ORLANDO, Fla. - 9 Investigates has found alarming new red flags contained in internal meeting notes from Orange County's beleaguered home confinement unit.
Channel 9 first reported that the county’s home confinement program was suddenly suspended amid concerns it isn't keeping track of accused criminals before they go to trial.
But only investigative reporter George Spencer obtained the meeting notes from the unit's monthly staff meetings.
Some of the notes reference an accused criminal attending a party while he was supposed to be confined to his home.
Spencer also visited the home where Eric Woomer was confined before a criminal traffic trial last year. Woomer followed the rules but said that his monitor often sent "false alerts."
“Sometimes three or four times in a row,” Woomer said.
“False alarms?” Spencer asked.
“False alarms,” Woomer said.
Last week, Channel 9 reported how murder suspect Bessman Okafor's home confinement log showed 109 curfew alerts. Many were false alarms and many real violations, including one on a September night when, prosecutors said, he killed Alex Zaldivar, a key witness in Okafor’s home invasion case.
But newly revealed meeting notes show corrections officials knew of big concerns with the electronic monitoring system months earlier.
Last February, a staffer mentioned one client who took his monitoring equipment with him when he went to a party. The staffer noted that other officers should be aware that clients could do this with the device.
In March, the notes mentioned "case management problems" in the unit.
In April, unit members expressed concerns about “the number of absconders we had this quarter.”
In May, they noted “complaints received from judges about (sloppy) submitted paperwork.”
In June, the notes show staffers discussing that "all alerts should be addressed immediately.. But this is not always possible."
That’s when the unit discussed developing “a matrix that will determine which alerts will be addressed before others based on the seriousness of the alert.”
There were no notes taken at a July meeting, but by late August, the home confinement unit apparently needed help. One staffer asked if it was possible for home confinement to get an “extra hand” in the future. Just a week and a half after that meeting, Alex Zaldivar was killed.
Log records show Okafor had five curfew alerts lasting three hours or more before the night, investigators said, he again violated his home confinement and killed Zaldivar.
But corrections officials never contacted a judge about Okafor’s violations.
Woomer, with first-hand experience on Orange County’s home confinement program, said unreliable alerts cloud life-or-death judgment calls.
“When something really needs to be addressed, they're not going to pay attention to it because they're so used to false alarms,” Woomer said.
The only way a home confinement employee would know the difference between a false alarm and a real violation is duration. True violations last longer.
As for the meeting notes, policy could have been broken if the unit had meetings and did not keep records.