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New LASD Inspector General Says Fire Existing LASD Watchdogs…. & Effort to Make LA Schools “Less Toxic” is Hit & Miss

March 19th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon



LASD INSPECTOR MAX HUNTSMAN SAYS THAT IT’S TIME FOR THE OLD OVERSIGHT METHODS TO GO

In a Tuesday afternoon letter to the Board of Supervisors that startled many, Sheriff’s Department Inspector General Max Huntsman recommended to the LA County Board of Supervisors that contracts be terminated. with both longtime LASD watchdogs, Michael Gennaco’s Office of Independent Review and Special Counsel Merrick Bobb.

Huntsman was appreciative of the work of the OIR and of Merrick Bobb, but he didn’t pull any punches.

The Daily News’ Christina Villacorte has a good story on the letter and some of the reactions to it. Here’s a clip:

…“The Office of Independent Review has functioned primarily as a part of the Sheriff’s Department,” Huntsman said. “The office has had an attorney-client relationship with the sheriff, was housed within the department, and assumed an integral role in the disciplinary system.

“This model has created the perception that OIR is not sufficiently independent to act as a civilian monitor,” Huntsman added. “This perception is not entirely without basis.”

He said the OIR’s role as a “trusted adviser” to former Sheriff Lee Baca, who had recommended its creation, “limited its effectivess in reporting information to the public and the board.”

Gennaco disagreed.

“Some people have that perception but our reports are hard-hitting and factual, and we don’t pull any punches,” Gennaco said.

“Because of our work, a number of deputies have been made accountable who otherwise would still be working at the department,” he added, noting the OIR recommended 100 deputies for discipline, including termination, for various acts of misconduct just in the past year.

The LA Times Robert Faturechi also has some good angles on the matter. Here’s a clip:

Huntsman said he is not planning to work with sheriff’s officials on individual discipline cases the way Gennaco’s organization did. He said he would rather take a more systemic approach and stay out of individual cases so that he can report his opinion on those that are mishandled without a conflict of interest.

However, in his letter he mentioned the possibility of the Sheriff’s Department hiring some of Gennaco’s attorneys to fill that role in order to advise sheriff’s officials in determining appropriate discipline on a case-by-case basis. He said the organization’s attorneys have had a positive effect on encouraging thorough misconduct investigations and appropriate discipline.

Even as he recommended cutting his contract, Hunstman also complimented Bobb, saying he provided an “invaluable” outside perspective, including pushing for a database that tracks deputy discipline.


GETTING LA’S TRAUMATIZED STUDENTS THE HELP IN SCHOOL THEY NEED, IS ANYTHING BUT EASY

Journalist/advocate Jane Ellen Stevens, who runs the wonderfully informative website ACEsTooHigh, has become expert in the effect of trauma on kids an others.

Right now, she is working on an investigative series into “right doing—which looks at how some schools, mostly in California, are “moving from a punitive to a trauma-informed approach to school discipline.” The series, which is funded by the California Endowment, includes profiles of schools and programs in Le Grand, Fresno, Concord, Reedley, San Francisco, Vallejo, San Diego—and LA.

Here are some clips from Stevens’ most recent story, “Trying to make LA schools less toxic is hit-and-miss; relatively few students receive care they need.”

In it she describes the ways in which certain people inside the LAUSD really understand the problem of kids acting out because of trauma, but struggle to find resources to help.

For millions of troubled children across the country, schools have been toxic places. That’s not just because many schools don’t control bullying by students or teachers, but because they enforce arbitrary and discriminatory zero tolerance school discipline policies, such as suspensions for “willful defiance”. Many also ignore the kids who sit in the back of the room and don’t engage – the ones called “lazy” or “unmotivated” – and who are likely to drop out of school.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which banned suspensions for willful defiance last May, the CBITS program (pronounced SEE-bits), aims to find and help troubled students before their reactions to their own trauma trigger a punitive response from their school environment, including a teacher or principal.

[SNIP]

Every semester, Lauren Maher, a psychiatric social worker, gives all the children in Harmony’s fifth grade a brightly colored flyer to take home. It asks the parent to give permission for her or his child to fill out a questionnaire about events the child may have experienced in, or away from, school. “Has anyone close to you died?” “Have you yourself been slapped, punched, or hit by someone?” “Have you had trouble concentrating (for example, losing track of a story on television, forgetting what you read, not paying attention in class)?” are three of the 45 questions.

Garcia’s son was one of a small group of students whose answers on the questionnaire, as well as his grades and behavior, were showing signs that he was suffering trauma. He joined one of the two groups, each with eight students that met once a week for 10 weeks at the school. In the group, the students don’t talk about the event or events that triggered the trauma. Instead they talk about their common reactions to trauma, and learn strategies to calm their minds and bodies.

Each student also meets twice individually with Maher; so do the child’s parent or parents. For some parents, it’s the first time they hear about the traumatic event – such as bullying or witnessing violence in the neighborhood – or what their child says about a traumatic event. So, if a child throws a fit because he doesn’t want to go to the grocery store, says Maher, it’s not because he’s being a bad kid. It’s because he remembers how during his last trip to the grocery store, his mother threw her body over his when gunfire broke out and wouldn’t let him move until the police came to help them, and now he’s afraid to return.

In the case of Garcia’s son, he was having problems at school because he was witnessing his stepfather beating her up. The first time Garcia talked with Maher, Garcia wondered what she had gotten herself into. “I didn’t know if she would call the department of social services on me or not,” she says, tears streaming down her face.

“After I had a talk with her, I realized it wasn’t a bad choice,” she says. “At first, it hurts to open up, because you don’t want anybody to know about your situation. I was a victim of domestic violence and never opened my mouth. We’re taught that what happens at home stays at home. I was reassured that I wasn’t the only one going through this.”

[SNIP]

CBITS had its beginnings in 1999, when clinician-researchers from RAND Corporation and the University of California at Los Angeles teamed up with LAUSD School Mental Health to develop a tool to systematically screen for their exposure to traumatic events. The screening tool – a questionnaire – was first used with immigrant students, says Escudero. When it became evident that students were witnessing violence in their neighborhoods and domestic violence and other abuse in their homes, social workers began making it available for all students. This experience led the team to develop CBITS. Since 2003, CBITS has been disseminated through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, and is used in hundreds of schools in the U.S. and other countries. It has a new site – traumaawareschools.org – that is focused on helping schools implement CBITS and teacher training.

“I was one of the originators of CBITS,” says Pia Escudero, director of the LAUSD School Mental Health, Crisis Counseling & Intervention Services. “When we started, folks did not want to talk about family violence. Our gateway was to talk about community violence.”

Read on!

Posted in Inspector General, jail, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LASD, OIR, School to Prison Pipeline, Trauma, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 5 Comments »

FBI Asked Indicted Deputy To Wear A Wire With His Father….& Baca

March 18th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


According to information contained new documents
filed Monday by the attorneys of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy James Sexton, FBI agents reportedly asked Sexton to wear a wire with the idea that the son should secretly record conversations with his father, Ted Sexton, who was just about to join the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department as Lee Baca’s Assistant Sheriff in charge of Homeland Security. The feds also reportedly hoped that Sexton would record Baca.]

According to a declaration filed by one of Sexton’s attorneys, Alabama-based Mays Jemison, the feds asked James Sexton to do the secret recording on November 16, 2012. FBI agents asked him again on November 28.

The purpose of the proposed “wire” wearing was reportedly to investigate then-sheriff Lee Baca. (A source reports that another department member was also asked to wear a wire with Baca, but that, after the department member agreed, the operation was called off. Sexton never agreed to the wire.)

James Sexton, if you’ll remember, is one of seven department members indicted for participating in the hiding of FBI informant Anthony Brown.

He is also reportedly the only one of the seven who contacted the FBI before they contacted him and appeared to consistently cooperate with the FBI over approximately three dozen contacts with agents. (It was only when he was asked to secretly record his father, that Sexton drew the line.)

According to documents filed this past week, Sexton was repeatedly assured that he was not the target of the investigation.

The filings offer this july 2012 conversation between Sexton and an FBI agent named Patrick Hampel, whom Sexton contacted.

Deputy Sexton:

I am not a source. Please keep that in mind when you or your friends call me.
Special Agent Hampel:

I’m well aware of that. And so is my friend. No one is trying to recruit you. We are genuinely concerned for your safety. That’s all, bro. Please don’t think this was ever about the case, more like she found out some stuff that makes her think you are in jeopardy. She’s a good person and so is Dalton [her partner]. I’ve drank, played vball, hung out with both of them, and I trust them like I trust you. They know we are friends and are trying to do the right thing by me; ie warning my friend who may need some help. Seriously, bro, there’s no ulterior motive here.

More on all this soon.

Posted in FBI, LASD, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca, The Feds, U.S. Attorney | 8 Comments »

LA County Sheriff’s Deputies Union Will Not Endorse a Candidate Until After the Primary

March 17th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


We have learned from multiple sources inside the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs
, the powerful union that represents LASD’s deputies, that they will not be endorsing any candidate for the sheriff’s race until after the primary election in June.

The importance of an endorsement by the deputies’ union—which is commonly known as ALADS—goes well beyond the vote of confidence that an endorsement conveys. In most cases, it also means that the chosen candidate also receives a sizable campaign donation.

And how large a donation are we talking about?

According to sources close to the endorsement process, a candidate for public office—especially a candidate for the office of Los Angeles County Sheriff—could potentially receive between $1 million to $2.5 million for his or her campaign coffers.

In other words, ALADS could plunk down a pile of cash big enough to be a game changer.

The endorsement process for the office of sheriff began on February 19 at a special ALADS forum where six out of the seven candidates for the LASD’s top job gave their pitches and fielded questions.

After the forum, the deputies had just under two weeks to cast their ballots for the candidate they thought the union ought to support.

In order to trigger an automatic endorsement, one candidate has to get at least 50 percent of the rank-and-file’s vote.

For some years it was thought that undersheriff Paul Tanaka was nearly a lock for the ALADS endorsement, along with a healthy chunk of their campaign money. [Here is WLA's coverage on the issue of Tanaka an the union money.]

But when on March 10, the ALADS Political Endorsement Committee tabulated the the 890 votes cast by union members, no single candidate received the needed 50 percent.

(Only about 12 percent of the more than 7200 deputy membership usually votes.)

Some committee members were surprised to find that department outsider Long Beach police chief Jim McDonnell took first place in the straw poll, especially considering that Paul Tanaka had produced such a large and enthusiastic group of supporters at the candidates’ forum, and seemed to be lobbying the hardest for the campaign money.

The details of the vote count was as follows:

Jim McDonnell – 203
Paul Tanaka – 184
Bob Olmsted – 168
Todd Rogers – 163
Jim Hellmold – 144
Pat Gomez – 26
Lou Vince – 2

Even without a majority, the endorsement committee could conceivably have voted to give an endorsement anyway—to whomever they deemed the best choice, (subject to approval of the ALADS board of directors). But the committee members decided not to do so.


POWER STRUGGLE AT THE UNION

Meanwhile, in related news, a power struggle among the union’s board members has resulted in ALADS’ board president being replaced four times in the past week or so. (It may be five times by the time you read this. We’re losing count.)

This game of musical chairs among union executives was first reported by the LA Times last week, after the union issued an announcement stating that the board had removed ALADS president, Armando Macias, because Macias had not attended the requisite number of a certain kind of union meetings, as required in the ALADS’ by-laws.

But then Macias, who had replaced, former ALADS president, Floyd Hayhurst, evidently arrived at a meeting mid-week and declared that he was indeed the legal president and proceeded to run the meeting.

On Friday, however, the Macias-ousting part of the board issued another statement announcing that yet another board member, Don Steck, was taking over as the interim president.

Then on Sunday the Macias supporters among the seven-person board released a new statement saying that Macias was the legal president, and would remain in office.

That spin of the merry-go-round is very unlikely to be the last, sources tell us.

We only mention the matter because there has reportedly been some speculation among ALADS members that one or the other of these factions might be hoping to steer a large portion of the ALADS campaign endorsement money to the candidate of their choice, despite last week’s decision by the union’s Political Endorsement Committee. When it comes to endorsements, the board makes the final decision.

Posted in LASD, Paul Tanaka, unions | 47 Comments »

At First Public Sheriff’s Debate Candidates Come Out Swinging

March 14th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


At Wednesday night’s debate between those in the race for the office of LA county sheriff, an event put on by the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council,
the six candidates who showed up began taking swings at each other right from the beginning.

Those present at this first public debate* prior to the June 3 primary were retired LASD lieutenant Pat Gomez, former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, Long Beach Chief of Police Jim McDonnell, LAPD detective Lou Vince, assistant sheriff Jim Hellmold, and former LASD commander Bob Olmsted.

(Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers was absent, due to a prior commitment to be interviewed by Warren Olney for Which Way LA?)

The questions that the council volleyed at the six men were largely thoughtful, but they were also general. Nobody directly challenged any of the candidates in their areas of vulnerability.

The candidates themselves, however, attempted to fill in that gap.

For example, when asked about what he would do to fix the corruption in the department, Bob Olmsted—the retired custody commander who was up first—fired off the night’s most frequently quoted soundbite.

“The fish rots from the head down,” he said, as the local news cameras rolled.

Then he ticked off a list of the LASD’s highest profile recent scandals including the fact that 20 department members have been indicted in the wake of an ongoing FBI probe into violence and corruption in the LASD. “None of this occurred in a vacuum,” he said. “It occurred with the knowledge and the acceptance of people on the department…..I will not tolerate dishonesty, civil rights issues, malfeasance…”

For anyone conversant with the various players on the candidates’ panel, this was a slam first and foremost against Paul Tanaka, (whom the Citizen’s Committed on Jail Violence had criticized harshly in its 2012 report) but also against the two assistant sheriffs, Jim Hellmold and the absent Todd Rogers.

In that same vein, Olmsted talked about a “continuous catastrophic failure of leadership and internal corruption” that “cost the taxpayers of Los Angeles over 100 million [in lawsuits} in the last three years."

Hellmold, who sat next to Olmsted and so was next in line to answer, countered immediately. "He was in charge when all of this occurred, so he already has tolerated malfeasance,” Hellmold said with a nod Olmsted's direction, characterizing his neighbor on the panel as "an ineffective leader."

This precipitated a cheer from the 50 or so Tanaka supporters who jammed the back of the room wearing red or white t-shirts emblazoned with their guy's name.

Hoping to head off such outbursts the council president, George Thomas, who was moderating the debate, had cautioned audience members to hold any applause and the like until the event's end. He now fixed the noisy Tanaka-ites with an enforcement stare.

Jim McDonnell also used the phrase "catastrophic failure of leadership", and poked at those candidates who are or were recently at the top of the department.

"We heard over and over again," he said, "'I didn’t know, I don’t recall. Nobody told me.' We didn't need to have one deputy indicted" he said. "If they had been held to a high standard, their families would be intact. Their freedom wouldn't be at stake."

With a clear swipe at pay-to-play accusations against Paul Tanaka, McDonnell also announced that he was the only candidate who had sworn not to take any money from those working for him or from members of the LASD.

(In fact, Jim Hellmold too has made the same pledge.)

Pat Gomez leveled similar criticism when he said that he would request that the FBI do a forensic audit of the department's finances. "Mr. Tanaka talked about being a CPA," he said. "Yet the auditor released a report in January and said that $138 million in funds were mishandled from special accounts within this department. Who's responsible for that?"

Tanaka struck back at various points citing what he characterized as the inexperience and, in the case of McDonnell, the outsider status of his rivals. "As a 31 year veteran of the department I'm the only candidate who has the institutional knowledge that will be critical for restoring trust and credibility to the organization. The job of sheriff is too big and too important for on the job training."


GETTING IN A RUNOFF

One of the debate's undercurrents was the fact that, due to the large number of hopefuls in the race, it is unlikely that the June primary will produce a winner.

The matter is intensified by the the fact that some election watchers suggest Jim McDonnell---with his extensive resume and his list of high profile endorsements---is the closest thing to a frontrunner in the contest. If that is so, he will occupy one of the slots in the runoff, leaving only one up for grabs between the rest.

Thus it may not be enough for the remaining candidates to merely impress voters with their own stellar qualities. They also must to find a way to knock a couple of others out of the running---or at the very least, dirty them up a bit.


AND....THE ISSUES

A few of the questions pertained to specific LASD policy issues---things like the use or misuse of red light cameras (most of the candidates were at least moderately for the cameras, with the exception of Gomez and Vince, who disliked the things), and what the candidates would do about issuing concealed weapons permits, or CCWs, which California's 58 county sheriffs and the state's police chiefs are authorized to grant,

The topic of CCWs has heated up in recent weeks following the decision last month by the 9th circuit Court of Appeals in which the court made it much easier to get the permits. (The 9th Circuit's ruling has been appealed to the US Supreme court.)

Paul Tanaka, who of the group has consistently been the strongest proponent for CCWs, talked about the Second Amendment. "I support that being able to possess a CCW is a right not a privilege."

McDonnell said he thought it prudent to wait to see what SCOTUS did in order to avoid future lawsuits, as did Olmsted, who added that he would require those to whom he granted CCWs to go through a rigorous certification and training equal to that of active deputies.

Lou Vince was another CCW enthusiast. "Right now the only people who have guns are the crooks," he said. "And that's just not fair."

Only Hellmold said that, in fact, he's in favor of anything that limits CCWs. "In 2005 when I arrived in Compton, there were over 400 shootings where our young men in Compton were struck by gunfire. I do not want more firearms in the street. If each of these candidates for the sake of perhaps getting the NRA to support them says that they would issue CCWs...how many hundreds of thousands of CCWs would you issue? Or are you just saying it for the for the soundbite? You know who it impacts? It impacts our young kids in some of the inner city areas...."

On other issues, Vince had a list of specifics as to how he'd lower the ever-problematic population of the LA County jails, including a pre-trial release risk assessment strategy that could help insure that people awaiting trial were not unnecessarily clogging the jail system simply due to an inability to pay their bail.

When it came to what kind of oversight the various candidates thought the department required, five of them described the various ways they embraced civilian oversight, whereas Gomez called the existing watchdogs, including the newly appointed inspector general, a waste of money. Tigers with no teeth. "[The IG] has no authority to do anything. So that’s a waste of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

As to who won the debate, in a quick poll of some of the council members found their opinions to be all over the place. They would have to wait and see, most said. But this was a good beginning.


PS: IF YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO ROGERS ON WHICH WAY LA? You can find the podcast here.


*Most of the candidates participated in a private forum last month organized by the LASD deputies’ union, ALADS (Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs).



AND IN OTHER NEWS….AN INTERVIEW WITH U.S. ATTORNEY ANDRE BIROTTE

The LA Times’ Patt Morrison interviewed US Attorney Andre Birotte, and it’s definitely something you’ll want to read.

Here are some relevant clips:

Do you expect more sheriff indictments?

The investigation is ongoing. We go where the evidence takes us.

Are all of those indicted going to trial?

