Prisons Official To Plead Guilty To DUI

Undersecretary Scott Kernan Says He Was Suspended 6 Weeks Without Pay

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A high-ranking state prisons official will plead guilty to driving under the influence.

 California Department of Corrections Undersecretary Scott Kernan issued a statement Friday expressing regret for the June 7 incident. He was driving a state vehicle when he was pulled over and taken into custody by the California Highway Patrol along Jackson Highway, just east of Indio Drive.

Kernan said he was suspended without pay for six weeks starting immediately after his arrest. Continue reading

Corrections Officer Arrested At Folsom Prison

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A corrections officer was arrested at Folsom State Prison on three felony charges, including having firearms in prison and being in a street gang.


The Sacramento County District Attorney’s office said no charges were filed Tuesday against Ramon Rossman, 24.


According to the county’s inmate information system, Rossman was initially booked on felony charges of bringing and/or firearms in prison, participating in a criminal street gang and destroying evidence.


The district attorney’s office said Rossman was released Tuesday without bail, and that it needs more information before a case can be filed.


Rossman worked for the with the corrections department for three years, Folsom State Prison spokesman Lt. Anthony Gentile said.


He is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.


California Correctional Officer Arrested for Fraud

California’s Department of Insurance has reported that of Alexander Agamemnon Bourdaniotis, 32, of Carmichael, Calif., a youth correctional counselor at the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice (formerly the California Youth Authority), was arrested on six felony charges related to workers’ compensation insurance fraud: four counts of insurance fraud, one count of attempted theft by false pretenses, and one count of filing a fraudulent claim with a State Board. Continue reading

Truck belonging to deputy wanted in sex case found

Authorities Friday found the truck belonging to a Riverside County sheriff’s corrections deputy wanted in connection with the sexual assault of a Menifee woman.

Investigators found Arnulfo Moreno’s black 2009 Nissan truck at Terrytown Road and Potomac Drive, not far from his Menifee home around midnight Friday, said Detective Javier Rodriguez with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Moreno, 31, is wanted in connection with a report Thursday of a sexual assault, according to authorities. Deputies went to his Rio Vista Drive home around 3 a.m. Thursday. He left the house and drove away in his truck, according to a department news release.

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Moreno worked for the Sheriff’s Department for the last 16 months as a correctional deputy, a nonsworn position, and was assigned to the jail in French Valley, Rodriguez said. Correctional deputies do not carry guns, he added.

Sheriff’s investigators have notified local law enforcement agencies as well as the U.S. Border Patrol that they are looking for Moreno, Rodriguez said.

They have also contacted Moreno’s family members in the San Diego area, he said.

Anyone with information about Moreno is asked to call Detective L. Nering at the Perris Sheriff’s Station at 951-210-1000.


Soledad prison guard is prime suspect in killing

Seaside police have identified Friday’s homicide victim as the wife of a correctional officer from Soledad State Prison.

Police found Maria Christina Gibson, 53, inside the couple’s apartment on the 1000 block of Highland Street on Friday morning. A neighbor had found her husband, Dan Gibson, lying at 6:30 a.m. on the ground of the apartment complex, three stories below the couple’s balcony. Gibson was flown to a San Jose hospital where he remains in custody on suspicion of homicide, police said.

An autopsy found that Maria Gibson died of asphyxiation due to strangulation, police said


Sheriff: Deputy Fired After Internal Investigation


Deputy used department computer to research information about slain correctional officer

Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Chu Vue used a sheriff’s department computer to look up personal information about the correctional officer who was gunned down in his garage Oct. 15, according to a law enforcement source.The source also told The Bee that Vue was fired today following his arraignment on an unrelated weapons charge.Vue was fired for insubordination, according to the source, who indicated that accusation stemmed from Vue’s refusal to talk to internal affairs investigators after the slaying of Steve Lo.Vue has not been charged in the slaying and his arraignment today was for a charge of possession of an illegal firearm.Vue’s not guilty plea was entered by his attorney, Palai Lee.After the hearing, Lee stressed that Vue has not been charged with anything related to the slaying. Lo was shot to death before dawn in his garage in south Sacramento as he prepared to leave for his job in Vacaville.”There’s no evidence tying him to the murder or anybody’s murder,” Lee said. “They only charged him (with possession of an illegal weapon) and that’s it.”However, a source told The Bee today that Vue had accessed a sheriff’s department computer before Lo was killed and reviewed personal information about the 39-year-old officer, who worked at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville. Vue’s wife also works at that facility, where she is a medical technician.A spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department, which is investigating Lo’s slaying, said last week that Vue’s arrest on the weapons charge stemmed from a search of his home the day Lo was killed. During the search, officers found an unregistered, illegal assault rifle and later issued a warrant for Vue’s arrest, a police spokesman said.The spokesman said that the rifle confiscated from Vue’s home is not consistent with the type of weapon used to kill the correctional officer.Last week, a police investigator said in a court document that Vue’s behavior over recent months strongly indicates he was “involved in the planning and/or the execution” of Lo.In a request to seal the record of a search warrant for Vue’s home, police Detective Eric Schneider told the court he is confident the 13-year veteran is not the perpetrator of the homicide.He wrote, however, that Vue is a “principal” in the case, and a law-enforcement source told The Bee Friday that Vue’s two brothers — who are fugitives wanted on second-degree murder charges out of Minneapolis — are being sought for questioning in the case.Chu Vue, who is being investigated in connection with the slaying of a correctional officer, today pleaded not guilty to a charge of possession of an illegal firearm.


Search Warrant Connects Chu Vue To Corrections Officer’s Shooting Death

Chu Vue

Sacramento Police Department

A Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy who has been connected to the shooting death of a corrections officer was fired Monday, Sheriff John McGinness said.Chu Vue, 43, was fired after being uncooperative during a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department internal investigation into the shooting of state corrections officer Steve Lo, McGinness told KCRA 3.McGinness said his department started an internal investigation after the Sacramento Police Department announced its own investigation.”I cannot specifically comment on the exact nature of his behavior because he is still protected under the Peace Officer’s Bill of Rights,” McGinness said. “We are not alleging any criminal misconduct.”Vue was taken into custody last week after a search at his home turned up a rifle later determined to be illegal and unregistered.A search warrant obtained by KCRA 3 connects Vue to the shooting death of corrections officer Steve Lo.The warrant said “Vue’s activities strongly indicate he was involved in the planning and/or execution of” the slaying of Steve Lo on Oct. 15. The documents also state that Vue is not believed to be the “perpetrator of this homicide, but he remains the principal in this case.”Sgt. Matt Young said that they have not made an arrest in the slaying of Lo and are asking for the help of the public in the case.Vue appeared in court Monday and pleaded not guilty to the weapons charge.Vue’s attorney, Palai Lee, said Monday that Vue “has nothing to do with” the killing of Steve Lo.Vue is still employed by the sheriff’s department but has been placed on leave with no badge and no gun, sources said.Lo worked with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He had been an officer for about three years.He is survived by his wife, three sons and two daughters.Lo’s family will hold a three-day Hmong funeral ritual starting Friday.Investigators have not revealed the motive for the fatal shooting.Vue will be back in court on Nov. 4 for a reduction of a bail motion.

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Corrections Officer Accused Of Dognapping

HEMET, Calif. — An officer at a San Diego County correctional facility who had complained about the barking of her neighbor’s dog was arrested after being accused of stealing the animal and abandoning it some 15 miles away.


Diane M. Brown, 42, was arrested on suspicion of felony possession of stolen property, Hemet police Sgt. Kevin Caskey said.


She was booked Thursday and released on $5,000 bond.

Brown had filed multiple noise complaints about Spike — a white Maltese — who lives next door to her Hemet home, Riverside County Animal Services officials said.


