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Sheriff Lee Baca


Day of Reckoning: The Strange and Memorable Afternoon When Former LA Sheriff Lee Baca Pleaded Guilty to a Felony

February 11th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


BACA GOES TO COURT

On Wednesday afternoon, around five minutes before the 2:30 PM plea hearing was to begin in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and his attorney, Michael Zweiback, walked down the left aisle of the courtroom, through the waist-high swinging door, to the defendant’s table where Baca carefully folded his lanky frame into a chair.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox, who is chief of the federal district’s public corruption and civil rights section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lizabeth Rhodes, chief of general crimes, were already seated on the other side of the room at the prosecution’s table.

The purpose of the hearing was for Baca to formally plead guilty to one felony count of lying to federal authorities when they questioned him in the course of a wide-ranging investigation into “corruption and civil rights violations” in the department he’d led for fifteen years.

Specifically, Baca admitted that he lied to the FBI and members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office during a round of questioning on April 12, 2013. At that time, among other denials by Baca, the former sheriff falsely claimed ignorance of the fact that, in 2011, two LASD sergeants were going to approach FBI special agent, Leah Marx, and threaten her with arrest, hoping to get information about the feds’ rapidly expanding investigation into brutality by deputies in the county’s large jail system.

In fact, Baca has now admitted, he gave instructions that the officers “should do everything but put handcuffs on her.” Her being Agent Marx.

Now the act of pleading guilty in open court was the next step in the process of executing the plea agreement with the feds that Baca signed on Monday in lieu of facing a federal indictment for his alleged part in obstructing the government’s probe into LASD wrongdoing.

The idea of a plea was reportedly floated by Baca’s attorneys months ago, according to members of the U.S. Attorney’s office. But it was only in the last few days that the final language of the deal had been nailed down in a flurry of negotiations.

Baca was arraigned on the single charge on Wednesday morning, then at noon U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker held a hastily arranged press conference to announce the existence of the deal, an event that had the LA press corps scrambling wildly to get to the downtown federal building and up to the 7th floor conference room on time to report on what was about to become a national story.

And now, finally, there was the hearing in which the man who had, for years, arguably been California’s most popular elected official, would publicly plead to a felony, that in all likelihood would lead to time in a federal prison, albeit probably for no more than six months.

The plea hearing was originally randomly assigned to U.S. District Court Judge John Kronstadt, but most people who had been following the multiple federal trials involving members of the LA Sheriff’s Department assumed that Judge Percy Anderson would manage to wrestle the proceeding into his own court room.

Anderson had been the jurist to preside over all three previous obstruction of justice trials, pertaining to the hiding of FBI informant and convicted bank robber Anthony Brown in what has come to be known as Operation Pandora’s Box, an ill-considered strategy directed from the department’s highest levels that has, to date, resulted in the conviction of seven former LASD members, with accompanying prison sentences ranging from 18 to 41 months. (These cases are all on appeal with the Nineth Circuit Court of Appeals). One more department member, former captain Tom Carey, was indicted last year pertaining to Pandora’s Box, but he too has made a deal, in his case, in exchange for truthful testimony at the upcoming trial of his fellow indictee, former LASD undersheriff and 2014 candidate for LA County Sheriff, Paul Tanaka.

Tanaka’s trial, scheduled to begin jury selection on March 22, was also originally assigned to another judge. But exactly no one was surprised when the highly intelligent and decidedly quirky Anderson managed to arm wrestle the sure-to-be-theatrical Tanaka proceedings into his courtroom.


THE PLEA

For the occasion of his plea hearing, Lee Baca wore a highly-tailored dark brown suit, a pale shirt, a gold and brown striped tie, and a melon pink silk handkerchief carefully arranged in his left breast pocket.

Both of Baca’s parents struggled with impoverished circumstances, but according to the former sheriff, his father always somehow managed to be a snappy dresser and Baca too came to find pleasure in nice clothing. On Wednesday, in addition to the good suit, he’d fastened a small decorative pin to his left lapel. The shiny thing was smaller than a quarter, but shaped like the bright LASD sheriff’s star he’d worn for 49 years, 15 of those years as the Los Angeles County Sheriff.

As Baca and everyone else sat waiting for Judge Anderson to make his appearance, the former sheriff’s expression was one of enforced calm that appeared as if it could easily fracture. As the minutes passed, he seemed less and less sure what to do with his hands, which he finally laid half-clasped on the table in front of him, the tips of his long fingers touching, as if he was gently holding a thin glass ball the size of a navel orange between his palms.

At 2:33 PM, Judge Anderson arrived, and the formal hearing began. Making a plea of this sort is a highly ritualized affair in which the judge asks a series of questions, and the defendant replies briefly. For the next 30 plus minutes, Anderson performed his side of the ritual, making programmed inquiries that allowed his honor to determined that Baca was not presently drunk, or on drugs, or suffering from a mental illness, reacting to threats or coercion, or anything else that might keep him from understanding and freely making the decision at hand.

Judge Anderson explained that the plea would not be finalized until sentencing, which would take place a few months hence. Between then and now, Baca would meet with a representative from probation, who would then submit a report that recommended a sentence within the federal guidelines—specifically from 0 to 6 months in a federal prison– for the crime to which he was pleading. Once in receipt of the probation report, the prosecution would make its own recommendation that could be higher or lower than whatever probation suggested, but that—according to the terms of the plea deal—would remain within the 0-6 month parameter.

Only then would the judge make his decision as to what sentence he intended to impose.

But, Anderson said, leaning slightly forward for emphasis, according to the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, the court “is not bound by advisory guidelines,” but is able to impose a sentence that “could be greater or lessor than the guideline range,” up to a maximum of five years in prison, plus three years of post-prison oversight, and a cash fine of up to $250,000. Anderson said, in so many words, that the 0-6 sentence wasn’t a done deal, and that he would look at a multiplicity of factors before making his decision.

All the participants were aware, however, that according to the terms of the agreement signed Monday, if the judge’s sentence strayed from the 0-6 month guidelines, it would nullify the plea deal if either of the parties wished it.

And, in the course of the hearing, prosecutor Brandon Fox made it clear that if at any point in the process Baca was to bail from the deal, the government was fully prepared to proceed to a grand jury in order to indict the sheriff, and that the charges that came with an indictment—that the feds maintained they fully believed they could prove—would likely be more extensive than the single count to which he was now about to plead.

Toward the hearing’s end, Anderson recited some of the privileges Baca would lose, either temporarily or permanently, as a convicted felon: the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, the right to own, carry or use a firearm…and more.

In response to the ongoing questions and statements, Baca and his attorney occasionally conferred when the former sheriff looked unsure, but in the end Baca acknowledged that he understood all that had been said, and the decision he was making.

Finally Judge Anderson asked the main question: How do you plead…?

In return, Lee Baca recited the necessary words: Guilty, your honor.

Despite the dark storms of scandal unleashed by Baca and Tanaka in recent years, it was an oddly unsettling phrase to hear coming out of the former sheriff’s mouth.

A date of May 16 was set for the sentencing hearing at which point, if all went well, Baca’s plea would be finalized and a sentence imposed.

And that was that.


FACING THE CAMERAS

After the courtroom emptied, a mass of reporters, photographers and TV camera people waited on the east side of the federal courthouse for Baca, his wife, and his lawyer to emerge, along with a couple of supportive personal friends. Baca had planned to read a short statement and then leave while his lawyer stayed to answer reporters’ questions. But before an increasingly grim looking Baca could read his prepared words, reporters closed in and some began shouting agressive questions at him featuring words like “corruption” and “disgraced.”

Evidently the noisy questioners hoped to provoke a soundbite, but instead Baca’s face began to collapse, and he yanked himself away from press and lawyers and all but ran to a waiting car, his friends and wife racing beside him.

Once Baca was gone, attorney Michael Zweiback answered questions, as promised: Was he worried about his client’s safety? asked one reporter.

“I leave that to the Board of Federal Prisons,” Zweiback replied.

He and his co-counsel, Zweiback told reporters, were hoping to persuade the court that Baca “does not deserve prison time, that he is currently involved in many, many projects in the community that are doing a lot of good…”

ABC7′s Lisa Bartley asked Zweiback to “explain the difference” between his client and the “other members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department” who were sentenced to multiple years in prison, ostensibly for following the orders of the former sheriff and the former undersheriff.

“I’ll let the U.S. Attorney’s Office speak to that,” said Zweiback smoothly. “I’m only responsible for representing the interest of my client. And he’s accepted responsibility for [the things for which] he needs to accept responsibility.” (Zweiback is, by the way, a former assistant U.S. attorney.)

Baca’s lawyer also reiterated that if Judge Anderson decided to hand down a sentence that was longer than what is specified in the guidelines, “that would nullify the plea agreement,” and the parties would go back to square one, which likely meant proceeding to trial.

In addition, Zweiback noted that, , as part of the sentencing process, Baca would do what is known as a plea colloquy, a public statement “to explain his side and to express is remorse for what he’s done. I do expect him to do that,” said the attorney.

Finally Zweiback handed out copies of the one page “statement” Baca had originally intended to deliver himself, prior to the shouting and fleeing. It consisted of two sentences written in what looked like 25 pt type:

I made a mistake and accept being held accountable.

I will always love the men and women of the Sheriff Department and serve human life no matter where and who they are.

It was signed with a looping signature: Lee Baca Retired Sheriff.

Posted in Sheriff Lee Baca | 63 Comments »

Former Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca Pleads to Felony Charge That Would Likely Involve Time in Lock-Up

February 10th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


Early Wednesday morning the news began to leak that former Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca
had agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge of making false statement—or statements—to federal authorities when he was interviewed in 2013 about elements of the wide-ranging corruption and civil rights investigation into wrongdoing at the nation’s largest sheriff’s department, which Baca had run for fifteen years.

In the plea agreement signed on February 8, and filed in federal court Wednesday morning, Baca admitted that he lied to the FBI and members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office during an April 12, 2013 round of questioning. At that time, among other denials by Baca, the former sheriff falsely claimed ignorance of the fact that, in 2011, two LASD sergeants were going to approach FBI special agent, Leah Marx, and threaten her, hoping to get information about the feds’ rapidly expanding investigation into brutality by deputies in the LA County Jail.

In fact, Baca has now admitted, he gave instructions that the officers “should do everything but put handcuffs on her.” Her being Agent Marx.

Mr. Baca also denied participating in conversations about “keeping the FBI and inmate [ Anthony Brown, a federal informant] away from each other, according to the statement of facts in the plea agreement

According to federal officials, discussions with Baca’s attorney about a possible deal have been going on for the past few months while an investigation into Baca’s actions continued. The initial approach was made from Baca’s side.

The government has been investigating the sheriff for multiple years as part of a general investigation into corruption and wrongdoing inside the department he led, according to U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker.

“Today’s charge and plea agreement demonstrate that illegal behavior within the sheriff’s department went to the very top of the organization,” said Decker.

Throughout the investigation there were denials” of wrongdoing from Baca, she said.

“He had the opportunity to lead, but he did not lead.”

Baca is expected to enter his formal plea Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 PM in federal court.

More after the hearing.


Photo of Lee Baca by Saxon Brice

Posted in Sheriff Lee Baca | 33 Comments »

Judge Makes Clear That Former Sheriff Lee Baca Is on the Hook for Legal Damages, But Taxpayers Will Likely Pay

January 15th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


As most of you know, a month ago, on December 15, 2015, a federal jury found in favor of 8 working members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department who brought suit
in civil court against the County of Los Angeles in general, and former sheriff Lee Baca in particular for what they and their attorney described as career-damaging retaliation, which they said occurred after the eight plaintiffs publically endorsed former undersheriff Paul Tanaka in his 2013-2014 run for sheriff.

Those who brought the lawsuit were: Capt. Charles Antuna, Sgt. Casey Dowling, Cpt. Louis Duran, Cmdr. Kevin Hebert, Cpt. Robert Tubbs, Cmdr. David Waters, Lt. Robert Wheat, and Custody Assistant Rocio Martinez.

According to our sources, the plaintiff’s were originally hoping to collect upwards of a $1 million or more apiece—or $8-$16 million collectively. But while the jury found firmly in favor of the eight, plainly concluding that retaliation did indeed occur, they did not award big dollar amounts when it came to damage done to the plaintiffs. The cumulative cash amount awarded for all eight amounted to under $800,000—less than one tenth of what was desired. And nearly half of the total awards ($360,000) came in the form of punitive damages aimed directly at the former sheriff personally.

Yet, the awards were not trivial either. So one presumes the jury intended to make some sort of statement.

Near the end of last month, the intent of the jury’s verdict was further clarified by the United States District Judge Michael Fitzgerald when he delivered his post trial judgement (which you can find right here). In this more formal judgement it is even more evident that the jury’s findings were directed at Baca.

It is also interesting to note that the monetary awards not aimed at punishing the former sheriff, were nearly all for “non-economic damages”—in other words, pain and suffering. No damages whatsoever were awarded for loss of income—past, present or future—despite the plaintiffs’ earnest claims of income losses that ran, for each, into the single digit millions, all bolstered by the numbers floated by their hired gun expert witness.

Nevertheless, the jury didn’t appear to buy that the eight were all that hideously harmed, particularly not economically. But jurors did believe that Lee Baca had been deliberately retaliatory against every one of the eight for their perfectly lawful public support of Tanaka’s candidacy, and the final judgement reflects that belief.

(Judge Fitzgerald was, by the way, a very attentive jurist who did not seem to favor one side or the other, but who appeared mostly to want to see the facts of the matter—whatever they might be—elucidated as well as was legally possible during the course of the trial.)


OKAY, WHO PAYS?

So what does all this mean? Is the former sheriff going to be on the hook for some or all of the $800,000 tab?

Uh, well, no. Probably not.

A source with knowledge of the case told WLA that it is unlikely that Baca will pay a penny. “By statute the county must cover compensatory,” the source said, meaning the compensatory damages part of the judgment. Making Baca pay the punitive damages “is optional” the source added. But due to the fact that the county has always covered Baca’s tab before, they likely will now.

“The county,” of course, means LA County taxpayers.

And while we’re discussing this lawsuit, we should also note here that a great many department members we’ve spoken with—both working and retired—feel that several of the plaintiffs in the case have, in past years, been champion retaliators themselves.

But these last two issues were beyond the jurors’ knowledge and control. What was within the jurors’ control, however, they seemed to get remarkably right.

