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LASD Obstruction of Justice Defendants Go to Court…One Whistleblower Among Those Indicted

December 17th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


7 PLEAD NOT GUILTY

By Monday afternoon, all seven Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department members indicted last Monday for obstruction of justice had entered pleas not guilty for their alleged roles in an elaborate scheme to hide FBI informant Anthony Brown from his federal agent handlers. (For the back story on the Anthony Brown case go here)

In all, there were eighteen federal indictments handed down last week, seven of which pertained to the hiding of Brown.

Former Lt. Gregory Thompson, Sergeants Scott Craig and Maricella Long, and Deputy Gerard Smith, formally pleaded on Monday morning, while Lt. Stephen Leavins and Deputy Mickey Manzo went to court last week.

Deputy James Sexton pleaded not guilty in a hearing of his own on Monday afternoon.


THE WHISTLEBLOWER

Of the seven indicted for the Anthony Brown matter, Sexton is something of an outlier in that he has reportedly been cooperating with the feds on the case since the summer of 2012 when he and his LASD partner, Deputy Mike Rathbun, contacted the FBI as whistleblowers to report another case of alleged LASD wrongdoing they had witnessed inside Men’s Central Jail in the course of their work.

As a consequence, many were surprised at the inclusion of Sexton on the indictment list.

In contrast, the other six obstruction defendants reportedly declined to cooperate-–although sources tell us that at least one has signaled a willingness to talk since the indictments were unsealed.

The Anthony Brown/obstruction of justice charges could possibly bring as much as 10 or 15 years in prison, thus the feds are clearly hoping that last week’s indictments will persuade most or all of the defendants to reveal what they know—which is reportedly a considerable amount.

At the moment, the highest ranking of the 18 department members named in the federal indictments are the two lieutenants charged in the Anthony Brown case—retired Lt. Gregory Thompson and Lt. Stephen Leavins.

Yet, sources directly involved with or near to the hiding of Brown say that both Leavins and Thompson received their marching orders from the highest levels in the department.

According to sources, both men reported directly to former undersheriff Paul Tanaka. Sources also allege that Thompson, Manzo and Smith were present on more than one occasion when Sheriff Lee Baca was briefed about the Brown operation.

The latter claim was repeated by the former undersheriff himself last spring in interviews with the LA Times and with KABC TV news, where Tanaka stated that he was ordered by the sheriff to keep Brown away from the FBI.

Here’s a clip from the April 30, 2013 Times story:

A federal criminal grand jury has been investigating whether sheriff’s officials were hiding the inmate and the phone from the FBI, or whether they were protecting the inmate from retaliation by jail deputies he was “snitching” on, as a sheriff’s spokesman has said.

Tanaka said Baca ordered subordinates to keep the inmate from the FBI until the department finished with him. He said the sheriff explicitly denied a request from a federal official to return the phone.

“I want the inmate interviewed. I don’t want him leaving our custody. I want the phone, all of the information removed from it and I don’t want the phone to go anywhere,” Baca said, according to Tanaka.

Asked if the sheriff was obstructing the FBI investigation, Tanaka said that he and other subordinates “had to really weigh” Baca’s orders to avoid “cross[ing] the line of doing anything wrong.”


THE SECRET RECORDING

When, at the request of U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson, Assistant U.S. Atty. Brandon Fox outlined some of the elements of the Brown case federal prosecutors expect to introduce at trial (which is set for February 4, 2014, but expected to be delayed) Fox said the feds had over a dozen audio recordings, around a dozen multimedia disks, and a long list of witnesses, many of whom have already testified in front of the federal grand jury that led to the current indictments.

Fox also said federal prosecutors had a copy of a recording that LASD Sergeants Scott Craig and Maricella Long made in secret when they allegedly went out late at night to the home of FBI special agent Leah Marx, who was one of Brown’s federal handlers, and falsely told her they could arrest her on criminal charges, allegedly in an effort in a effort to intimidate her into revealing the information the feds had gotten from Brown.

In July of this year, WitnessLA reported on the existence of the recording in our story, Operation Pandora’s Box, about the hiding of Brown.

According to sources, the ICIB agents [Long and Craig] later played the recording for Sheriff Baca as part of a briefing on the matter. Baca reportedly thanked one of the sergeants for providing him with the week’s best laugh.


