In the latest twist to a wide-ranging Orange County Sheriff’s Department evidence-booking scandal, sheriff’s officials testified that supervisors knowingly allowed deputies to book evidence late in violation of policy.

Only deputies – and no managers – were disciplined for the evidence-booking violations, according to newly-released testimony before the Orange County Grand Jury. The testimony, all under oath by current and former sheriff’s officials, was part of proceedings in July and August that led the grand jury to indict former deputy Edwin Mora with a felony for filing a false police report. Mora has pleaded not guilty.

More than 30 deputies have been referred for possible charges in the scandal centered on alleged false police reports about evidence that was either booked late or never booked at all. So far, two deputies have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors.

Delays in booking evidence can affect criminal cases by prompting questions about whether the material was contaminated and if prosecutors can verify to courts the evidence is the same as what was collected from a crime scene.

Among the disclosures this summer to a grand jury, made public last week, were:

  • Most deputies booked evidence within policy, though a “large number” of deputies booked evidence late in violation of policy and the problem was “department-wide,” according to the sheriff’s executive who oversaw the audit.
  • Deputies said the emphasis at their stations was on making arrests, not ensuring evidence was booked properly to make sure it stands up in court.
  • Supervisors knowingly allowed deputies to book evidence late in violation of policy, according to deputies’ testimony.
  • Five deputies were fired after an audit revealed systemic issues of evidence being booked late or not at all, and dozens of false statements in police reports about whether evidence was booked.
  • Grand jurors repeatedly questioned whether anyone in management was disciplined, and the answer was no.

Former Deputy Bryce Simpson, who was fired and prosecuted in the evidence booking scandal, was among those who testified that supervisors didn’t really care about deputies booking evidence late in violation of written policy.

The official policy, Simpson testified, was that evidence had to be booked by the end of your shift.

But it worked differently on the ground, he said. 

“At least, as far as you know, was there kind of a de facto or street policy for how it worked?” asked special prosecutor Patrick O’Toole.

“Yes, sir. There was,” Simpson replied.

“What was that?” O’Toole asked.

“That book the evidence whenever you get around to it, whenever that may be,” Simpson said.