Curing Toxic Culture LASD

LA Sheriff’s Deputy Gets $1.275 Million in Whistleblower Settlement Involving Paul Tanaka & Expanding Jail Sentences

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

Refusing Paul Tanaka & the Weird Case of the Magically Lengthening Jail Sentences

On Tuesday, May 2, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to award a $1.275 million settlement to former LA County sheriff’s deputy Tara Jan Adams.

Adams was reportedly retaliated against and “refused promotional opportunities” after she testified as a whistleblower against members of LASD in the obstruction of justice trials that would eventually result in federal convictions for ten department members, including the once powerful former undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, and four-term former sheriff Lee Baca, who will be sentenced on May 12.

Yet, according to her civil complaint originally filed in June 2015, Adams also became a whistle blower when she noticed that someone in the department was unaccountably adding months of time on to certain inmates’ jail sentences.

We’ll get back to the matter of the magically lengthening jail sentences in a minute.

But first there was the incident that caused Adams to be known as the person who defied Paul Tanaka, which in turn reportedly transformed her into a pariah at work, and ultimately caused the end of her career at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

At the time, Adams was working in the LA County jail system’s Inmate Reception Center or IRC, which is the part of the jail responsible for admitting and releasing inmates. Adams joined the department in March 2007, and was transferred to IRC after her stint at the academy where she had reportedly done well enough that, in 2009, she was promoted to the position of watch deputy in IRC.

“She was one of the brightest, most talented deputies I worked with,” said Katherine Voyer, a former LASD lieutenant who was a supervisor at IRC during much of the time when Adams worked there. “Very resourceful, very hard working, very law abiding, and ethical. Someone you could really count on to solve a problem, and an independent thinker.”

On August 25, 2011, however, Adams was approached by three deputies working in the jails. Her direct supervisor at the time, Lt. Libertone, reportedly accompanied them.

The deputes asked Adams to access the jail database and make it appear that an inmate named Anthony Brown had been released from Men’s Central Jail, so they could then rebook him under a fake name, at another location in the jail system.

(Adams could access the database in a way that they could not.)


The Deputy Who Refused Paul Tanaka

Brown, who had been sentenced to over 400 years in prison for several bank robberies, was also an FBI informant who had participated in an undercover federal investigation into brutality and corruption by deputies in the county’s jail system. With Brown’s help, the FBI snared a jail deputy in a scheme to smuggle in a contraband phone for Brown, in return for a cash bribe. The sting would later result in a criminal conviction.

But, in late August 2011, after higher ups in the department learned of Brown’s existence as a federal informant, through the discovery of his contraband cell phone, they cooked up a plan to hide Brown from his FBI handlers.

This was where Adams was supposed to come in.

To successfully hide Brown, the deputies charged with the hiding needed to make him vanish from the jail database and, then rebook him in the jail data system as a completely new person, with a new name, new charges, and new physical characteristics.

For this faux “releasing” and “rebooking” they needed Adams’ help.

When Adams checked the system, she saw Brown’s lengthy sentence, and the fact that he was due to be transferred to state prison, so she reportedly said, no, that she could not manipulate the database to make it appear that Brown had been released without the appropriate paperwork, namely a court order.

According to Adams’ civil complaint, filed in June 2015—and her later testimony at multiple federal trials—the group of deputies grew angry and said that they were acting on the orders of Paul Tanaka, who was then the undersheriff.

Fine, she said, then she would need something in writing from the undersheriff.

“Do you really want to tell Paul Tanaka, no?” Adams said that one furious deputy asked her.

Adams stood her ground. She needed paperwork or she wasn’t going to release this inmate who was not supposed to be released.

The deputies refused, and found a non-sworn employee working IRC who also had access to the system, and successfully pushed him to do what Adams had declined to do. According to Adams, at some point during the encounter, one of the deputies took Brown’s file, which was also against the rules.

All through the incident, according to Adams, her supervisor, Lt. Libertone, stood by saying little.

