Public defender wants Antioch, Pittsburg officer names in 'moral turpitude' sweep

The Contra Costa County Public Defender is asking the District Attorney to release the names of the Pittsburg and Antioch police officers targeted in a "moral turpitude" investigation so that her attorneys can see if any of their cases have been compromised.

Public Defender Ellen McDonnell wrote DA Diana Becton a letter on Monday, saying that she believes this disclosure is required by the Constitution and case law.

McDonnell said she wants the DA's office to also identify any currently pending cases – as well as previous ones – involving the unnamed officers. 

McDonnell's request – to which she has yet to hear a response – comes after a joint announcement on Friday by the DA and the FBI that they are investigating "crimes of moral turpitude" involving three Pittsburg officers and an unknown number of Antioch police officers.

The announcement did not indicate what these crimes of moral turpitude were. Pittsburg police have acknowledged that at least one of its officers was involved in illegal activity in September. 

What can constitute a crime of moral turpitude is very vague. By definition, it's when the criminal intent is reckless and considered "morally reprehensible" by state statute, such as unjustified violence.  According to the dictionary, crimes of moral turpitude can include theft, perjury and vice crimes. 

However, KTVU has learned that prosecutors and federal agents are looking into the possible abuse of prescription testosterone supplements. They are also looking into allegations that officers joked about who was bringing heroin and cocaine to so-called parties, a source said.  

Police officers' testimony and reports are key in putting defendants behind bars. McDonnell said the conduct of these officers could potentially impact hundreds of cases. 

MORE: Contra Costa County D.A., FBI investigating Antioch, Pittsburg police for 'broad range of offenses'

"I am deeply concerned about these revelations," McDonnell told KTVU on Tuesday. 

She said that her office first heard about this investigation last week through a news release.

"We immediately requested that the names of any involved officers be released to our office so that we could begin the process of reviewing impacted cases and determining what role these officers played in any arrests or convictions," she said. "Timely transparency is necessary to ensure due process of law and the fair administration of justice for our community and for those impacted by our criminal legal system, some of whom may be currently incarcerated based on the word of these officers."

In response, Chief Assistant District Attorney Simon O'Connell told KTVU that the names would not be released. 

"As stated, due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, no additional details will be released at this time," he wrote. 

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez