OPERATION PANDORA’S BOX: Will Hiding a Federal Informant Result in Criminal Indictments for Members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department?July 23rd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon
For 18 days in the summer of 2011, members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department reportedly went to elaborate lengths to hide a federal informant from the FBI, an operation that those involved say was approved at the highest levels, including by former-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, then the department’s powerful second in command, and by Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca himself. Despite a grand jury convened to investigate the matter, and a lengthy and ongoing probe by the FBI, Baca and his spokespeople still maintain that the informant was hidden for his own safety.
(The sheriff’s main spokesman, Steve Whitmore will be interviewed by the FBI on the matter early next week.)
However, those department members who actually did the hiding say that the official line is untrue, that even back in 2011 when they were in the midst of “Operation Pandora’s Box,” as they came to call it, they knew without question that what they were doing was illegal.
This is the inside story of that operation.
In the summer of 2011, Anthony Brown, 44, was a convicted armed bank robber languishing in Los Angeles County’s Men’s Central Jail, while he waited to be transferred to the California state prison at Lancaster, his first stop in a very long stay behind bars. As it turned out, however, in addition to being a jail inmate, Brown was something else: a carefully cultivated informant for the FBI.
At the time, the feds were—and still are—investigating charges of widespread brutality, abuse and corruption inside the Los Angeles County jails, which are run by the LA County Sheriff’s Department. As a part of the investigation, Brown was embedded as a spy in Men’s Central Jail—MCJ—the county’s largest, most rundown and statistically the most troubled facility. In order to secretly report to his federal handlers, Brown had a contraband cell phone, which allowed him to call or text information about any misconduct and wrongdoing on the part of deputies he might personally witness, or hear about via the jail’s very gossipy grapevine.
Phones are, of course, strictly forbidden inside the jail. So when, in mid-August 2011, by pure happen chance, a jail deputy discovered the contraband phone during what was reported to be a routine search of Brown’s cell, the deputy followed protocol and quickly turned over the phone to the jail internal investigative unit, JIU. Concerned that Brown was using the phone for illegal activities, the jail investigators examined his call and text log, and found that, indeed, there were a few phone numbers that Brown dialed repeatedly. When investigators ran those numbers, the information they got back was not what they expected.
“Most of the numbers led back to a building at 11000 Wilshire Boulevard,” said one insider. In other words, LA’s FBI headquarters.
The cluster of employees sitting at the five or so desks within earshot of then-Assistant Sheriff Paul Tanaka’s office on the 4th floor of the SHB—the Sheriff’s Headquarters Building in Monterey Park—did what they always did when Tanaka began screaming. They busied themselves looking anywhere but at each other.
Tanaka, a highly intelligent, but physically small man, was infamous for these outsized eruptions of fury, which were reportedly frequent enough that the 4th floor workers who could not help but overhear them had developed intricate coping mechanisms, which mostly consisted of careful disinterest, lest the anger be suddenly turned their direction.
“Mr. Tanaka yelled at almost everyone,” said one witness to this particular tantrum, “even sometimes people like Assistant Sheriff Cecil Rambo, who was his good friend.” This time, however, Tanaka was not yelling at anyone who was physically present in his office, but at whomever had just called him on the phone. His fury was formidable. “The worst I’d ever heard,” said the witness. “He kept slamming his hand on the desk as he talked. “
“You stupid fucking idiots! “Bam, bam! “I’m surrounded by fu-u-c-king idiots!!” Bam, bam, bam!
At the time, no one listening knew what the call was about, as they could hear only Tanaka’s side of the conversation. It was only later, that they were able to piece together the fact that this was the moment when the then assistant sheriff first learned about Brown, the cell phone, and the FBI connection.
According to sources, Sheriff Lee Baca was not seen on the 4th floor that day. The assumption was that he was out of town. But he reportedly met with Tanaka in the latter’s office a day or two later. “And normally he never came to Tanaka’s office,” said the source. “That’s how we knew that there was some kind of unusual crisis.”
It is not certain who ordered what happened next. It could have been Paul Tanaka. It could have been Sheriff Baca. It could have been Tanaka with Baca’s permission or at his orders. Most sources believe it was some version of the latter.
Whatever the provenance of the order, on an evening after the discovery that Anthony Brown was working with the feds, two Sergeants from ICIB—the department’s criminal investigative unit—paid an after-midnight, unannounced and entirely unrequested visit to the home a female FBI agent who was one of Brown’s federal handlers. (For the sake of convenience, let’s call her Diana Engels, although that is not her real name.)
