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PANDORA’S BOX: Sexton Trial Day 3: Lee Baca Personally Signed Off on Massive Overtime Hours for Deputies Hiding Brown

May 16th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


Among the biggest revelations of Thursday,
the third day of trial for LA County sheriff’s deputy James Sexton, was a document showing that former sheriff Lee Baca personally approved of the extensive and costly overtime required to pull off the elaborate scheme of hiding FBI informant Anthony Brown from his federal handlers.

Baca’s name was one of three approvals necessary for the overtime—two to pre-approve, one to sign off that the work had been completed.

The other pre-approval name was Lt. Greg Thompson, then Sexton’s direct supervisor, now retired and, along with Sexton, one of seven charged with obstruction of justice for their respective parts in the Anthony Brown affair.

The significance of Baca’s name on the overtime docs was not, of course, the approval of the overtime itself, but as an indication that Baca was in a position of some kind of oversight.


CONCERNED ABOUT THREATS TO THE DEFENDANT, FBI GIVES SEXTON A CELL PHONE

It was yet another day when indicted defendant James Sexton’s name was barely mentioned during the prosecution’s questioning of its various witnesses.

But when Sexton’s name finally did come up it was in a surprising context.

According to FBI special agent Leah Marx, when the FBI set up the first meeting with Sexton that would result in 37 different contacts by phone and in person, he had been already been talking for a while to another LA special agent named Patrick Hampel, whom he considered a friend.

Marx said she passed a message to Sexton through Hampel, that “there were credible threats against him and his life might be in danger.”

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…

(WitnessLA reported more on the email from Hampel earlier this year.)

After that, according to Marx, she and her colleagues communicated on a regular basis with Sexton either by phone or in person for the next two years.

In order to make communication with the FBI easier and safer for Sexton, given the possible threats, Marx and her team gave him a phone he could use to call the feds.

In return, Sexton gave Marx’s team information and documents.


On the topic of phones, much of Thursday’s testimony came from special agent Marx who was questioned particularly closely by Sexton’s attorney, former U.S. Attorney Tom O’Brien. who challenged the wisdom of the FBI’s use of inmate Brown as an informant. O’Brien pointed out that Brown was a convicted armed robber notorious for his embroidering of the truth, and had just been sentenced to 423 years in prison.

O’Brien also questioned the ethics of smuggling a contraband telephone into a custody facility.

KPCC’s Rina Palta was at court Thursday and has focused her report on the matter of the cell phone. Here’s a clip:

FBI Special Agent Leah Marx told the jury that Brown gave information on “more than” 50 use-of-force incidents before being discovered by sheriff’s deputies working the jails.

“He provided a significant amount of information on deputies,” Marx said.

Defense attorney Tom O’Brien, however, put a less flattering pall on the relationship, pointing to the $1,500 in phone cards and toiletry money deposited into Brown’s account by the FBI over the years. O’Brien also noted Brown’s dozen or so felony convictions that have landed him a sentence of more than 400 years in state prison.

Particularly, O’Brien focused on an FBI sting in which agents smuggled a cell phone with video and photo capability to Brown through an allegedly corrupt deputy sheriff who was later charged for smuggling contraband in an unrelated case.

“The FBI has published reports on the dangers of cell phones behind bars,” O’Brien said, even as agents provided one for Brown. The dangers include making it possible for inmates to order crimes on the outside and coordinating unrest in the jails, O’Brien said.

Marx said the FBI monitored any calls or texts sent via the phone and had the option to cancel service at any time.

Under questioning, Marx also told the jury the FBI had unsuccessfully attempted to outfit Brown with prescription glasses and a cross equipped with hidden cameras to record inmate beatings.

ABC-7 also has a report on the testimony of special agent Marx.

The trial continues on Friday.

Posted in Courts, FBI, jail, LA County Jail, LASD, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca | 14 Comments »

14 Responses

  1. Eyeswideopen Says:

    Finally, someone stood up and said “NO,” and it was a records clerk, a member of the professional staff who are sometimes dismissed and disrespected by sworn personnel, how ironic. If only 1 sworn individual had said no to “Pandora’s Box,” this whole mess with Brown would not have happened.

  2. Justwaiting Says:

    Eyeswideopen – couldn’t agree with you more, but it was not a clerk / professional staff… It was a deputy….

  3. Same dance different tune Says:

    It was a clerk from what I understand and her professional staff supervisor backed her when they went over her head to him. To me this shows what pressure sworn staff are put under to do what they are told in fear of career retaliation.

  4. Sachamoe Says:

    “Do you really want to say ‘No’ to Paul Tanaka?” LOL, that is a statement that will live in infamy. The arrogance of that question about says it all. LOL. Goodnight Gladys. LOL.

