The Pasadena Police Chief called for an independent audit of his own department's homicide division, looking into two key detectives and their investigations. A superior court judge found misconduct by the two longtime detectives. Patrick Healy reports from Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Feb. 26, 2013.
An independent law enforcement consulting firm will examine the investigative reports of two Pasadena Police detectives whose conduct has been called into question by a superior court judge, city officials announced Monday.
"We want to know, and we want to deal with it," said Mayor Bill Bogaard.
Bogaard and Police Chief Phillip Sanchez identified the officers as Kevin Okamoto and William Broghamer. The audit will examine their work as far back as 2005, according to a statement issued by the city.
On Feb. 7, Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler cited the detectives' "misconduct" as grounds to declare a mistrial in the case of two men accused of a 2007 homicide that was investigated by Okamonto and Broghamer.
Okamoto withheld evidence that supported the innocence of defendant Jerrill Sanford, and Broghamer committed "egregious" misconduct in the recorded interview of a witness, Fidler ruled.
The issue came to a head after the district attorney's office found the recording and provided it to the defense only days before trial, according to Andrew Stein, the attorney representing Sanford.
"The judge found that Detective Okamoto intentionally wrote a report that was misleading," Stein said. "The police reports did not match what the witnesses said."
In court, Okamoto said he did not know he was required to turn over evidence that can be useful to the defense, so-called exculpatory evidence. Fidler was openly skeptical.
During the recorded interview of a female witness, Broghamer is heard warning her that her child could be taken from her. Such "duress" is not permitted, Stein said.
Judge Fidler found the threats compromised her statements to the point they would be inadmissible at trial.
Okamoto previously had been removed from detective work following complaints. After an internal investigation, Okamoto was allowed to return to duty, Mayor Bogaard said.
The handling of the homicide investigation before Judge Fidler is now being reviewed internally by Pasadena Police, the department revealed after Fidler's ruling.
The external investigation will be conducted by Veritas Assurance Group. Its president Ron Sanchez, while serving as an LAPD captain, was involved in the creation of the LAPD's Audit Division, according to a posted biography.
In addition to looking at cases handled by Okamoto and Broghamer, the audit "will also examine a cross-section of Detective Bureau reports and criminal case filings to ensure consistency in reporting and that procedure was followed. At the conclusion of the audit, an executive summary will be made available to the public, according to the city.
In finding the misconduct, Judge Fidler specially accused the officers, and found no wrongdoing by the district attorney's office. Defense attorney Stein praised prosecutor Paul Kim for bringing forward the information about the recorded witness interview.
The district attorney's office has also launched a "preliminary investigation," according to spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons.
If the investigations reveal similar misconduct by Okamoto and Broghamer in previous cases, some convictions may have to be vacated, Stein said. He likened the uncertainty to that of the LAPD's Rampart Scandal in the 1990s, when a formal investigation was launched to review cases in which suspect officers had a role.
The city of Pasadena likely will also face potentially costly civil lawsuits, Stein predicted.
Okamoto has been suspended and Broghamer has been assigned to office duty. Neither could be reached for comment.