Two former Orange County sheriff's deputies told a California grand jury they did not know it was against the law to falsify police documents, an offense that led to their firing and conviction amid a widespread department "evidence scandal" that came to light last year, according to a local report.
Bryce Richmond Simpson, 31, and Joseph Anthony Atkinson Jr., 39, testified to a grand jury on Sept. 21 that they were never told it was illegal to write in police reports that they had submitted evidence when they actually had not, the Orange County Register recently reported, citing transcripts of their testimony. Deputies were typically expected to submit evidence by the end of their workdays.
Simpson and Atkinson Jr. were two of the most prominent and – according to the report – the worst of the OCSD members involved in the "evidence scandal," which came to light in November 2019, according to the Register, which was first to break the news.
They were allegedly two of at least 17 deputies investigated for potential charges for allegedly claiming in reports that they had booked evidence, as required, but failing to do so sometimes until months later, if at all, according to multiple reports.
OCSD spokesperson Carrie L. Braun told Fox News deputies are "repeatedly" trained "on evidence, chain of custody, and booking of evidence," which they're taught in both the basic police academy and in the department's Field Training Officer program.
"In addition, evidence booking protocols and policy now require deputies to include confirmation of the booked evidence in their report, which is then reviewed by a supervisor before being signed off," Braun said in an emailed statement. "The Department also conducts randomized spot checks every month, pulling reports and cross-referencing the evidence booking system to ensure evidence is booked as documented."
The scandal was uncovered during an internal audit that examined police documents from Feb. 2016 to February 2018 and found that over the course of the two-year period, 27% of the department's deputies were found to have taken 31 days or more to book evidence, the audit reportedly found.
Of the 450 reports reviewed for a second audit, 57 involved deputies who falsely claimed to have submitted evidence, according to the Register.
Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders previously described how "literally 1,100 deputies booked evidence late, and that was only doing a partial audit," VoiceofOC.org reported.
Both Atkinson Jr. and Simpson pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor charges and, in turn, avoided jail time. Their admission came out during a Sept. 21 grand jury hearing for a different deputy, Edwin Mora, the Register reported.
According to the report, Mora, a 19-year veteran who did not take the plea deal, allegedly lied in a police report from 2017, claiming he had submitted as evidence a glass pipe, a knife, and methamphetamine.
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