  5. Boomer Fan Says:

    This is an all call for Boomer and the rest of us Tanaka supporters to pack that federal courtroom when he is called to testify like we did at the CCJV and debates. Even if it’s just to watch him sweat, squirm, and stutter his way through as he pleads the 5th. Uniform of the day? Definitely the Tanaka t-shirts.

  6. The Past Says:

    After reading the channel 7recap of Paul Tanaka’s testimony, which I assume is a reasonable representation, I think we now have a new meaning for the word cavalier. The thought that he & Lee Baca are walking freely about, let’s not dare think about Tanaka running for a Sheriff, while seven of their staff have been indicted is beyond my ability to reason.
    I’m too far from LA for you to see but I’m a one person riot. Send a couple of Super Platoons with lots of CS gas. Good God Damn how is this possible?

  7. Sheruff Fanaka Says:

    The table has turned….

  8. Finally Says:

    The arrogance and cockyness of LASD will cost them their Ass. Look what happened when the FBI Agent was harrased. Ask Sgt. Craig & Sgt.Long about that one.The Sheriff’s Department is looking pretty bad when their leaders (Former) are put on the witness stand and held to answer. Finally someone has put LASD “In Check”. The story has consistently been told here in the “Wild Wild West” about how crooked and corrupt the Midwest & East coast cops are……Well now,LASD Leaders have shown their true colors. One can never blame “any organization itself” as Bad, Only the bad leaders and bad people in that organization. You can a only live on “past reputation” for so long. Recruitment for the Sheriff’s Department should cease until some type of decree is established. Would you really want “anyone” whom you truly care about to join this department? Low level usually follow the lead of their Departments. Police unions are not as independent as they should be, in comparison. Look at “Pandora’s Box” …..No mention or sight of ALADS. One would have to wonder if it’s because of “alignment or sleeping with the enemy” Both of these appear to be on the verge of “Federal Consent Decree and De certification.

  9. guy montag Says:

    This is about public trust. It has been forfeited by some in LASD. “Befehl ist Befehl”, aka the Nuremberg Defense,”I was only following Orders” was dispatched with long ago. The top leadership and the newest Deputy are responsible for their actions. There is greater shame and consequence for those in positions of authority.

  10. Time to Clean House Says:

    I find it interesting how the clerk’s testimony   will play to the jury.  Most of the public doesn’t  know the difference between professional staff and sworn staff. They see us as all employees of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. You  have a clerk that refused to break  rules  and a Deputy who did. I can see the U.S.  Assistant Attorney grilling Sexton on the stand now. If Mr. Baca and Tanaka told you to jump off a bridge would you do that too  sir? Did you consult your father for guidance,  who has a long history in law enforcement? 

     Let’s hope that the real threat of retaliation young deputies  face is brought out. Just the other day a Deputy trainee, not even a year out of the academy,  got into hot water by following the behavior of a boneheaded deputy. The second  deputy  has been out of the academy a little over two years and is the trainees t.o. When  the trainee was asked why he engaged in behavior he knew was wrong, his response was fear of retaliation from other deputies. The only people who should be on trial are Baca and Tanaka. Whoever becomes Sheriff is   going to have years of work ahead of them to clean up this mess. 

  11. PH1 Actual Says:

    #9 I agree that the Nuremberg Defense was ridiculous; however, lets not compare The Holocaust to Pandora’s Box. The only injury in Pandora’s Box was the FBI’s ego and they have responded in kind by taking “contempt of cop” to a whole new level.

    #10 She was a Deputy Sheriff Generalist who worked in the Head Clerk’s office. Regardless of her job title, I respect her fortitude and ability to stand up for what she thought was right.

    With all of the contempt I have for the US Attorney’s Office and FBI, I have to respect the fact their bosses backed the play of a one year veteran. The top two in LASD at the time wouldn’t even back their own play. If they had at the very least, the correct people would be defendants in this sham of a trial.

  12. Model 60 Says:

    The timing of this trial and the upcoming election is no “co-inky-dink”. Many are at the table, few have stepped up to the plate.

  13. Make Him Stop Says:

    Paul Tanaka continues to change his story based in the audience. I actually feel a bit sorry for his supporters as they have been bamboozled into thinking he is a leader. He is ANYthing but a leader. He is one self centered “little man” with two small hands, two small feet, and absolutely no ethical bone in his wee body. May he rot in federal prison.

  14. Running Cloud Says:

    Now that we know that Tanaka is unofficially out….. (seriously folks), Do we charge ALADS and POPA to place our means and our green on Olmsted. I believe so. The ultimate combination would be McDonnell and Olmsted. When it comes to Olmsted and Tanaka, it appears as though the Tortoise is poised to beat the Hare.

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