Orange County District Attorney

Sept. 30, 2015 – Updated 11:18 p.m.

ORANGE – A top official for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office had a one-word response Wednesday to widespread accusations that local prosecutors illegally use jailhouse informants and withhold evidence beneficial to the defense: “baloney.”

On the same day that a New York Times editorial called for a federal investigation into Orange County’s informant controversy, Assistant Orange County District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh conceded that his office has made mistakes in using informants and getting evidence to defense teams. But, he said, the office is trying to do better.

“The notion that there is any effort on anybody’s part, at any level, to intentionally hide evidence … is from our perspective absolutely false,” Baytieh told a packed room during a debate Wednesday on the informant issue at Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law.

Countering Baytieh was veteran defense attorney Jack Earley, who pointed to a 754-page legal brief filed by a public defender citing case after case in which police and prosecutors allegedly withheld evidence or employed informants on defendants who were lawyered up, both alleged violations of constitutional rights.

Earley said the District Attorney’s Office may finally be on the right track by making changes, but that doesn’t discount decades of alleged abuse.

“I applaud they are looking at it, but they’ve had the opportunity for 30 years and didn’t do a thing,” Earley said.

Also participating were Jim Tanizaki, senior assistant district attorney, and David Swanson, a defense attorney.

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