Judge orders OCSD to turn over confidential files on sergeant accused of eavesdropping

Sgt. Matthew LeFlore was also one of 17 sheriff deputies referred for criminal prosecution in an evidence booking scandal.

ByLisa Bartley KABC logo
Saturday, May 6, 2023
Judge orders records turned over on sergeant accused of eavesdropping
An Orange County sergeant that's been accused of eavesdropping on confidential attorney-client calls also mishandled evidence but was never charged by the district attorney's office.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- An Orange County Superior Court judge spent three days over the last week sifting through confidential personnel files of OCSD Sgt. Matthew LeFlore - looking for evidence that may shed light on his credibility and truthfulness.

Late Friday afternoon, Judge Elizabeth Macias ordered that portions of those typically-secret records be turned over to the defense in a case that's renewed focus on the eavesdropping scandal inside the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Sgt. LeFlore is accused of deliberately and illegally eavesdropping on confidential phone calls in 2017 between a jail inmate he'd arrested twice and the attorney fighting his case.

"Absolutely illegal," said Orange County Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, who brought the Pitchess Motion on behalf of his client who was arrested in a separate case by LeFlore in 2021.

"It's illegal because it's a violation of the Sixth Amendment. It's illegal because there's an eavesdropping statute, and he violated it multiple times, and the question now is, will anything happened to him?"

Sanders exposed the secretly recorded phone calls last month in a Pitchess Motion, a request for a judge to inspect and turn over confidential personnel records that may contain information defense attorneys can use to impeach an officer's credibility.

In several of those recorded phone calls, LeFlore heard inmate Taylor Camu-Ferguson and his attorney John Andersen speak specifically about LeFlore. Andersen even warns LeFlore by name.

"Anyone attempts to listen to this, especially that 5-foot tall, deceitful, lying Orange County Sheriff named LeFlore, we'll seek prosecution, guaranteed," said Andersen in one of the recorded calls.

Andersen suspected LeFlore might be listening in on what are supposed to be legally protected attorney-client calls because he'd already filed two complaints against LeFlore, accusing him of lying on a search warrant affidavit and targeting his client, Camu-Ferguson.

"I think it's absolutely retaliation," Sanders told Eyewitness News. "The lawyer and the client are pretty unbelievable on the phone calls ... they're talking about how terrible, how unethical this officer is."

This is not the first time LeFlore has caught the attention of the Orange County Public Defender's Office. He was also one of 17 sheriff deputies referred for criminal prosecution in the evidence booking scandal - which was first made public in 2019.

LeFlore was initially one of the investigators assigned to look into other deputies who failed to book evidence.

"He had already written reports about how terrible his colleagues were in handling evidence, and then he went out and did about as bad a job as you could possibly do," Sanders said.

According to an internal sheriff's department report, LeFlore failed to book evidence in 2018 from a possible marijuana grow near Rancho Mission Viejo in South Orange County. That evidence included two black boots, two full boxes of ammunition, approximately 11 grams of methamphetamine and two meth pipes.

"So, LeFlore in one case goes out, retrieves evidence, a pair of boots that have ammunition and drugs in them," said Sanders.

"Instead of booking them, which you're required to do, he puts them on the shelf, in the police department, and with some note, you know, 'Free boots.'"

According to that report, LeFlore initially told a colleague that he'd either found them on the side of the road or someone possibly gave them to him. But later, while being questioned by internal criminal investigators, LeFlore admitted to what he called "poor judgment."

LeFlore claimed he didn't remember the boxes of ammunition, and that he never saw the meth or meth pipes inside the boots.

But LeFlore's supervisor told investigators that LeFlore told him that on same day he went to the ranch, that he'd collected a pair of boots and ammunition.

OCSD investigators referred this case on LeFlore to the Orange County District Attorney's Office for possible criminal prosecution in October of 2018. The DA declined to file charges.

Eyewitness News asked the DA's office why LeFlore wasn't prosecuted back then, and a spokesperson would only say there was "insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a crime occurred."

Sanders said that when the OCSD referred LeFlore to the DA's office, the department only included the boots, meth and ammunition case. They kept silent about the 17 other times their own records show LeFlore mishandled evidence, including five in which he allegedly lied on the police reports.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer declined our request for an interview but told Eyewitness News in 2020 that he was cracking down on the OCSD over its mishandling of evidence.

"I want the public to have confidence that I've insisted on a process that's absolutely fair," he said in January of 2020. "I'm overseeing it myself, personally."

Sanders filed his Pitchess Motion laying out his evidence against LeFlore in the phone eavesdropping case in mid-April, so Eyewitness News asked the OCDA's office if they would start their own investigation.

"The sheriff's department has not forwarded any additional investigations to us regarding this individual," OCDA spokesperson Kimberly Edds replied in an email. "If and when they do, we will review the evidence to determine if a crime has been committed."

Sanders said that's too little, too late.

"It has to be an independent investigation," Sanders told Eyewitness News. "Twice the sheriff's department has refused to do anything about LeFlore, so it makes no sense for the DA's office to wait for a Sheriff's Department investigation that is not going to do anything that damages LeFlore."

LeFlore did not respond to multiple emails and phone messages. He was promoted in January from deputy to sergeant and as of Friday, he was still on active duty and assigned to work at the Theo Lacy Jail where the phone calls were recorded.

OCSD Sheriff Don Barnes also declined our request for an interview.