Explosive court testimony revealed the phone system used in the Orange County jail was “flawed” when it recorded privileged conversations over the past three years between attorneys and inmates, including Real Housewives of Orange County star Josh Waring, RadarOnline.com can exclusively report. The breach also occurred in at least two other counties in Florida using the same system.
Waring, 29, who is facing attempted murder charges in connection to a 2016 shooting, has been fighting to gain access to information concerning jail phone calls he believes were illegally recorded and obtained by police investigating his case.
Phone conversations with defendants and their attorneys are protected by law under attorney-client privilege, and should be included on a “Do Not Record” list maintained by the Sheriff’s jail staff. Inmates who are representing themselves also have the ability to ask particular phone numbers to be placed on that private list.
However, Orange County jail officials last week revealed phone calls between Waring and his former public defender were accessed by Orange County jail staff via a recording system maintained by a third-party vendor, Global Tel Link Corp (GTL).
On Thursday, George McNitt, GTL Vice President of Tech Services, testified the Virginia-based company was only made aware of the possible breach after the company received a call from Orange County officials. McNitt said after an upgrade in January 2015, there was a “flaw” in the system and some numbers on the Do Not Record list “did not make it at all” into the new system, meaning the privileged phone calls were recorded, downloaded and accessed.
In a July 27, 2018 letter to Orange County Officials, GTL Executive Vice President Darren Wallace said the Orange County Sheriff’s Department staff accessed 58 of 1,070 calls that were allegedly improperly recorded from 2015 up until last month. The calls were then listened to 87 times by Sheriff’s Department staff.
During his testimony on Thursday, McNitt at first said those numbers were incorrect and that 1,000 or so phone numbers were accessed, meaning hundreds and thousands of phone calls were possibly breached. McNitt later recanted his testimony and said Wallace’s numbers in the July 27, 2018 letter are correct.
However, McNitt testified the same system failure occurred within the past two years in Florida at Ellis and Charlotte counties.
When asked by Waring’s attorney, Joel Garson, whether GTL alerted other customers using the recording system in their county jails, McNItt said, “No, we did not."
“As of a couple of years ago, you know that lawyers’ phone calls were being recorded,” Garson asked.
“If we were aware of any recordings, we could take action,” McNitt said. "We had no reason to believe it was happening anywhere else. It was human error.”
McNitt testified GTL serves as a vendor for “over 1,000 entities” all over the country.
When asked by Garson why the list provided by GTL indicated only a total of seven calls were made to the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, GTL director of tech services Matthew McFalls testified he has not investigated that data.
“No one called the Public Defender’s number but three people in the past three years,” Garson asked McFalls.
“According to the system,” McFalls said.
McFalls also added that according to the data, one of Waring’s jail phone calls was accessed twice and copied onto a disc.
Former RHOC star Lauri Peterson, who attended Thursday’s hearing, claimed prosecutors also have listened to calls between her and her son when Waring did not have an attorney and was only representing himself.
“This is big news for everyone now, because now we know that probably this will affect thousands, not just people in Orange County,” Peterson told Radar exclusively. “We know the depths that this goes to, and I’m just so happy that the truth is finally being revealed. Josh cannot get a fair trial in the county. How can you when the D.A. has been given his defense strategy? Their investigation changed because of these phone calls. You cannot tell me he will get a fair trial. There is no remedy except to dismiss the case and to not ever bring this back."
The hearing concerning the jail phone calls was continued to September 25. Waring’s attempted murder jury trial is scheduled for October 23.
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