On Monday, Spike went missing, but Brown was spotted unloading the dog from the trunk of her car outside a water district building in the town of Beaumont, Animal Services Sgt. Lesley Huennekens said.


A surveillance camera captured Brown when she returned to the scene to remove to dog’s collar.


Two water district employees took Spike to a veterinarian, who located the dog’s owners by scanning a tracking chip embedded under the animal’s skin.


The dog was unharmed.


San Diego County sheriff’s officials said Brown was a corrections officer in the city of Vista, but they were unaware of the arrest.


There was no answer at Brown’s house Thursday when a reporter for the Riverside Press-Enterprise visited seeking comment.


California Deputy Investigated In Correctional Officer’s Death

A Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy is being investigated in the shooting death of a correctional officer, a source said.

Sacramento police said they searched a locker at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center on Wednesday night. The deputy works at the facility.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department would not comment on the case, as it was being handled by the Sacramento Police Department.

Steve Lo, 39, was in full uniform and standing in his garage in the 8400 block of Tambor Way shortly before 5 a.m. Wednesday when he was fatally wounded by gunfire, police Sgt. Matt Young said.

Lo was found lying in the garage, police said. He was taken to a local hospital, where he later died.

He is survived by his wife, three sons and two daughters.

Lo worked with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He had been an officer for about three years.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association is offering a $10,000 reward to help find the person responsible.

“We are deeply saddened by this terrible loss,” CCPOA President Mike Jimenez said. “Our hearts are with Officer Lo’s family, friends and co-workers during this extraordinarily difficult time.”

Anyone with information may call Crime Alert at 916-443-HELP. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward up to $1,000.


Spokesman for state correctional officers arrested south of Lodi on suspicion of DUI

Lance Corcoran recently called for the recall of Schwarzenegger

By Layla Bohm
News-Sentinel Staff Writer

Updated: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 6:39 AM PDT

A high-ranking state correctional officer who two weeks ago called for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recall was arrested Monday night south of Lodi on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Lance Christy Corcoran, 44, was booked into the San Joaquin County Jail on suspicion of two counts of DUI and later released from custody, standard procedure in such arrests.

Around 7:20 p.m., a California Highway Patrol officer was on routine patrol when he saw a vehicle on Eight Mile Road west of West Lane (Hutchins Street), said Assistant Chief Mike Champion, of the CHP’s Valley Division.

The vehicle was stopped, the engine was running and the driver, later identified as Corcoran, was slumped over inside, Champion said.

The officer contacted Corcoran, who appeared to be under the influence, and asked him to step out of the vehicle. Corcoran did so, and took field sobriety tests, which led to his arrest.

He was booked at the county jail, where he submitted to a “chemical test,” meaning either blood or urine.

Corcoran is spokesman for the 30,000-member California Correctional Peace Officers Association and appeared on numerous TV broadcasts and newspaper articles in September regarding the recall effort. On Sept. 8, the union launched the recall drive against Schwarzenegger, who had lowered salaries to balance the budget.

In the Tuesday DUI incident, the CHP officer had no idea he’d arrested anybody with public notoriety, Champion said.

“He booked him into the jail, left and went back on patrol,” Champion said of the officer. “It wasn’t until this morning when he went back to the office that he learned of (Corcoran’s) connection to CCPOA.”

Champion, to whom media calls were referred instead of the local Stockton CHP office, did not have any other specific details about the arrest, including the kind of vehicle, Corcoran’s hometown or where he was headed.


California Deputy Fired after Arrest


A sheriff’s detention deputy was arrested and fired amid allegations he solicited a sex act from an inmate.

Federico Tafoya, 26, was arrested Friday after sheriff’s detectives received reports that he had been acting inappropriately with one of the inmates.

Authorities said Tafoya was an extra help deputy assigned to the work release program at Sheriff Headquarters.

They said he was supervising inmates when he solicited a sex act in one of the buildings on the property from a 20-year-old inmate assigned to the program.

They said the inmate was not injured or physically assaulted; however, Tafoya was terminated.

