DA Tony Rackauckas Continues Unethical Discovery Practices After Court Rebuke

Orange County DA continues to shield tainted sheriff’s deputies

Though in reality he was already well aware and supportive of the illegal conduct, Tony Rackauckas two years ago claimed his Orange County district attorney’s office (OCDA) finally discovered evidence–a Special Handling Log, to be precise—that proved sheriff’s deputies in the jails had run unconstitutional scams with informants targeting pre-trial defendants and then hid records and committed perjury to conceal the plots.

In its June 6, 2016, press release, OCDA didn’t mince words, admitting three years into the jailhouse informant scandal that “the SH Log contains material that impeaches the testimony” of numerous deputies, who testified falsely to help prosecutors win cases.

The agency also promised faithful obedience of its legal discovery obligations to supply criminal defendants with “any impeachment material” about the officers inside Sandra Hutchens’ Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD).

But in the 216 weeks since the OCDA declaration, Rackauckas’ team has instead repeatedly protected the badged cheaters, even after the California Court of Appeal blasted them for possessing a “loyalty to protect its primary law enforcement partners” rather than adhering to their “professional and ethical responsibilities.”

In a July 26 motion, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, the one-man wrecking crew to Rackauckas’ corruption, revealed nearly a whopping 150 recent criminal cases where “the OCDA has consistently failed to make disclosures pertaining to former Classification and Special Handling deputies who participated in constitutional and statutory violations of defendants’ rights through the improper use of jailhouse informants and the concealment of related evidence.”

The tactic of hiding key impeachment information from defendants, defense lawyers, judges and juries makes the government’s cases appear more legitimate.

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) oddly grabbed a simple OCSD narcotics case, made it U.S.A. v Joseph Govey, sought to gain the testimony of snitch-scandal tied deputies without a future jury knowing of their past and found the case dismissed by unamused federal judge Cormac J. Carney.

Unlike in state court where Rackauckas’ enjoys overwhelming influence among judges, Carney declared that jurors in Govey would have to hear information impeaching deputies’ character.

Sanders made his latest move in People v. Oscar Galeano Garcia, another relatively unremarkable Garden Grove narcotics case.

OCSD Investigator David Larson filed a Rackauckas-backed sworn affidavit for a search warrant against Garcia based on the alleged word of a confidential informant, but the officer failed to mention “his efforts to assist in informant operations that violated constitutional rights, nor his efforts to hide his own wrongdoing and that of his fellow deputies who participated in an organized effort that violated defendants’ rights,” according the public defender.

Furthermore, in April, when Sanders asked for snitch scandal related discovery pertaining to Larson and eight other deputies he says were involved in both Garcia and the illegal informant program, Deputy District Attorney Sandra Nassar refused to provide any of the evidence.

It was only last year that the California State Bar admonished Nassar, the daughter of one of Rackauckas’ campaign contributors, for—you can’t make this up—failing to disclose required evidence to a defendant in a felony case.

In motion this week, Sanders said purposeful discovery failures require extensive special hearings but cited a roadblock: Rackauckas recalcitrance and history of trying to intimidate judges who annoy him.

“Rackauckas and his office have made it absolutely clear what awaits the judicial officer who permits an evidentiary hearing required in this case,” he wrote. “In 2014, the Honorable Thomas M. Goethals allowed evidentiary hearings examining systemic concealment to determine whether the OCDA would reliably make disclosures in People v. Scott Dekraai. Judge Goethals permitted the defense, over the OCDA’s objections, to call prosecutors and law enforcement as witnesses. The OCDA responded by ‘blanket papering’ Goethals. The Court of Appeal described the OCDA’s response as an ‘extraordinary abuse” of [the criminal justice system].”

Given that scenario, Sanders is seeking to recuse Rackauckas and the entire Orange County Superior Court bench from Garcia so that his due process rights are protected.

In the November election, the 75-year-old Rackauckas wants voters to give him a sixth, four-year term over challenger Todd Spitzer, a 57-year-old county supervisor who has worked as a state assemblyman and prosecutor.

R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. 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.

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