The two ICIB guys rolled up to Engels house and attempted to question the federal agent, threatening to arrest her, saying they could play hard ball and get a warrant if they wished to, or words to that affect. The two sergeants also reportedly used their car’s hi definition camera that is attached to a powerful microphone, to surreptitiously record the conversation with Engels.
In truth, of course, the ICIB sergeants had no way of arresting Engels, as she had done nothing illegal. The purpose of the visit appeared to be mostly an attempt to bully and intimidate the federal agent, and perhaps to get some information out of her.
According to sources, the ICIB agents 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.
A day or two after the nighttime visit to the FBI agent, LASD Deputy James Sexton got a text from Deputy Gerard Smith telling him to come to Men’s Central Jail for a meeting. Both Smith and Sexton were members of Operation Safe Jails, or OSJ, a specialized investigative unit that, as its name suggests, does its intelligence gathering inside the LA County Jail system, making use of jail informants to uncover illegal activities both in the jails and on the streets. OSJ also tracks, to what degree they are able, the moods and movements of the prison gangs that have a strong and often corrosive presence in the jails.
Although both Smith and Sexton were OSJ deputies, Smith was slightly higher up the food chain than Sexton, as he was a favorite of the unit’s commanding officer, Lt. Greg Thompson.
“Hey, I got something and I need your help,” Smith texted.
Within the hour, Smith, Sexton, and a third deputy named Mickey Manzo, all met with Lt. Thompson, who explained that there was an inmate that OSJ needed to hide. Manzo was another deputy whom Thompson frequently relied on for tasks, and Sexton was the computer whiz of OSJ, hence his inclusion. (Another computer savvy deputy, Jason Pearson, would be added later.) At the ad hoc meeting, Thompson outlined a highly unusual situation in which they must hide an inmate inside the jail system, but they must hide him so completely that no one outside of a special few would have any way of detecting his presence, either physically or digitally.
Paradoxically, the inmate, who was, of course, federal informant Anthony Brown, must not merely be rendered invisible, he must, at the same time, be accessible to special few.
To accomplish this dual purpose, meant some unorthodox actions. The operation also required a trustworthy team.
(THE REST OF “OPERATION PANDORA’S BOX” IS AFTER THE JUMP)
HIDING THE BALL
The next phase of hiding Anthony Brown took place on or about Wednesday, August 24, 2011, when approximately thirteen OSJ deputies—Smith, Manzo, Pearson, and Sexton among them—were called to a meeting in the staff barbecue area outside Men’s Central Jail, known as Hero’s Park.
Normally if an OSJ operation required a meeting, it would have been held inside the jail. But Thompson and some of the other jail administrators had been jittery for a while about the possibility of bugs or listening devices planted inside the jail itself by federal agents. And the whole Anthony Brown/cell phone thing had not exactly calmed their paranoia. Hence the meeting’s outdoor location.
OSJ deputies generally consider themselves to be an elite squad. And this group was made up of Thompson’s best guys, the deputies whose unquestioned loyalty he trusted the most. While they waited for their boss to show up, they talked about what they knew. “Some dude was found with a cell phone,” Mickey Manzo confirmed.
Greg Thompson, who was typically a casually attired guy, arrived in a suit and tie, having just come from a meeting with the brass at the SHB—department headquarters. Since this was a Need to Know operation, Thompson told the deputies only the basics, much of which they already knew via the deputy grapevine. An inmate had been caught with a contraband cell phone, that he was being worked as an informant by the feds, and that he needed to be hidden at the orders of Assistant Sheriff Paul Tanaka. In order to accomplish this task, a two-deputy detail would be on Brown at all times, stationed outside his cell. The idea was to make certain that no one—no one—without clearance could talk to the inmate, or even know he was anywhere in the LASD system. Most particularly the team was told that “under no circumstances” should anyone from the FBI or representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s office be allowed anywhere near Anthony Brown.
This is coming directly from Paul Tanaka, Thompson reportedly repeated in case anybody missed the point.
It was also coming from Baca, according to Mickey Manzo who confided to several of his fellow deputies that he had been present at SHB when Thompson briefed the sheriff on the whole matter. Manzo even described how at several points Baca unhappily put his head in his large hands at what he was hearing.
In the days after the Hero’s Park meeting, Manzo and Gerard Smith both confided on several occasions to various team members about what they had observed at subsequent briefings with Baca.
“See, it’s a big event for a deputy to get to brief the sheriff,” said one team member, “so they wanted to brag about it to somebody.” And their OSJ buddies were the safest.
