It was just five months ago during a public forum that Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas stood in alliance, dismissively downplaying the then-two-year-old jailhouse snitch scandal as imaginary and pouting angrily that their reputations had been unfairly tarnished.
That acting, delivered with all the sincerity Hutchens and Rackauckas could muster, defied what everyone honest already knew well: Law enforcement officials here routinely violated pre-trial inmates’ constitutional rights, hid evidence of those illegal schemes from trials, committed perjury in cover ups of those two activities and launched shameless public relations offensives against the person who uncovered the scandal, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders.
Yesterday, the two agencies announced an additional 1,157 records were hidden from Sanders and other defense attorneys in an untold number of felony cases; that the documents should have been surrendered years ago and—surprise, surprise—they contain evidence sheriff’s deputies operated illegal scams and committed perjury even in death penalty cases.
Sadly, little in the prior paragraph is new. There is, however, an astounding component to this latest development and it underscores the gall of our two top cops. Both have the audacity to continue to pose as trustworthy public servants.
In a press release, Rackauckas didn’t apologize to Sanders. He blamed Hutchens for the mess and issued this statement: “OCDA sets out concrete action plans to remedy OCSD’s previous non-production of documents.”
In her media statement, the sheriff promised she finally takes “this issue seriously” and added, “It is important for the public to know that we have been responsive to all subpoenas, discovery requests and legal mandates based on our knowledge at the time.”
Having covered the entirety of the controversy, I can assure the public (and I guarantee Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals concurs) that OCSD has not been responsive to all subpoenas, discovery requests and legal mandates.
Dear sheriff: Those failures are the crux of the scandal that has won national attention and calls for resignations as well as demands for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.
But the bureaucratic games continue. Ponder the last seven words the sheriff attached to the statement: based on our knowledge at the time.
Hutchens can’t expect us to accept her claims of ignorance about her own department’s records 29 months into the fiasco, can she?
If she’d been hallucinating during the entire time or drowning in the lousy advice of her Yes Men, surely basic human curiosity would have kicked in when these OC Weekly cartoons regularly landed on her desk:
Or, this Weekly cover story image:
It turns out that Hutchens, like the DA, is hopeless. She won’t admit the ugly reality created by unrepentant members of her agency who believed their corruption would be hidden behind multiple layers of agency secrecy. That’s why she steadfastly refuses to punish anyone. In her fantasy world, all is well. The last sentence of her press release makes that claim. She said, “The members of the sheriff’s department and my leadership will continue to ensure we are providing all information in terms of discovery and fully cooperating in the criminal justice system.”
My emphasis of the sheriff’s laughable spin is in italics.
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.