Orange County Sheriff’s investigators listened inappropriately and repeatedly to recordings of confidential phone calls made by lawyers and clients from prison – more than what lawyers have confirmed, according to court documents.
A motion filed Tuesday by assistant counsel Scott Sanders said “tens of thousands” of calls from attorneys and clients were recorded beyond the nearly 34,000 reported by the sheriff’s phone operator GTL in 2018. These calls were made by inmates to lawyers whose numbers were placed on the department’s “do not record” list until the first violation was discovered.
Relying on documents from the Sheriff’s Department and the GTL, Sanders accused several sheriff investigators of repeatedly overhearing the conversations instead of notifying defense attorneys as required by law.
New data shows the sheriff’s staff accessed 544 calls from inmates to attorneys 723 times – nearly ten times as many as previously announced, according to court documents that Sanders filed on behalf of Defendant Ryan Franks in a car theft case.
A sheriff’s official denied that the agency was aware of staff “inappropriately” accessing records of phone calls made between attorney and client.
“We have a clear departmental policy that prohibits wiretapping of lawyer and client calls and a procedure in case lawyer and client calls are accidentally accessed,” said department spokeswoman Carrie Braun. “To date, we have not received any reports of calls from lawyers and clients that have been accessed inappropriately.”
Sanders replied, “That’s such an absurd answer. There have been hundreds and hundreds of calls being accessed. They know this, but they don’t want to investigate because it’s getting ugly. “
Authorities first learned in June 2018 that the prison’s automated telephone system had accidentally recorded calls between inmates and their lawyers because of “human error”. GTL officials said the problem had been resolved, but it continued.
Sanders reveals in his latest petition that the sheriff’s investigator Matt LeFlore overheard at least six conversations between defense attorney Jon Andersen and inmate Tyler Camu-Ferguson.
LeFlore had a story with Andersen. Andersen had previously accused LeFlore of “lying and fabricating facts” in support of his search for the defendant’s car. Andersen had also produced security materials from a nearby hotel to support his allegations against LeFlore.
Camu-Ferguson pleaded guilty to the grand theft to end the case, but LeFlore allegedly continued to follow his calls to Andersen, the motion states.
“By mid-October 2019, LeFlore could no longer control his fear, anger and curiosity,” the application said. “The preloaded OCSD documents not only show that LeFlore is accessing calls via audit records, but also contain his notes on the calls where he made a series of amazing mistakes which confirm that he calls the lawyer number Andersen was looking to … overhear conversations with Camu -Ferguson. “
On Tuesday Andersen said: “It’s terrible. I’ve gone to internal affairs, to the courts, to the prosecution, to the Ministry of Justice, I don’t get a response from anyone. It’s incredible.”
LeFlore was soon hired to investigate MPs who had mistreated the booking of evidence and who either delayed or failed to deliver the evidence. He was investigating an MP who had been brought to the prosecutor’s office on criminal charges. Prosecutors refused to submit files.
However, according to Sander’s petition, LeFlore himself was investigated by the Sheriff’s Department for alleged ill-treatment and misreporting of evidence relating to narcotics, ammunition and boots. No charges were brought by the prosecutor. And the sheriff’s investigators found no wrongdoing in a complaint filed by Attorney Andersen.
Investigators and other Orange County sheriff’s officers have allegedly broken the law against wiretapping conversations between attorneys and their imprisoned clients.
When the news broke in 2018, authorities admitted that investigator Bill Beeman had played eight inmate calls to lawyers ten times, according to Sanders. New data shows he accessed 15 additional calls 17 times. Lawyers on these calls were not notified.