This is high-stakes litigation. When we charge cases, we go in with the assumption that it’s going to trial. We make sure we dot our I’s, cross our Ts and say how is this going to play out to a jury?

Some deputies have volunteered information to your office. Why?

Some think it’s the right thing to do. I think there are some who thought these kinds of matters would not be looked at very seriously by other officials, and I’m speculating, but I gather there may be some who, once the indictments were announced, realized the government was serious and decided maybe it is time to come forward and tell the truth as to what they observed or may know.

Was any kind of deal discussed for or with then-Sheriff Lee Baca?

I can’t comment as [to how] it relates to Sheriff Baca’s sudden and unexpected [retirement]. We have an ongoing investigation; I can’t say more than that.

Read on!

Posted in 2014 election, FBI, LASD, U.S. Attorney | 32 Comments »

Posting Late Today

March 13th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon



We will be posting a bit later today—
with news that includes a report on the first public sheriff’s debate.

Posted in 2014 election, LASD | 36 Comments »

WitnessLA on “Deadline LA” Monday at 3 pm, KPFK 90.7 FM

March 10th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon

Today, Monday, I’ll be on Deadline LA with Barbara Osborn and Howard Blume at 3 pm.

You can tune in here on KPFK 90.7 FM, for live streaming.

We’ll be talking about why former sheriff Lee Baca left before his term was up, and about the problems that still need facing by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department if the agency is to truly reform.

If you missed the broadcast you can find the PODCAST right here.

Posted in LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | No Comments »

Program Helps Kids in CA Lockup Repay Victims While Learning a Trade…LASD to Propose Early Release Risk Assessment Program…Sheriff Candidate Updates…and More

March 10th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

PROGRAM IN CALIFORNIA YOUTH FACILITY ALLOWS KIDS TO LEARN TECH INDUSTRY WHILE EARNING MONEY AND PAYING BACK VICTIMS

Through a tech business program called Merit Partners operating in a California juvenile facility, kids receive training and experience in the tech industry while repaying victims. The program at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility gives kids a way to take responsibility for their crimes, and becomes a healing process for many young participants.

Workers earn $8.00 an hour recycling and reselling electronics. Twenty percent of the money they earn goes into a victim fund, another portion to their own restitution fines. The rest goes into a savings account to help kids learn about personal finances and budgeting, and to help them get on their feet when they leave “Chad.”

Alice Daniel has the story for KQED’s California Report podcast. Here’s a small clip from the transcript:

Michael Casaglio introduces himself and some of his colleagues at Merit Partners, an environmentally certified electronic recycling business that’s located within the walls of the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility. There’s floor leader Terrance Turner, upcoming floor leader Jordan Rutkes and IT tech Chandler Luce.

“Cables, wires, computers, laptops, computer chips, motherboards,” says Casaglio, as he reels off the types of electronic equipment they resell and recycle.

Merit Partners is the only operation of its kind in a California correctional facility. The incarcerated youth do most of the work; a small support staff trains them. The job pays $8 an hour and teaches valuable skills, Casaglio says.

It’s a far cry from his drug-dealing past. He spent his youth in and out of foster care; his own parents were addicts, he says. He smoked pot at age 9, used hard drugs at 11 and, at 15, held his gun to another dealer.

“And during the course of the robbery, somebody tried to prevent us from getting away, so I shot him five times,” says Casaglio, who has been at Chad five years.

The murder haunts him. “I took somebody’s grandparent away,” he says. “I took somebody’s husband, I took somebody’s dad, and there’s nothing I can do to repay or replace that.”

But he is giving back. Twenty percent of the money he and his peers earn goes directly to victims. The youth contribute to a local victims fund every year, and also compensate the people harmed by their crimes by paying restitution fines.

The compensation is mandatory, but 18-year-old Chandler Luce says he would donate some of his earnings to make up for his past, even if it were optional.

“You look in here, and this is a place full of people who caused harm to the world. And I was part of that,” he says.

(The clip doesn’t do it justice. Go listen to the whole story.)


LASD CONSIDERS NEW PROGRAM TO IDENTIFY LOW-RISK INMATES FOR EARLY RELEASE

The LA County Sheriff’s Department plans to propose (to the Board of Supervisors) a new system for selecting low-risk inmates for early release by predicting the likelihood of each inmate reoffending.

Currently, the state system looks only at the inmate’s last offense, and fails to take into account any previous offenses, even those of a serious nature. Critics (WLA included) have long thought that there should be a more nuanced form of risk assessment that looks at a variety of elements, rather than the broad strokes system that is presently in place.

It is therefore good news that interim Sheriff John Scott and Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald want to try an inmate release strategy that they say will be more finely calibrated.

The LA Times’ Abby Sewell and Jack Leonard have the story. Here’s a clip:

The proposal calls for a significant shift for the nation’s largest jail system, which currently determines when inmates get released by looking at the seriousness of their most recent offense and the percentage of their sentence they have already served. Officials say the current system has weaknesses because it does not take into account the inmate’s full record, including serious crimes that occurred years ago.

Supporters argue the change would help select inmates for early release who are less likely to commit new crimes. But it might also raise some eyebrows. An older offender convicted of a single serious crime, such as child molestation, might be labeled lower-risk than a younger inmate with numerous property and drug convictions.

The Sheriff’s Department is planning to present a proposal for a “risk-based” release system to the Board of Supervisors.

“That’s the smart way to do it,” interim Sheriff John L. Scott said. “I think the percentage [system] leaves a lot to be desired.”

Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald said at the center of the new system would be a computer program that uses each inmate’s criminal history to calculate the chance he or she will reoffend, and release those deemed lowest-risk first.

In addition to making release decisions, the tool could be used to assign inmates to education and treatment programs while in jail, and to decide which are eligible for alternatives to jail such as home confinement.

“It’s more sophisticated to look at risk,” she said. “It makes common sense to most people.”

The department could choose to override the automated risk scores for inmates convicted of certain crimes, but McDonald said it’s too early to say whether it would.

The Sheriff’s Department has not calculated the cost of the system but hopes to seek bids on the project soon if the Board of Supervisors approves.

(Read more about the proposed program, and how Riverside County is faring with its own version of early-release risk assessment.)


GETTING TO KNOW LA SHERIFF CANDIDATE JAMES HELLMOLD

KPPC’s Frank Stoltze has a new profile of LA County Sheriff hopeful James Hellmold (currently an assistant sheriff) that’s worth reading. Here’s how it opens:

A few years ago, when James Hellmold commanded L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies in the gang-riddled Lynwood area, he drew the ire of some colleagues.

