Sheriff's Lobstergate Scandal Produces Deputy Conviction
An on-duty Orange County Sheriff's Department deputy who fabricated a wild story to protect an off-duty deputy allegedly caught illegally poaching undersized lobsters was convicted today of obstructing a fish and game warden, according to prosecutors.
Deputy Phillip Glenn Romero, 39, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor November 2008 conduct and was given a merit badge after a pat on the back. Okay, no. A judge sentenced Romero to give 100 hours of community service, pay a $1,700 fine and write a letter of apology to the California Department of Fish and Game.
Because police unions have won extraordinary, state-sanctioned secrecy for law enforcement officers--even corrupt ones, the sheriff's department can't say if Romero was fired for his conduct. But OCSD spokesman John McDonald told me that Romero stopped working for the agency on May 5.
According to the Orange County District Attorney's office, Romero arrived at Dana Point Harbor on November 18, 2008, and attempted to thwart Warden Justin Sandvig, who was investigating three men for possible illegal poaching of lobsters. Sandvig didn't know that the men were off-duty sheriff's deputies. To dissuade Sandvig from filing charges, Romero lied, claiming that one of the men was a confidential informant who needed his identity protected. An on-the-ball Sandvig eventually figured out that Romero was shielding Deputy William Robb, 39. Robb continues to face misdemeanor charges in the poaching case.
No surprise that unethical deputies have been recruited into the OCSD. You may recall that two assistant sheriff's and three-term Sheriff Mike Carona were convicted on federal corruption charges in recent years. Replacement Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has said that she will fire dirty deputies.
In the past three years alone, the DA's office has slammed OCSD jail deputies for sleeping on the job or worse, fabricating official criminal reports, lying in court, attempting to sabotage a grand jury investigation the killing of an in-custody inmate, violating grand jury secrecy rules, using excessive force on handcuffed suspects, using prostitutes for sexual favors, sharing criminal investigation secrets with criminal targets favored by deputies and molesting children.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly