On the homepage for his California Department of Justice (DOJ) website, Attorney General Xavier Becerra—a former Los Angeles congressional Democrat—laughably sells the notion he believes in exposing “systemic police misconduct.”
But in a quiet, corner Fullerton courtroom today, not on a stage before TV-news camera crews, a Becerra representative softly announced the DOJ has ended what it once touted as a serious probe of Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) corruption without taking even wrist-slap action.
Those of us who have followed the alleged investigation knew it was a sham from the outset precisely 1,499 days ago, in part, because a deputy attorney general, Theodore Cropley, sat idly through months of courtroom testimony that revealed deputies committed blatant perjury, destroyed exculpatory evidence and ran unconstitutional scams against pretrial defendants in a systemic fashion.
In the wake of that shocking inaction, the ruse of a formal DOJ probe began in March 2015, when U.S. Senator Kamala Harris served as AG, and has now finally died an embarrassing finale under the watch of Becerra.
Harris, who is running for the Democratic Party’s nomination to face President Donald Trump, essentially admitted to The New York Times earlier this year that her OCSD investigation was more of a publicity stunt because she didn’t want to use her office to reprimand tainted cops when, in her view, citizens should wait for an election and vote out leaders of warped agencies.
Becerra showed he, too, wasn’t interested in using his office’s powers to hold badged wrongdoers responsible when, ostensibly while the independent probe was ongoing last May, he held a happy, hamfisted campaign event at OCSD’s Santa Ana headquarters with the same officers who conducted cover-up operations for what became known as the jailhouse-informant scandal.
In this case, it wasn’t the fat lady who sang; it was svelte Darren Shaffer, a deputy attorney general. Shaffer appeared in Superior Court Judge James Rogan’s courtroom to fight Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders’ demand for access to the agency’s files about deputy misconduct in the snitch scandal. Several of the deputies now work in field operations, writing search warrants and making arrests despite tainted backgrounds. The Orange County district attorney’s office, OCSD and Becerra’s operation don’t want Sanders or any other defense attorney to see the character-impeaching records.
“The importance of confidentiality in this case still exists,” Shaffer first told Rogan.
Release of snitch-scandal records would cause “irreparable harm” to future law-enforcement investigations, the deputy AG also suggested.
The curious judge, a former Republican congressman from Los Angeles, picked up on a Sanders’ point—the AG has spent more than four years claiming the office couldn’t release the records because of their active investigation—and wanted to know of statute-of-limitations issues tied to the deputies’ offenses.
That’s when Shaffer officially ended the ruse.
“The investigation is closed,” he announced with the same ho-hum enthusiasm he might have when alerting his wife that the date on their milk carton had expired a day earlier.
(The deputy AG didn’t say when the case closed.)
Paul Wilson, who lost his wife in 2011 in Orange County’s worst mass shooting, was present and shook his head in disgust. Wilson saw firsthand how deputies cheated in the case against the killer—not out of sympathy, but as reflexive, routine depravity. That law-enforcement cheating in People v. Scott Dekraai extended the death penalty case (and, thus, the pain of the victims’ families) for five years.
“Incredible,” Wilson observed in a non-complimentary remark about the AG’s office.
While Harris and Becerra prolonged their fake probe, two of the top three deputies involved in the scandal (Seth Tunstall and Bill Grover) retired without facing charges or seeing their taxpayer-funded retirement plans impacted negatively.
(Though Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals lambasted their remorseless, multi-year perjury in Dekraai, taxpayers annually paid the discredited Tunstall $234,000 and Grover $227,000, funds the duo will nearly collect every year for the rest of their lives given California’s absurdly generous government pension payment system.)
For his part, Sanders fumed.
“There was never a real investigation,” he told Rogan. “It’s laughable. What was the AG investigation, if it wasn’t fraudulent? [Keeping those records of officer misconduct secret] is so unfair to defendants [facing charges brought by dirty deputies].”
Rogan said he will announce what, if anything, he will require the government to release by April 23.
Go HERE to see background on the controversy.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott 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; earned six dozen other reporting awards; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; featured in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.