The Orange County public defender’s office stated on Wednesday that top prosecutors covered for law enforcement, resulting in widespread lapses in evidence booking out of public view.
An internal audit investigation, which was not disclosed to the public, two years ago revealed systematic mishandling of evidence.
According to Orange County Sheriff’s Department procedures, all deputies are required to turn in any gathered evidence at the end of their shift.
The internal audit discovered that more than 70% of OC Sheriff’s deputies failed to comply. Instead of following procedures, officers frequently waited days, weeks or even months to submit key evidence, including seized drugs, cash, photos and videos pertaining to criminal cases.
According to the report obtained from the Orange County public defender’s office by NPR, nearly a third of evidence collected between February 2016 to February 2018, which included more than 98,000 department records, was submitted after the department’s mandated end-of-shift deadline. On average, deputies delayed booking evidence for 3 1/2 days. Additionally, 27% of deputies had held on to evidence for 31 days or longer. In some cases, they never submitted any evidence at all, even when they said they had.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer’s office also kept in the dark about the scope and findings of the audits.
His office has scheduled a meeting with the sheriff’s office for next week to go over the internal audit results.