Excessive Force Controversy Continues To Annoy OC Deputy Union

​Sheriff's deputy union officials are privately continuing to lobby Tony Rackauckas in an effort to get the district attorney to
flip-flop on his May 2009 assertion that several deputies gave untruthful
testimony to protect another officer accused of twice using a Taser as a weapon
of torture on a handcuffed Latino suspect sitting in  a patrol car.

Disgusted prosecutors say Deputy Christopher Hibbs won
acquittal after his colleagues developed sudden cases of amnesia on
the witness stand, outright lied in testimony or both, in a “code of silence”
tactic to sabotage the case. Hibbs defended his actions by claiming he believed
the surrounded, disarmed and restrained suspect might have intended to harm
him. But the veteran deputy was less clear why his official department report
of the incident omitted any mention of the Taser attack that left the man
screaming in pain.

In the aftermath of the trial in Fullerton, the DA's
office held a press conference to blast the deputies who aided Hibbs.
Rackauckas said the integrity of the justice system collapses when cops can't
be trusted to tell the truth. That move infuriated both Sheriff Sandra Hutchens
and officials at the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS), who
asserted there was no evidence of misconduct by any deputy. Indeed, Hutchens
called her own press conference to say deputies don't lie to protect one
another. She also questioned the professionalism of
prosecutors for publicly undermining the credibility of her department. Union
officials demanded that the DA fire Susan Kang Schroeder, his media affairs
counsel, for unnecessarily inflammatory comments they say she made to reporters. He declined.

After a flurry of media coverage, the
controversy–which was first revealed by the Weekly–subsided. But top AOCSD
officials are still seeking to influence Rackauckas and The Orange County
. They've won mixed result. 


I'm told the DA has agreed to assign one of his senior assistants to once again review the union's complaint. Also, in the last weeks of 2009, the union encouraged a Register reporter to write a news article that ridicules Rackauckas' stance as factually disingenuous.

Hutchens, who was appointed to replace convicted felon Mike Carona as sheriff in 2008, and Rackauckas have a history of sparring. In her first weeks in office in 2008, the sheriff told Rackauckas to mind his own business after prosecutors complained that deputies repeatedly gave special treatment to a fellow deputy suspected of being a serial pedophile. Incredibly, veteran deputies allowed the target to secretly monitor their investigation of him and, despite strong evidence of his sex crimes, asked the DA's office to drop the case. That deputy, Gerald Stenger, committed suicide in his patrol car after being tipped that DA investigators were planning to arrest him.

In 2006, amid inmate cries that a deputy sanctioned the jailhouse murder of inmate John Derek Chamberlain, the sheriff department adamantly refused to give DA investigators crime scene access until after deputies sanitized the area from evidence. Later, department officials lied and hid documents from an investigating grand jury.

      In 2007, prosecutors complained that sheriff investigators repeatedly botched their probe of a deputy who forced as many as 12 Orange County prostitutes to give him sexual favors; the DA's office nevertheless managed to win a conviction.

      Last month, an OCSD deputy was convicted of lying to protect a fellow off-duty deputy caught illegally poaching underage lobsters in Dana Point Harbor. The deputy sought to dissuade a game warden from issuing a ticket by pretending his colleague was an important confidential source who shouldn't be forced to give his name. The ruse failed when the game warden became suspicious.  

–R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

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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