Here’s the complete rundown of who received what:

On each Plaintiff’s First Amendment retaliation claim, the jury returned a verdict in favor of each Plaintiff and against Defendant Leroy Baca, awarding each Plaintiff damages as follows:

1. Damages awarded Plaintiff David Waters:
Past and present non-economic damages: $80,000
Future non-economic damages: $3,000
Punitive damages: $45,000
TOTAL: $128,000

2. Damages awarded Plaintiff Rocio Martinez:
Past, present, and future medical damages: $3,000
Punitive damages: $45,000
TOTAL: $48,000

3. Damages awarded Plaintiff Kevin Hebert:
Past and present non-economic damages: $35,000
Future non-economic damages: $3,000
Punitive damages: $45,000
TOTAL: $83,000

4. Damages awarded Plaintiff Charles Antuna:
Past and present non-economic damages: $48,000
Future non-economic damages: $3,000
Punitive damages: $45,000
TOTAL: $96,000

5. Damages awarded Plaintiff Casey Dowling:
Past and present non-economic damages: $72,000
Future non-economic damages: $3,000
Punitive damages: $45,000
TOTAL: $120,000

6. Damages awarded Plaintiff Robert Wheat:
Past and present non-economic damages: $72,000
Future non-economic damages: $3,000
Punitive damages: $45,000
TOTAL: $120,000

7. Damages awarded Plaintiff Louis Duran:
Past and present non-economic damages: $72,000
Future non-economic damages: $3,000
Punitive damages: $45,000
TOTAL: $120,000

8. Damages awarded Plaintiff Robert Tubbs:
Past and present non-economic damages: $25,000
Future non-economic damages: $3,000
Punitive damages: $45,000
TOTAL: $73,000

Posted in Sheriff Lee Baca | 11 Comments »

Harm-Focused Policing, LAPD Training and Retraining, the Mayor of New Orleans, and Tom Carey’s Guilty Plea

August 20th, 2015 by Taylor Walker

WEIGHING THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF DIFFERENT CRIMES ON COMMUNITIES TO BETTER FOCUS POLICE ENERGY AND RESOURCES

In a paper published on Friday in the journal Ideas in American Policing, Temple University criminal justice professor Jerry Ratcliffe outlines the difference between a “crime and disorder” focused policing strategy and another method he calls “harm-focused policing,” which redirects police resources and strategies toward the detrimental effects of crime on a community

Targeting issues that affect poor minority communities, like substance abuse, emotional health, and gang recruitment would go beyond the symptoms to get at the “why” of the crimes.

Switching the focus would more accurately represent communities’ concerns, says Jerry Ratcliffe, a criminal justice professor at Temple University and the paper’s author, and would help to change the relationship between cops and poor minority communities: “Where police can often see only crime and disorder, community experiences are more nuanced and diverse.”

While it can be difficult to quantify harm, the paper says there are ways to identify places and people that are especially harmful to communities.

Here’s a clip from the paper:

The range of community anxieties is often heartbreaking, ranging from the day-to-day incivilities that sap community cohesion, to concerns about root causes of crime, drugs, speeding traffic, environmental conditions, community dissolution and the harms associated with gang recruitment of young children. It is not uncommon to hear concerns about the lack of police attention to a neighborhood in the same meeting as complaints about the detrimental impacts of excessive and unfocused police attention on the wrong people. While there are correlations between increased police activity and lower neighborhood violence (see for example Koper & Mayo-Wilson, 2006; Ratcliffe, Taniguchi, Groff, & Wood, 2011), the negative consequences of repeated police contacts are now being more widely understood.

The paper also says the controversial practice of “stop, question, and frisk” (or “stop and frisk”) should be included in the harm index calculations as something that can hurt police-community relations:

The crime reduction benefits of increased pedestrian investigations (sometimes referred to in general as ‘stop, question and frisk’ [SQF]) remain a matter of some dispute (Rosenfeld & Fornango, 2014), and the tactic itself remains highly controversial with the public concerned about both the disproportionate impact on minority communities and potential reduction in police legitimacy. Even Braga and Weisburd, two of the strongest advocates of hot spots policing, accept that ‘It seems likely that overly aggressive and indiscriminate police crackdowns would produce some undesirable effects’ (2010: 188).

Given the potential for harm stemming from unrestrained used of SQF, inclusion of a weighting for each pedestrian or vehicle investigative stop has a number of benefits. First, it acts as a constraint against unfocused and unrestricted use of SQF by over-eager police commanders desperate to reduce crime in a location. The right weighting3 would still sanction use of the tactic, but ideally encourage a focused and targeted application because each stop would count against the area’s harm index. In this way a calculation of cost-benefit ratio would determine if the anticipated crime and harm reduction benefits sufficiently offset any potential loss of police legitimacy and community support. Second, this would send a signal that the police are cognizant of the potential for pedestrian and vehicle investigative stops to impact police-community relations and that they are aware that some police tactics come with an associated cost. Third, having a price associated with investigative stops may generate improved data collection of stops, which will have a corollary benefit, allowing departments to better assess their vulnerability to accusations of racial profiling.


LAPD DEPUTY CHIEF WILLIAM MURPHY ON THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAINING, TRAINING, AND MORE TRAINING FOR OFFICERS

In an interview with the LA Times’ Patt Morrison, Deputy Chief William Murphy, who is the head of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Police Sciences and Training Bureau, talked about how much LAPD training has evolved from a decade ago, how the Sandra Bland tragedy might have turned out differently, and how LA officers are taught to conduct traffic stops and mental health crisis calls.

Here’s a clip (but do yourself a favor and read the whole thing):

What is the LAPD training for a traffic stop?

In the academy, before we teach anything, we ask, “Have you ever been stopped by the police?” Everybody’s hands go up. [They say] the officer was kind of rude. We say: “Remember that before we teach you how to do a traffic stop. What if it was your mother? Your sister? Is that how you’d want someone to treat them?”

In California, we teach an eight-step traffic stop. The first four are critical: The initial thing is the greeting — a smile, say, “Good morning, I’m Officer Bill Murphy of the LAPD.” When people ask for business cards, you give it to them — that’s our policy. When you do this [he points to his nameplate] and say, “This is me,” you’re just getting them mad.

Then you explain the reason for the stop. In some of these traffic stops that go south, they’ve left out some of these components. The goal of a traffic stop is to educate, not irritate. You pull somebody over for running a stop sign to have a conversation to change their behavior.

Watch the tapes and you notice officers — not from California — don’t ask [the driver], “Why would you do that?” I’ve had people tell me, “My wife’s at the hospital delivering my first baby” or “I just got fired today and my head’s not in the game.” You give them an opportunity to explain before you make a decision whether or not to write a ticket.

Then [as the last step], you say have a good day; you always end on a positive note.

The Sandra Bland traffic arrest apparently escalated when an officer got testy because she wouldn’t put out her cigarette; it ended with Bland allegedly hanging herself in a jail cell.

You have to think, is [the driver] a threat to you, or are you just irritated because they happen to be having a cigarette? If you think they’re really a threat, that’s a different situation. I’ve gotten pulled over, and as a police officer, my heart still races. [Bland was] probably just nervous, smoking her cigarette.

We teach don’t be the “contempt of cop” cop. Usually, you get contempt of cop when your emotions take over, when the goal becomes something other than educating, like, “You’re not respecting my authority.”

We’re lucky: About 98% of our police vehicles are two-person. If the [first officer] for whatever reason isn’t making that connection and it’s getting heated, we tell them to switch roles right away. Say, “Hey, partner, let me take this over,” as opposed to getting into a confrontation.

I was asked about the video of the Cincinnati incident [a campus police officer shot an unarmed man during a traffic stop; the officer has been indicted for murder]. You need to control your emotions and stress level so you don’t overreact. When you overreact, you can see a threat that’s really not there.


NEW ORLEANS’ MAYOR IS ON A CAMPAIGN AGAINST VIOLENCE IN POOR BLACK COMMUNITIES

The Altantic’s Jeffery Goldberg has a great longread about New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu who is on a crusade to cut down on the level of homicides in his city. Landrieu’s particular focus is on the “epidemic of young African American men killing young African American men.”

One of Mayor Landrieu’s innovative violence diversion programs, NOLA for Life, initiates “call-ins” where around 20 men between the ages of 16-24 who are likely to shoot or be shot, and who have had contact with the justice system, are called into court without explanation.

Landrieu addresses the gathered boys and young men, who are either doing a short stint in jail or are on probation, and introduces two groups of people who have come to speak with them and help them—on one side, representatives from every local and federal law enforcement agency, on the other, social workers and counselors ready to help the attendees and connect them with services and resources.

Landrieu tells the young men gathered in front of him, that if they leave the courthouse and make wrong choices they will have further contact with the law enforcement agencies in attendance, but if they choose correctly, Landrieu says, “I’ll make a commitment to you that you’re going to go to the front of the line: if you need a job, if you need mental-health, substance-abuse counseling, if you say you need something, the folks on this side of the room will listen to you, talk to you, help you.”

NOLA for Life also features mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and job training. And teams of counselors, including former gang members, are dispatched to ERs to convince family members of shooting victims not to seek revenge.

“i want people to tell me whether or not they think that the lives of poor young African American men that live in certain communities in every city—whether their lives matter…that’s all I want to know: that the answer to that is ‘yes’.”

Here’s a clip:

“It’s a roll of the dice. People get out of Central City, they do,” Landrieu told me recently. “But many don’t. If life had gone differently for Joseph Norfleet and James Darby, who knows? Joseph Norfleet could have been that 9-year-old victim. Maybe Joseph Norfleet would be dead and James Darby would be in prison today. We see this so often—today’s shooter is tomorrow’s victim.”

The prison [Angola], 130 miles from New Orleans, could legitimately be considered the city’s most distant neighborhood. Of the roughly 6,300 men currently imprisoned at Angola—three-quarters of them there for life, and nearly 80 percent of them African American—about 2,000 at any given moment are from New Orleans. Thousands of children in New Orleans—a city whose population today is roughly 380,000—have fathers who will reside until death in Angola.

“This place will bring you to your knees,” Landrieu said.

Why?

“What you’re going to see is a huge governing failure on the part of our society. This country has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country. That’s failure.”

Landrieu visits Angola on occasion to learn more about a crisis that has come to consume him. He decided, early in his first term, to devote the resources of his city to solving one of this country’s most diabolical challenges—the persistence of homicide in poor African American communities. The numbers are staggering. From 1980 to 2013, 262,000 black males were killed in America. By contrast, roughly 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam. In New Orleans, about 6,000 African American men have been murdered since 1980. The killers of these men were, in the vast majority of cases, other African American men. In New Orleans, 80 percent of murder victims are believed to have known their killer.

[SNIP]

As we drove to Angola, I asked Landrieu why he has made homicide—a seemingly ineradicable disease in a gun-saturated country whose popular culture glorifies violence—his chief priority.

“I didn’t grab this. This problem grabbed me,” he said. “I guess you could say I’m obsessed with it. I don’t understand why it’s okay in America—a country that’s supposed to be the greatest country in the world, a place with more wealth than anywhere else—for us to leave so many of our citizens basically dead. Why do we allow our citizens to kill each other as if it’s the cost of doing business? We have basically given up on our African American boys. I’d be a cold son of a bitch if I ignored it, if I just focused on the other side of town, or focused just on tourism.

“I’m absolutely certain we have the money and the capacity to solve this problem, but we do not have the will. This problem doesn’t touch enough Americans to rise to the level of a national crisis. But these are all our children. I’m embarrassed by it. How could this be normal?”


FORMER LASD CAPTAIN TOM CAREY’S OFFICIAL GUILTY PLEA, AND WHY FORMER SHERIFF LEE BACA SHOULD WORRY

On Wednesday, former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Captain William “Tom” Carey officially changed his plea to guilty in the obstruction of justice trial involving the hiding of a federal informant from the FBI.

Standing before US District Judge Percy Anderson, Carey pled guilty to one count of perjury. In exchange, three separate charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and another count of lying on the witness stand, are to be dismissed.

In return, Carey will have to fully cooperate with the feds and provide testimony in related trials, including that of his co-defendant, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, and that of former Sheriff Lee Baca, who has not been indicted, but may be federal prosecutors’ next target.

ABC7′s Miriam Hernandez and Lisa Bartley were there in court and have the story. Here are some clips:

Former Sheriff Leroy “Lee” Baca might be getting nervous right about now.

Retired Captain William “Tom” Carey, 57, officially changed his plea to guilty on Wednesday, becoming the highest-ranking Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department official to flip in the years-long federal investigation.

“Guilty,” Carey stated under oath as he stood before Judge Percy Anderson alongside his defense attorney Andrew Stolper.

Carey cut a deal with prosecutors that requires total cooperation with law enforcement as they forge ahead in their investigation of corruption and inmate abuse inside county jails, which are run by the LASD.

Speculation is growing that Baca, who abruptly resigned in January 2014, could be in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors.

“We’ve seen in the investigation of this case that the prosecution has been trying to go as high as they can, even to the sheriff himself,” said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor.

Carey’s co-defendant, former LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, goes on trial this November for his alleged role in the scheme to block the FBI investigation.

[SNIP]

Carey’s plea deal means that three felony counts — obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and one count of making false statements — will be dismissed.

Carey pleaded guilty to one count of making another false statement, which points to what prosecutors say was the true motivation for hiding Brown from the FBI.

At the trial of Deputy James Sexton in May 2014, Carey testified that there was no other reason to move Brown other than for his own safety.

Carey now admits that was a lie because he “knew that the deputies ordered to stand guard over Inmate AB during this time were there, at least in part, so that the FBI could not have access to Inmate AB unless there was an order from co-defendant Tanaka or another LASD executive that would have allowed access.”

Carey’s cooperation agreement means he is likely to testify against Tanaka at his upcoming trial, although defense attorneys are sure to attack Carey’s credibility now that he’s admitted to previously lying on the witness stand.

Posted in LAPD, LASD, law enforcement, Sheriff Lee Baca, Violence Prevention | 29 Comments »

Paul Tanaka’s Attorneys Ask Feds to Give Former Sheriff Lee Baca Immunity to Testify….& Execs Charged with Skimming $$ From Group Home for LA Foster Kids

August 17th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


As the ongoing drama of the obstruction of Justice indictments against former members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department continues,
the newest moment-of-interest is provided by the attorneys for former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, whose trial will commence this coming November.

Where we last left off was last week, when Tanaka’s co-indictee, former LASD Captain William “Tom” Carey took a plea deal—meaning, among other things, Mr. Carey will be a witness for the prosecution at Tanaka’s trial.

Clearly the former undersheriff could use a new witness of his own.

