Orange County

Prosecutor Fired in Orange County Over Evidence Scandal

A former Prosecutor of the Year in California who is campaigning to become a judge has been fired from his job in the Orange County district attorney’s office after an internal investigation into the withholding of evidence in a murder case.

The Orange County Register reported Thursday that Ebrahim Baytieh — a senior assistant district attorney overseeing homicide, sexual assault and other cases — no longer works for the office following a report completed on Tuesday.

District Attorney Todd Spitzer said he hired an independent law firm to look into whether a prosecutor failed to turn over evidence in the case of a man convicted in 2010 of the 1988 killing of the man's marijuana dealer.

Spitzer said he had to seek a new trial last year for Paul Gentile Smith due to the allegations that authorities did not fully disclose information about jailhouse informants.

In response to the newspaper's inquiry about Baytieh's employment status, Spitzer didn't mention Baytieh by name but said: “My prosecutors will not violate the Constitution and the rights of defendants in order to get convictions.”

Baytieh, who was named “Prosecutor of the Year” in 2012 by the California District Attorneys Association, did not return messages from the newspaper seeking comment.

He was a prosecutor for more than two decades in the county of 3.2 million people and is running this year for election as an Orange County Superior Court Judge. Less than a year ago, Spitzer, who is running for re-election, praised Baytieh and referred to him as a role model for the office.

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The Orange County district attorney's office has faced a long-running scandal over the use of jailhouse informants and the withholding of evidence dating back to Spitzer's predecessor, Tony Rackauckas.

Following a lengthy hearing over these issues, a judge in 2017 tossed out the death penalty as an option for a man who killed eight people in a 2011 mass shooting at a Seal Beach hair salon.

In Smith's case, a recording of a jailhouse informant that authorities used in their investigation wasn't turned over until years after his trial when Baytieh, who prosecuted the case, said he learned of it. Smith's conviction was thrown out last year.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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