Tafoya was employed for four months with the sheriff’s office. He is currently out on bail.

He faces one count of false imprisonment, one count of causing a person to expose him or herself and one count of attempted oral copulation under color of authority.


Brothers sentenced for smuggling tobacco into Lassen prison

Tobacco is at a premium inside prison walls, and nobody knew that better than Michael Megill when he worked at the Federal Correctional Institution at Herlong in Lassen County.

While employed as a cook at the medium security facility in 2006 and 2007, Megill smuggled tobacco products – banned in federal prisons – to inmates in return for bribes collected by his brother, Jeremy Megill.

The brothers pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to bribe a public official, admitting the details of the scheme, and were each sentenced Friday in Sacramento federal court to a year and a day in prison. They will serve approximately two-thirds of that, assuming they earn maximum time off for good behavior.

According to Assistant U. S. Attorney Sean Flynn, over a seven-month period Michael Megill, 35, smuggled various forms of chewing and smoking tobacco into the prison and secreted the items in an agreed-upon location, where they were retrieved by inmates.

Outside the walls, Jeremy Megill, 33, arranged for and accepted money from inmates’ family members or other designated contacts, Flynn said.

Just how much tobacco was delivered to the inmates is not known. Flynn and defense lawyers agreed that the brothers’ total take was less than $5,000.


California Detention Deputy Fired after Arrest


A sheriff’s detention deputy was arrested and fired amid allegations he solicited a sex act from an inmate.

Federico Tafoya, 26, was arrested Friday after sheriff’s detectives received reports that he had been acting inappropriately with one of the inmates.

Authorities said Tafoya was an extra help deputy assigned to the work release program at Sheriff Headquarters.

They said he was supervising inmates when he solicited a sex act in one of the buildings on the property from a 20-year-old inmate assigned to the program.

They said the inmate was not injured or physically assaulted; however, Tafoya was terminated.

Tafoya was employed for four months with the sheriff’s office. He is currently out on bail.

He faces one count of false imprisonment, one count of causing a person to expose him or herself and one count of attempted oral copulation under color of authority.


Former Sacramento County inmate’s suit alleges jail rape

A 39-year-old woman who was an inmate at the Sacramento County Main Jail has sued the county and five individuals, claiming she was repeatedly raped by a lesbian sheriff’s deputy.

The divorced mother of two spent nearly 3½ years in the jail, charged with submitting a fraudulent insurance claim, attempted grand theft and failure to appear. She was sentenced June 11 to four years and eight months and paroled the next day, never serving a day in prison.

Her lawsuit was filed Monday by attorney Stewart Katz in U.S. District Court. The Bee is not naming the plaintiff because she claims to be a victim of sexual assault.

Deputy Paula Sue Wood, 42, is described in the complaint as “a pathologically aggressive lesbian … who, at her request, was assigned to work at a female housing unit in the main jail. She had successfully resisted several suggestions that she change assignments.”

An inmate reported what was going on in January 2007, and an inquiry by jail staff was undertaken, the suit says. “No one attempted to speak to (the plaintiff) during the course of this investigation,” it charges. “Not only was Deputy Wood quickly cleared, but apparently the reporting inmate received discipline for bringing a false complaint against an officer.”

But three months later a former jail inmate reported the situation to the internal affairs unit at the Sheriff’s Department.

The deputy was placed on administrative leave in late April 2007, and eventually allowed to resign. She was charged with having sex with an inmate, pleaded no contest, and was adjudged guilty May 28 by a Superior Court judge.

Wood was sentenced Wednesday to 90 days in a work furlough program, meaning she can leave the jail to go to her place of employment and report back when she is not working. Following her completion of the program, she will be on unsupervised probation for three years.

She was ordered by Superior Court Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie to stay away from the victim.

Wood refused to talk to a reporter after the hearing.

The suit says the plaintiff first had an awareness Wood “was becoming obsessed with her when, while in the control room of her housing unit, Deputy Wood held up a sign stating, ‘You fascinate me.'”

