O.C. Judge Was Key ‘Architect’ in Jailhouse Snitch Scandal, Public Defender Claims

Nearly a decade has passed since criminal defense attorney Scott Sanders blew the cover off an illegal jailhouse informant scheme in Orange County. Even after all these years, shoes continue to drop.

Sanders is now accusing a sitting superior court judge of being one of the key players behind the scandal. The allegations were made in a 400-page motion Sanders filed seeking the dismissal of murder charges against his client Paul Gentile Smith.

According to Sanders, Judge Ebrahim Baytieh — an Orange County prosecutor at the time — concealed evidence that sheriff's officials had illegally used two jailhouse informants to question Smith. The filing also accuses Baytieh of hiding a jailhouse phone call recording that could have been exculpatory for the defendant. According to the motion, Baytieh spearheaded a criminal conspiracy involving three former sheriff’s officials, which ultimately “paved the way for Smith’s conviction.” 

Baytieh was fired from the District Attorney’s Office in February 2022 for alleged misconduct in the Smith case. A number of law enforcement officials and judges stood by Baytieh, and he won election to the O.C. Superior Court four months later. Now, Sanders is calling on California's Commission on Judicial Performance to look into the allegations and determine whether Baytieh is fit to serve.

“Baytieh will soon be recognized as the principal architect of an evidence disclosure disaster unlike any other in this nation’s history,” the public defender warned in his filing. 

If Sanders' allegations are true, more than 100 criminal cases could be impacted.