“They had a legitimate question,” Hellmold recalled. “Why [was I] speaking at a gang member’s funeral?”

Hellmold attended the services for 25-year-old Branden Bullard, who’d been shot by rival gang members, to focus, he said, not on the “the negativity” in the young man’s life, but on the good things.

“In more recent days he had mentored some kids who were athletes, and trying to stay away from gangs.”

When the questions persisted from deputies, Hellmold challenged them.

“I asked them what they’ve done to help somebody else.”

Hellmold, 46, now one of four assistant sheriffs in the sprawling L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, seems just as interested in lending a hand to the needy as handcuffing criminals. Asked for a war story from the streets, he doesn’t talk about the time he shot an armed bank robber. He tells of taking foster kids to UCLA football games….

And as for the ongoing, controversial department issues, Hellmold says he is in favor of more civilian oversight, but denies the notion of “systemic misconduct” within the LASD:

“There have been some mistakes made, and there are some more reforms that need to occur,” Hellmold said. “But it is not true that there’s systemic misconduct happening.”

Hellmold once served as a personal assistant and driver for Baca. He owes his rise in the department in part to the retired sheriff and to another candidate, former undersheriff Paul Tanaka. They groomed and promoted him. Baca and Tanaka also faced scathing criticism in a blue ribbon report for failing to stop abuses in the jails. But Hellmold remains reluctant to criticize them publicly.

“It’s very trendy right now to jump on the bandwagon of talking negative of Undersheriff Tanaka,” Hellmold said. “But we can’t deny some of the good things that he’s done for the department.”

Author Joe Domanick, who has written extensively on law enforcement in Los Angeles, wonders how much an insider like Hellmold can reform the agency.

“If he’s risen that high in the department, it’s a rare bird indeed who hasn’t been part of the problem,” said Domanick, adding that Hellmold likely wouldn’t have the big picture view of the department a candidate from outside the agency would bring.

“He’s part of that culture,” Domanick noted. “He’s trained to think, and act within the culture of that department.”


IN OTHER SHERIFF CANDIDATE NEWS: CALIFORNIA AG KAMALA HARRIS THROWS HER SUPPORT BEHIND JIM MCDONNELL

Late last week, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her endorsement of Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell in the Los Angeles Sheriff race.

Here’s a small clip from AG Harris’ announcement:

“Chief Jim McDonnell is an excellent choice, and the best choice to lead the Sheriff’s Department into a new era,” Harris said. “McDonnell has the integrity, experience and professionalism necessary to protect public safety and earn the trust of the people of Los Angeles.”



FEDERAL ATTENTION ON STAFF RESPONSE TO SUICIDES BY MENTALLY ILL INMATES IN CALIFORNIA PRISONS

Questionable handling of two successful suicide attempts by mentally ill inmates in California prisons has prompted internal investigations and caught the attention of U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton (also on the three-judge panel enforcing California’s prison population reduction).

In both instances, guards would not allow medical staffers to enter the cell and attempt to intervene or revive the inmate.

Judge Karlton has held hearings on the treatment of mentally ill prisoners, and will address one of the two incidents in a court session today (Monday).

The Sacramento Bee’s Sam Stanton and Denny Walsh have the story. Here’s a clip:

At 6:10 a.m. on Oct. 15, a medical technician handling the morning “pill pass” at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Fresno County spotted inmate David Scott Gillian hanging inside cell No. 164 from a bedsheet tied to an air vent.

“Gillian is hanging in his cell,” the tech called to a nearby guard, then rushed off to grab the “cut down scissors” and begin the process – mandatory under corrections department policy – of trying to revive the inmate through cardiopulmonary resuscitation, according to an internal department review of the incident.

Guards and medical staff converged at the cell door, according to the internal report. A sergeant and the medical technician entered the cell where Gillian was housed alone and found no pulse or signs of breathing.

“We need to cut him down, we need to do CPR,” the tech told the sergeant.

Instead, the sergeant refused, according to the review team report; he ordered the cell door closed and locked, even after a doctor and another medical staffer demanded they be allowed to perform CPR. Gillian, 52, would remain hanging for nearly four hours before he was cut down.

The confidential corrections department report, obtained by The Sacramento Bee, summarizes the findings of a suicide review team assigned to investigate Gillian’s death. All suicides in California state prisons are reviewed by a team of corrections officials. The report obtained by The Bee, based on the review team’s interviews with prison staff and inmates, chronicles events leading up to and following Gillian’s hanging.

Gillian’s death has sparked a series of internal investigations at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. In the review team report, corrections officials investigating the suicide express “several concerns” about the circumstances. Among the concerns cited: that prison guards prevented medical staffers from trying to revive Gillian; and that guards may not have made their regularly scheduled rounds that day, possibly causing a delay in discovering his suicide.

The incident is at least the second documented case in recent months of disputes between medical staffers and guards over when a cell door should be opened to provide emergency medical care and assistance to an inmate.

On Sept. 7, Joseph Duran, 35, an inmate at Mule Creek State Prison in Amador County who suffered from mental illness, died hours after he was blasted in the face with pepper spray, according to an internal department review of that case. Duran had undergone a tracheotomy years before, and breathed through a hole in his throat. Agitated and coated with spray, he yanked out the tube he relied on for air, according to the review team report. Guards refused to intervene, despite repeated demands from medical staffers to allow them to enter his cell, decontaminate him and reinsert the tube, according to staff interviews contained in the internal report. Duran was found dead, alone in his cell, seven hours later.

That incident, laid out in a January story in The Bee, prompted U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton to reopen an evidentiary hearing in Sacramento federal court inquiring into the alleged use of excessive force on mentally ill inmates in California prisons.

[BIG SNIP]

The two cases come as the corrections department battles legal action on several fronts tied to medical and mental health care inside California’s 34 adult prisons. Last month, a three-judge court agreed to give California two more years to reduce its inmate population to 137.5 percent of capacity, a benchmark designed to reduce the overcrowding that the court in 2009 found is the primary reason for subconstitutional levels of medical and mental health treatment for inmates.

Revelations about Duran’s death have complicated matters for the department in a separate inquiry: the hearing before Karlton involving use of force on mentally ill inmates. Attorneys representing the state’s mentally ill inmates did not learn of the circumstances of Duran’s death until they were contacted by The Bee in January, and they have accused the state of covering up his death and the fact that pepper spray was used. The hearing on use of pepper spray and discipline against mentally ill inmates began Oct. 1 and went into November in Karlton’s court in Sacramento, during the same period that corrections officials were reviewing Duran’s death.

