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    San Diego County judge takes up OC murder case, prosecutorial misconduct allegations
    • October 14, 2023

    On the surface, the immediate question before San Diego County Superior Court Judge Daniel Goldstein is whether to dismiss murder charges against Paul Gentile Smith, whose conviction in Orange County was overturned because evidence was withheld that could have helped his defense.

    But the deeper issue is the fate of Ebrahim Baytieh, the prosecutor in that case and now an elected Orange County Superior Court judge. Baytieh is accused by Smith’s new lawyer of concealing evidence in the Smith case for more than 10 years and covering up the illegal use of jailhouse informants by prosecutors and law enforcement.

    Goldstein took up the case Friday, meeting the attorneys and asking them to return Dec. 8.

    Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders is hoping to have an evidentiary hearing that would force Baytieh and sheriff’s investigators to testify.

    “We certainly hope Judge Baytieh can respond to the allegations,” Sanders said. “And sheriff’s deputies have a second opportunity to do what is right and testify in the case they investigated.”

    In the past, the deputies have invoked their constitutional right not to incriminate themselves.

    Baytieh is prohibited as a judge from responding to media inquiries, according to a spokesman for the Orange County Superior Court.

    Since Baytieh is a sitting judge, the case was kicked by the Orange County bench to San Diego County, presumably to avoid a conflict of interest.

    At issue is the use of multiple informants on Smith by Baytieh and sheriff’s investigators, even after the defendant was formally charged and had an attorney, which is prohibited by law. Authorities disclosed only one of the three informants to Smith’s defense attorneys and made it appear that Smith’s admissions came randomly and were not the product of an organized snitch operation.

    A recorded interview by sheriff’s investigators of one of the informants detailed how Smith’s rights were violated, but it was not turned over to the defense until 10 years after Smith’s trial.

    Smith was convicted in 2010 of killing and burning the body of a childhood friend in Sunset Beach. However, the conviction was thrown out by a judge in 2021 after sheriff’s investigators refused to testify about their use of informants. A new trial is pending.

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    ​ Orange County Register