An internal sheriff’s department email that has recently surfaced appears to link former undersheriff Paul Tanaka to the operation to hide FBI informant Anthony Brown from his federal handlers.
Thus far, seven members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department have been indicted for their alleged part in the hiding Brown in the summer and early fall of 2011.
In all, 20 from the department have been charged as part of the still widening federal investigation into corruption in the LASD.
But it is the indictment of two lieutenants, two sergeants, and three deputies around the Brown issue that has triggered the most speculation about whether or not the indictment list will travel farther up the line and, if so, how far up.
Department members who have spoken to us on the subject have maintained that the two teams involved with the twinned schemes to keep informant Brown away from any and all federal agents—and then to question him about what he told the feds—could not have assigned themselves to those tasks. The idea that a couple of lieutenants would order and execute such actions on their own is simply not credible, said LASD sources.
(Go here for our previous reporting on the Brown-hiding strategy that came to be known as Operation Pandora’s Box.)
Then around three weeks ago, WitnessLA obtained the internal sheriff’s department email that mentions Paul Tanaka in relationship to Brown.
NOTE: Both the LA Times and ABC-7 obtained the same email, and have each come out with their own stories on Sunday and Monday, respectively. More on that in a minute.
The email was written by Deputy Gerard Smith and addressed to the members of the fourteen-man team tasked with hiding Brown, plus two department supervisors.
It reads in part:
If you are getting this Email, you have been signed up to work this very important detail. I am in charge of security and scheduling for this detail. Please don’t let me or the unit down. …. There will be no other movement [of Anthony Brown], without the presence of the following people: US Tanaka, ICIB Cpt. Tom Carey, ICIB LT. Leavins, LT. G. Thompson, Dep. G. Smith or Dep. M. Manzo.
Of the six people listed, the last four people— Lieutenant Stephen Leavins, Lieutenant Greg Thompson, Deputy Gerard Smith, and Deputy Mickey Manzo—have all been indicted. The remaining two—Captain Tom Carey and former undersheriff Paul Tanaka—have not.
Farther down in the email, Smith writes:
To keep yourself free of any controversy don’t talk to him [Brown], let the approved, above listed people deal with Browns [sic] issues
By “the approved, above listed people” he clearly means Tanaka and the other three.
And then Smith writes this:
It has been expressed to me (several times now) that this is one of the most important investigations involving The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, in its 160 year history. No joke……
None of our sources seem to know who would have been most likely to have made the statement to Smith about the Brown matter being so terribly important.
But whatever its provenance, such a pronouncement would likely have had a strong effect on those who received the email, said our sources, especially given the inference that it came from someone much further up the line.
“This kind of thing would have placed tremendous pressure on these young jail deputies,” an LASD supervisor who works the jails now told me. “When their superiors tell them something is important, they don’t want to stumble. They don’t want fail.”
Here’s a clip from Robert Faturechi’s LA Times article on the email in which Paul Tanaka talks about his reaction to the information contained in the email.
Tanaka said in a statement to The Times that he had a minimal role in the Brown matter — known inside the department as “Operation Pandora’s Box” — and that he did nothing improper or illegal. He also said he does not recall being made aware of the contents of the email before it was sent.
“While I was involved in some aspects of the implementation of these orders, I was not involved in or had knowledge of other aspects and my name was sometimes used without my knowledge or consent because of my position,” he said in the statement.
Here’s a clip from the ABC 7 story:
Multiple sources who were directly involved in the Brown operation told Eyewitness News they were told by the indicted Lt. Greg Thompson that if anyone questioned what they were doing with inmate Brown, they should instruct that person to call then-undersheriff Tanaka.
A similar story comes in sworn deposition testimony from Lieutenant Katherine Voyer. She was working at the downtown jail complex in the summer of 2011 and testified about the orders she received: “No federal agents were allowed in the facility and if they came with the writ, call Mr. Tanaka’s cell phone, personal cell phone.”
“Mr. Tanaka was very hands-on in how he handled this department,” said Brian Moriguchi, president of the L.A. County Professional Peace Officers Association. “So he knew pretty much everything that was going on in this department.”
Moriguchi’s union represents some of those indicted.
The email is supported by some of the reports we’ve heard from sources who worked on the team that hid Brown. For instance, one recalled an instance in which Brown was moved to a cell in the out-of-the-way the San Dimas station, at which time the deputies present were confronted by a watch commander who wanted to know what they hell they were doing bringing this mystery inmate in so late at night. According to our source, the deputies told the watch commander that they should check with Undersheriff Tanaka if they had a problem.
The watch commander stalked off for a few minutes then reappeared and reportedly everything was fine.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
AN ANN ARBOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT WRITES A LEGAL BRIEF ARGUING THAT JUVENILE LIFERS DESERVE A SECOND CHANCE
Sixteen-year-old Matilyn Sarosi spent the recent spate of snow days off school writing an 18-page paper for which she will get no academic credit.
Instead of the paper being graded by a teacher at Father Gabriel Richard Catholic High School in Ann Arbor, Sarosi hopes the justices of the Michigan Supreme Court will give her brief thoughtful consideration.
Sarosi’s amicus, or friend of the court brief, argues that Michigan prison inmates who were sentenced to life for crimes, such as murder, committed when they were younger than 18 now deserve a chance at parole. The legal brief was submitted Friday to the state Supreme Court, which is to hold a hearing on the issue March 6.
“I was really kind of shocked at the issue, the injustice of it all, and the magnitude,” said Sarosi, an honor student and public speaking events competitor. “I’m a teenager and I know my peers. We make impulsive, immature decisions. We make dangerous decisions. But if you give up hope on our youth and kids, you’re giving away our future.”
LA POLICE COMMISSION MAY REVISE THE WAY OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTINGS ARE JUDGED
The LA Times Joel Rubin has the story. Here’s a clip:
The Los Angeles Police Commission is poised to adopt a major shift in the way it judges police shootings, tying an officer’s decision to pull the trigger to his actions in the moments leading up to the incident.
The rule change, which will be taken up Tuesday, would settle years of debate over whether the commission can make a determination that a shooting violated department policy if the officer created a situation in which deadly force was necessary. Until now, the commission has generally focused on the narrow question of whether an officer faced a deadly threat at the moment he opened fire.
“This is one of the most significant policy decisions we’ve made in my seven years on the commission,” Robert Saltzman said.
Although only a few words would be added to the existing policy, Saltzman said, “the clarification is significant. Some have interpreted our current policy to suggest the commission should ignore all the officer’s pre-force activity, no matter how relevant those earlier actions are.”
The proposal was submitted by the commission’s inspector general, who reviews officer shootings and makes recommendations to the commission on whether they fall in or outside department policy. Along with Saltzman, it has won the support of commission President Steve Soboroff.
Really, the clip is only an opener. Read the whole story to see the logic involved in the decision the commission is considering.
Wherever you personally come down on this issue, I guarantee you’ll find it interesting.