The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has launched a comprehensive review of past criminal cases featuring deputies placed on a secret Sheriff’s Department list of officers whose histories of misconduct could undermine their credibility in court.
Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said she ordered the examination in response to a Times investigation last month that identified 24 deputies on an older version of the confidential list, including many who were disciplined or convicted of crimes.
Prosecutors, she said, are combing through cases in which those deputies might have testified and are trying to determine whether defendants should have been notified about the misconduct.
The deputies have been identified as potential witnesses in more than 4,400 felony criminal cases since 2000, according to a Times analysis of district attorney records, though it is unclear how often they testified or how significant a role they played in those cases.
Lacey said she could not recall a similarly large undertaking by her office since the Rampart scandal of the late 1990s, when accusations of perjury, evidence-tampering and other serious misconduct against dozens of LAPD officers led prosecutors to undo the convictions of more than 100 defendants.
“These are things prosecutors need to know to make sure that justice is done,” she said of the deputy misconduct detailed by The Times. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s part of our … obligation to look into those cases in which the officers testified in the past and review those cases.”
The newspaper’s investigation provided the public — and prosecutors — with the first glimpse of who had been placed on the Sheriff’s Department list.
The union that represents rank-and-file deputies went to court to block Sheriff Jim McDonnell from giving the deputies’ names to prosecutors, who are required by law to tell criminal defendants about evidence that would damage the credibility of an officer called as a witness. Last year, an appellate court ruled that the list of about 300 deputies must remain secret, citing California’s strict laws protecting the confidentiality of police discipline.
But Times reporters reviewed a 2014 version of the roster that included 277 deputies, and scoured court and law enforcement records for details of how deputies landed on it. A Times analysis showed that the deputies were potential witnesses in more than 62,000 felony cases since 2000. It’s unclear how many names have since been removed or added or whether deputies on the 2014 list are included in the current version.
The newspaper published the names of deputies who had been convicted of crimes, found by sheriff’s investigators to have committed misconduct or been flagged by prosecutors for behavior that raised serious concerns about their conduct.
Law enforcement and court records show:
One deputy poured taco sauce on an inmate’s shirt to fabricate blood from a jail brawl. Another pepper-sprayed an elderly man in the face and then wrote a false report to justify arresting him. A third tipped off a suspected drug dealer’s girlfriend that the dealer was being watched by police.
Lacey said while “all of it was bad,” she was particularly alarmed by a case from 2000 in which a deputy pulled over a woman and received oral sex from her in his patrol car.
County and law enforcement documents reviewed by The Times show that the woman later told authorities that Deputy Scott Maus didn’t use force or threaten her but that she didn’t consent and felt intimidated by an armed deputy in uniform, according to county records. Prosecutors at the time concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove Maus acted against the woman’s will.
Most of the deputies are still on the force.