Sheriff probing whether coroner’s employees sold Michael Jackson information

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6:27 PM | July 24, 2009

Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators launched an inquiry Friday into whether county coroner’s employees illegally leaked or sold private information from Michael Jackson’s death investigation.

“They just want to make sure that nothing criminal has occurred,” sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

Whitmore said sheriff’s investigators contacted coroner’s staff Friday and planned to handle the inquiry with the district attorney’s office. He said they were asked to investigate by county supervisors.

Supervisors have also called for a county audit of the coroner’s office, said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. There’s “enough concern about what’s going on in the coroner’s office” to merit the investigations, he said.

Coroner’s representatives did not respond to e-mails or phone calls late Friday.

Craig Harvey, the chief coroner’s investigator, has said employees who inappropriately viewed Jackson’s records were warned, the proper disciplinary action according to county civil services rules, and that no further investigation was needed.

Supervisors were troubled by graphic descriptions of Jackson’s corpse that surfaced in British tabloids and the New York Post before his memorial July 7, Ridley-Thomas said.

Two weeks ago, they called a private meeting with coroner’s officials to discuss their concerns, he said. “It was made abundantly clear that the environment had to be managed in such a way that there were no press leaks. We also made it clear that any breaches would be viewed as being very problematic,” Ridley-Thomas said.

After The Times reported this week that the pop star’s death certificate had been viewed more than 300 times, including by a half-dozen coroner’s employees who were not involved in the investigation, supervisors contacted the sheriff’s office, Ridley-Thomas said. “It only reinforces some concerns that some members of the board have had,” Ridley-Thomas said of the security breach.

–Molly Hennessy-Fiske

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