Corrections officials deny they were suppressing the Duran incident, but Karlton ordered a hearing on use of force reopened and has scheduled a court session partially devoted to Duran’s death for Monday afternoon.

Posted in CDCR, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LASD, Mental Illness, prison, Reentry, Restorative Justice, Sheriff John Scott | 34 Comments »

More on the NY Mag Prisoner Hunger Strike Story, LASD Inspector General Wants Town Hall Meetings, a Rundown on Sheriff Candidates…and More

March 7th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

NPR’S FRESH AIR: HOW CALIFORNIA’S LARGEST PRISON HUNGER STRIKE WAS COORDINATED

On Tuesday, we pointed to an NY Magazine story by Benjamin Wallace-Wells about how an unusual foursome of California prison gang leaders in solitary confinement coordinated a hunger strike over isolation conditions that more than 30,000 prisoners participated in.

NPR’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross speaks with Wallace-Wells about the NY Mag article. Gross also talks with UC Santa Cruz professor of psychology Craig Haney, who has been studying the psychological effects of solitary for decades (and is cited in the NY Mag story).

Here’s a clip of the transcript (but definitely take a listen, especially if you missed the NY Mag piece):

Wallace-Wells: In 2006, prison officials at Pelican Bay reorganized the SHU; they reallocated the prisoners into different spots in the Security Housing Unit. They thought that the gangs had found ways to work even within these extremely isolated environments. Gang leaders ended up next to gang lieutenants and they wanted to break that up.

So what they did, effectively, was they took all the people who they thought were the most influential, of whom they were the most scared, and they put them all together in one small part of the SHU — it’s called the Short Corridor. The theory was you would separate the guys who were very heavily monitored … from the guys who had become accustomed to doing their bidding, the more junior players. One thing that this did, effectively, was it brought all of the most senior and most influential men in the prison system into physical proximity with one another …

Every cell in solitary is part of a pod of eight cells, and though the prisoners don’t see each other, they can shout to the people in those other seven cells. Also, prisoners are ingenious, and they have figured out how to shout through toilet drains in their own cell to people in other cells and nearby parts of the prison. They figured out how those drain networks go.

On how long it took for the strike leaders to come together:

Wallace-Wells: I think it took a long time. These four men who led the hunger strike — Todd Ashker, [allegedly] of the Aryan Brotherhood, had the initial idea; Sitawa Jamaa, who is allegedly from the Black Guerilla Family; and Arturo Castellanos, allegedly a senior leader of the Mexican Mafia; and Antonio Guillen, allegedly one of the three “generals” of Nuestra Familia — they were put together in basically the same space years ago, in 2006, and it took five years for them come together.

That was a long process. They were very wary around one another at first, but they are each in their own way political and both Ashker and Sitawa Jamaa in particular had been reading revolutionary texts for years. In their own way, each of them had come to see their fight as fundamentally with the system itself rather than fundamentally with each other.

They also are all about the same age. They’re now in their late 40s and early 50s and they had a ton of time in the pod and they had nothing to do but talk. So what they will say is that they first came together, they first developed some intimacy, not by talking about the abuses that they believed they were suffering and not by talking about gang politics, but by talking about their families. The kind of catalyst, after all, of that was Ashker and the other white inmate on the pod … had become a kind of revolutionary book club and they would talk about these books by shouting through the pod. The impact for Ashker was to kind of highlight that they were members of a prisoner class, that the racial divisions among them were artificial and had been coached along by the guards.


LASD IG MAX HUNTSMAN WANTS INPUT FROM COMMUNITY REGARDING DEPARTMENT ISSUES

Inspector General for the LA County Sheriff’s Department, Max Huntsman, says he wants to hold town hall meetings to give LA County residents a voice regarding the Sheriff’s Dept. matters. Hunstman, who was hired in December to provide oversight of the LASD, says he wants to build a stronger connection between the department and the community it serves.

LA Daily News’ Christina Villacorte has the story. Here’s a clip:

“I view my job to be, in part, reaching out to the community and getting input from them over to the Sheriff’s Department,” he said. “At the same time, I’ll act as a buffer because there are certainly some people in the community who have very extreme views, and you can’t just vomit out that whole collection of thoughts on the Sheriff’s Department.”

Patrisse Cullors, who founded the community organization Dignity and Power Now after accusing deputies of assaulting her mentally ill brother in jail, believes town hall meetings are critical to restoring public trust. She even offered to help host and organize them.

“People who have been impacted by deputy violence are extremely angry,” she said. “They expect to get answers at these town hall meetings about what happened to their loved ones, who may have been beaten, shot, brutalized.”

American Civil Liberties Union legal director Peter Eliasberg said town hall meetings could indicate the seriousness of problems at the LASD.

“If people are coming in routinely angry, it doesn’t mean everything they say is true, but it’s a form of early warning.”

A Sheriff’s Department representative pointed out town hall meetings have been held at various stations for years. Those, however, suffered from a lack of public trust.

Huntsman wants his town hall meetings to create a bridge between the people and the LASD.

“It certainly has its limitations, but it’s very helpful,” he said. “I’d like to create something like that, because my job is to bring the community and the Sheriff’s Department together, try to get them to the same place as much as possible about what they want policing to look like.”


A GUIDE TO THE SEVEN LA SHERIFF HOPEFULS

WLA’s editor put together a comprehensive LA County Sheriff candidate rundown for LA Magazine. Here’s the intro:

In the March issue of Los Angeles, Celeste Fremon details the jaw-dropping details about the breakdown in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department under the leadership of Sheriff Lee Baca. This June, L.A. County voters have an opportunity to cast their vote for a new sheriff and, hopefully, a new approach to policing within the LASD. You can’t complain if you don’t vote, but how to vote if you don’t know much about the candidates? Here, Fremon provides a rundown of each of the men who want to run the fourth largest police force in the country.


STATE BAR OF TEXAS TO INVESTIGATE PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT CLAIMS MADE BY EXONERATED DEATH ROW INMATE

The LA Times’ Molly Hennessy-Fiske has a worthwhile story about Texas death row exoneree Anthony Graves, who is taking on the prosecutor in his case, after being wrongly imprisoned for 18 years (where he faced scheduled execution twice). Graves announced on Wednesday that the State Bar of Texas would be investigating the grievance he filed against Charles Sebesta, a former Burleson County district attorney.

