Carrie L. Carmody, the current Orange County Grand Jury foreperson, made a lone strategically brilliant move today at a press conference announcing the panel’s finding in the ongoing jailhouse snitch scandal: Carmody refused to give reporters a copy of the report until after she’d finished taking questions.
Keeping summoned journalists in the dark for more than 45 minutes was wise given its laughable title, “The Myth of the Orange County Jailhouse Informant Program,” and a more unintentionally hilarious, 28-page, hagiographic, middle-school-civics-class-quality portrait of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who’ve been, she’d have us believe, victims of “a witch-hunt.”
After spending almost a year chatting in secret mostly with prosecutors and deputies about the law enforcement scandal, grand jury members and Carmody asserted the panel strenuously dug for evidence that officers violated a well-established U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Massiah v. USA) by illegally employing informants against pre-trial government targets and couldn’t find a single example.
“That narrative [of a scandal] does not stand up to factual validation,” the report states.
According to Carmody—who specialized in survey research, grant writing and marketing after working at T.J. Maxx, Woolworth, Inc., and Bed, Bath and Beyond—Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals, the California Court of Appeal, esteemed Cal State Berkeley law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, retired prosecutors around the nation and veteran courthouse reporters got it wrong, “unfortunately” causing an “erosion of trust in the criminal justice system.”
Despite all the detailed evidence reported in the Weekly and other news outlets since 2014, Carmody reasoned that if Hutchens had operated a secretive, unethical program employing snitches to help prosecutors win tainted convictions, she would have maintained and willingly shared files of those activities, like a “calendaring of events” or “a strategic plan” or “schedule for jailhouse informants.”
The foreperson stated that if there were any problems, they were minor and involved “rogue deputies,” which echoes the sheriff’s latest public relations spin.
Would it surprise you to know Carmody wasn’t ready to defend her assertions when confronted with facts?
Taking the first question, I asked her if she knew the DA’s office a year ago abandoned assertions this grand jury was making to downplay the scandal.
“You understand that?” I asked. “And you also understand that last June the district attorney’s office, Assistant DA Dan Wagner, wrote a letter belying everything you just told us: that there was a huge problem [with informants]; that there was an informant program; that it was active and [the deputies’] were doing ‘capers’? How do you rationalize what you just told us with that letter from the DA’s office?”
Foreperson, who wanted reporters to tell our readers that she has a Ph.D. in Psychology & Social Behavior, responded, “You would have to talk to Dan Wagner about why he did what he did.”
“But you are coming to us and telling us that [the scandal] is a myth; don’t you owe us an explanation about that letter? How do you square your findings with that letter?”
“We cannot find evidence of the notion of [an informant] program in the Orange County jails.”
“So, the district attorney’s office was wrong in that letter?”
“I’m not going to speak to Dan Wagner’s letter, no.”
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.