Wood coerced the heterosexual victim into having sex in August 2006, the suit says. She estimates that between then and April 2007 she was compelled more than 20 times to engage in sex with Wood.

The suit seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages. In addition to the county and Wood, it names as defendants former Deputy Clement M. Tang; Sheriff John McGinness; Capt. Scott Jones, who has been the jail commander since January 2007; and Chief Deputy Mark Iwasa, who preceded Jones at the jail.

The 54-year-old Tang, described in the complaint as “an opportunistic heterosexual,” is accused of French kissing (the plaintiff) “while she was the sole occupant of a holding cell awaiting a court appearance.”

Reached Tuesday by phone at his south Sacramento County home, Tang declined to comment. Tang, a 27-year veteran of the department, retired when faced with the allegations.

The lawsuit contends that the Sheriff’s Department “has a custom and practice of dismissing reports of inappropriate coercive sexual acts by deputies of either gender, whether in the jail or elsewhere, as being consensual conduct.”

However, where once there was a stream of lawsuits over inmate treatment, they have been scarce since McGinness assumed command of the Sheriff’s Department two years ago and put Jones in charge of the jail.

McGinness and Jones defended the department’s handling of the allegations against the deputy.

“Every time we heard this might be going on, we investigated,” McGinness said. “When we were able to get hard evidence, we moved swiftly to rectify the problem.”


Meth tests positive for prison guard, friend in deadly crash

A prison guard and his friend who died when their truck crashed onto highway 58 from an overpass were high on methamphetamine at the time.

Supervising Deputy Coroner John Van Rensselaer confirmed the tests taken at autopsy.

Roman Antonio Cordero, 36, and 27-year-old Jose Raymond Garcia drove off of Washington Street in mid-May and slammed into a big rig.

Cordero and Garcia tested positive for above-toxic levels of methamphetamine.

The driver of the big rig was not seriously injured.

He told officers that he saw a flash and had no time to react.


Former Live Oak Prison Guard Sentenced for Sex With Inmate

YUBA CITY, Calif. (AP) — A 45-year-old man has been sentenced to 120 days in jail for having sex with a female prisoner while working as a guard at a privately run prison in Live Oak.

Sutter County Superior Court Judge Chris Chandler also placed 45-year-old Mark Susoeff of Linda on probation for three years.

Susoeff admitted having oral sex with the woman in January 2007 when he was working at the Leo Chesney Community Correctional Facility.

The judge called the act “beyond stupid” and “disgusting.”

The minimum-security prison is run by Texas-based Cornell Companies, which has a contract with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to house female inmates.


State taking tough stand against prison employees caught with contraband

For some prison employees, it’s the lure of easy money that leads right to a jail cell they used to watch.In March, corrections officer Adam Vega, 21, was arrested in Karnes County. Vega is accused of plotting to smuggle more than an ounce of cocaine into the Connally Prison Unit in Kenedy.

Sneaking contraband into a prison is a felony. If convicted, Vega faces from five years to life in prison.

“The biggest measure to try to keep the contraband out is just someone’s own honesty and integrity,” said Oscar Mendoza, warden of the McConnell Unit at Beeville.

Unfortunately, in the past five years, 219 Texas prison employees were caught trying to sneak contraband to inmates. More than 31 employees have been arrested this year.

“Any investigation (that) is initiated on the inside and it takes us to the outside, then we’ll follow those leads and complete the investigation, no matter where it’s at,” said Lt. Terry Cobbs, of the Office of the Inspector General in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The OIG investigates every incident, employee, guard or inmate who tries to sneak in contraband, and with more than 143,000 thousand inmates in Texas prisons, the department will never run out of work.

Prisoners are constantly looking for ways to get their hands on banned items.

“Whatever you could think of that they possibly do, I promise you they’ve already done that,” Cobbs said.

In the past, drugs were hot commodities, and they still are. In 2008, drugs were confiscated 903 times at Texas prisons. So far this year, they have been confiscated 225 times.

