SANTA ANA, Calif. – Two former Orange County Sheriff’s deputies have pleaded guilty in connection with failing to properly book evidence.
Joseph Anthony Atkinson, Jr., 39, and Bryce Richmond Simpson, 31, each pleaded guilty Friday, June 5, 2020 to one misdemeanor count of willful omission to perform their official duty. Atkinson and Simpson were sentenced to one year informal probation.
Simpson became an Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy in 2012. Atkinson was hired in April 2013. Neither is currently employed by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer learned in November 2019 of an Orange County Sheriff’s Department audit that revealed systemic evidence booking issues throughout the Department. An initial review of the 17 cases referred to the District Attorney’s Office beginning in 2017 involving deputies failing to properly book evidence did not result in criminal charges.
Despite cases being submitted over a period of two years, the disclosure of a full systematic review was not presented to the District Attorney until November 2019 when District Attorney Spitzer met in person with Sheriff’s investigators.
Earlier this year District Attorney Spitzer re-opened the criminal investigation of Simpson, Atkinson, and the fifteen other Orange County Sheriff’s deputies accused of not properly booking evidence after personally reviewing each file himself. Sixteen of the deputies have been added to the District Attorney’s Brady Notification System. Brady v. Maryland requires prosecutors to disclose to the defense any material exculpatory evidence, including evidence that could be used to impeach police witnesses.
As a result of the additional review, District Attorney’s Office hired veteran prosecutor Patrick K. O’Toole as a special prosecutor to review the 17 cases and determine if criminal charges are warranted. O’Toole served as the United States Attorney of the Southern District of California and as the head of the San Diego District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division.
“The public has an absolute expectation that their law enforcement officers will carry out their duties lawfully,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “When law enforcement officers break the law, it deprives defendants and victims of their rights, compromises the criminal justice system, and erodes the public trust in ways that it may never be able to recover. The entire system relies on the trust that those sworn to uphold the law are following it themselves.”
The Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office are continuing to conduct a hand search of 22,000 cases to ensure evidence reported booked by deputies was in fact booked.
The District Attorney’s Office’s is continuing to review cases related to the evidence booking audit to see if criminal charges are warranted. District Attorney Spitzer has directed that if no evidence was booked in a specific case charges have and will continue to be dismissed.