A deputy clerk or court in Orange County, California, has been arrested on federal charges of violating RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, bribery and money laundering. According to a report in the Orange County Register, the clerk changed dispositions, marked as “paid” unpaid fines and court costs, changed actual charges, and posted a defendant as completing jail time that was never served. The clerk allegedly hired recruiters who would advertise the illegal services. The article reported that of the over 1,000 cases, sixty nine were Driving Under the Influence, 160 were other miscellaneous misdemeanor charges and the remaining appear to be traffic citations.
The county clerk’s office in any city is extremely important. They are tasked with keeping all records of civil and criminal cases. With traffic tickets and all criminal cases in Duval County and the surrounding counties, the clerk’s office assigns a case number and a case record in every case. With traffic tickets, the records payments of fines or schedules court dates and the dispositions of those dates. As with civil traffic citations, the clerk’s office also records every step of criminal cases in Jacksonville. The website contains information on each and every case including what division it is assigned to, the arrest and booking report, information on what happens at every court date, all motions that are filed and all fines and court costs owed.
In the California case, the clerk is accused of lowering charges in the system. For example, when someone is arrested for a DUI in Jacksonville, the State Attorney’s Office has the discretion lower the charge to a Reckless Driving. Prosecutors decide what to file or not to file. The clerk in this case allegedly forged prosecutor’s signatures on some of the dispositions. Changing the DUI to a Reckless can have very good consequences for a defendant, including avoiding a driver’s license suspension and avoiding future elevations of punishment should they be arrested for DUI again.