Federal Authorities Investigating Orange County D.A.’s Office

Orange County’s jailhouse informant scandal has finally piqued the interest of federal authorities. On Thursday, U.S. Justice Department officials announced they had launched an investigation into whether criminal defendants have routinely had their rights to a fair trial violated by the use of secret jailhouse informants by the Sheriff’s Department and D.A.’s Office.

The probe was requested by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. It comes less than a month after an appeals court upheld a judge’s prior decision to kick Rackackaus’ office off a high-profile murder case because of the scandal.

“We appreciate the district attorney’s invitation to review his office’s policies and practices, along with his assurance of unfettered access to documents and personnel in his office,” U.S. Atty. Eileen Decker said. Both Rackackaus and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens have vowed to cooperate fully.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division will specifically look into whether or not there is a “pattern or practice” of using jail inmates to elicit incriminating statements from suspects who have legal representation and whether evidence has been unlawfully withheld from their attorneys. It will also probe the alleged exchange of favorable treatment for inmate testimony.

Read more about the investigation here.