By Macy Jenkins

ALAMEDA COUNTY (CBS13) — Secret recordings between underage suspects and their lawyers have been uncovered, raising serious questions in Alameda County and across the state.

One case in Alameda County has “blown the lid” off this alleged misconduct. And a public defender says the problem stretches across the state.

“How is that—how is that not privileged information?” said Lt. Timothy Schellenburg, with Alameda County Sheriff’s Office in the recording.

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“Well it is, but it just doesn’t get admissible,” Sgt. James Russell replied.

In March, Russell admitted he recorded a privileged conversation between an attorney and a juvenile. And it was a head scratcher for Schellenburg.

“Did you record that or no?” he asked Russell in the recording.

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“It’s not admissible but I recorded it,” Russell said. “What if he decides to molest them in there? Then we’re on the hook.”

The recordings are raising serious questions about the legal system.

“Attorney-client privilege is one of the most basic rights we have as a civil society,” said Brendon Woods, an Alameda County Public Defender.

Woods filed a motion against the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. It would require them to stop recording privileged conversations or, as Woods says, to just follow the law.

“Once you have people listening to those conversations, your rights just evaporate,” Woods said.

He calls the issue a statewide epidemic of law enforcement officers knowingly breaking this law.

“It’s happened in LA recently it’s happened in Orange County recently where they recorded over 1,000 phone calls from clients,” he said. “It’s illegal and it can’t happen.”

Because of misconduct in the Alameda County’s Sheriff Office, this robbery case involving a minor and two others evading arrest in San Leandro has been dropped.

But there’s more: Russell indicates the department may have recorded more conversations in the past.

“We’ve had these recordings we’ve not yet listened to the recordings,” he said.

“This activity this conduct has stopped,” said Sgt. Ray Kelly, a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.

He said the department took corrective action and this won’t happen again.

“Anytime you violate that trust that erodes the public’s confidence in you,” Kelly said. “And we’re going to hold ourselves accountable.”

The public defender’s motion will be heard on Friday.


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