Prosecutor Says It’s OK That Deputies Faked Evidence Reports Because They Didn’t Know It Was A Crime

Orange County (CA) sheriff’s deputies are the worst at law stuff. If the goal was to hire the stupidest, most plausibly-deniable candidates, the OCSD has hit the mark.

Deputies for this department have managed to achieve the impossible: turn local prosecutors against them by continuously mishandling evidence. Evidence must be managed carefully since it’s the thing prosecutors use to secure convictions. In the hands of deputies, evidence is just something that must be handled, however haphazardly, at whatever point they get around to it.

Since they can’t handle the job of correctly booking evidence, deputies have been faking reports, claiming evidence is booked in when it actually isn’t to avoid getting reprimanded for taking too long to process seized property. One deputy, Bryce Simpson, never did the job correctly. In 74 cases audited, 56 had no evidence booked at all and the other 18 only had some of the evidence booked.

Now, Deputy Bryce Simpson — along with Deputy Joseph Atkinson Jr. — are being given a pass by the special prosecutor presiding over the grand jury convened to decide whether these two slackers/liars should face criminal charges. According to the prosecutor, the deputies did nothing wrong because — wait for it — they didn’t know falsifying official documents was wrong.

Atkinson and Simpson told grand jurors during Mora’s hearing that they had never been trained on a Penal Code section making it illegal to falsely write in their reports that they had booked evidence — typically guns, drugs, money and photos.

Special prosecutor Patrick K. O’Toole told grand jurors that he gave the plea deal to Atkinson and Simpson partially because they had not been informed of the Penal Code section for lying on a official report.

“So I let them plead to the less serious charge because I thought it was justified under the circumstances,” O’Toole told the jurors. “And I think you will recall also their testimony that, not that ignorance of the law is any excuse, but they had never heard of this government code section before, or I don’t think any of these people ever thought the Penal Code section applies to them in what they are doing.”

You have got to be fucking kidding me. Even if we believe the deputies — and there’s no reason we should — there has never been a case ever in any situation where falsifying official documents has been considered the right thing to do. That the deputies may have been unaware these actions could result in criminal charges is beside the point. The mens rea is the knowing falsification of documents, which has never been considered OK under any circumstances. And that’s even when the threat of criminal prosecution isn’t readily apparent.

And their testimony contradicts the Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, who says both deputies received training on the filing of evidence — training that presumably included the warning that faking these documents could result in criminal charges. If they didn’t pay attention to the criminal charge part of the training, that’s hardly an excuse. Ignorance of the law doesn’t help civilians. It shouldn’t aid and abet criminal actions committed by law enforcement officers.

But this is just more in the sad, stupid history of this department, which has abused tax dollars to mold an abusive, moronic thin blue line that can’t even keep crime in check inside of its own department. A few years ago, the sheriff actually claimed deputies were unaware it was wrong (not to mention criminal) to lie in court. The deputies claimed they didn’t know what they could testify about regarding a criminal database, but rather than seek advice from the city’s lawyers, they chose to lie about their knowledge of the system.

No one is being served and/or protected by this group of deliberately obtuse officers. And they’ll continue to be underserved if this is how illegal misconduct is handled by those who are supposed to be seeking justice, rather than shielding officers from the consequences of their actions.

Techdirt.