After the Anthony Brown business, Adams suddenly found that her “supervisors and many of her coworkers appeared to avoid interaction with her.”

“I was the deputy who said no to orders, and you don’t say no to Paul Tanaka,” Adams said.


Shoulder checks

In addition to being excluded and avoided, certain deputies became physically aggressive, according to Adams’ complaint.

One deputy named Juan Sanchez, reportedly “shoulder checked” Adams on two different occasions, deliberately slamming into her with his shoulder.

“It happened a few times,” said former Lt. Katherine Voyer, who said that she reported the incidents to internal affairs. “I had to because it had risen to a workplace violence issue. I had no choice. “ said Voyer.

Voyer was dismayed, she told WitnessLA, when department officials “blew it off, and then they notified all the people who she had named.”

Adams tried to solve the problem by transferring out of IRC, but her transfer attempt was turned down.

Matters reportedly got still worse in the fall of 2012 when word got out that Adams was subpoenaed to testify in front of a federal grand jury about the incidents surrounding the hiding of FBI informant Brown.


Adding Jail Time

At around this same time, another strange thing occurred.

Civilian workers at IRC reportedly told Adams that someone had added extra jail time to the sentences of two jail inmates. The additions were made through “a hand entry” into the IRC’s computer system. According to Adams’ complaint, there was no legitimate reason why this should be so.”

Adams investigated further and discovered to her alarm that “approximately twenty inmates had been subjected to such treatment.” Reportedly, the employee number that had been used to enter this additional sentence time into the department’s computer system belonged to a employee “who had been on disability for more than five years and could not have possibly been the one to have actually have made the computer entries.”

The deputy was reportedly told to back off her probe of the expanding sentences, there were additional work-place retaliations, and Adams started getting physical threats of a serious nature.

She confided in former sheriff’s deputy James Sexton, about some of what she was seeing and experiencing. Sexton, who would eventually be the lowest ranking department member to be convicted of obstruction of justice, had also—like Adams—been a whistleblower, and had himself been repeatedly threatened with physical harm by department members.

“He’d been threatened in the jail parking lot, and other places,” said Voyer, who had also worked with Sexton. “And she started getting the same kind of thing.”


Keep Your Gun With You

Sexton told WLA that he was “very concerned” by what Adams told him.

He told her to keep her gun with her at all times.

Sexton also examined the altered release dates. “These were all inmates who had validated complaints against department members.”

According to Sexton, the sentences of the inmates in question were lengthened by between four to six months.

When no one at the LASD was interested in investigating the matter, both Sexton and Adams brought the matter of the altered release dates to the FBI.

“Things just went downhill for her, after that,” said Voyer, who was no longer working with Adams by that time, but who still kept in touch.

After Adams got pregnant in 2013, the retaliation continued, and her sense of vulnerability increased. During her pregnancy leave, Adams was called to testify for the government in the obstruction of justice trial of six department members, who were convicted.

Fearing the post-trial retaliation would get even worse, according to her complaint, Adams requested to extend her maternity leave by six months—without pay.

The request that was reportedly routinely granted for most women, was denied for Adams.

Fearing that her physical safety, and that of her family “would be jeopardized” if she returned to work, Adams resigned.

On June 14, 2014, Adams was “constructively terminated.”

A year later, almost to the day, she sued.


Read: Tara Jan Adams Amended Complaint

39 Comments

  • Deputy Adams had more courage than any of Tanaka water boys and flunkies. She ia nother deputy who paid union dues and shitted on by ALADS. No wonder deputies go to the FBI when they’re ignored and threatened by supervisors and fellow deputies. The morale of deputies in LASD and ALADS continues to be at a record low. So sad.

  • What happened to all the people supporting the Dept…..Oooops, I guess they can’t get computer time in Prison….,…It’s not too late to add some $ to Anthony Brown’s acct. He is a hero in this whole mess

  • And to think many of those involved in retaliating against Adams are still on the department, unrepentant, and pretending nothing ever happened. Guess what, they are still carrying on in the same fashion, working eagerly on behalf of the privileged crowd to do their dirty work.

