On Monday, April 29, 2024, The Orange County Register reported that San Diego County Superior Court Judge Daniel Goldstein agreed to hold an evidentiary hearing regarding allegations of misconduct against former Orange County prosecutor and current judge Ebrahim Baytieh. Judge Goldstein will allow witness testimony related to claims that Baytieh withheld evidence and engaged in a cover-up while prosecuting a 1988 murder case.

Paul Gentile Smith was convicted in 2010 for the killing of his friend in Sunset Beach in 1988. However, Smith’s conviction was overturned in 2021 after it was revealed that Baytieh failed to disclose evidence that could have benefited Smith’s defense. Smith’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, is seeking dismissal of the case, arguing that Baytieh and others committed “outrageous government misconduct.” As Baytieh now serves as an Orange County judge, the case was transferred to San Diego to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

At a hearing on Monday, Sanders alleged Baytieh concealed that multiple jailhouse informants were used to improperly obtain incriminating statements from Smith, rather than the single informant disclosed to the defense. Sanders also claimed over a dozen other pieces of evidence aiding Smith’s case were withheld. Deputy District Attorney Seton Hunt acknowledged prosecutors were in possession of information that should have been turned over prior to Smith’s original trial.

However, Sanders has accused Baytieh of being part of a conspiracy to hide evidence and ongoing anger by law enforcement towards himself for exposing the county’s illegal informant practices. As evidence, Sanders pointed to an alleged state bar complaint recently filed against him by Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes involving the Smith case. A sheriff’s spokeswoman denied Barnes made any such complaint.

The hearing further examined accusations that current DA Todd Spitzer failed to fully investigate claims against Baytieh or disclose officers involved in the informant scandal to defense counsel. While Spitzer says he terminated Baytieh over unrelated remarks, Baytieh’s supporters argue he was fired for whistleblowing.

After considering the scope of the allegations, Judge Goldstein agreed to the evidentiary hearing to determine what misconduct occurred and its impact on Smith receiving a fair retrial. Testimony will begin sporadically to accommodate the court’s schedule.



Source: The Orange County Register