy. ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­thank ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­God ­­­­­­­­­every ­­­­­­­­­day ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­was ­­­­­­­­­blessed ­­­­­­­­­with ­­­­­­­­­these ­­­­­­­­­instructions ­­­­­­­­­and ­­­­­­­­­now ­­­­­­­­­it's ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­my ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­duty ­­­­­­­­­to ­­­­­­­­­pay ­­­­­­­­­it ­­­­­­­­­forward ­­­­­­­­­and ­­­­­­­­­share ­­­­­­­­­it ­­­­­­­­­with ­­­­­­­­­Everyone, ­­­­­­­­­Here ­­­­­­­­­is ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­started,,,­­­­­­­­­


>>>>>>>>>➜➜➜➜➜➜➜ 

➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜    W­W­W­.­J­O­B­S­L­E­E­.c­ℴ­m 

silvad153
silvad153


$9­­­­­­­­­7­­­­­­­­­/­­­­­­­­­h­­­­­­­­­r­­­­­­­­­ ­­­­­­­­­p­­­­­­­­­av­­­­­­­­­iv­­­­­­­­­d­­­­­­­­­v­­­­­­­­­ b­­­­­­­­­y G­­­­­­­­­oog­­­­­­­­­le­­­­­­­­­, I­­­­­­­­­ am ­­­­­­­­­making ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­good ­­­­­­­­­salary ­­­­­­­­­from ­­­­­­­­­home ­­­­­­­­­$5500­­­­­­­­­-­­­­­­­­­$7000/week ­­­­­­­­­, ­­­­­­­­­which ­­­­­­­­­is ­­­­­­­­­amazing, ­­­­­­­­­under ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­year ­­­­­­­­­ago ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­was ­­­­­­­­­jobless in ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­horrible ­­­­­­­­­economy. ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­thank ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­God ­­­­­­­­­every ­­­­­­­­­day ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­was ­­­­­­­­­blessed ­­­­­­­­­with ­­­­­­­­­these ­­­­­­­­­instructions ­­­­­­­­­and ­­­­­­­­­now ­­­­­­­­­it's ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­my ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­duty ­­­­­­­­­to ­­­­­­­­­pay ­­­­­­­­­it ­­­­­­­­­forward ­­­­­­­­­and ­­­­­­­­­share ­­­­­­­­­it ­­­­­­­­­with ­­­­­­­­­Everyone, ­­­­­­­­­Here ­­­­­­­­­is ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­started,,,­­­­­­­­­


>>>>>>>>>➜➜➜➜➜➜➜ 

➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜    W­W­W­.­J­O­B­S­L­E­E­.c­ℴ­m

Dweezle
Dweezle

@fishwithoutbicycle I agree, but perhaps they were searching for evidence of advanced planning on the part of Dekraii. 

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle You might guess prosecutors wouldn't feel the need to break a sweat given that Scott Dekraai confessed to police upon his arrest. The OCDA activities that have come under fire involve allegations they cheated to guarantee the killer got the death penalty, which probably would have happened without them even showing up in court.

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

@rscottmoxley @fishwithoutbicycle 

Idiots. How could Dekraii's senseless killing spree NOT qualify him for the death penalty? And if the OCDA felt they had to stack the odds in their favor on a slam-dunk, I shudder to think of what kinds of illegal tricks they've pulled in cases that were not so open-and-shut.

justiceforvmm
justiceforvmm

@fishwithoutbicycle @rscottmoxley


Well, I'll tell you one of the "tricks." Put seemingly honorable "witnesses" on the stand and let them knowingly lie and lie some more. Remember the OCDA credo--"Win at any cost." 


So, let me guess, Gundy got "promoted" after he got canned from the Homicide Unit? Maybe supervising low-level prosecutions or something along those lines? Wouldn't be surprising or a first in that filthy office. 

Dweezle
Dweezle

@fishwithoutbicycle @justiceforvmm @rscottmoxley Exactly! I brought up that point when T. Wreckhouse intentionally blew that case against  those murdering cops, & when he failed to go after the others. There is so much corruption in any location that is controlled exclusively by one party.

I really have no idea how that miserable excuse for a human being got re elected...

 
Loading...