    How’s that whole “wiping the slate clean” thingy working out for you, Fresh Eyes?

  • LATBG , You’re correct. The suspects are still on the department ever so coy. Will this saga of Epic Failure ever end?

  • Great lesson for those that believe in bureaucratic systems. All the policies, rules, and laws so easily circumvented , still comes down to people.

  • Most of that chain of command is , well, higher up in the same chain of command. I guess nobody cares about the jails still. Atleast thats what the Unit Commander of the jail innvestigations crew thinks.

  • If Fresh Eyes had any smarts, he’d make a big deal out of this story and reopen the entire incident and find out who did what. Then let the chips fall HARD on those who were involved. Show the organization that he wants to root out the cancer left by the prior administration. And at the same time let loose some Fresh Eyes on Aero’s selling of helicoptor parts. Where F#@%& did the $$$$$ go?

    But no, let’s just act like the cancer doesn’t exist. It is kind’a like not going to the doctor – what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Instead, let’s move on and promote people who have 30 day suspensions on their records over those who have toed the line their entire career. Here’s his message: Forget the past. Fresh Eyes is in charge now. The Baca-Stonich-Waldie-Tanaka stench is not what you smell, isn’t a that bad after all. It’s just old Brasso you should have been using all along to shine your belt buckles and everything would have been just fine.

    • Full Circle: Sadly, everything you wrote about is all too true. Sheriff McDonnell just doesn’t have the courage to open past cases and uncover years of corruption and lies. Stonich, Waldie and Tanaka knew they could manipulate Baca at anytime. Years ago IAB investigators were still being selected, not by experience, but by political correctness.

  • “Oh Well” said it best in a previous thread about the promotion selection from a polluted pool. Unfortunately there is no catalyst to do anything. Everyone is foggy eyed and dormant. There has to be a Moses or a saviour of some sort to lead the department out of Egypt.

  • The problem in the sheriff’s department is precisely that, nothing has changed, except the brass buckles. Fresh Eyes McDonnell is just deceptive, lying to the public and to himself. I call for an IAB investigation to probe all the lies uttered by Fresh Eyes Mcdonnell. Never mind, IAB is jus a facade, pretending to investigate, depending who the person is, either they clean or dirty the individual. The retaliatory behavior is an institutionalized practice and pattern in the Sheriff’ department. If anyone complains about anything, later IAB puts a case on the complaint, either for failure to report earlier as mandated reporter, or they will try to discredit the complainant and portray him as a liar. Either way, the expected result is to silence the complainant. It is not an easy task reporting wrongdoing internally, either contact the FBI as previously done or the news organization investigators, as someone did on the Johnson/Tatreau affair. The internal mechanism of reporting wrongdoing does not work. All the dirt exposed on the news comes from brave deputies who tip the outside sources. We all need to contact outside sources with all we know, or what we suspect of being wrong, if needed anonymously. There are several brave news investigators, much better than police investigators wanting to expose the corruption led by Fresh Eyes Mcdonell and his second in command, the CPA, they just need the tips.

  • This does raise an interesting legal quandary. What happens when a rogue administration runs roughshod over the rule of law, and made bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad people? Given the nightmare that creates in terms of accountability and liability, what happens when the rogue administration is taken over by another sheriff? Can he legally absolve the bad people of past sins by claiming he doesn’t know of them, yet refuses to learn of them when he has the ability to do so?

    The Adams lawsuit in particular was filed in June of 2015, well into Fresh Eye’s administration. Why didn’t he demand of his executive staff a rundown of all claims against the department from the past administrations of Baca and Scott and seek to resolve them? That would have involved saving a lot of grief among department members, possibly still hold accountable the guilty, and save the taxpayer a buck or two. Proof positive Fresh Eyes was the wrong man for the job. Now there are literally dozens of department members consulting attorneys, already filed lawsuits, or seeking their right to sue letters from DFEH and the EEOC. A whole new cottage industry is being created as we speak, all on McDonnell’s watch. Add to that former inmates who got their sentences extended illegally, that amounts to felony conduct involving false imprisonment, perjury, conspiracy, and the list is endless.

