Ex-sheriff’s captain pleads guilty in corruption case

20 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ex-sheriff’s captain pleads guilty in corruption case.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former captain with the nation’s largest sheriff’s department pleaded guilty Wednesday to lying on the witness stand during a widespread misconduct investigation into abuse within the Los Angeles County jail system. Accused of corruption, Paul Tanaka, once second in command of the Sheriff’s Department, said charges against him should be dropped, according to federal court documents obtained Wednesday.

Tanaka’s attorneys said in the documents that the former undersheriff was acting under the orders of former Sheriff Lee Baca and within the scope of his job as a peace officer while investigating how a deputy smuggled a cellphone to an inmate who was an FBI informant. Under his plea agreement, William Thomas Carey, 57, must cooperate with U.S. prosecutors in the case against a retired second-in-command at the department. William “Tom” Carey entered his plea in a downtown courtroom, admitting to a single charge of lying during his testimony at a trial last year of a sheriff’s deputy who faced obstruction charges. In exchange for his plea and cooperation, Carey — the highest-ranking official to be convicted in the ongoing jail probe — can expect to receive a reduced prison sentence of not more than 16 months, according to the document. Carey and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka were charged in May with obstruction of justice, with conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice.

However, the maximum possible penalty when he goes before the judge for sentencing on Jan. 25 is five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. “Yes, your honor,” Carey responded when asked by U.S. With Carey’s guilty plea, 15 members of the Sheriff’s Department have been convicted of federal crimes including beating inmates, obstructing justice, bribery and conspiracy. Carey and Tanaka were indicted in May on several counts of wrongdoing in which they were accused of taking part in a scheme to thwart a federal investigation into the use of excessive force and corruption in the network of jails operated by the department.

Carey was head of the department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, tasked to “root out the very corruption” charged in the federal probe, then-acting U.S. Prosecutors say deputies tried to hide an FBI jail informant from his handlers for two weeks in 2011 by shifting him from cell to cell at various jails under different names and altering jail computer records. Federal prosecutors have said that Tanaka and Carey arranged in 2011 to have two sergeants approach an FBI agent outside her house when she was investigating the jails, threaten her with arrest and attempt to intimidate her. The deputies argued during the trials that they were not trying to interfere with the FBI’s investigation but moved the inmate to keep him safe from other inmates and deputies.

In a trial of multiple deputies, Tanaka testified for the defense that he was barely involved and was following Baca’s orders that he thought were lawful. A half-dozen former department officials — two lieutenants, two sergeants and two deputies — were convicted in 2014 for their roles in the cover-up and received federal prison sentences ranging from 21 to 41 months. Dean Steward, conceded in an interview last week that Carey’s decision to strike a deal and cooperate with prosecutors complicates matters for his client. At a meeting on Aug. 23, 2011, Tanaka gave approval for Carey and others to move the inmate informant, Anthony Brown, out of Men’s Central Jail, in part to ensure that Brown would not have further contact with the FBI, the document said.

The federal lawsuit seeks damages for cruel and unusual punishment, municipal and supervisory liability, failure to provide adequate medical care, retaliation and civil conspiracy. Because Carey has no criminal record, federal guidelines call for a maximum sentence of 15 to 21 months, said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School and a former federal prosecutor. Steward said in court documents that if the trial moves forward, Baca should be granted immunity so that he can testify at the trial without invoking the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.

Judge Percy Anderson that Carey receive credit for “acceptance of responsibility.” He could end up with a sentence of home detention and almost no prison time, Levenson said. Having Carey share what he knows and being available to testify gives prosecutors more ammunition against Tanaka but does not necessarily mean they intend to go after Baca, Levenson said. Still, Carey’s knowledge of high-level deliberations could be cause for concern for both his former bosses, she said. “It’s got to make both Tanaka and Baca nervous,” Levenson said. “Now you have someone from the higher echelons who can tell prosecutors what was happening and what people at the top did or should have done.” Steward said Baca will provide exculpatory evidence that contradicts the prosecution’s theory and shows the department had “public authority and legal authority” to investigate. “Leroy Baca is a crucial piece of evidence in this case,” Steward wrote. “His words, actions and orders all combined to set into motion the events that now form the basis for the charges against Mr. Tanaka.” “It’s a very difficult standard to meet,” Akrotirianakis said. “The court, in essence, would be required to find that the government had engaged in misconduct by attempting to distort the facts by immunizing other witnesses but refusing to immunize the former sheriff.” Akrotirianakis said Carey’s plea agreement could bring the government closer to bringing charges against Baca.

The stronger the case prosecutors have against Tanaka, the more likely that Tanaka would flip and testify against the former sheriff, he said. “At a minimum, it is indirectly bad for the former sheriff because the higher up the government is able to go in the chain with convictions, the greater leverage the government would have over people who would be able to implicate the former sheriff directly.

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