Ex-Fullerton cop charged with destroying evidence in jail death
Richard Winton and Abby Sewell (Los Angeles Times) | March 13, 2012
A former Fullerton police officer was charged Tuesday with destroying evidence by smashing a digital audio recorder that would have captured his conversations with a 52-year-old man who later committed suicide in the city jail.
Vincent Thomas Mater, 41, is charged with one misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence in a death investigation and one misdemeanor count of vandalism. If convicted, he faces up to 18 months in jail.
A few hours after Mater arrested Dean Francis Gochenour on April 14 last year, the drunk-driving suspect hung himself in a Fullerton jail cell. On the night in question, Mater, a corporal working uniform patrol, crushed the digital audio recorder after learning of Gochenour’s death, prosecutors allege.
Prosecutors say the audio recorder would have captured vital conversations with Gochenour. Mater stopped Gouchenour’s car about 9:45 p.m after noticing the motorist was driving without his lights on.
He arrested Gochenour after determining that the driver was under the influence of alcohol. Mater then drove Gochenour in his patrol car to the Fullerton City Jail and turned him over to jailers to be booked upon arrival. Prosecutor say Mater was wearing his department-issued digital audio recording device through the trip and would have audio-recorded any statements.
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