Stanislaus County DA candidate raises questions about court-approved wiretaps
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Carson called attention to the 25 electronic interceptions requested by District Attorney Birgit Fladager in 2012, which was five times the number of court-approved wiretaps in the previous year.
Speaking during the time for public comment, Carson said the latest state report on wiretaps showed that 1,086 individuals had their cellphone chatter intercepted by investigators that year in Stanislaus County. Authorities eavesdropped on more than 25,000 conversations or text messages.
“There is a lot of listening, but I don’t see them getting anything from those wiretaps,” Carson said Wednesday. “They are not making good arrests or the case falls apart, or they could be dismissing the case.”
The defense attorney noted that Alameda County had just three wiretap orders in 2012. Sacramento County had four, resulting in three convictions for narcotics offenses.
Those numbers come from the attorney general’s annual “Electronic Interceptions Report,” which compiled information on wiretaps that county district attorneys reported to the state. Riverside County, with 305 wiretap orders, had the most, and reported 423 arrests.
Carson suggested that Fladager and district attorney investigators did extensive wiretapping in 2012. But Fladager’s office said Carson is misinterpreting the report.
Kevin Bertalotto, who supervises DA investigators, said no convictions were reported because it can take two to four years before criminal cases are heard in court. He added that the annual state reports do not show any convictions for cases moved to federal court.
According to the report for 2012, wiretaps resulted in six arrests in homicide cases and 13 arrests on narcotics charges in Stanislaus County. Even though the report said Fladager requested the surveillance orders from Superior Court judges, all of the requests originated from law enforcement agencies, Bertalotto said.
It’s the district attorney’s role to review wiretap proposals and then submit approved requests to the court. Police include the circumstances to justify the wiretap and are expected to show that other investigative techniques failed. Under the Penal Code, judges may approve orders on probable cause the subject was involved with murder, gang felonies or threats to use weapons of mass destruction.
Judges approved all of Fladager’s requests in 2012.
Bertalotto said the increased surveillance was driven by...