Voila! On Friday, Tanaka’s attorney, Dean Seward, filed a motion asking the judge to step in because the federal prosecutors have declined to grant former Sheriff Lee Baca immunity so that he may testify at Tanaka’s trial without taking the fifth, which Baca’s attorneys have consistently said to anyone who asks is exactly what their client will do, absent immunity.

This is the same answer Baca and company has given to other attorneys of other federal defendants who wanted the former sheriff to testify at their trials.

When prosecutors Brandon Fox and Lizabeth Rhodes have been asked if they will make the immunity deal, they’ve evidently answered with the rough legal equivalent of “Are you freaking kidding us?! No! Of course, not!”

So Seward has turned to a higher power—namely Judge Percy Anderson—in the hope he will intervene. Anderson, who seemed to be irritated with Tanaka’s antics on the stand as a witness in the previous obstruction trials, is not likely to catch this pre-trial Hail Mary pass now that Tanaka is a defendent.

Nevertheless the argument in the text of the motion, which will be heard at the end of this month, is fascinating. Here’s a clip:

…Moreover, the prior prosecution of LASD deputy sheriffs by these same prosecutors in this same courtroom would never had occurred but for the actions of then Sheriff Leroy Baca.

But the Court and jury will never hear from Mr. Baca unless this Court intervenes. That is not because his testimony is not relevant. That is not because his testimony is not exculpatory. That is only because the government refuses to bestow the same inoculation against criminal prosecution that it has used with such vengeance to enable it to charge Mr. Tanaka.

As a result of the government’s inaction and refusal to immunize an exculpatory witness, Mr. Tanaka will be prevented from presenting a valid and relevant defense unless this Court intervenes. In order to enable the defendant to present the complete events and not rely on the incomplete version from the prosecution, this Court should grant this motion and order the government to give Leroy Baca use immunity for any testimony he may provide at trial.

The government cannot, at this late hour, argue that it has not had the opportunity to investigate the matter and determine who should be prosecuted. Logically, there’s only one person for whom prosecution is still possible: Leroy Baca. The events in this case occurred nearly 4 years ago. Multiple grand juries have been convened. The government and F.B.I. have interviewed hundreds of witnesses. Hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, exhibits, and recordings have been generated. To say the government does not have enough before it to choose whether to prosecute Mr. Baca makes no sense. The motion herein is not meant to force the government’s hand. But it is meant to force them to let Mr. Baca have his day in Court: either as a witness in Mr. Tanaka’s trial or as a co- defendant in this prosecution.

The government, by refusing to charge Mr. Baca or grant him immunity to testify in Mr. Tanaka’s trial, is exercising its immunity power not for legitimate prosecutorial purposes but to deny Mr. Tanaka a level playing field of evidence.

In other words: either indict Lee Baca or give him to us as a witness!

There is, of course, lots more after that.

The motion will be heard on September 28. So stay tuned.


AND IN OTHER NEWS….EXECUTIVES AT YET ANOTHER LA COUNTY FOSTER CARE GROUP HOME ARE CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLEMENT

Just about a year ago, LA District attorney Jackie Lacey announced that a husband and wife team was being charged with embezzling more than $460,000 in taxpayer money from a nonprofit agency hired by Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family services to help some of the harder to place abused and neglected foster children.

The LA Times Garrett Therolf reported extensively on the story last year and has been on top of the issue since.

Now Therolf reports that a whole different set of executives for a different group home that cares for abused and neglected LA Youth have been charged by the DA with skimming and generally misusing money from the taxpayer funded enterprise the are supposed to be overseeing.

Lovely.

Here’s a clip:

As in the district attorney’s recent case against leaders of the Little People’s World group home, the alleged wrongdoing at Moore’s Cottage may have festered for years as county officials ignored signs of financial mismanagement, records show.

“It’s my fault that we didn’t know more about it,” said Philip Browning, director of the Department of Children and Family Services.

The activities alleged in the lawsuit occurred before 2013, and Browning said they might have been prevented by an improved monitoring system the department put in place about a year ago.

Prosecutors filed the criminal charges against Batchelor and Smith in April with no public announcement. The district attorney’s office declined to comment.

The two men, who pleaded not guilty and are free on bail, declined to respond to requests for comment.

They are accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from the charity and damaging or destroying property in excess of $65,000. The lawsuit also accuses them of filing false personal tax returns in 2011, 2012 and 2013 — the same period in which they failed to file tax forms for Moore’s Cottage. In total, Moore’s Cottage owed $460,000 in delinquent federal payroll taxes as of September 2013.

A court petition for a search warrant filed this year by the district attorney’s office says that “Batchelor had no intention of paying payroll taxes with the money he withdrew. His sole purpose was to split the withdrawn money with Smith for personal gain.”

Posted in LASD, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca, U.S. Attorney | 33 Comments »

Project Fatherhood on Fresh Air, Paul Tanaka’s Defense Move, Bails Lowered in SF, Mass Incarceration’s Slow Death

June 26th, 2015 by Taylor Walker

JORJA LEAP AND “BIG MIKE” SHARE STORIES ABOUT PROJECT FATHERHOOD ON NPR’S FRESH AIR

Filling in for NPR’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross, Dave Davies speaks with Jorja Leap and Mike Cummings about Project Fatherhood, the program through which men from the Jordan Downs housing project (and beyond), meet every week to teach each other, and younger men in the community, how to be fathers.

“Big Mike,” as he is known, tells the story of his journey from getting straight A’s in a private school and getting letters from universities to play football, to drug-dealing and incarceration, and finally to activism and Project Fatherhood.

Leap’s book, Project Fatherhood: A Story of Courage and Healing in One of America’s Toughest Communities (which we wrote about here), came out earlier this month, and she talks about how the program originally got fathers to attend the meetings, about disciplining children and child abuse, and some of the challenges these dads face as they try to improve their lives and their children’s lives.

Here are some highlights from Fresh Air‘s write-up of the interview:

DAVIES: So let’s talk about how this worked. There was an incentive to get people to come to these fatherhood sessions regularly. Who wants to explain how that developed?

CUMMINGS: Well, the incentive is for the fathers to come – actually, it’s a $25 gift card. But the incentive is given to the fathers for them to actually take their son out to either McDonald’s, Burger King or Subway or even to the ice cream parlor so the father would have some change in his pocket to be able to go out and spend the day, you know, at the ice cream parlor or get a hamburger or something and spend time with the kids. So that’s what the incentive was actually meant to be when we first started.

DAVIES: And if I read this right, you had to attend four sessions to get the card, the $25 gift card, right?

CUMMINGS: Yes.

DAVIES: So you wanted some consistency to it.

CUMMINGS: We wanted some consistency to it. They had to attend four of the Project Fatherhoods there to actually receive the card. What we wanted to do is to make sure that they could be consistent, to come if they wanted to use that change there to go out and be able to entertain their kid. It’s not much, but it’s something that they can do to be one-on-one with the kid.

LEAP: And I would add that initially those gift cards were the focus of a lot of interest and attention. But as the group became more and more important, the gift cards almost became incidental. They were part of the program but they – the focus of the men truly shifted.

DAVIES: Now, as you describe it in the book, you addressed some pretty sensitive topics about these men’s lives. One of them, for example, is when and whether it is acceptable to hit their kids. Jorja, you want to tell us some of what you heard from the men.