Here’s a clip:

Graves was convicted in 1994 of killing a 45-year-old woman, her 16-year-old daughter and four grandchildren in a single stoplight town about 90 miles northwest of Houston in 1992. The victims were variously beaten, stabbed, strangled and shot.

The sole witness to the crime, Robert Carter, was also charged and initially implicated Graves, but later recanted.

Sebesta said he did not withhold a statement from Carter, and that it was the job of Graves’ attorney to question Carter more closely.

Both Carter and Graves were convicted. Carter was executed in 2000. Sebesta retired the same year.

Graves appealed. In 2006, his conviction was set aside by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the prosecutor not only withheld evidence that would have helped Graves, but that he also encouraged witnesses to commit perjury. Four years later, the new district attorney dismissed the charges and declared Graves innocent…

Graves’ attorney filed a grievance with the state bar against Sebesta in 2007, but it was dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired, he said (Sebesta disputes this). This year, Texas lawmakers extended the deadline for filing.


Above photo courtesy of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Posted in CDCR, Innocence, LASD, solitary | 1 Comment »

The First Debate Between Sheriff’s Candidates, Rikers Island & Solitary, San Diego Prosecutors Admit to Cheating, Raising $$ for the Sheriff’s Campaigns… & More

March 6th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


THE ACLU AND THE LEAGUE OF WOMAN VOTERS ANNOUNCE FIRST BIG DEBATE BETWEEN CANDIDATES FOR LA COUNTY SHERIFF, MARCH 20

The first of two debates between the seven men who each hope to be elected LA County sheriff will take place on Thursday, March 20, from 6:30 pm to 9:30 at the Mercado La Paloma, at 355 Grand Street, LA.

(There will be a second debate in the Santa Monica area on Thursday, April 24. Don’t worry. We’ll remind you as the date gets closer.)

The debates are organized and sponsored by the Southern California ACLU and others, and moderated by the League of Women voters.

(It could get crowded, so an RSVP online here is recommended.)

This is the first wide open election for LA County Sheriff in….well….a very, very long time. (The ACLU points out that more Catholic Popes have been selected in the last 80 years than there have been different LA sheriffs.)

We are therefore grateful for these debates that will allow LA County voters to become better informed about their choices.

Happily, all seven candidates have agreed to participate in the debates. This includes: Patrick Gomez, Jim Hellmold, Jim McDonnell, Bob Olmsted, Todd Rogers, Paul Tanaka, Lou Vince

Other debate sponsors are: Dignity Now, The Black Community & Labor Alliance, Justice Not Jails and The Los Angeles Regional Reentry Program


TEENAGERS & SOLITARY ON RIKERS ISLAND

On any given day, around 100 teenagers may be found in solitary confinement at New York’s Riker’s Island. Because Rikers is a jail, not a prison, many of the 400 to 800 16 and 17 years housed inside its walls are there are awaiting trial and are only locked up because they can’t afford bail, writes Trey Bundy for the Center for Investigative Reporting.

CIR has put together an excellent and disturbing multimedia report on the use of solitary on teenagers at Rikers and how the practice stresses adolescents mentally and emotionally sometimes to breaking. Here’s a clip:

There’s not much inside “the box.” Cinder block walls rise up and close in. There’s a bunk, a sink, a toilet and a metal door with a small mesh window. Food comes through a slot. Sometimes, mice and roaches scamper through.

Teenagers kept in the box sometimes hallucinate and throw fits. They splash urine around or smear their blood and shit on the walls. The concrete room gets so hot in the summertime that the floor and walls sweat.

Ismael Nazario’s longest stretch in the box lasted four months. He paced a lot, talking to himself and choking back tears and rage. He tried to block out the screaming of the teenage boys in other jail cells in his unit, but he couldn’t. Sometimes, he would stand at the door of his tiny cell and yell.

“You just get angry with hearing people constantly hollering all day,” he says. “There’s so many people that have been in that cell and screamed on that same gate, it smells like a bunch of breath and drool.”

Nazario is one of hundreds of teenagers sent in recent years to solitary confinement at Rikers Island, the massive jail complex in the middle of New York City’s East River. Teenagers at Rikers call solitary confinement the box: 23 hours a day in a 6-by-8-foot cell.

“There came a time when I cried when I was on Rikers Island, in the box, when I was there by myself,” Nazario says. “There’s times, you know, sometimes you need a good cry.”


SAN DIEGO PROSECUTORS ADMIT TO CHEATING: THE “HOLY SHIT” FACTOR

The Atlantic Monthly’s Andrew Cohen writes about a recent instance when prosecutors in San Diego admitted to cheating. This is a distinctly good news/bad news kind of story—since the admission was so appallingly unusual.

Here’s a clip:

The story of a prosecutor doing an honorable thing, a courageous thing, should not be a news story. It should happen every day. But too often prosecutors do not act honorably. Too often they make mistakes and do not admit them. Too often they cheat, at trial or afterward on appeal, in their zealous attempt to secure or to defend a conviction. And too often our nation’s judges are unable or unwilling to identify these instances to bring a measure of justice to the wrongfully convicted.

So the story of Laura Duffy, the prosecutor, and John Maloney, the wrongfully convicted man, is inspirational. Not because Duffy acted professionally throughout this case—she and her colleagues surely did not. Not because prosecutors promptly acknowledged their error and quickly moved to correct it—they didn’t. But because in the end they did do the right thing.

What we have here, then, is the public acknowledgment by a prosecutor that an injustice was done in a pending case. More than that, we have a glimmer of the process by which this reckoning occurred. This is no small thing. One longtime defense attorney, who has evaluated countless trials including many in which prosecutors engaged in the type of official misconduct we see here, emailed back “Holy Shit” when I wrote to him about the results of this case. That gives you a sense of how remarkable United States v. Maloney turned out to be….

Read the rest.


MORE SHERIFF’S ELECTION NEWS: “INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE COMMITTEE” IS FORMED FOR SHERIFF’S CANDIDATE JIM MCDONNELL

We know that the seven candidates are each engaged in the difficult but necessary task of fundraising for their respective campaigns.

Jim Hellmold had a big fundraiser on Feb 23 at the Pacific Palms Resort.

Paul Tanaka tweeted photos of volunteers working the phone banks at his headquarters, and hit the fundraising trail over the weekend.

Bob Olmsted is having a fundraiser on March 15.

Todd Rogers just had his fundraiser over the weekend.

Jim McDonnell has a high ticket event planned for tonight.

