The Orange County Jail phone vendor that improperly recorded attorney-client calls has floated so much conflicting information that no one knows just how many calls were breached, according to the Public Defender’s Office.
Deputy Public Defender Sara Ross is asking Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett for a hearing to determine the number of calls recorded, which recordings were listened to, and which cases were affected.
Ross complained that the phone vendor, GTL of Reston, Virginia, has provided different lists with different breached telephone numbers to different agencies. It remains unclear how many law enforcement departments have listened to the recordings and used them to get the upper hand in prosecuting cases, Ross said in her motion.
“The fear is quite clear that with each passing moment, defendants facing significant punishment have been unable to effectively litigate their cases without this crucial information,” Ross wrote. “Moreover, the inevitable loss of evidence, witnesses and defenses that is no doubt occurring on a daily basis should be sobering.”
The attorney-client calls from the jail were improperly recorded over a period of three years, ending in June 2018.
The numbers of calls have shifted over the past several months, but GTL says 4,356 conversations between inmates and attorneys were recorded for various reasons. One of the main reasons given is that the lawyers’ phone numbers were mistakenly left off a “do-not-record” list. Other attorneys didn’t know about the list and failed to put their numbers on it.
Another 29,456 unanswered calls were recorded, according to a previous interview with GTL spokesman James Lee. He declined further comment Thursday.
Prickett has appointed a special master to analyze 1,079 of the calls and to notify defense attorneys whose conversations were recorded. However, even that list is not consistent with rosters given to other agencies, Ross wrote.
“The information GTL has provided is demonstrably false,” she wrote.
Orange County is not the first place to have troubles with GTL. The national phone company made the same recording mistake twice before in Florida, and Orange County defense lawyers believe there are more instances nationally of GTL violating attorney-client privilege.
Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, in a separate motion Thursday, estimated that the problems went well beyond Orange County and Florida. He also retrieved emails sent by GTL to other jails in Florida, Illinois and New Jersey, appearing to blame Orange County — not the vendor — for the phone debacle.
Sanders is seeking more documents by subpoena from GTL, which is fighting to quash it. Sanders and Ross are scheduled to appear in court before Prickett on Friday morning, July 12.
GTL, in court papers filed earlier, said Sanders was barking up the wrong tree with his “conspiracy theories.”
“Such unfounded claims should not result in this overly broad, burdensome, and time-consuming effort to seek entirely irrelevant information,” wrote GTL lawyer Adil M. Khan.
Sanders represents Justin Weisz, a Huntington Beach man accused of burglary. Ross represents unnamed defendants.