When the TDCJ went tobacco-free in 1994, tobacco became the number one item. However, the fastest growing problem in prisons today is cell phones. Last year 561 cell phones were confiscated in Texas prisons.

Sometimes, inmates con their relatives or friends into unknowingly bringing contraband into the prisons. And sometimes it comes back to bite the inmate.

“There’s the mom who called the warden at one of the facilities and asked if her son could be moved to another location because his cellular reception was not very good where he was housed at,” Cobbs said.

But when it’s an employee, plotting with the inmates, there’s nothing funny about it.

“He (Vega) was put up in this jail right here,” said Karnes County Sheriff David Jalufka. “He made a $75,000 bond. So I mean he will come before the grand jury in a short time. He will be tried right there on the second floor just like the convicts we try that do anything out here at TDCJ.”


Prison cook and brother plead guilty in tobacco bribe case

A former federal prison cook and his brother pleaded guilty Friday in Sacramento to conspiring to accept bribes from inmates in return for tobacco.

For almost a year, Michael Megill, 34, worked at the Federal Correctional Institution at Herlong, a medium security facility in Lassen County. He smuggled various forms of chewing and smoking tobacco into the prison and secreted the items so they could be retrieved and used by certain inmates.

Outside the walls, Jeremy Megill, 32, arranged for and accepted payment from inmates’ family members and other contacts.

The brothers charged up to $500 for a delivery and it is estimated that, over a six-month period in 2006 and 2007, they may have netted as much as $3,000.

Federal Bureau of Prisons rules bar inmates from possessing or using any form of tobacco, defined as contraband, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Flynn.

The Megills, who both live in Reno, are scheduled for sentencing Aug. 8.



Prison Chaplain Accused Of Choking Wife

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. — A chaplain at San Quentin State Prison is free on bail after being arrested for allegedly choking his wife with an electrical cord.


Rafeeq Hassan was taken into custody Thursday after prison staff called deputies to report a domestic disturbance in a staff housing area.


Marin County authorities said when deputies arrived, they determined that Hassan had choked his wife with his hands and an electrical cord during an argument.

Hassan was booked into Marin County Jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, threatening with a weapon and corporal injury on a spouse.


His wife was treated at the scene by San Rafael firefighters.


Hassan is a longtime Muslim prison chaplain who has lived at San Quentin for seven years.


Lawyer: O.C. Inmate Died From Blows To His Head

SANTA ANA, Calif. An inmate who died April 1 after a jailhouse struggle with Orange County sheriff’s deputies was killed by traumatic blows to his head, an attorney for the man’s father said in remarks reported Wednesday. 

Sheriff’s officials had previously said that deputies used a stun gun on Jason Jesus Gomez, 35, at the Intake Release Center in Santa Ana, but gave no indication that Gomez sustained head wounds.

Gomez’s family hired a pathologist to conduct an autopsy that determined he died from blunt force trauma, attorney Stephen Bernard told the Los Angeles Times.

“Let me tell you what they did to him: They punched his lights out,” Bernard, who is representing Gomez’s father, told The Times. “They beat him to death.”

Sheriff’s spokesman John McDonald referred questions to the district attorney’s office, which is investigating Gomez’s death, The Times reported. 

Gomez was also bruised on his arms and hands, Bernard told The Times.


Ex-sheriff’s code of silence hid jail happenings

Former sheriff Mike Carona was unmistakable in his tone and unmovable in his message to prosecutors attempting to take over the investigation of a slain inmate: “If I don’t want you in my jails, you’re not coming in my jails.”

Carona’s admonishment, eight days after the Oct. 5, 2006, death of John Derek Chamberlain, was revealed in grand jury documents released this month. It showed the arrogance that kept a wall of secrecy firmly in place around the department – a wall that eventually crumbled under its own weight.

