The Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to direct its Office of Independent Review to investigate how a contractor improperly recorded more than 1,000 phone calls since January 2015 from jail inmates to their attorneys.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who is running for District Attorney, went a step further and called on the board to terminate its contract with Global Tel Link Corp. The Virginia-based company's contract is due for renewal in November.
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett cautioned that there aren't many vendors that provide phone services for jails and there likely isn't enough time to get bids for a new contract from another vendor.
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Spitzer said he would put the issue on the board's next agenda for further discussion.
The county's OIR will report back to the board in 90 days.
Spitzer criticized GTL for failing to alert county officials that the company had similar problems with two vendors in Florida.
"They didn't tell us about Florida and they didn't disclose it to you (Sheriff Sandra Hutchens), so I'm done with them,'' Spitzer said, adding that GTL first alerted the sheriff a month ago that a technical error caused the issue.
"There isn't enough time to turn this around" and get a new vendor, Bartlett said.
Last week, George McNitt, vice president of technical services for GTL, testified that he and his brother authored the software the sheriff's department now uses for its jail phone services. He blamed an unspecified "human error" for the failure to transfer over phone numbers that should have been kept confidential from a switch from an old system to a new one.
Two law enforcement agencies in Florida reported the same problem with phone calls from inmates to attorneys being recorded, McNitt testified. Officials in Los Angeles County have also requested an audit to see if phone calls were wrongly recorded there, as well.
Spitzer grilled Hutchens on why she didn't alert the board as soon as she was aware of the problem, but the sheriff said she needed more time to get a handle on what went wrong before reporting to the supervisors.
Spitzer also noted that he believes any defendant representing themselves without an attorney should not have any phone calls recorded as was the case with Joshua Waring, the defendant at the center of the unfolding scandal.
In a phone call to City News Service from jail, Joshua Waring, the son of former "Real Housewives of Orange County" cast member Lauri Peterson, insisted Monday that he was innocent of the attempted murder charges filed against him in connection with a Costa Mesa shooting.
Waring's attorney, Joel Garson, is trying to get the charges dismissed based on an allegation of outrageous governmental misconduct tied to the recordings of his client's phone calls when he was in custody and representing himself without a lawyer in the case. Prosecutors have recordings of 44 phone calls when Waring was acting as his own attorney from the end of November 2016 through the early part of 2017.
Waring represented himself in his first preliminary hearing during that time and was ordered to stand trial. Later, Garson got the charges dismissed based on issues with that preliminary hearing. Prosecutors refiled the case against Waring, so if Garson gets the charges dumped again, prosecutors will not be able to charge him again.
Waring said his defense was largely based on an argument that someone else did the shooting and that authorities either did not check him for gunshot residue or buried the evidence because they wanted to use him as an informant in other cases.
Waring alleges that Bryan Jason Goldstein shot then-35-year-old Daniel Lopez outside a home in Costa Mesa on June 20, 2016. Two others escaped injury in the drive-by attack.
In August of 2016, Warning said he called his mother to insist, "I need to get this gunshot residue (because) it'll show that I didn't fire the gun and Bryan Goldstein did fire that gun. They heard me say Bryan Goldstein's tests were going to show he fired the gun."
Waring said he and Goldstein were together earlier the night of the shooting, but split up, and he got a call from a friend asking for a ride after she was thrown out of the house where the shooting took place.
"I said, 'Go to Del Taco. I'll have my friend pick you up and I'll go back to the street to find your belongings,'" which were discarded outside the home, Waring said.
Waring claims Goldstein returned to the house, which he hadn't expected, and, "I remember looking in the rear view mirror and seeing flashes coming from his car."
Goldstein has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 2004 involving drugs, leading police on a chase and being a felon in possession of a gun, according to court records.
Waring argues that Goldstein is being protected by prosecutors because they needed him as a witness in an attempted murder case in Anaheim.
"How do I get a fair trial when they know what witnesses I'm going to call?," Waring said, referring to his case leading up to the preliminary hearing stage. "They know everything. They know what I'm going to do at trial. They've had two years to circumvent my defenses and find a way to still get a conviction."
Waring is concerned how he will be viewed if he is successful in getting his case dismissed.
"I don't want the public to think this is a violent person who is trying to get off on a technicality," he said. "I didn't shoot that night...I've never shot a handgun in my life...BB guns, paintball guns, yes, I know all about them, but don't know anything about guns. It's just not who I am."
Waring, who said he's got "a drug problem; I'm the first to admit it," is representing himself on drug charges. In connection with that case, he said his cell was pelted with pepper balls in the middle of the night June 24 because he had subpoenaed some deputies as witnesses.
"They opened my legal mail, which they're not supposed to," he said. "My legal mail is always opened."
He said the pepper-ball attack "sucked all that powder in my cell. I thought I was going to die. You start getting mucus out of your eyes and nose and you can't breathe. And I'm pushing the emergency button and they're ignoring me."
Waring said he slapped a wet towel over his face "and just dealt with it."
Orange County sheriff's investigators are continuing to review Waring's allegations, said Carrie Braun of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.