    Factoid, I’ve learned of three individuals contemplating running against McDonnell, all insiders. One of those three has what it takes to get us to that proverbial promised land, time will tell.

  • ” unknown ” I have called news reporters several times in my 30 yrs with no results. In my opinion it was all news worthy information. Of course it was in the Block Baca years. Can you suggest contacts?

    • The editor at WitnessLA is definitely a lead in the right direction. There are several reporters at the Los Angeles Times willing to hear any subject that still has some “meat on the bones”.

      • Very good comments. Yes, why didn’t our current sheriff look into this lawsuit more? Why do the same names keep popping up in these lawsuits that are getting ready to come out? Yet, rather than investigate, Jim mcd promotes them. Maybe the board of supervisors, our better yet the citizens of la county will get tired of paying all these lawsuits due to corrupt / INCOMPETENT management. The board needs to stop paying the punitives for these individuals. Let’s hope someone with integrity runs against this clown.

  • “Are you kidding me”, I did not want to mention her name, out of fear for her safety, however, LA Times, Maya Lau is unafraid and uncompromised. This lady is tenacious, investigates appropriately without fear or favor, I would give her tips. She did time as a volunteer for the US Peace Corps in Senegal Africa, I am sure she has seen danger before and knows how to deal with it. She is not afraid of uncovering the truth as the rest of the liberal media who defends another liberal corrupt Sheriff as the previous one. Remember, it took 15 years for the LA times to report something negative about the Sheriff/Tanak regime. Although Ms. Lau is relatively new at the LA Times, she has been relentless.

  • Celeste, your story SCREAMS for an independent investigation by Max Huntsman. Taxpayers just shelled out a million dollar “settlement,” for serious misconduct involving IRC AND IAB personnel. Is anyone going to be held accountable or is Sheriff Buckles going to sweep more dirt under that already lumpy carpet in his office? Or will he just promote all who are still on the job and say, “Now let that be a lesson to you!”

  • If ALADS and PPOA contine to remain silent…..perhaps it is time for a work action or protest to highlight the continuing problems within the Department. …….

  • This is the second settlement involving a deputy, who sued LASD, with a settlement in lieu of a trial. Deputy Nguyen was the last one involving Tanaka basesd retaliation. It makes sense for the County to settle. A trial would have knocked LASD on their ass with even more detailed exposure costing millions more.

  • Nothing has changed, promoting a new Commander who is on the Brady list, who also made false statements about a pursuit while he was a Captain, who’s bff is the new Undersheriff.

  • The entire department owes this woman a BIG thank you. She is an example of all that is good in the field. It is disheartening that the dept. hasn’t reached out to her to ask HER for another chance. She is a loss to the profession. I watched her testify at Tenaka’s trial. I admire her beyond words.

    • What became of her? A million bucks ain’t what it used to be. That would be fabulous if she were to return, unless she landed with another agency, then that million bucks will go a long ways.

  • First we lose an Honor Cadet when he first lands in the jail behind the “badass deputies” who were allegedly training him. Then we lose this Deputy….who I consider a real badass for standing up for what was right. The department will never regain premier status if we keep eating our young, including picking them off as low hanging fruit. McD needs to “man up” as our former Deputy did. Fat chance.

  • I’m curious about the 30 day suspension. @Just Sayin, are you blowing smoke about the 30 day suspension coming while the new Commander was a Captain or is that a fact. Same about him being BFF’s (or at least tight) with the new U/S?