Testimony released last week showed deputies asleep at their posts, relying on jailhouse bullies to police other inmates, often by force. Top brass gave misleading testimony, altered documents and stalled the grand jury to make good on Carona’s promise to keep away outsiders. And deputies downright lied, repeatedly, to the grand jury, comparing notes with other witnesses and then denying it.

“It seems like there’s no boundaries,” said Patrick McManimon, a corrections expert involved in a 2001 federal case against the Orange County jail. “Where ever your moral compass takes you, you go.”

Corrections and law enforcement experts say the deception and secrecy were supported by a mix of arrogance, loyalty and a “code of silence.” They lay part of the blame on Orange County’s pro-law enforcement attitude and its tendency to believe police over virtually everybody else.

“Up in Los Angeles you have all these political or ethnic groups (who challenge police),” said George Wright, chairman of the Criminal Justice Departmentat Santa Ana College. “In Orange County, we like the cops, so people wouldn’t believe that (misconduct) was happening or was widespread.”

Although jail misconduct is not unique to Orange County, it rarely has reached the level that it has at Theo Lacy Facility in Orange, jail experts said.

“I think you’ve got a pretty inflamed case there. Your flagrant misbehavior is not a common thing,” said Jane Browning, executive director of the International Community Corrections Association in Washington, D.C.

“It just kind of seems to me like the Orange County Sheriff’s office went into melt down,” said James Gondles Jr., former sheriff of Arlington, Va., and executive director of the American Correctional Association. “It seems like the leadership was not paying attention.”

Secrecy, say jails experts, has shrouded the Orange County Jail system for decades. Reports of inmate abuse, deputy misconduct and illegal conditions were allowed to fester by officials who turned a blind eye out of defiance — or just plain deceit.

The culture of coverup had become so ingrained it become business as usual. But Carona – who faces federal corruption charges — took it to new heights.

“They were falsifying records, not doing things required by the court,” said McManimon, a criminal justice professor at Kean University in New Jersey. “It’s not surprising that without stopping these things, they’ve gotten to (today’s) level.”

Added Acting Sheriff Jack Anderson, “We’re still trying to get our arms around the scope of (the jail crisis).”

The grand jury’s findings further disgraced a department hobbled by Carona’s indictment on political corruption charges and subsequent resignation. Two former assistant sheriffs, George Jaramillo and Don Haidl, were also indicted for public corruption and pled guilty.

This month, two more assistant sheriffs departed after their participation in the coverup was revealed by the grand jury probe. And five sheriff’s employees were put on paid leave last week, the first step toward termination. One rookie deputy was fired.

It wouldn’t be fair to paint the entire department with the same brush.

“The vast majority of the men and women in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department perform their duties ethically and honorably,” Anderson wrote in a memo to the troops.

But no longer can deputies in Orange County depend on the built-in credibility of the badge.

As shocking as the jail revelations were last week, they are not new. In 1978, a federal court virtually took control of the jails from then-Sheriff Brad Gates, who believed that inmates shouldn’t be coddled. The judge ordered him to provide better living conditions, such as regular meals, for inmates in an overcrowded system.

Under Gates the department had numerous scandals of its own, including an assistant sheriff who allegedly sexually harassed female workers and was investigated – but not charged — in the sexual assault of a young secretary. In the ’80s and ’90s, the county paid out at least $375,000 to settle lawsuits accusing Gates of using investigators to harass and spy on political opponents. One of the settlements came after Gates was forced to take back his testimony when attorneys found an audio tape that he said didn’t exist.

In 1990, another federal court order prohibited deputies from psychologically and physically abusing inmates.

“The attitude that exists in the jail is the same attitude that existed (30 years ago),” said Richard P. Herman, an attorney involved in the federal case.

The court control was finally lifted in 2005 because most of the living standards had been incorporated into state law.

Carona was elected in 1998 as a reformer, someone who would end jail overcrowding and, unlike Gates, reach out to ethnic minority groups. But the promises gave way to profiteering.

Former Assistant sheriff Jaramillo coaxed bribes from a Newport Beach businessman. Haidl tried to use his connections to help his son fight accusations of sexual assault.Carona promoted a public image of a family man while only half-heartedly hiding his mistress.

