A defense attorney representing the son of a “Real Housewives of Orange County” star argued Tuesday that a judge should drop attempted murder and other charges against his client because his jailhouse phone calls were improperly recorded and shared with prosecutors.
Lawyer Joel Garson asserted that Joshua Waring’s constitutional rights were violated when sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors and Costa Mesa police improperly listened to phone calls he made from Orange County Jail.
Waring, the son of “Houswives” cast member Lauri Peterson, was representing himself in the case at the time and had assumed the calls were in compliance with a court order making them private, Garson argued.
As usual with defendants who opt to defend themselves, the court granted Waring two hours of unmonitored collect calls and one 20-minute non-collect call per day to get ready for court dates.
“There has been zero effort by anybody at the Sheriff’s Department to comply with that order,” said Garson, who is trying to have the case dismissed on grounds of outrageous governmental conduct.
An Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Waring, 30, is facing three counts of attempted murder and other felony and misdemeanor charges in connection with a shooting at a former Costa Mesa sober-living home in June 2016. If convicted, he could face multiple life sentences.
Deputy District Attorney John Maxfield said the Sheriff’s Department monitors phone calls to prevent inmates from planning additional crimes, adding that defendants who are representing themselves need to inform deputies that they’d like to make a privileged phone call in order to prevent it from being recorded.
“It’s really incumbent upon the defendant to take ownership,” Maxfield said. “Otherwise, the Sheriff’s Department is put in an awkward position to allow unmonitored calls … ”
Garson pointed out that inmate requests for unmonitored phone calls are typically handled by low-level deputies who receive little training on matters like this. He recommended placing a sergeant or lieutenant in charge of overseeing the calls.
Problems with the Orange County Jail’s phone system date to January 2015, when Global Tel Link was contracted to install a new phone service for inmates. Sheriff’s deputies were legally granted access to eavesdrop on prisoners’ calls and review past calls, which are attached to inmate booking numbers.
But in August 2018, a Global Tel Link executive admitted that a list of phone numbers flagged by inmates for private phone calls with their attorneys and doctors was not transferred into the system because of “human error.” That mistake allowed the improper recording of 1,079 privileged calls over a three-year period.
The jail’s phone system recorded 44 calls Waring made to family members and his girlfriend while representing himself in late 2016, according to court records. During these conversations Waring and the people on the other end of the line discussed possible questions to ask in court, witnesses and evidence having to do with ballistics and gunshot residue.
Sheriff’s deputies monitored the calls and sent copies to the Costa Mesa Police Department and the Orange County district attorney’s office. Waring’s attorney is arguing that these copies gave prosecutors an unfair edge in the case.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Fish said he would rule on the request to dismiss the charges on or before Feb. 26. If Fish denies the request, a jury trial is scheduled to begin March 12.