Feds Angle for Big Fish in Probe LA Sheriff’s Department

According to the LA Times, the federal investigation into abuse and corruption at the LA County Sheriff’s Department is still going strong.  Since December, various Sheriff’s officials have testified before a federal grand jury, including some of the deputies convicted last year of obstructing a federal investigation into mistreatment of prisoners at the LA county jails.

An unnamed source told the Times that three of the seven convicted Sheriff’s officials have recently appeared before the grand jury: former lieutenant Gregory Thompson and ex-deputies Gerard Smith and Mickey Manzo.  Per the source, Assistant United States Attorneys Brandon Fox and Lizabeth Rhodes have focused their questioning on meetings between former Sheriff Lee Baca and Under Sheriff Paul Tanaka in August 2011, in which they discussed how to respond after learning that an inmate cooperating with the FBI had bribed a Sheriff’s Deputy to get a contraband cell phone.  Lower-level deputies were subsequently convicted of obstructing justice when they interfered with that federal investigation.

Federal prosecutors are following the time-honored playbook of squeezing lower-level players to get information on their superiors.  The convicted Sheriff’s officials are presumably testifying in hopes of earning a reduced sentence.  Twelve other Sheriff’s deputies are awaiting trial on various charges, including assaulting inmates and jail visitors, but it is unclear whether any of them are cooperating with prosecutors at this time.

Tanaka testified at trial that he didn’t have a “clear memory” of many events surrounding the incident.  Baca, who abruptly retired last January, said of the grand jury investigation “I don’t think anyone knows what it’s going to lead to…  I have no opinion one way or another.”

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