Number of improperly recorded attorney-client phone calls from Calif. jail continues to grow

Nearly 1,700 calls have been improperly recorded by a Sheriff's Department contractor since 2015

By Tony Saavedra
The Orange County Register

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — The Orange County jail’s telephone vendor improperly recorded another 617 confidential phone conversations between inmates and defense attorney Joel Garson over the past three years, bringing the number to nearly 1,700 calls improperly recorded by a Sheriff’s Department contractor since January 2015.

Garson said 11 of the recordings of him talking to inmates were downloaded and sent to local police.

“What’s upsetting is that (sheriff’s personnel) … listened and then burned a CD,” said Garson, who represents the son of a former cast member of the “Real Housewives of Orange County” in an attempted murder case.

Attorney-client confidentiality is considered the most sacred tenet in the practice of law.

In July, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens was notified by GTL of Reston, Virginia, that 1,079 calls were recorded because of human error and 58 of those calls were accessed by sheriff”s workers. GTL officials said they maintain attorney phone numbers on a “do not record” list and that a majority of those phone numbers were left off the list during a software upgrade. The same problem had occurred twice previously in Florida.

Garson said he had never heard of the “do not record” list and consequently his mobile and work phone numbers were never entered on it. He asked GTL to check his numbers in their recording database. They found his office phone was recorded 350 times and his mobile phone 267 times.

“I’m going to get to the bottom of it,” Garson said. “I imagine there are hundreds of others who didn’t know their calls were recorded.”

GTL officials could not be reached for comment.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carrie Braun said her office has notified the Orange County Bar Association to have defense attorneys contact the department to have their phone numbers put on the “do not record” list. Braun said it is the responsibility of the attorneys to do so or abide by a prompt during the phone calls that they may be recorded. Hundreds of other attorneys know about the list, she said.

Garson is trying to persuade a judge to drop attempted murder charges against his client, Josh Waring, dropped because of the breach. Meanwhile, a special master has been appointed by the court to take possession of the improper recordings and notify attorneys whose cases were affected.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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