Sheriff Clicks Her Heels But OC Snitch Scandal Won't Go Away

Bob Aul/OC Weekly
Anyone who had spent a year traveling overseas before walking into the July 24 Board of Supervisors' meeting on civilian oversight woes at the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) might have thought they were witnessing the coronation of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. The top cop's arrival in the Hall of Administration, with her entourage, prompted smiles, handshakes and backslaps. One attendee said the sheriff was doing an "excellent" job. Another praised her willingness to attend; a third declared "the highest degree of respect for her." Even board chairman Todd Spitzer praised Hutchens' purported desire "to do the right thing."

If OCSD is a paradigm of virtuous public service, why call a semi-emergency hearing? The sheriff wondered the gist of this question out loud, though she said, in disingenuous politeness, "I'm pleased to be here." Worried police-corruption revelations once again have won national attention, Spitzer assembled the powwow to discuss strengthening the Office of Independent Review (OIR) or scrapping it for more effective oversight. "We have a problem as a county," he said.

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Costa Mesa Cop Ryan Patrick Natividad Accused of Filing Fraudulent Claim About His Fist

Photo by flickr user Dirk Gently
In some cultures, such claims are known as "fisting."
A Costa Mesa cop has been charged with committing insurance fraud through a work-injury claim involving his fist, according to prosecutors.

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U.S. Seeks Funds from Sale of Disneyland-Area Motel by Philippine Disaster Relief Scammer

Philippines Police
Would you buy a used Disneyland area motel from this lady?
The U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly trying to recover about $12.5 million in assets that include proceeds from the sales of Irvine property and a Disneyland-area motel by a Philippine businesswoman who allegedly stole millions of dollars in funds entrusted to her for development assistance and disaster relief for her people.

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Advocates Try to Keep Brothers Together as One Fights Deportation, The Other for His Life

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
ICE target Touch Hak (far right) with (from left): his brother Puthy's wife Tammie Pheak; cousin Saron Pos; Puthy Hak (center); and sister Nalin Chhim.
A Cambodian refugee who was spared deportation last year so that he could donate his kidney to his brother recently learned he is not a blood match with his older sibling and that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is coming after him again.

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OCDA's Office Thinks Review Committee Will Save It From Snitch Scandal

Illustration by Luke McGarry
Tony Rack: As sneaky as ever...

The folks running the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) are now claiming outsiders will help to reform a jailhouse-informant program that won tainted convictions in at least three dozen cases, including death-penalty trials. "Anything we can do to get better as an office, we're going to do," OCDA chief of staff Susan Kang Schroeder said in a July 12 interview. "We're making reforms." But the sentiment voiced weeks after a CBS 60 Minutes crew arrived on the scene is inconsistent with prosecutors' antics during the 18-month-old scandal.

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Laura Poitras of Edward Snowden Documentary Citizenfour Fame Sues U.S. Government

"I'm filing this lawsuit because the government uses the U.S. border to bypass the rule of law," says Laura Poitras.
Laura Poitras--the Academy and Pulitzer Prize Award-winning filmmaker of Citizenfour that opened in theaters in October and had an extended revival at Frida Cinema in Santa Ana in January--is suing various federal government agencies for essentially harassing her as she traveled to make her documentary on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

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Wildfires? No Water? Scorching Heat? At Least California Will Be OK with Summer Electricity

U.S. Energy Information Administration
Chart based on North American Electric Reliability Corp.'s 2015 Summer Reliability Assessment.
We are still dealing with crushing heat, wildfires and a nagging drought that has lowered hydroelectric generation, but at least government officials say the demand will not exceed the supply of electricity in California this summer.

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Hidden Injustice: County Counsel Works To Keep OC's Snitch Scandal Under Wraps

Bob Aul/OC Weekly
For a quarter of a century, the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) operated one of the nation's longest frauds on the criminal-justice system through a secret, computerized records system called TRED. In late 2014, Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals forced a monumentally resistant OCSD to admit its existence. Why all the secrecy?

The few TRED records that have been pried free are a treasure trove of exculpatory evidence hidden from trials that resulted in prosecution victories over hoodwinked defendants. The records also clearly reveal that Southern California law-enforcement officials run a jailhouse-informant program that habitually tramples the constitutional rights of pretrial defendants.

With the aid of the county counsel's office, OCSD officials employed exaggerations, half-truths, circular logic and legally inane gobbledygook to keep judges, juries and defense lawyers clueless about TRED since 1990. They've even been willing to tell fibs under oath in a death-penalty case.

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Orange County Jailhouse Snitch Scandal Produces New Informant Oversight Committee

Thumbnail image for UngaggedBromberg.jpg
Illustration by Bob Aul/OC Weekly
Perhaps you've been reading my colleague R. Scott Moxley's exhaustive (and award-winning) coverage of the Orange County Jail informant scandal, which has already resulted in reversed convictions, cases dropped due to embarrassment and the possibility that the worst mass killer in county history may avoid the death penalty. Something else the mess has led to: the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) announcing Monday the formation of "a new independent, external committee" to "thoroughly examine OCDA policies and practices regarding the use of jailhouse informants."

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Meet the OC Prosecutor Who Was Promoted After Letting a Suspected Child Molester Walk

Bob Aul/OC Weekly
When Orange County Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly issued a numbskull explanation of his February prison sentence for a 20-year-old Santa Ana man who raped his 3-year-old half-sister in a garage, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas pounced. Rackauckas' move was understandable. Despite Kelly's posturing to the contrary, sodomizing a toddler is an act of horrific violence, even when an offender announces a post-arrest religious awakening. Indeed, the child complained of pain and suffered visible injuries, according to law-enforcement records.

"We have a very vulnerable victim and innocent victim," the four-term DA complained in April as he announced an appeal of Kevin Rojano-Nieto's 10-year prison sentence, 15 years below California's mandatory minimum punishment for such a crime.

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