    If both are true (being Long Gone I have no idea – I only remember both players as good guys but young pups), it would seem that the suspension should automatically preclude promotion for a Captain. Period. The second issue, if true, leads one to believe that perhaps the U/S ran interference for the Capt. with the Sheriff. Or more likely, the Sheriff was NEVER AWARE of the suspension and the U/S NEVER TOLD him about it. Hence, the Sheriff not knowing the facts signed off on the lis

    If both are the case, I’ll bet a dollar to a doughnut dolly that there was some fur flying in the Executive Offices after the article hit the papers.

    Where is Santa when we need him?

    • Fellas, fellas, especially those of you who were or are at management levels – what is the purpose of discipline? Isn’t it to bring the employee back into compliance with established policies and procedures, to in essence bring the employee back into the fold?

      Are we saying that if a deputy is suspended for any amount of time, it forever taints him or her? Is this scarlet letter applied by us or the liberal media who has absolutely no legal or moral right to even know about the discipline?

      It seems that we are falling into their trap of attacking each and every person who dares to ascend the ranks. Remember how we felt when an outsider became sheriff. Are we now to cast aside all those above the rank of sergeant and presume them unworthy of advancing?

      • Dose of Reality, names are unimportant when compared to the actual background and reasons for advancement. For every fool placed in a high profile position where they lack the basic qualifications to do the job right, there are the many who were never in the game to begin with, because they were not privileged employees. You can’t explain how some are disciplined and allegedly brought “back into the fold” without skipping a beat, yet the ones who never screwed up to begin with don’t even exist in the minds of decision makers. You can’t put lipstick on this pig, period. It’s just one sordid chapter to the dysfunctionality of the entire organization led by Fresh Eyes.

  • The 30 days happened as a deputy. The pursuit as a Captain which was reported in the LA Times just the other days. I’m not saying they’re not good guys, this just goes to our credibility.

  • My bad, I read something in to this that was not there. But I agree the Sheriff and the LASD’s credibility is in the toilet and the whole thing still looks bad. His only “positive” step that I can see as an interested observer are his new buckles. The scandals keep coming – be it an Assistant Sheriff who got a deal on a car or a Deputy who made a fool of himself on social media and on and on. As was stated earlier, opening some of these old cases and doing some house cleaning would make him look proactive beyond spit and polish.

  • most people would consider it taboo to access the jail computer system to click a few extra months on to an inmate’s sentence, but it probably doesn’t feel so wrong after some practice using the computer system to swindle inmate funds.
    which helps to explain the sizable balance of money LASD listed as unclaimed inmate funds
    the large balance of unclaimed inmate funds was publicly revealed a few years back in a Sheriff Dept. report due to a dispute between L.A. County Board of Supes and LASD over who gets to keep and spend the stolen money.
    It turns out that L.A. County inmates don’t just leave money sitting on the table without a worry or care.
    At least that’s what my information and experience from 2009 pointed to – manipulation of the computer system within LASD to deny access to inmate funds.
    My friend serving time in State Prison told me that when an inmate transfers from jail to CA Prison, that funds remaining on the inmates jail spending account are supposed to show-up a while later after transfer to their prison spending account.
    He said that guys who came from LASD jails expecting funds often had nothing ever show-up.
    My own experience at the time was quite disturbing. As my friend had been sentenced and would soon be transferred from MCJ to CA Prison, he asked me to claim his personal items and funds to hold for him.
    He completed and signed the required legal paperwork which designated me as his agent for redeeming his personal property. He didn’t know the exact balance remaining in his inmate spending account – but he estimated $300.
    I then presented myself at IRC to claim and collect my friend’s personal property and funds. The clerk retrieved a sealed envelope containing the items my friend had on his person at the time of arrest.
    I then asked the clerk –
    What about the funds remaining on his jail spending account?
    She replied that her computer screen showed there were no funds.
    In order to collect the envelope, I had to sign a form acknowledging that all items were received, nothing missing.
    This form released the Dept. from any claim for missing or damaged personal property or moneys.
    This is the basis for my suspicion that some of the so-called unclaimed inmate funds were not truly unclaimed, but placed out of reach of the inmates by manipulation of the computer system to improperly reclassify them.
    Inmates are a good target group for swindling petty funds – unlikely for inmate or family member to have an organized file of deposit receipts and spending receipts. Poor access to resources for representation in filing claims.
    The LASD would make an annual sweep of hundreds of thousands of $$ of unclaimed jail inmate funds into a special account to benefit the jails.
    the Board of Supervisors were upset with Sheriff Baca, they wanted unclaimed LASD jail inmate funds turned over to them.
    Neither LASD nor L.A. County B.O.S. were concerned for one second about breaking the law or spending money which they had stolen.
    California State Law is very clear, nobody gets to keep funds left on deposit just because the legal owner has failed to make contact.
    Those funds must be turned over to the CA State Controller Office Unclaimed Property Dept.
    That’s the law everywhere in California,
    L.A. County is no exception.

