The defense attorney who got the Orange County District Attorney’s Office kicked off the case against Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in the county’s history, due to allegations of outrageous governmental misconduct Tuesday jumped into the scandal involving the improper recording of phone calls from jail inmates to their attorneys.
Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders filed a 48-page motion in the burglary case of Justin Steven Weisz, alleging sheriff’s officials conspired with their contractor that supplies phone services, Global Tel Link Corp., to listen in on the phone calls to attorneys, which would violate the inmates’ Sixth Amendment rights.
Some of the evidence Sanders cites was collected in the Dekraai case, which ended with an Orange County Superior Court judge removing the death penalty as an option. Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to killing nine victims inside and out of a Seal Beach beauty salon, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
As he did in the Dekraai case, Sanders cites internal logs in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to paint a picture of another conspiracy to violate the rights of inmates so investigators could get an unfair advantage in prosecutions.
The scandal came to light in the attempted murder case against Joshua Waring, the son of a “Real Housewives of Orange County” cast member, who alleges his phone calls to his attorneys were recorded, as well as when he was representing himself legally.
GTL officials have admitted that a problem with the implementation of new software dropped all but 72 of 1,300 attorneys’ phone numbers from a do-not-record list. The improper recordings were being done for about three years.
Sanders’ motion is a request for more evidence about the recorded calls. Weisz is next due in court Friday in the West Justice Center in Westminster.
Sanders argues that “the evidence establishes that instead of stopping the wrongdoing, GTL and the OCSD conspired to allow the improper recordings to continue, while facilitating investigative access to said recordings for a period lasting at least 28 months.”
Sanders also alleges that sheriff’s officials dumped a daily log used by deputies at the center of the jail informant scandal in Dekraai’s prosecution “to aid the cover up, while failing to disclose in current litigation regarding the improper use of phone calls that another log exits in which Special Handling/Custodial Intelligence deputies track their monitoring of inmate calls.”
Sanders alleges that over the past “several months, the two entities put into action a plan to present blatantly fraudulent documents related to the recording and accessing of calls in order to mislead defendants, courts, the Board of Supervisors, and the public about the actual scope of improper recording and accessing of calls.”
Sanders argues that sheriff’s and GTL officials have downplayed the number of calls that were recorded, estimating it “is reasonable to conclude that several hundred thousand calls from inmates have been removed” from evidence.
According to the evidence so far produced, “During a 40-month period, inmates only called the main number for the (Public Defender’s Office) a total of seven times — with every one of those calls occurring in July of 2017 — and called the other main numbers for (the Public Defender’s branch offices) a total of nine times, whereas a two-person civil firm received over 100 calls during this same period,” Sanders writes as an example in his motion.
“The only reasonable explanation for these gaps is that the (Sheriff’s Department) and/or GTL removed thousands of calls from the list, or repeatedly started and stopped recording calls to attorneys during this 40-month period,” Sanders wrote. “If the preposterousness of the gaps ere not enough to destroy the believability of the (evidence produced so far), perhaps the (District Attorney’s Office) will explain the likelihood that on 393 out of the 847 work days within the 40-month span of time, not a single call would be made from the jail to one of the 1,309 numbers (on a do-not-record list).”
Michelle Van Der Linden, a spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, said her office “became aware of the issue with GTL during the Waring case when it was discussed in open court. It is my understanding that GTL has taken full responsibility for the error.”
Van Der Linden referred calls to the sheriff’s department for “further information.” Messages left with a sheriff’s spokeswoman were not immediately returned.