|For Immediate Release
Case # 12NM07268
November 1, 2012
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
FORMER FULLERTON POLICE OFFICER SENTENCED FOR DESTROYING EVIDENCE FOR BREAKING AUDIO-RECORDER AFTER INMATE’S SUICIDE
FULLERTON – A former Fullerton Police Department (FPD) officer was convicted and sentenced today for destroying evidence by crushing his audio-recorder after an inmate committed suicide in jail following a driving under the influence (DUI) arrest by the defendant. Vincent Thomas Mater, 42, pleaded guilty to a court offer by the Honorable Frances Munoz to one misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence and one misdemeanor count of vandalism. Mater was sentenced to three years of informal probation and 60 days of community service. The People objected to the sentence, arguing for jail time based on the nature of the crime, destruction of evidence possibly related to an inmate’s death, and the defendant’s violation of his position of trust.
At the time of the crime, Mater was a police officer with FPD. At approximately 9:45 p.m. on April 14, 2011, Mater conducted a DUI investigation after making a traffic stop of a vehicle being driven without its lights on in the dark. Mater was in uniform and driving a marked FPD patrol car. Mater arrested the driver, Dean Gochenour, upon determining that Gochenour was under the influence of alcohol.
Mater transported Gochenour in his patrol car to the Fullerton City Jail (FCJ) and turned him over to FPD jailers to be booked upon arrival. Throughout the duration of his contact with Gochenour, Mater wore an FPD-issued Digital Audio Recording device (DAR), which was activated and would have audio-recorded any statements made by Mater or Gochenour.
At approximately 11:30 p.m., inmate Gochenour committed suicide by hanging himself in a cell at FCJ. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) was subsequently contacted to conduct the custodial death investigation.
In the hours after Mater learned of Gochenour’s death, Mater destroyed his DAR by crushing it and removing the mother board and circuit board. The audio captured on Mater’s DAR of the defendant’s interaction with Gochenour could not be recovered as a result of the damage. Mater destroyed the evidence that would have been relevant to the OCDA’s custodial death investigation.
FPD investigated the case against Mater regarding the destruction of evidence and submitted it to the OCDA for criminal prosecution.
To read the OCDA’s full report on the custodial death of Gochenour, visit www.OrangeCountyDA.com and select “OCDA Report Custodial Death Investigation – Inmate Dean Gochenour” from the Investigation Letters tab under the Media Center. The report was issued March 13, 2012.
Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon of the Special Prosecutions Unit prosecuted this case.