DA’s office halts prosecutions involving former Lake County deputy
The 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is halting the prosecution of cases involving a former Lake County deputy after some troubling statements allegedly made by the man came to light.
In May, District Attorney Heidi McCollum informed Lake County Sheriff Amy Reyes that she would put a hold on several cases involving the deputy, who McCollum said had made several bragging comments about fights he’d had with suspects.
Of note, McCollum emphasized that her office has not found any evidence that the deputy had ever been untruthful in his reports or while testifying in court or that he had broken any laws. However, McCollum said the attitude some allege he carried at his job raised serious concerns about his motivations as a peace officer.
“When certain language and actions of law enforcement officers come to the attention of the District Attorney’s Office, and while those actions might not rise to the level of being illegal or being in violation of any particular police policy, it doesn’t necessarily mean those actions are acceptable,” McCollum said. “It doesn’t mean those actions shouldn’t be called out, and it doesn’t mean those actions should go unquestioned.”
McCollum said the man is no longer employed by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office but couldn’t speak to the circumstances of his departure. Neither the former deputy nor the Lake County Sheriff’s Office responded to requests for comment on this story.
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McCollum said the issue came to her attention earlier this year when she was approached by a deputy district attorney who raised concerns about the man’s attitude based on interactions they had with him. McCollum said at least two defense attorneys later reached out with worries about the man, as well.
McCollum said she looked into numerous cases that the deputy was involved with over the course of more than a month and ultimately decided to pump the breaks on prosecutions until the cases could be reviewed more closely. Most of the allegations against the man’s attitude revolve around comments he made in a “braggartly fashion” while recounting fights he’d been in with suspects and defendants in the past.
In her letter to Sheriff Reyes, McCollum said she also had concerns about statements the man allegedly made that put in question his desire to remain in law enforcement and that he made it a point not to speak with people on calls for service to forgo having to write reports. McCollum’s letter also said he refused to acknowledge his oversight in an unlawful search of two defendants whose cases were dismissed as a result and that he made another statement to a deputy district attorney wherein he indicated that he only stopped hitting a defendant because another officer intervened.
“What I told my staff was until I have a thorough review of each one of the cases that he was involved in, we’re halting prosecution,” McCollum said. “… As prosecutors, we have an obligation to disclose any information which is exculpatory, which could be used by a defendant in trial in any form for any defense.
“I think these comments could in some circumstances be fair game for a defense attorney to question (him) on. If a defense attorney had a client who maybe was in a physical confrontation with (him), I think that is fair game for the defense attorney to ask (him) on the stand about other altercations he’s had and the comments he’s made.”
McCollum said there are 10 cases being reviewed in which the man was either the only officer on scene or the primary officer in the case. The office is reviewing nine other cases where the man had some involvement but wasn’t the primary officer. McCollum said each case would be looked at individually to determine whether the alleged comments could impact any of the cases.