LEAP: Mike and I are looking at each other and nodding our heads and smiling because that was one of the sessions where I just got hung out to dry. And it was quite a discussion because all of the men began by saying, you know, my mama whooped me and I turned out OK. And there was sort of a moment where I said really because most of them had been incarcerated. Most of them had been involved in criminal activity at some time. And then there was this tremendous breakthrough when one of the men in the group talked about witnessing another child being beaten. And the child was beaten so brutally that he eventually died. And you literally could hear the sound of change happening in the room. And I don’t want to make it sound like it occurred literally overnight because we did a lot of arguing about this issue, but the men slowly changed. And one of them who was the most dug in about it, named Donald James, later came back and talked about not hitting his nephew who he took care of who he really did want to hit.

DAVIES: And, Jorja Leap, you know, you had this background in social science and this point of view about what’s healthy behavior based on research and data. And I’m interested in how you brought that to bear in the conversation. I mean, you know, you can sort of sense – one, you could imagine that here you are, this person with a lot of degrees, telling people in the neighborhood what’s right and they’re coming at you from their own experience.

LEAP: Well, and add on to that that I am mandated to report any instance of child abuse that I hear about; I’m a mandated reporter. So the men in the room also knew that legally I could get them into a lot of trouble, and they were very skittish about talking openly about this. What got to them was not saying it’s bad to hit your children. What got to them was when I talked to them about the statistics that overwhelmingly over 90 percent of the people on death row in the United States of America were victims of child abuse. And these are men that do not want their children to go to prison. They do not want their children to be part of the, you know, the cradle to prison pipeline. And when I said this kind of abuse teaches violence and it’s part of that cradle-to-prison pipeline, because of their love and concern for their children and their children’s futures, that’s how they began to hear the message. It’s not the message of discipline. You know, hitting your child is bad. The message was this is where it might lead.

Be sure to listen to the rest.


FOLLOW THE LEADER: PAUL TANAKA’S “PUBLIC AUTHORITY DEFENSE”

Former LA County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, indicted on obstruction of justice and other charges, has filed a motion saying he will use a “public authority defense.” Tanaka will assert that he was just following then-Sheriff Lee Baca’s orders to hide an FBI informant inmate from the feds.

Prosecutors have dismissed Tanaka’s move and asked the judge to block the public authority defense, arguing that no law enforcement agent or organization (aside from the feds) can authorize violations of federal law.

LASD-watchers wonder if this move is simply pro forma on the part of Tanaka and his attorneys, or if they believe it might be a workable defense, and if so, whether it will point a legal spotlight on Baca.

KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

“The defendant acted on behalf of order(s) issued by Sheriff Leroy Baca, who was Mr. Tanaka’s ranking superior officer,” the motion states. “Tanaka will assert the defense of actual or believed exercise of public authority.”

[SNIP]

Federal prosecutors are asking the judge to prohibit Tanaka from using a public authority defense.

The argument “fails as a matter of law because no agent of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, not even then-Sheriff Leroy Baca, may authorize an individual to commit a federal crime,” states a motion signed by Stephanie Yonekura, who is the acting United States Attorney in Los Angeles.

“Only a federal agent may authorize a violation of federal law,” the motion states.


SF JUDGES’ DECISION TO LOWER BAIL AMOUNTS TRIGGERS INTENSE DEBATE IN LEGAL CIRCLE

On Wednesday, San Francisco Superior Court judges lowered the county’s bail amounts after finding them to be significantly higher than those in surrounding counties, including Los Angeles.

SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who supports the judges’ decision, says it doesn’t make sense to have bails two or three times larger than in other counties.

Critics, however, say lowering bails will mean more pedophiles and violent offenders will be able to post bail, which will lead to higher crime rates. Further, critics, argue that there is no need to change the bail schedule if judges have discretion over bail amounts anyway. For example, judges also have the ability to declare a high-risk rapist a “no-bail” candidate.

As the judges reexamine the bail schedule every year, they will look closely at how (and whether) the crime rates change over the next year.

In WLA’s most recent bail-related post, we pointed to an excellent John Oliver segment on the horrors of the bail system, which disproportionately affects the poor.

The SF Chronicle’s CW Nevius has more on the complex issue. Here’s a clip:

Kevin Ryan, who was the Superior Court’s presiding judge in 1999, says the higher bails were a result of a controversy in the late ’90s, when San Francisco had the lowest bail amounts in the Bay Area. At the time it was suggested that drug dealers, for example, were more likely to sell in San Francisco because it was easier to make bail.

[SNIP]

“It was apparent that the bail schedule here was substantially lower,” Ryan said. “We were experiencing a lot of commuter crime. Say bail (for some felonies) was $15,000 in Alameda and $5,000 here. It was apparent to the judges and law enforcement that we were, in a sense, encouraging people to come to San Francisco and commit crimes.”

With that in mind, and after some contentious city hearings, bail amounts were raised. (It should be noted, however, that higher bails haven’t stopped “commuter crime.” Drug dealers still come to the city from other counties.)

Now there is an effort to bring at least some bail amounts into compliance with nearby counties. Public Defender Jeff Adachi is actively supporting the changes.

“We’ve been complaining for years that the bails are sky-high in San Francisco compared to other counties,” Adachi said. “It’s one reason why the bail laws need to be reformed. It makes no sense that in San Francisco we’ve got bails that are double and triple bails in other counties.”


REASONS FOR STALLED INCARCERATION REDUCTION IN THE US

Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson takes a look at reasons why, despite considerable bipartisan efforts, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of mass incarceration reduction happening on the national (and even state) level. Here’s how it opens:

In this era of hyperpartisanship, the liberal-libertarian convergence on criminal-justice reform is, frankly, astonishing. Everyone from the Koch brothers to George Soros, from Tea Party Texan Sen. Ted Cruz to Democrat Hillary Clinton are singing from the same hymnal: “Today, far too many young men — and in particular African-American young men . . . find themselves subject to sentences of many decades for relatively minor, nonviolent drug infractions,” Cruz told reporters in February, before implausibly invoking French literature. “We should not live in a world of Les Misérables, where a young man finds his entire future taken away by excessive mandatory minimums.” In one of her first major policy speeches of the 2016 campaign, Clinton decried “inequities” in our system that undermine American ideals of justice and declared, “It is time to end the era of mass incarceration.”

But as unusual as the setup is, the punchline, in Washington, remains the same. Outside of limited executive actions by the Obama administration, durable reform is stymied. Entrenched interests from prosecutors to private prisons remain a roadblock to change. Meaningful bills are tied up by law-and-order ideologues like Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, the 81-year-old who brands his adversaries as belonging to “the leniency industrial complex.”

Progress in the states, meanwhile, is modest at best. “Nobody’s trying to hit home runs,” admits Grover Norquist, the GOP’s anti-tax czar and a leading conservative advocate for reform. “This is all about singles and not yet any doubles.”

Posted in families, Gangs, LASD, Paul Tanaka, Public Defender, Sheriff Lee Baca, War on Drugs | 6 Comments »

WitnessLA Story Wins New Award for Reporting on Baca, Tanaka & the LASD

June 3rd, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


The City and Regional Magazine Association, sponsored by the Missouri School of Journalism, gave out its journalism awards on Monday night.
We learned in real time that a story I’d written had won first place in the reporting category, because people at the CRMA awards dinner in Texas were tweeting the names of the winners as they were announced. Mary Melton, Editor of LA mag, was one of the happy tweeters.

