Ex-Fullerton Officer Avoids Prison For Destroying Jail Suicide Evidence

SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A former Fullerton police officer who admitted to destroying evidence in the suicide investigation of a jail inmate will not serve any time behind bars.

KNX 1070’s Brian Ping reports Officer Vincent Thomas Mater resigned earlier this year.

Mater, 42, will serve probation after pleading guilty to destroying an audio recording of conversations he had with a suspect who later committed suicide in jail.

Mater had been wearing a police-issued digital recorder during his interaction with Dean Gochenour, 52, of Fullerton, whom he had pulled over about 9:45 p.m. on April 14, 2011, on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Hours later, Gochenour was found hanging in his jail cell.

Mater smashed the audio recording device used during his interaction with Gochenour, which may have contained evidence relevant to the death investigation.

While a report from the Orange County District Attorney’s office (PDF) described the destruction of the recorder as “suspicious conduct”, Mater maintained he did it out of frustration after having difficulty downloading the audio.

Prosecutors argued the damage was intentional, since Mater may have faced a possible manslaughter charge if he had reason to believe that Gochenour would kill himself.

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