In a takedown of Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris for The Atlantic, staff writer Conor Friedersdorf cites troubling criminal justice moves by the California senator that have been exposed by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, a New Republic writer and OC Weekly Senior Editor, News & Investigations R. Scott Moxley.
“When Kamala Was a Top Cop,” which was posted on The Atlantic website on Sunday, accuses Harris of having “very little, and nothing convincing” to say “about some of the most serious charges against her” as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general.
Among those serious charges against Harris, who bills herself on the presidential campaign trail as a criminal justice reformer: “[S]he fought hard to keep innocents in prison and failed to fight hard against corrupt cops,” Friedersdorf writes.
Knowingly allowing an innocent man to rot in prison, even though a trial court and appeals court in California had ruled that there was indisputable evidence proving he did not commit the crime that put him there, was exposed in the reporting of Nick Martin, who is now with the New Republic.
The misconduct of a crime lab run by the San Francisco Police Department, which Harris defended to the end, was previously reported by the Post and the Journal.
A section of The Atlantic story titled “The Corrupt-Prosecutors Test” relies on the reporting by Moxley, who has been all over Orange County’s reprehensible snitch scandal since day one. Here is how Friedersdorf puts it:
For years, R. Scott Moxley, an indefatigable alt-weekly reporter, has covered police and prosecutorial misconduct for OC Weekly, a beat that never left him short for material, and that absolutely exploded in 2014, when Harris was attorney general. As he summarized it, “Sheriff’s deputies had spent years running unconstitutional jailhouse scams against pretrial inmates to secretly secure prosecutorial victories at trials. In return, prosecutors under then–District Attorney Tony Rackauckas looked the other way when deputies hid, doctored or destroyed exculpatory evidence from defendants; repeatedly committed perjury; and disobeyed lawfully issued court orders. Tens of thousands of pages of records inside the Orange County Superior Court, as well as at the California Court of Appeal, prove beyond a reasonable doubt each element of what became known nationally as the jailhouse-informant scandal.”
Go to archives and search for “jailhouse” and “Kamala Harris” to get an idea of how often Moxley has cited the then-attorney general’s troubling lack of oversight when it came to Orange County’s top cops, although, as Friedersdorf notes, the Weekly scribe did sum it up this past Jan. 24 in “Does Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Really Want Dirty Cops Held Accountable?”
The Atlantic piece again:
For months, Moxley watched as details of the scandal emerged in a Santa Ana courtroom, and then as the judge declared that multiple deputies had perjured themselves on the stand. Earlier this year, he gave a scathing assessment of Harris’s response, which amounted to almost nothing by the time she was elected to the Senate in 2016.
Friedersdorf then turns to this from Moxley’s January piece:
After more bombshell evidence emerged that expanded the scope and intensity of the deputies’ cheating, [Judge] Goethals—a former homicide prosecutor—wrote another ruling expressing exasperation over the corruption.
Harris finally acted.
She announced the opening of an investigation into the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD). As months, then years passed, it became increasingly clear the probe was nothing more than a sham. Though efforts were made to conceal that fact from the public, illuminating details emerged. For example, Harris’ investigators incredibly obeyed Orange County Sheriff’s Department commands not to audio record certain statements from accused deputies.
More telling, however, is the fact that the alleged investigation long ago landed in bureaucratic oblivion. Though Goethals and the California Court of Appeal officially announced disgust with OCSD perjury years ago, the AG’s office—first under Harris and now with Xavier Becerra—hasn’t held anyone accountable after a probe that so far has lasted more than 1,411 days.
The probe later ended without any charges filed.
Friedersdorf ends the Moxley section with this quote he got from Scott Sanders, the assistant public defender who first unearthed the corrupt behavior in question: “The former attorney general’s efforts in Orange County were far from a profile in courage. Her unwillingness to stand up to dishonest law enforcement will be her lasting legacy here, and the criminal-justice system will continue to pay the price for years.”
The evidence supplied by Moxley and the other journos helped Friedersdorf reach this conclusion:
“At best, Harris displayed a pattern of striking ignorance about scandalous misconduct in hierarchies that she oversaw. And she is now asking the public to place her atop a bigger, more complicated, more powerful hierarchy, where abuses and unaccountable officials would do even more to subvert liberty and justice for all.”
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.