ALLOWED TO KEEP FIREARMS

All the defendants were asked to surrender their passports, all who still work for the department have been relieved of duty without pay, and all but Sexton were directed to surrender all firearms.

Sexton’s attorney, who happened to be former US Attorney Thomas O’Brien—AKA the person that US Attorney Andre Birotte replaced when Birotte appointed to the job in early 2010—argued calmly that Sexton should be allowed to keep his two firearms at home for his protection. Evidently, the threats seemed credible enough that prosecutor Fox agreed to the exception without much argument.

The notion that Sexton had reason to fear for his safety was detailed in a civil lawsuit filed by Sexton and Rathbun in federal court last spring (and refiled in state court more recently). In the filing, both deputies detailed having received a harrowing barrage of retaliation and threats—including death threats—from department members and others after the two men reported alleged wrongdoing, first through the appropriate LASD channels and, when they got little response, to the FBI, to the press, and eventually—in the case of the hiding of Anthony Brown—in front a grand jury.

Before Sexton’s hearing was over, attorney O’Brian mentioned to Judge Anderson that he would likely file a motion to sever Sexton’s case from that of the other six defendants. It was unclear from the judge’s response whether he would be likely to grant such a severance or not.

Among those supporting Sexton in court was his father, LASD Chief Ted Sexton, who—along with LASD Custody Chief Terri McDonnell—was one of the two high-ranking outsiders brought in by Sheriff Lee Baca last spring as a demonstration of his willingness to move his troubled department toward reform.

Sexton Sr., the longtime sheriff of Tuscaloosa County, now runs LASD’s Department of Homeland Security. Although he declined to talk to reporters at the hearing, he looked decidedly unhappy about his son’s present circumstances.

Posted in criminal justice, FBI, LA County Jail, LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca, U.S. Attorney | 22 Comments »

22 Responses

  1. haha Says:

    I swear to God, Olmsted is going to end up being elected Sheriff by default.

  2. times awasting Says:

    I think you mean by the Grace of God.

  3. Wild Turkey Says:

    All through 2011, Greg Thompson was famous for saying, repeatedly and in public, “it’s our job to keep the FBI out of our jails.” Think he came up with that position on his own? I think not. Everyone knows where this goes. The question is, when will the feds take it there?

  4. Searchlight Says:

    This entire situation with the indictments was so predictable, Helen Keller herself could see it coming. Have no illusions, this IS just then beginning. The AUSA is going to be holding “Proffer Interviews” very soon. Those are interviews where the AUSA will be offering “deals,” in writing, in exchange for selected defendants OR defendants whose attorney contact the AUSA, and say, “Make me a deal I can’t refuse and my client will give up the ghost.” The AUSA will offer a deal, in writing, to the defendant(s) at this interview stating specifically what is on the table. If the defendant takes the deal, they sign it, and the stenographer enters the office and the ghost is sold down the river. The Proffer will stipulate any false statement, untruths and failure to cooperate at anytime, the deal is off and statements are still used.

    Do we have ANY doubt that offers/requests for Proffers are not occurring? Oh they are, have no doubt about it. And with Proffers, dots are connected, big dots. There are some folks who have not been indicted, yet, who are sweating cannon balls about now because they know what is coming, it is only a matter of time.

    Yes Haha, Olmsted may very well end this election by default. And Yes, Times a wasting, it would be by the grace of God. Olmsted is in this to win, he is in this to bring honor back to LASD. To the line folks doing the Lord’s work, you have nothing to fear. To the so called executives of LASD who have been sitting back, plotting your next assignment and next promotion, all the while clapping as the naked king parades around the halls of SHQ, and to those who have been rolling tight cigars and pouring the little man his favorite beverage and slipping him envelopes, you all have a lot to worry about. Perhaps it is time to start heading down to LACERA to check on those numbers. Olmsted is going to rebuild LASD to what it should be, what it can be. And the great employees who have suffered in silence for so long, you will make LASD will be, a law enforcement organization second to none, better than ever and something we can all be proud of, again. Olmsted will be a Sheriff we all can be proud of. Not a globe trotting politician who squandered a wonderful opportunity for the sake of self gain and petty politics. When Olmsted wins this hard fought election, that my friends, will be with the grace of God.

  5. Wild Turkey Says:

    Everyone who participated in the Anthony Brown op, AKA Operation Pandora’s Box, knows for a fact that Baca and Tanaka ordered the hiding of Anthony Brown. Everyone knows that Thompson, Leavins, Manzo and Smith were foot soldiers in a maneuver that was sanctioned at the highest levels. The Feds know this too. It was already revealed in grand jury testimony. I know the feds move slow, but, in the words of Monday Night Football: Come on, Man!

    Bob Olmsted is the only hope this department has. Right now, the feds have cut off the very tip of the serpent’s tail. The head has to come off, or nothing will change. The corruption and cover ups will remain, only the tactics will change.

  6. 10-33_Go Says:

    Totally agree with #4 (Searchlight). The supervisors are seeing to it that Baca’s full time job for the next six months is explaining the last decade and agreeing to the next one. Tanaka can hardly give an interview without standing in the middle of one federal inquiry or another. Just listen to his interview (which presumably he thinks was good!) on Larry Elder’s show yesterday and which he posted to his Facebook page. It was a complete, unbridled train wreck. Bad news comes out about the Sheriff’s Department literally every single day now. Its embarrassment is the trending story on the LA Times’ website–and, say what you will about them–their investigation (of stolen files) caused the department to admit today that 80 people were wrongly hired–and has resulted in dozens of comments against the department. These are voters, their friends are voters, their family members are voters. And it’s six months ’till the election. Now you have supervisors representing two of the biggest low-income swathes of the county (lots of felons, yeah, but lots of church going folk, too) who are actively opposing Baca and Tanaka, again six-plus months out. And this is before we even get to the Proffers and the next wave of indictments, and last week all over again/times two. Baca is going to get beat with a stick every single day between last week and June, and fewer and fewer people will rush to/be by his side. And if he is not under indictment by then, we all know that Tanaka certainly will be–he basically admitted as his role in carrying out Baca’s orders and hiding the inmate to ABC’s Mark Brown months ago. His entire campaign is based on his ‘not being organizationally’ responsible for whatever happened in Custody, despite the ridiculously clear record that he was the shadow sheriff and did whatever he wanted (including holding meetings with Custody deputies), irrespective of his box on the org chart. It’s not even a question of how far the Feds want to go now … where the road goes is inevitable now. What’s fascinating is that Baca and Tanaka don’t see it. Or don’t know what to do. Beyond do what suspects do … which is to lie, obfuscate and lie again, until they’re trapped, until they roll, until they cry. And that’s the comedic tragedy of all of this … that we, as deputies, carry ourselves as so righteous, so strong … but, in the end, very few of us truly stand tall. Olmsted is. Who can really say the same?

  7. Laree Waldee Says:

    Olmsted move over. There is a new whistle blower in town. This new whistle blower will get elected because an incumbent sheriff has NEVER lost. The name of the whistle blower, BACA. He discovered 80 people should not have been hired and he is outraged. He told his staff to only hire qualified people! No one is above the hiring standard! And now that Baca has revealed the problems and he will fix them.

    Wait you say, how can Baca be a whistle blower/reformer when he was part of the problem? Strange…

    But never fear. Todd Rogers, also a reformer, told the Times that at the direction of Baca, HE will fix things. Todd…tisk tisk, look into the gratuity policy before you get involved in hiring standards. Well maybe not, you do love those front row seats at pro basketball games don’t you? I hear those seat put a whole different dimension on the game. Hmmm apparently Baca isn’t the only one that should be accused of abusing those intoxicating powers of office? Its ok, just kidding. Since you are super ethical and are able to receive gratuities without feeling like you owe anyone, we can let it slide.

    Be real everyone. What is going on is normal. It has always happened and always will. Like my buddy Stonich always says. A good man makes mistakes and then he fixes them. Let Baca fix things. He is the real reformer. In the meantime everyone stop getting so upset. In 2015 Baca will be sworn in by the same uneducated public that picks him over and over. It is HIS department. He will keep it as long as HE wises. The good news is you can all go back to your work a day lives in 2015. Happy Holidays.

  8. Ohhhh ya Says:

    I’m sold on Olmsted

  9. Clay Pidgeon Says:

    Hang on a minute before you crown Olmsted. Let’s not forget he was the Captain of Men’s Central Jail when all this was going on. He had a duty to know what was going on in his jail and did nothing to repair things except put lights in the plumbing chases. That is why Baca promoted Olmsted – because he lit up the place! True story. The problem with avoiding Olmsted is that you are then only left with Pat Gomez and Pat Gomez is not Sheriff’s material – nice guy, but not enough experience managing anything big ever. So, does McDonnell, Chief of Long Beach, enter the race? If so, he has to be the guy because of his LAPD and Long Beach experiences.

  10. interesting Says:

    Olmsted is the clear choice. I think he lit up more than MCJ.

  11. Surprised Says:

    Hopefully it will not be anyone currently or formerly working for the LASD who is Sheriff after the elections. The well is too far tainted to really try and reform from the inside.

  12. Tis the Season Says:

    In order to change anything we must have supervision that can be trusted. The problem is still evident in looking at the latest intent to promote Sergeant’s and Lieutenants lists as well as the current batch of Captain candidates. Leroy, please ensure every potential promotee is properly screened. It will be embarrassing for you to promote a person to any rank that has been disciplined for lying, cheating or stealing. I think you are close to making another promotional blunder. It is important to look at the diciplinary history, including termination cases that were overturned.

  13. Clay Pidgeon Says:

    #10 “Interesting” Sir, I don’t mean to be a pest but what else did Olmsted light up?

  14. Jack Dawson Says:

    If Baca doesn’t quit throwing his subordinates under the bus, ole Todd Rodgers may jump in the mix….

    KCAL is calling Baca “embattled… and another scandal, etc…” That would get my wheels spinning about not taking anymore shots for the company.

    Whitmore looked like he was going to have a stroke last night watching the boss ramble to the media on the SEB field.

  15. Chris Ryan Says:

    Pigeon, didnt Olmstead get this whole thing started? Wasn’t he the one who went to the Sheriff regarding the CJ debacle? I would think that these actions were the catalyst behind the implosion is seeing now. I am neither a fan or foe of any of these candidates but that how it seems to me.

  16. Fed Up Says:

    I hope more indictments continue up the ranks and this really explodes as it is a embarrassment to our department, we need a cleansing tho! Oh Sorry,, I gotta go CARP to save some LASD employees job!

  17. interesting Says:

    Pidgeon, #15 answered your question for me.

  18. LATBG Says:

    Clay Pigeon, if you want to pine for McDonnell be my guest. Using your own standard, however, wasn’t McDonnell already a ranking member of LAPD during the Rampart scandal? Sorry, but I don’t want an LAPD retread running the sheriff’s department. Not only that, he quit the race before he even started, walking away from the opportunity to challenge the corrupt incumbent. If he enters now he carries the mantle of shallow opportunist, not a real leader. Same with Todd Rodgers. The learning curve is too steep, and some of the most cancerous elements within the rank structure will play possum and b.s. any outsider into believing they are the best thing since sliced bread. This will only divide and anger the good people left.

    Go to Olmsted’s website and take a long hard look at his credentials. The Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence did not praise Olmsted for merely lighting up pipe chases. You will realize that he is the real deal, and has the requisite determination AND humility to clean house.

    ps: Olmsted makes ALL the corrupt insiders nervous, which makes all honest deputies quite happy!

  19. gliddy Says:

    Olmsted is full of air

  20. Clay Pidgeon Says:

    Maybe so re: Olmsted. I just think some of his claims of whistle blower are inflated. Forget about him and Todd Rodgers. How about this scenario – the Sheriff gets indicted along with Tanaka – the Sheriff then goes to the Board which really wants him to leave – and persuades them to put Jimmy Hellmold in as Sheriff. Any takers?

  21. Investigative Mind Says:

    That would be a disaster. I say Todd Rogers or Olmsted if Sheriff is indicted, but I doubt it.

  22. LATBG Says:

    Clay Pidgeon, interesting proposition. Consider the careers of all current executives, particularly those wearing more than one star, dead in the water. Baca couldn’t persuade the Board to leave a building on fire. He has ZERO credibility, and all of his upper echelon executives are tainted by association alone. This includes Jimmy “what pursuit?” Helmold and Todd “look at me” Rogers.

    My guess is depending on the timing of indictments and the proximity to the elections, they will move to support Olmsted if his campaign is going well and the nomination period is closed, do a national search and appoint an interim sheriff who cannot run, or do a national search and appoint an interim who can run.

    The devil is when the other shoe drops. March 7th looms very large in the sheriff’s race. Anytime after that the ballot is closed for the elections. Anyone entering even now will face an uphill battle in terms of fund raising and organizing…

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