Home News Former L.A. County Undersheriff found guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy

Former L.A. County Undersheriff found guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy

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LOS ANGELES — The former second-in-command of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was convicted Wednesday in a corruption probe that also brought down his boss and several underlings who tried to thwart a federal investigation into abuses in the nation’s largest jail system.

Ex-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was found guilty by a federal jury of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Tanaka helped orchestrate efforts to hide an inmate when they discovered he was an FBI informant, prosecutors said. Underlings were ordered to intimidate an FBI agent in the case by threatening to have her arrested.

The corruption went all the way to the top of the department and former Sheriff Lee Baca could face six months in jail when he’s sentenced next month.

Tanaka testified that he was out of the loop and unaware of the cover-up efforts. He could face up to 15 years in prison when sentenced on June 20.

Tanaka retired from the department in 2013 and ran unsuccessfully to replace his former boss, losing by a wide margin to Jim McDonnell.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

EARLIER:

March 30–Jurors in the criminal corruption trial of former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka heard for the first time Tuesday from one of Tanaka’s alleged co-conspirators about specific actions taken to hide an inmate from the FBI.

Tanaka, the elected mayor of Gardena, is accused of obstructing a federal investigation into brutality and corruption by deputies in Los Angeles County jails in 2011. He’s charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and has pleaded not guilty.

Former Deputy Mickey Manzo testified for nearly three hours Tuesday for the prosecution.

Manzo, who now works for Home Depot, indicated he was among those tasked with ensuring that FBI agents did not have access to their informant, inmate Anthony Brown, after it was discovered that Brown had a cellphone that was smuggled into jail by a deputy who accepted a bribe from an undercover FBI agent.

Manzo testified that Tanaka was “visibly upset” when he was told that the cellphone was used to call the civil rights division of FBI headquarters.

Manzo said former Sheriff Lee Baca was “confused” and wanted to know what was going on. Baca ordered that Brown, who was slated to go to state prison to serve his 400-plus year prison sentence, remain in the custody of the Sheriff’s Department, be interviewed by deputies, and that everything be taken off of the phone, Manzo said.

Once Tanaka heard recordings of phone calls made from the inmate to an FBI agent, Manzo said Tanaka was “irate.” Manzo added that Tanaka stood up and slammed his hands down on a table.

“He said, ‘Those motherf—-. Who do they think they are?” Manzo testified, saying that Tanaka was referring to the FBI.

Manzo said at that point, Baca tasked a captain with heading the investigation into the cellphone and that, “Everything that came out of the investigation would be run through Mr. Tanaka.”

Manzo testified that he wrote a policy, under the direction of his boss, that said the FBI could not interview any inmate without Tanaka’s approval. The policy was later amended to remove any reference to Tanaka.

Manzo was convicted in 2014 along with five other former Sheriff’s Department officials. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison but is out on bail while his appeal is pending. He was granted immunity to testify at Tanaka’s trial.

Manzo said he, along with his partner Deputy Gerard Smith, who was also convicted in the obstruction of justice case, coordinated a schedule for deputies to stand guard outside Brown’s cell.

Manzo also testified that Brown was moved from the Men’s Central Jail to a station jail in San Dimas and was re-booked into the system under various aliases.

While Manzo said Tanaka did not give him direct orders, he said his former boss Lt. Greg Thompson, who was also convicted, gave him the orders from Tanaka.

During cross-examination, Tanaka’s attorney H. Dean Steward emphasized, and Manzo agreed, that Sheriff’s Department officials had mentioned concern about Brown’s safety from deputies and other inmates during a discussion about guarding his cell since the inmate had been exposed as a federal informant regarding abuse and corruption by deputies.

Jurors also heard recordings of interviews with Brown after Sheriff’s Department officials discovered the cellphone that he was using to speak to the FBI. During the interviews, deputies, sergeants, a lieutenant and a captain tried to glean from Brown what information he gave the FBI about deputy abuse.

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(c)2016 the Daily News (Los Angeles)

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