  • Its always the same ole shit just different day, or DEPARTMENT. Instead of bullshit going down in the jails, and the DADS taking the beating themselves, now its the planned SPA task force that’s allowed to bend and shape policies directly t destroy lives and burry people alive outside of jail. Since the sheriff is sentenced the dirty work is allocated to the outside and inflicted directly on children and women themselves, by the various multitude of crossed task force work and community contracts so Los Angeles County isn’t to blame, and the dirty work continues in retaliation directly onto member of the community that have no means of protection. At least the sheriffs whom claimed to be retailed against had a bullet proof vest, a Taser gun, and some bullets. A single mom has nothing but scum bags throwing cheap shots allowed by local law enforcement harassment. GO ANGELS!!!!!

  • I was wondering about unclaimed property, all the Betty Yees that continue to get e harassed. Now all of my civil rights have vanished, my life is so transparent, I’m a ghost. Or is it ghosted by a LACO hacker???? FUCK ISD and the IT nerds, I heard they all now got hired by probation, the fraud just transfers to another department, another opportunity for bureaucratic white color crimes, having workshops and union training teaching the legal ways of crime. Intellectual slavery, human trafficking legalized in LACO by DCFS and CPS, what next, FEMA camps for all the whistleblowers who don’t like Betty Yees involvement. My days are limited the force is closing in the JEDIs are ready to attach, calling all YODAS. LOL pathetic LACO I need to duck out of here, I got the drawing the militia of the SPA7 dog pound left, a picture of a point blank shot directed at someone’s head, but yet that wasn’t considered harassment or a threat, neither was the note left on my whirlpool fridge or s it a GE brand? Time for the ramp, or the revamped sling shot back, see you soon at the BOS.

  • ppo… its pps and the prism vectors that seem to compile unchangeable effects of wreckage into the middle of the highway to cause predictable devastation and compile more hit and run injuries, where’s the Tiger lines or Ligers, since all departments seemed to be involved in the misspelling of a CORI REPORT, is it spelled with a “K” or a “Y” the misspelling and cross reference of gender into fractionalized accounts built by masonry forts planning attacks. Crucify me there’s nothing left to fight for my freedom is gone. Like Patrick Henry said “Give me LIBERTY or GIVE ME DEATH”. The braveheart was forgotten, over looked swept under the rug, only for things to become great forces of power.

  • Former Deputy Adams is a brave woman. I hope attorney fees were negotiated separately as she deserves every penny of the award. Good for her for speaking up – as for the rest, they don’t deserve to wear the badge. A shame to read that the current Sheriff is useless too – he should have investigated and appropriately disciplined all allegations pertaining to this incident. What the hell with the big, bad “shoulder check” guy? IMO, he and that piece of crap Lieutenant that sat quietly as this Deputy was being hounded to engage in serious misconduct should have both been told to find another job. Well past time to clean house and support the many good Deputies trying to do the job – despite the
    Department.

    • Lieutenant Libertone (who said vety little) died a few years back.

      Don’t know about the Deputy Juan Sanchez…probably still bullying women.

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