The winning story ran in Los Angeles Magazine in March 2014, but much of it was based on reporting originally done for WitnessLA when we were covering the Los Angeles Shreriff’s Department the most intensely. The material was compressed and rewritten into the longread story you can read here at Los Angeles Magazine. It is called Downfall

Posted in LASD, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca, writers and writing | 21 Comments »

WitnessLA on KPFK’s Deadline LA Talking About the LA County Sheriff’s Department, Subpoena Power & Indicting Paul Tanaka…(& Also on KCRW’s Press Play)

May 26th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon



WITNESSLA ON DEADLINE LA WITH BARBARA OSBORN AND HOWARD BLUME TALKING ABOUT LASD INDICTMENTS AND MORE

On Memorial Day I was on KPFK’s Deadline LA with hosts, Barbara Osborn and Howard Blume, discussing issues concerning the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, including the significance of the recent indictments of former undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former LASD captain Tom Carey. We also talked about the proposed civilian oversight commission for the LASD and whether or not that commission should have subpoena power.

Last, we touched on the recent report showing crime in California has gone down not up since realignment began in October 2011.

Here’s a link to the podcast. (Scroll down through the archives until you see DEADLINE LA and you’ll find it.)


AND…EARLIER WITNESSLA WAS ON KCRW’S PRESS PLAY WITH MADELEINE BRAND TALKING ABOUT WHY PAUL TANAKA WAS INDICTED AND WHETHER WE’LL SEE A FUTURE INDICTMENT FOR LEE BACA

On the day that the indictments were unsealed charging Tanaka and Carey with obstruction of justice, I was on KCRW’s Press Play, where I discussed with host Madeleine Brand the significance of the indictment, and whether or not these new charges meant that there was a possibility that former sheriff Lee Baca—who, for a host of reasons, has been believed by many to be essentially unindictable—might now be in the U.S. Attorney’s sights for future charges.

We thought you might enjoy listening to the conversation.

Here’s the link.

Posted in Bill Bratton, FBI, Jim McDonnell, LASD, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca, U.S. Attorney | 8 Comments »

OPERATION PANDORA’S BOX FINALLY GOES UP THE LADDER: The Day That Paul Tanaka and Tom Carey of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Were Federally Indicted

May 16th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


“The allegations in the indictment include cover-ups, diversionary tactics, retribution and a culture generally reserved for Hollywood scripts.”

- David Bowdich, Assistant Director in Charge, LA offices of the FBI



THE ARRAIGNMENT

On Thursday, May 14, the day it actually happened, the mood among even the observers was of an almost theatrical unreality.

For weeks sources had dropped hints that former Los Angeles County undersheriff Paul Tanaka and, with him, former LASD captain William “Tom” Carey, were going to be federally indicted for obstruction of justice—and soon. But who knew? Eight months ago several sources close to the U.S. Attorney’s office said that a Tanaka indictment simply was not going to happen.

Carey, maybe, but not the former undersheriff. He was too wily, too untouchable.

Yet seven lower-ranking members of the department had been charged, convicted and handed prison terms for charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Specifically, according to government prosecutors, the seven deliberately got in the way of an FBI investigation into brutality and corruption in the LA County jail system. They reportedly did so by hiding a jail inmate turned confidential informant from his FBI handlers, falsely threatening an FBI agent with arrest, and trying to persuade potential witnesses to wrongdoing in the jails not to cooperate with the feds. These actions and others, which came to be known unofficially as Operation Pandora’s Box, were ordered, according to all credible accounts, by Tanaka, and to a much lesser degree, Carey. So were the feds really going to let the underlings take the whole big, bad hit, while the shot-calling guys at the top walked away unscathed?

As it turns out, the answer to that question is: no.

Both Paul Tanaka and Tom Carey learned for certain late Wednesday afternoon through their attorneys that a grand jury had indeed handed down indictments . In reality, however, both the indictees and the lawyers had all but known for weeks. And then there were subtle hints that went out to both the Carey and Tanaka camps that planning a vacation in May would likely be….unwise.

Paul Tanaka is, of course, the former number two of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and, at one time, the man who most insiders believed was all but guaranteed the top job after then-sheriff Lee Baca stepped down. But that was before a string of departmental scandals became public, before Baca “finessed” (his word) his once blindly trusted second in command into early retirement, before Tanaka hit back with verbal stiletto strikes delivered via the press, and before Baca resigned under still ambiguous circumstances on January 7, 2014.

Prior all that, Tanaka was Baca’s anointed successor, the crown prince, the guy whom nearly everyone in and around the department—everyone save Baca himself—believed truly ran the show. It was Tanaka who reportedly micro-managed nearly all important promotions, civil service rules be damned. He was also the person who could and would tank your career if you crossed him. He had to put his “people.” in place, Tanaka once confided in former LASD Commander Robert Olmsted. Because, he said, after Baca, he was going to be sheriff for the next 16 years.

Plus he’s the three term mayor of the city of Gardena.

Instead, at around 6:30 am on Thursday, Tanaka self-surrendered to federal agents at the FBI head quarters building in Westwood. Tom Carey too self-surrendered at around the same hour. Later that day, both men were led, in handcuffs, to holding cells inside the Edward Roybal federal building. Then at approximately 3:05 p.m. Tanaka was arraigned on 5 counts of obstruction of justice. Carey was arraigned right afterward. Tanaka wore a baby blue shirt, no tie, and sport coat, for the arraignment. Carey wore a bright white, long-sleeved Oxford shirt that looked very J. Crew-ish, no jacket. Neither were handcuffed anymore.

Both men were granted bail. Tanaka’s bail was set at $50,000, to be secured by a condo in Diamond Bar that is in his wife’s name. Carey’s bail was $100,000 but it was unsecured by either property or other assets. During the bond discussion, Judge Victor B. Kenton, the jurist presiding over the arraignment, wondered to Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox why Tanaka needed to be a bond at all—before acceding to the government’s wishes with some reluctance. (Since we’ve seen people charged with a couple of hand-to-hand sales of dime bags of meth slammed with a $100,000 in bail, no kidding, we wondered about his honor’s thinking, but that’s a conversation for another day.)

As is customary, both men were required to surrender their passports and firearms. (Carey didn’t have a passport, and Tanaka’s was out of date.) There was a small kerfuffle over the fact that Tanaka’s wife is an LASD detective thus legitimately needs her gun. Carey’s son, who lives in his father’s household, is also a sworn member of the sheriff’s department, so needs his gun as well. With a bit of back and forth, everyone settled on the notion of acquiring new lock boxes forthwith for the weapons of the spouses and offspring.

A joint trial for the two “co-conspirators” was set for July 7 in the courtroom of Judge S.James Otero—although absolutely no one involved thinks the trial will commence anywhere near that soon. Moreover, sources rate the chances at approximately 80 percent that Judge Percy Anderson will elect to snatch this juicy trial for himself, thereby moving Otero out. Anderson, those following closely will remember, presided over both of the trials of James Sexton (whom it took two trials to convict), and the trial the other six former department members who, along with Sexton, were convicted of obstruction of justice concerning the hiding of federal informant Anthony Brown and other actions designed to thwart the FBI’s investigation into chronic corruption and brutality in the Los Angeles County jail system.

UPDATE: Judge Percy Anderson did indeed manage to snatch the Tanaka-Carey case. But there are still no new trial dates.

