Phone contractor might have improperly recorded more Orange County jail calls than reported
The number of attorney-client telephone calls improperly recorded by the Orange County jail’s phone vendor is likely more than the 1,079 announced by the contractor, according to the Public Defender’s Office.
The official list released by phone contractor GTL showed that jail inmates called public defenders seven times over the past three years, which attorneys for the office say is too low compared to the usual phone traffic.
At a hearing Wednesday, Deputy Public Defender Sara Ross told Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett that the list was inaccurate.
During a separate hearing last week before a different judge, GTL officials said the list was the best information they had.
Ross’ comment came during a hearing to turn over the recordings to a special master, who is attempting to identify which cases were breached. Private attorney Christopher Day was named as the special master.
Orange County officials are debating whether to drop GTL as the phone carrier for the jail because of the gaffe that could cause felony cases to unravel. So far, one defendant, Joshua Waring, who is accused of attempted murder, is asking for charges to be dropped because of the improper recordings.
Attorney-client privilege is among the most sacred of tenets in the law. GTL attributed the mistake to “human error,” explaining that attorneys’ phone numbers were not entered on a “do not record” list when the software was upgraded in January 2015.
The company had made the same mistake previously in two Florida counties, but didn’t tell anyone. In Orange County, GTL reported that 58 of the recorded calls were played, downloaded or burned to a CD a total of 87 times.
At the urging of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday assigned the civilian Office of Independent Review to investigate the phone foul-up. On Wednesday, Judge Prickett directed the office to work with the special master.
Ross and the Public Defender’s Office objected to the presence of the OIR, saying it would violate the confidentiality of the defendants.
“To protect the already eroded sanctity of the attorney-client privileged phone calls, this court cannot permit the OIR to involve itself in the tasks assigned to the special master, Ross said.
Judge Prickett is expected to rule on Ross’ motion on Thursday.