On the same day that national legal scholars urged a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into Orange County's law enforcement corruption and a tone-deaf district attorney's office spokeswoman reacted contemptuously, a superior court judge yesterday erased a murder conviction after determining sheriff's deputies conspired to violate the defendant's constitutional rights.
R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly DA Rackauckas with aides Susan Kang Schroeder and Scott Simmons
Judge Richard King's ruling in People v. Eric Ortiz is the latest proof that, despite District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' insistence otherwise, the county's corruption crisis isn't imaginary, but rather one with obvious embarrassing consequences.
It's the 13th example in less than a year of blatantly unethical prosecution team moves wrecking a felony case while not a single involved person with a badge has been held accountable.More »
Given the mounting merde piling up at the Orange County District Attorney's office, it's funny what preoccupies prosecutors. They threw the book at former county Assessor Webster James Guillory--who faced up to four years and four months behind bars, based on the felony charges originally filed against him by the OCDA for filing false election paperwork. On Wednesday, the legal equivalent of a thin pamphlet was thrown back at prosecutors.
County of Orange Webster James Guillory: guilty but not as originally charged
During 23 months of the ongoing Orange County snitch scandal that today won a national call for a U.S. Department of Justice probe, we've learned how certain courthouse prosecution teams cheat, how law-enforcement officials concoct clever explanations about how they accidentally rigged cases against dozens of defendants, and how judges--the people obligated to ensure honestly won convictions--are tolerating, if not outright encouraging, a pro-government warping of the criminal-justice system.
Bob Aul/OC Weekly
Our reporting has focused on a myriad of state court abuses that have captured national attention. But there's also cause for concern inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana. One sensational, pending appellate case underscores how defendants can be robbed of key evidence while FBI agents, assistant United States attorneys and judges shrug their shoulders.
Vo Duong Tran of Louisiana and Yu Sung Park of Illinois are serving 30-year sentences for 2009 convictions stemming from a bizarre home-invasion robbery plot in Orange County. Bizarre not just because the conspiracy involved a machine gun, silencers, bulletproof vests, the threat of wiping out any early arriving cops, and the expected plundering of cash and cocaine from inside a Fountain Valley residence near Mile Square Park--but also because Tran and Park are former lawmen.
Citing "grave concern" for the pending "crisis," more than three dozen prominent legal community members today asked Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to launch a formal investigation into "compelling evidence of pervasive police and prosecutorial misconduct" in Orange County.
OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas
"We write to urge the Department of Justice to initiate an investigation into the actions of the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) and the District Attorney's Office (OCDA) in connection with the use of jailhouse informants and the concealment of informant-related evidence," wrote signatories Erwin Chemerinksy, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law; and former California Attorney General and Los Angeles District Attorney John Van de Kamp.
Others joining in the sentiment of the communication include Harvard legal theorist Charles Ogletree, criminal justice professor Angela Davis, former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, former Chief Assistant United States Attorney Richard Drooyan and Alex Whiting, a Harvard professor and former prosecutor of international crimes at the Hague as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Constitution Project.
The 16-page letter uses court records, judicial rulings and news reporting--including exclusive articles published by OC Weekly--to argue that a previously chosen reform group handed picked by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas can't be trusted given the DA's continual controversial insistence that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by law enforcement officials.More »
The barren sands of the Santa Ana Riverbed have become a refuge of last resort for OC homeless, the one place where they feel like that they can be left alone from complaining NIMBYs and local police departments that harass them on their behalf. Orange County Public Works (OCPW), backed by the Orange Police Department (OPD), disrupted that sense of sanctuary Thursday morning by starting sweeps through the area, forcing the homeless to hastily gather their belongings and find a new place to stay...for the time being.
Photo by Gabriel San Roman "Underneath the bridge / The tarp has sprung a leak / And the animals I've trapped / Have all become my pets" - Kurt Cobain
At the age of 5 on Nov. 15, 1984, Jerrod Hessling witnessed the murder of his family's live-in babysitter, Linda Faye Rodgers. Jerrod watched the killer strike Rodgers with a metal chain, drag her to the master bedroom inside his ranch-style residence on the 1700 block of West Wilshire Avenue in Santa Ana, and then retrieve a knife from the kitchen and a hammer from another room before demanding the location of drugs and cash. In the aftermath, the bound, semi-stripped, 25-year-old woman, who had been beaten, raped and repeatedly stabbed, lay dead on the bed. Blood spatter on the ceiling and walls signaled the attack's ferociousness. A used white vibrator found near her thighs added to the grisly display.
Joe Rocco / OC Weekly
When police arrived at the crime scene, Jerrod described the killer as a "white man" wearing "a white shirt, black belt and white pants." As a cop later testified, officers transported the boy to the police station to "see if he could differentiate races." They displayed photographs of two Asian males, two Caucasian males, a Latino and two African-Americans and asked him to identify the men by race. He easily performed the task. After they repeatedly tested the boy's memory of the murder, the detectives noted that his description of the killer didn't change.More »
Illustration by Joe Rocco
Honest judges across the nation would be alarmed by the corruption that tarnishes Orange County's criminal-justice system. Unlike fictional TV court dramas, the process isn't being subverted by stereotypically devious defense attorneys. Though District Attorney Tony Rackauckas insists policing moves that tainted dozens of cases were accidental errors, evidence continues to mount that cheating against defendants isn't rare.
The latest disaster is People v. Daniel Ray Jones, a wild, late-night June 2013 shootout 2 miles from Disneyland. The ongoing case demonstrates the results of scant or nonexistent, meaningful law-enforcement oversight: prosecutorial willingness to trample ethical boundaries; unholy alliances with Mexican Mafia thugs; and judicial indifference to government lies, record tampering and buried exculpatory evidence. It also showcases Rackauckas' refusal to enforce what citizens expect: a zero-tolerance misconduct policy for his deputies.
UPDATE, NOV. 4, 11:54 A.M.: Add another doctor to this week's list of negligent Orange County physicians as a civil jury found against Dr. Long-Dei Liu in the death of a 26-year-old Chinese woman who died of complications from a C-Section last spring. Garden Grove Hospital and Medical Center reportedly pulled the obstetrician's privileges as well as those of intensive care unit nurses. Ling Nie died at the hospital four days after delivering her second son and developed complications from postpartum hemorrhage. On behalf of himself and his two sons, Lie's 29-year-old husband filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against Liu and the hospital.
RateMyMD Dr. Long-Dei Liu
In the wake of the County of Orange's 1994 bankruptcy, the largest municipal financial free-fall in U.S. history up to that point, I once offered as a marketing slogan: "Orange County: We're Not Just Morally Bankrupt Anymore." Well come June 7, 2016, the county may finally have a little bit of ethics to brag about as well.
Photo by flickr user Rock and Roar Just change the "D" to an "O."