Both men were released on bond at around 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. They left the building with their lawyers, looking grim and rattled. Tanaka also had his wife beside him, a pretty woman who, on this particular afternoon, looked like she’d been through one hell of a 24 hours.


THE PRESS CONFERENCE

The news that two of the guys near the top of the LASD’s hierarchy were facing federal indictments was officially announced at Thursday’s 9 a.m. press conference where Acting United States Attorney Stephanie Yonekura laid out the charges:

Tanaka was charged with obstructing a federal investigation for allegedly “directing efforts to quash a federal investigation into corruption and civil right violations by sheriff’s deputies” in two of the county’s jail facilities, Men’s Central Jail, and Twin Towers, she said.

Tom Carey, the former head of ICIB-–the LASD’s unit that oversees criminal investigations within the department—was indicted along with Tanaka for “participating in a broad conspiracy to obstruct the investigation.” In addition, Carey was charged with two counts of “making false declarations” (basically perjury) for things he said in last year’s trials of former deputy James Sexton and six former members of the department, including two lieutenants, two sergeants, and two more deputies.

As she spoke to the hyped-up crowd of reporters, Yonekura used unusually descriptive language to describe the context in which the obstruction of charges against the two men were filed, particularly concerning Tanaka, whom she said (allegedly) didn’t merely obstruct justice regarding the Anthony Brown matter, but “had a large role in institutionalizing certain illegal behavior within the Sheriff’s Department” as a whole.

David Bowdich, the new the Assistant Director in Charge for the LA offices of the FBI, went further when he took the podium after Yonekura. “The allegations in the indictment include cover-ups, diversionary tactics, retribution and a culture generally reserved for Hollywood scripts.”

As mentioned above, the charges against Carey and Tanaka are similar to the obstruction of justice charges levied against the seven former department members convicted last summer and fall (and whose cases are being heard on appeal by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, this coming fall). Except, of course, Tanaka’s and Carey’s roles were supervisory in nature. In other words, they were the ones who allegedly gave the orders that led to the obstruction charges—and the convictions—of seven department members, not the ones who mostly carried out what higher-ups told them to do.


THE INDICTMENT

The joint indictment of Paul Tanaka and Tom Carey is a 25-page document that makes for interesting reading.

The first nine pages cover what are called Introductory Allegations. These are the sort of back story that puts the rest of the legal tale—namely the various “counts” that comprise the charges—into a larger narrative context. On page three, for example, the document states that:

“Defendants TANAKA and CAREY were well aware of allegations of rampant abuse of inmates at MCJ and TTCF [Twin Towers] and of allegations of insufficient internal investigations and enforcement of deputy misconduct by the LASD.”

It then goes on for the next two or three pages to give a list of examples of how Tanaka and, in some instances, Carey, ignored reports of deputy abuse of inmates when they were brought to them by such varied sources as a jail chaplain, an ACLU monitor, an LASD deputy, a lieutenant, a commander, and more.

The indictment also describes how Tanaka, in particular, allegedly seemed to foster misbehavior—as with his infamous “work the gray” speeches, or his reported 2007 threat to “put a case” on captains “who were putting the most cases on deputies,” and so on.

The remaining pages outline the “counts,” which basically have to do with ordering and/or overseeing the alleged hiding of inmate/informant Anthony Brown from the feds, surveilling and threatening FBI special agent Leah Marx, and attempting to threaten and cajole potential deputy witnesses from talking to the FBI—plus other related actions.

A careful reading of 25-pages is also intriguing in that it suggests, among other things, a list of possible witnesses that the feds could call at trial. (It most cases, the individuals mentioned in the indictment are not named, but comparing the anecdotal material in the document with, say, accounts of the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence hearings, and WLA’s own coverage of the LASD over the last few years, may offer relevant clues.)

In response to the indictment, both in a written statement and in conversation outside the courtroom, Tanaka’s two attorneys said that the charges against their client were “baseless,” and they were confident he would be exonerated of any wrongdoing.

“We’re not going to roll over, we’re going to fight it.”

If convicted of all the charges, Tanaka could get fifteen years in a federal prison. Carey, with his extra two counts, could do 25. Yet, judging by the sentences handed down to the other seven department members last year, where the longest term ordered was 41 months, should Tanaka and Carey be found guilty, their sentences too would likely be far shorter than the maximum.


AND WHAT ABOUT BACA?

At Thursday’s press conference, a good number of the questions asked by reporters weren’t about the recently indicted Tanaka and Carey, but about the man who most conspicuously was not indicted—namely former sheriff Lee Baca. He was, after all, present at many of the meetings laid out in the charges. And in several instances he was reportedly the guy who called the meetings.

Acting US Attorney Yonekura declined to say whether or not Baca was or was not the focus of any ongoing investigation. She mostly answered the blizzard of questions by stating that “Mr. Baca is not charged at this time,” and “We will continue to look at any evidence that comes to us.” As to how they could indict the number two guy, without indicting the number one guy, she said, “We’ve charged the cases we feel we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Meanwhile, back among the non-indicted working department members, once the news broke about Tanaka and Carey, Sheriff Jim McDonnell sent out this message to the troops:

Today, the Department of Justice announced the indictments of former Sheriff’s employees Paul Tanaka and William Carey. The last several years have been hard on everyone. The indictments are part of a process that will run its course. During this time it is important for us to focus on our mission and look toward the future in demonstrating what the LASD is all about.

The US Attorney’s announcement is by no means a reflection on the tremendous work that you consistently do and the commitment that each of you provide to make a difference in the communities that we serve. The Sheriff’s Department is a national leader in law enforcement, an agency second to none.

I look forward to the future and continuing to work with you in moving the Department forward, not only in leadership, but in the eyes of the public.

Posted in FBI, jail, Jim McDonnell, LA County Jail, LASD, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca, U.S. Attorney | 83 Comments »

Indictments of Former Top LASD Officials Paul Tanaka & Tom Carey to be Announced Thursday Morning

May 14th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


The indictment of Paul Tanaka, the former undersheriff of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department,
and the man that many considered the shadow sheriff during the last years of Lee Baca’s time in office, will be announced at a 9 a.m. press conference Thursday at the federal building, according to sources. Former LASD Captain Tom Carey will also reportedly be indicted and is expected to self-surrender Thursday morning.

Although the FBI has reportedly been investigating Tanaka on a number of fronts over the last couple of years, Thursday’s unsealed indictment is expected to pertain to an elaborate scheme of hiding of FBI informant Anthony Brown from his federal handlers, and related actions—a scheme that has already resulted in convictions of seven former department members for charges of obstruction of justice.

Tanaka and Carey testified at both of the trials that resulted in the seven previous obstruction convictions (all of which are being appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, with hearings to take place next fall). Although, on the stand, Tanaka in particular disavowed specific knowledge and oversight of the hiding of Brown. Yet the testimony of others made it hard to see him as the distant supervisor who never asked his underlings about details, whom he attempted to portray himself to be. Carey too, as the head of ICIB, the department’s unit for investigating internal criminal matters, appeared to be assigning many of the components of what came to be unofficially called Operation Pandora’s Box.

Both men admitted on the stand at the earlier trials that they knew they were the “objects” of a federal criminal investigation.

More after the press conference.

Posted in FBI, LASD, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca, U.S. Attorney | 120 Comments »

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