Enter young, impressionable deputies, fresh from an academy where they began and ended every sentence with “Sir,” where they were taught not to question superiors. They then spent their first eight years in a jail system where loyalty means turning a blind eye to slovenly, heavy-handed co-workers.

They realize that “all the stuff they were told in the academy about honor and integrity was really B.S.,” Wright said. “What kind of attitude do they take (when they get promoted) to patrol?”

At the time of Chamberlain’s death, Carona’s popularity was waning and a federal indictment was only a year away, but he still held thrall over the majority of voters. His political talons remained as sharp as the points on his sheriff’s badge.

Carona was still the man-in-charge that October night when Chamberlain was sodomized with a toothbrush and stomped to death. Inmates accused deputies of instigating the attack by falsely labeling the victim as a child molester.

Former Assistant Sheriff Jo Ann Galisky initially decided that the sheriff’s department would conduct the homicide investigation, in violation of a 20-year county policy that called for the district attorney’s office to do it. That policy was put in place out of concern that too many people were dying in the jail under Gates.

Testimony and documents would later show that sheriff’s detectives did little to try to corroborate the inmates’ story. In fact, Carona and others vowed their support for the deputies at the same time the department was supposed to be investigating them.

In March of last year The Orange County Register published “Death Sentence,” a in-depth investigation of the Chamberlain slaying based on the sheriff’s own crime reports, crime scene photos, audio recordings and other evidence.

The Register revealed the TV-watching deputies, the alterations to the jail log.

The public backlash led the Board of Supervisors to form an office of independent review to monitor the sheriff’s department. And, the district attorney convened a special grand jury in May 2007. The sheriff’s department was quickly awash in subpoenas.

But even on the witness stand the lies kept coming.

Internal affairs investigator Jose Armas – someone in charge of keeping deputies honest – lied to the grand jury, denying he tried to get a witness to disclose secret testimony. Caught in the lie, Armas explained, according to transcripts, that he considered the conversations with the witness to be personal and confidential.

Deputy Sonja Moreno lied to the grand jury, denying that she disclosed her testimony to another deputy at the center of the Chamberlain probe.

Wright said it was understandable for good deputies to keep the secrets of the bad ones.

“Would it be difficult for you to blow the whistle on one of your colleagues, burn them to the ground? Multiply that by 100,” Wright said.

Then the brass joined in the coverup.

Carona took the Fifth – nine times. He wouldn’t even admit that he was sheriff at the time of the slaying.

The grand jurors discovered that Galisky, the assistant sheriff, had altered a document in December 2006 to show that the sheriff’s department usually investigated all jail deaths, which was not the case. The document was presented to the 2006-2007 grand jury, the first to look at the Chamberlain case.

“I don’t think it was my intention to mislead the grand jury,” Galisky testified, when called before the new set of jurors in January 2008. She testified that sheriff’s investigators were more experienced in jail culture and security, more equipped to handle the investigation. She testified she was merely editing the document.

Former assistant sheriff Steve Bishop exasperated jurors when he refused to admit that the district attorney had always investigated jail deaths. Bishop called it a matter of semantics. He said the sheriff and the district attorney had their own interpretations of the protocol.

Finally, the prosecutor became so frustrated he asked, “Why is it so important to sheriff’s department personnel — and specifically you — that you cannot change your opinion and say, ‘We goofed up?’ ”

Now the moral compass has been passed to Anderson, who has called on the FBI, an independent auditor, the board of supervisors and the district attorney to help to help him put things right.

Recently, he sent a sternly worded memo to the troops, ordering them to turn in any co-workers who aren’t following the rules, calling them part of the “cancer.”

McManimon praised Anderson’s approach.

“He could have done what the other guy did,” said McManimon. “Swept it under the rug.”

Said Anderson: “I’m always going to do the principled thing over the political. If that’s going to be my demise, it’s a good way to go down.”