Pat Gomez asks you to call his campaign office to participate in one of his small private fundraisers.

Lou Vince has taken to social media to ask for donations.

AS OF LAST WEEK, HOWEVER, JIM MCDONNELL will get the benefit of a fundraising committee called an “Independent Expenditure Committee.”

As its name suggests, an Independent Expenditure Committee can’t raise money at the request of a campaign or candidate, or coordinate with a campaign committee.

But on its own, it can raise and spend money in behalf of a candidate. The IEC that has joined together for fundraising purposes in McDonnell’s behalf, includes such members as LA City Council persons Mitchell Englander, Herb Wesson, Nury Martinez, Felipe Fuentes, & Tom LaBonge, former LA mayor Richard Riordan, former chairs of both the Republican and Democratic party in California…plus Supervisor Don Knabe and others.

There may also be other IECs fund raising for other candidates. But this is the first one we’ve seen.

As the election heats up, there may be more.


IS NEW YORK A MODEL FOR FIXING CALIFORNIA’S PRISONS?

Steven E. F. Brown of San Francisco Business Times writes about law professor Jonathan Simon’s claim that California’s eyes should be on NY. Here’s a clip:

Law professor Jonathan Simon at the University of California, Berkeley pointed to prison reforms in the Empire State as a model that should be followed here in the Golden State.

Simon, who teaches an undergraduate course on prisons, wrote on UC Berkeley’s official blog that although New York has a long history of “bad penal policy choices,” it also tends to fix those bad choices more quickly than other states, particularly California.

Even as California Gov. Jerry Brown spars with the federal government over court-ordered changes to the state’s prisons, which are badly overcrowded, New York has moved away from automatic sentencing that overfilled its prisons.

Here’s a link to Simon’s whole essay.


Posted in 2014 election, ACLU, LASD, prison, prison policy, Prosecutors | 40 Comments »

3 Indicted Deputies Say Baca & Tanaka Gave Orders to Hide Informant Anthony Brown—& Other LASD Deputies Smuggled in Drugs for Sales in LA Jails

March 6th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


A motion filed Tuesday, March 4, in federal court seeks to dismiss criminal charges against three Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies and alleges that former Sheriff Lee Baca and former undersheriff Paul Tanaka
personally ordered the hiding of federal informant Anthony Brown, an operation that has, thus far, resulted in seven members of the department being indicted for obstruction of justice and more in relation to the Anthony Brown operation.

The document, obtained by WitnessLA, lays out additional details of the alleged actions by several deputies working in LA County’s Men’s Central jail. According to Brown, a jail deputy—aided by other deputies—made one or more deliveries to him of methamphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana, which Brown would then sell to other inmates in the facility.

Brown’s story of deputy-facilitated drug dealing was supported by photos found on his phone of “what appeared to be illicit narcotics and a large amount of cash,” reported the motion. The document also described how Brown kept a highly detailed ledger of drug sales, money owed to deputies for favors, and brutality toward inmates by deputies that he observed or was privy to.

The filing suggests additionally that, according to Brown, undercover FBI agents may have supplied a deputy or deputies with the drugs to be smuggled into the jail, and that the FBI acted as part of a sting aimed at uncovering corruption and brutality inside the county’s jail system.

It was previously widely reported that former Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputy, Gilbert Michel, was paid $1,500 to smuggle in a cell phone for Brown, with the promise of a total of $20,000 to be paid in the future.

The report of drug deliveries that then resulted in narcotics dealing inside Men’s Central Jail are a newer revelation.

Perhaps the most important bit of news out of the new legal filing, is the direct and detailed allegation that the two men then running the LASD—Lee Baca and Paul Tanaka—were, not only cognisant of the hiding of Brown, but directed it.

Here are more of the particulars:


“AUTHORIZED AND SUPERVISED” BY BACA AND TANAKA

On Tuesday, attorneys for three of the members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department who were indicted for obstruction of justice relating to the alleged hiding of federal informant and jail inmate Anthony Brown, filed a motion to dismiss their case, and laid out a lot of previously undisclosed specifics about the operation in the filing.

First of all, the motion states that the three defendants’ actions in dealing with Brown, were conducted “in accordance with state law and local procedure” and—this is an important part—”duly authorized and supervised by LASD Sheriff Leroy D. Baca, Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, and numerous other high ranking Sheriff’s Department officials.”

Deputies Gerard Smith, Mickey Manzo and James Sexton were three out of seven sheriff’s department members indicted for their alleged role in the hiding of federal informant Brown from his FBI handlers and other federal agents. (The other four indicted were lieutenants Greg Thompson and Stephen Leavins, plus two sergeants, Scott Craig and Maricella Long.)

The motion also describes the reported involvement of various other higher-ups in the department, including Captain Tom Carey, at the time a supervisor in the LASD’s internal criminal investigative unit, known as ICIB (where Leavins, Craig and Scott also worked).

In its “Statement of Facts” the motion advances the theory originally put forth by LASD higher-ups that Brown was being so elaborately hidden because he was fearful that deputies about whom he had informed might hurt him.

It should be noted that, although Brown may indeed have been fearful of being harmed, according to multiple sources who worked on or near to the team tasked with the elaborate strategy of hiding the informant, the purpose of the scheme—nicknamed Operation Pandora’s Box— was first and foremost to keep him away from the feds until LASD investigators could find out precisely what he knew.

The most significant point that the filing makes is this: when three deputies were given orders by multiple layers of superiors to hide and question an inmate/informant as part of what they were told was a perfectly valid—thus legal—investigation into possible illicit actions by deputies inside the LA County jails, they had no reason to believe that they should not follow those orders.

The filing also makes a point of stating that, although the intricate Brown operation was reportedly directed by others at the highest levels of the department food chain, that most of those superior officers “have not been charged with any crime.”

The 31-page motion, which is likely to be argued before a federal judge in April, was primarily drafted by Smith’s attorney, William Gennego, with input from Sexton’s attorney, Thomas O’Brien, and co-counsels, plus Manzo’s attorney, Matthew Lombard.

O’Brien, who interestingly is the former U.S. Attorney who immediately preceded U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte, is expected to argue the motion in court.

Here’s the motion itself: motion to dismiss, Sexton, Manzo, et al

NOTE: We asked the U.S. Attorney’s office if they wanted to comment on the new motion. Spokesman Thom Mrozek said that a written response will be released next week.

Former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who is running for sheriff, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing regarding the Anthony Brown case.

Posted in FBI, LA County Jail, LASD, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca | 54 Comments »

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