Nearly a year and a half later, when the LA Times’ Robert Faturechi broke the story of Anthony Brown’s existance and about the report that the sheriff’s department might be deliberately hiding him, the matter was explained by sheriff’s department spokesman, Steve Whitmore, as having been done for Brown’s safety at the inmate’s own request. The implication was that, once it became known that Brown was an informant, he was fearful that he would be retaliated against, or even killed, by jail deputies who saw him as a dangerous snitch. However, OSJ team members present at the Hero’s Park meeting scoffed at the notion
“At no point were we told that we were protecting this inmate’s safety,” said one deputy. “Never! We were told explicitly that we were hiding him from the FBI. That’s all we were told right from the beginning. We were also told that the direction had come straight from the top.”
“Look,” said a second OSJ source, “we have the guy in our jails who is accused of murdering Juan Escalante [a very well liked deputy who was stationed at MCJ when he was fatally shot as he was headed to work]. I mean, he killed one of our own, and we manage to keep him safe. We have people in Men’s Central Jail who have EME hits on them” [referring to the Mexican Mafia], “and we know how to keep them safe. So to say we went through this huge routine to keep Anthony Brown safe from department deputies? That is seriously laughable! We did it to keep him away from the feds. Period.”
GAMING THE DATABASE
During the more than two-and-half weeks that Brown was hidden from the FBI, the OSJ team moved their charge between several locations within the LA County jail system. Yet he spent much of his time in a jail located in one of the department’s most out-of-the-way stations, namely San Dimas, a small city the LASD contracts to police, that is situated off the 210 Freeway, about halfway between downtown LA and San Bernardino—in other words, not the place that anybody searching for someone would think to look first.
But playing hide-the-ball with Brown’s physical whereabouts was not the hardest part about concealing Anthony Brown. In addition to moving the inmate around physically within the jail system, the team had to change Brown’s alias, his booking number, and his physical descriptors every 48 hours to avoid setting off alarms in the jails’ aging, homegrown computer system known as AJIS—Automatic Jail Information System—which is used to manage the information system requirements for the department’s custody facilities.
Among its various functions, AJIS tracks the identification, the movements, the medical requirements, the court dates, prison transfer dates and/or release dates of each inmate. Thus if one needed to hide someone, that meant one needed to hide him or her from AJIS in such a way that would leave no embarrassing breadcrumbs or digital oddities that might prove troublesome in the event of a future investigation.
Tricking AJIS, however, required a bit of doing. For one thing, when the team began the operation, according to AJIS, Anthony Brown was ready to be shipped out to state prison—-which obviously the department had no intention of doing, since the whole point of this operation was to buy time so that LASD investigators could find out what exactly Brown knew.
This meant that someone had to persuade AJIS to “release” the computerized Anthony Brown, as if he was actually being released to the street, as this the easiest way to make his name vanish from the system. Then moments after his computerized “release,” Brown would be “booked” into the database as a brand new inmate, with a brand new name and distinguishing traits—all of which required some digital sleight of hand.
“That required a new booking packet—what we call a ‘nine line,’” said one of the OSJ team members. “First name, last name, DOB, and descriptors.”
Anthony Brown was a large man, 5’10 and around 220 lbs, “so he tended to stand out.” Thus the OSJ team changed his height, weight, body-type, along with other descriptors, like race, hair and eye color, every time they changed his name—which they had to do every two days, exactly. Otherwise, at the 48-hour mark, AJIS would notice that the “new” inmate had not been “live scanned”—aka fingerprinted—and ever-vigilant AJIS would begin to send out alarms. Therefore, just before the deadline, the “new” inmate—aka Brown—would be “released,” and yet a newer “new “ inmate (still Brown) would be booked into the system, with yet another name, a “nine line “and the rest.
Then 48 hours later, the team did it all over again. And again. And again.
For 18 days.
When they were first trying to figure out how to get around AJIS, Thompson and his team leaders floated the idea of using deputies’ finger prints to avoid the need for so much faux moving of Brown, but they were quickly disabused of that notion. “Live scan fingerprints are sent directly to the California Department of Justice where they remain on file forever,” said a team member. “So, no, that was not a good thing to do to some poor deputy.
Even more problematic than the merry-go-round of release/catch/release, was the bothersome fact that the real Anthony Brown was taking medication, adding a yet another level of false information that had to be fed into AJIS so that the multiple mythical inmates that were Brown could be given the medication that Brown required without setting off warnings that could conceivably be tracked by outsiders later.
“Every log in is anonymous,” said an LASD source, “so if you have the right clearance, and know the right commands, you can get whatever you want from AJIS without leaving tracks.”
But the OSJ did not have the right clearance to do some of the necessary phony data entering, so they had to rope in someone who did have the necessary clearance.
This was not exactly a slam-dunk. Some of the non-team members balked when asked to perform the highly unusual computer work-arounds.
