A recent hot topic In Orange County, California has been the use of in custody government snitches against in-custody defendants. The Seal Beach, California mass murder case involving Scott Dekraai, involved weeks of hearings resulting from a defense motion to dismiss in which law enforcement personnel and government snitches testified. The testimony resulted in Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals’ removal of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting the case.
The testimony provided did not all relate to the actual facts of the Scott Dekraii case, but it did blow up the controversial use of in custody government snitches. The testimony given sheds light on just how far the government will go to try to obtain confessions from people in jail who are waiting to have their trial and allow a jury of their peers decide if they are in fact guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The testimony included that of Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies Seth Tunstall and Ben Garcia, who acted as the Special Handling deputies at the Orange County Jail, specifically dealing with the in custody snitches. Both deputies had intimate knowledge of how the snitches were handled inside the jail, and the computer database that was used to keep track of all the snitching activity that they purposely failed to disclosed during their testimony. As a result of their testimony regarding the use of the in custody snitches at the Orange County Jail, Judge Goethals issued a specific ruling that Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies Seth Tunstall and Ben Garcia “intentionally lied or willfully withheld material evidence”. It is believed that both deputies are currently under investigation for perjury.
One of the snitches involved in the Dekraa hearings was Oscar Moriel, who was under a snitch agreement to obtain information and statements from in custody defendants relating to the Mexican Mafia. Moriel was a federal in custody snitch from June 2009 – May 2010. During this time, Orange County Jail deputies would purposely house other high ranking inmates in the same Mod as Moriel, so Moriel could gain their trust and get information and statements from them to turn over to the Fed who were actively seeking information regarding Mexican Mafia activity inside the jail. Moriel testified that he became a federal snitch in order to get some type of deal related to the murder he was in custody for (where he remains as of the posting of this blog). He also testified he was never questioned about additional murders that he personally committed and was never charged with, yet hopes that being a snitch will allow him to get out of custody despite the multiple murders he has committed.
What was even more disturbing were the detailed notes Moriel testified he wrote down AFTER he allegedly obtained statements from the in custody targets. The amount of detail was so great, that it is hard to believe that he did not embellish or add facts to these alleged statements he obtained. In the end, his credibility will ultimately be decided by a jury if any government agency decides to put him on the stand to provide his snitch testimony.
Whether a person agrees or disagrees with the use of in custody snitches, it is unfortunately a reality that those in custody have to keep in mind when they confide in their new housing mates. Criminal defense attorneys always advise their clients to keep their mouths shut about their case while in custody. Some take the advice and some don’t. When they don’t, it’s the responsibility of the criminal defense attorney to assess and analyze all of the evidence, especially when an informant has been used.