Son of ex-‘Real Housewives’ star participates in hunger strike with fellow inmates to protest O.C. Jail conditions

Joshua Waring, the son of a former star of “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” is joining an inmate hunger strike over conditions at the Orange County Jail as he faces attempted-murder charges in a shooting in Costa Mesa two years ago.

The inmates allege conditions in the county’s jails are inhumane, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Waring, 29, who as a teenager appeared with his mother, Lauri Peterson, on the Bravo reality TV show, is facing three counts of attempted murder along with other felony and misdemeanor charges in connection with a shooting that injured a man at a former sober-living home on Babb Street in Costa Mesa in June 2016.

Waring, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, could face multiple life prison sentences if convicted.

Daisy Ramirez, the ACLU’s Orange County Jail project coordinator, said the hunger strike, which began Wednesday with more than 100 inmates, is a way for those in the jail on Flower Street in Santa Ana to draw attention to troubling conditions they face while behind bars.

About 30 people waving signs and chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, jail abuse has got to go” gathered Thursday on a grassy area facing Flower Street to show support for those participating in the hunger strike.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement Thursday that allegations that it treats people inhumanely are “patently inaccurate.”

“Inmate hunger strikes are uncommon but are nothing new,” the department said. “Inmates, particularly those who have served time in state prison, often use hunger strikes to manipulate jail procedures, participate in jail politics or for other nefarious purposes.

“Today’s activity, while respected as a right of free speech, is an attempt to mislead the public and advocate on behalf of the criminal population at the expense of law-abiding citizens of Orange County.”

Ramirez said inmates have alleged that Orange County sheriff’s deputies use excessive force and that inmates often are denied adequate medical care and don’t have access to a grievance system to air their complaints. She said inmates have told her they believe the only way change will occur is when people who are not in jail begin to call attention to the issues.

“I really see myself as a messenger,” Ramirez said. “My goal is to amplify voices of people on the inside. They want the community to be aware of what’s happening.”

Waring and his family have alleged that guards have treated him unfairly, taunted him because he was on television, intercepted his mail and inappropriately monitored his phone calls.

Most recently, Peterson alleged that a jail guard shot six rounds of pepper pellets into Waring’s cell while he was sleeping June 24.

Waring’s defense attorney, Joel Garson, whom Waring briefly removed from the case in May but has been reinstated, said Thursday that he is seeking access to security video of the alleged incident.

Garson, who passed by the protest Thursday, said clients have told him they’d rather go to state prison than county jail.

“Orange County is one of the worst places to do your time,” he said. “Nothing’s changed, and I don’t think anything ever will.”

Garson requested in January that Orange County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Fish dismiss the charges against Waring on the basis that law enforcement inappropriately monitored and recorded Waring’s phone calls in jail while he was representing himself for about a month in 2016 and after he sought help from an attorney. Garson has said Waring was being recorded from June 25, 2016, to at least Feb. 8, 2017.

Garson said the calls should have been confidential but that information from them was provided to prosecutors.

“These actions by the prosecution team constitute outrageous government conduct,” Garson wrote in January.

Fish has not ruled on Garson’s motion to dismiss the charges. Attorneys are expected to appear in court next week for a hearing on the matter.

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN