DA Charges Alameda Sergeant for Recording Teens in Custody

The illegal recording claims were made by the county public defender's office in a motion filed Monday in Alameda County Superior Court

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has filed felony charges against an Alameda County Sheriff sergeant for illegally recording juvenile suspects in custody, which led to the case being thrown out.

District Attorney Nancy O'Malley announced Wednesday that her office filed four charges against Sgt. James Russell after he was recorded on his bodycam saying he secretly recorded in-custody juvenile suspects and their attorney in an interview room at the Eden Township Sheriff's substation on March 15.

“Every one of us working in the justice system must be held to the highest of standards when it comes to protecting an individual’s constitutional rights, including the sacrosanct right to privileged communication between a client and his or her attorney,” O'Malley said in a statement.

The District Attorney's Office threw out a case against one juvenile suspect after it was revealed Russell recorded at least one confidential conversation between him and Public Defender.

The Alameda County district attorney's office is also reviewing every juvenile criminal case submitted by the sheriff's office this year.

In the video from his bodycam, Russell says several conversations between suspects and their attorneys have been recorded but no one has listened to them.

He also discusses the video recording of a juvenile in an attempted robbery case — the one that the district attorney has thrown out — with Lt. Timothy Schellenberg, who oversees the sheriff's investigations unit out of a detention center in San Leandro.

Prosecutors turned over the body-camera video and the video of the juvenile with his attorney to the public defender's office as evidence in a recent criminal case, court documents show.

Secretly recording a conversation between a person in custody and the person's attorney is a felony under California law.

“These felony charges are completely appropriate, and we're glad the district attorney is taking this seriously," Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods said in a statement. "In order for us to represent our clients effectively, our clients have to know that they can trust us, and that what they tell us will remain confidential and that law enforcement is not secretly listening to our conversations. Hopefully these charges against Sgt. Russell will send a message and deter other police officers from violating attorney-client privilege.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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