One such person was a non-sworn LASD employee, a “civilian,” named Greg Sivard who reportedly raised concerns about such a bald-faced breaking of rules.
“Plus we were telling the medical professionals every 24 to 48 hours that we had a new body that needed medicine,” said a team member. “And that was freaking them out!”
When the team members ran into the inevitable resistance, they had all been instructed utter the magic phrase: This is being directed by the Assistant Sheriff, Mr. Tanaka.
“We just told them ‘Mr. Tanaka, Mr. Tanaka, Mr. Tanaka. If you have any questions, call Mr. Tanaka.’”
“I think it’s about that time,” said one one team member, “when a lot of us of recognized that we were probably doing something really wrong.”
In fact, several members of the OSJ team told us of their discomfort about the operation. “This was unilaterally ‘in the gray,’” said another team member.
So why did they do it?
“People did it because it’s made clear that if you say ‘No,’ it won’t sit well with your superiors,” an OSJ deputy explained. “You think, ‘What about my job? My career? What if one day I want to buy a house?’
“So you do it,” he said, ‘because you want the people above you to think, ‘This guy’s stand-up. He can handle the gray area and get things done. He’s a company man. And you do it because it’s common knowledge that, in a lot of parts of this department, the main way to get ahead is to be ‘in the car’ with somebody who has power, which means helping them out when they ask you. In the case of our team, we did it to help out Greg Thompson, who was helping out Paul Tanaka,” who was easily the second most powerful person in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and according to some, the shadow sheriff.
Still, perhaps it was an artifact of their discomfort that several of the OSJ team members started to jokingly call their collective actions Operation Pandora’s Box, after the mythical container that, once opened, loosed a variety of ills upon the world that could never again be forced back into captivity.
THE OVERTIME FACTOR
I am in the process of making the next week or two of schedules for the Brown detail. I need to know who is going to be out of town (Vegas conference) include dates and or hours you are unavailable. If you anticipate being unavailable for any other reason, I need to know that ASAP so I can get this schedule done, and you can make some $$$$$. Thank you.
(Email from Gerard Smith, August 24, 2011, to Pandora team)
In addition to being complicated, hiding Anthony Brown was reportedly expensive. All the deputies on the OSJ team worked at least one full shift of overtime each week as part of the operation, some of them more, during a period where the department was supposed to be slashing overtime down to the absolute minimum—hence Smith’s statement in his email of “you can make some $$$$. The overtime being generated was substantial enough that a “dedicated overtime account,” was created with the official name of: Operation OSJ, Summer 2011.
THE OTHER PANDORA TEAM
Thompson’s OSJ crew was not the only team that was involved with the Brown operation.
There was also a second team that operated in far more secrecy than the OSJ guys. This team was headed by Lt. Steve Leavins, and was made up of various homicide detectives, and undercover types, pulled from multiple places in the department. Thompson and Leavins were at the same rank, but Leavins was a lead investigator at ICIB and, according to sources who worked on the project, had more juice with the higher-ups on the 4th floor than Thompson did, even though Thompson was known to have a longtime relationship with Tanaka, going back decades to their days as ankle-tattooed Vikings* at Lynwood.
Yet, it was reportedly Leavins, far more than Thompson, who regularly briefed Tanaka.
“Leavins would come up to Tanaka’s office to make reports in person, sometimes two or three times a day,” said one department observer.
While Thompson’s OSJ team was supposed to hide and guard Brown, Leavins’ team was tasked with getting information out of the man.
Even more than with Thompson’s crew, Leavins’ team’s actions were extremely secretive, at times self-consciously so. They reportedly met for planning and debriefing in the LASD’s Monterey Park headquarters in a room with its windows temporarily blacked out, a set up that only served to draw the attention of otherwise uninterested department members.
Once Leavins team was up and running, they used a variety of methods to try to get information out of Brown. For instance, during the first week of Operation Pandora, Leavins sent two undercover cops from his group into Brown’s cell. At the time Brown was being kept in MCJ’s 8000 unit, on the medical floor. The two undercovers were both African American, like Brown, and both dressed like inmates with medical conditions, supposedly needing a place to be stashed until a permanent cell could be found for them. In order to make the scene more realistic, the two OJS deputies guarding Brown “resisted” the intrusion with terse and angry theatricality, agreeing only to the new “inmates’” presence for a few hours.
Most often, however, the questioning of Brown was more straightforward, and occurred primarily at night, particularly once he had been moved to the San Dimas station, where the OSJ team was instructed to “soften him up.” The instruction had no Abu Ghraib-ian overtones. Mainly this meant getting Brown treats and special privileges, like lots of smoking breaks, and special deliveries of Kentucky Fried Chicken, all with the purpose of gaining his cooperation.
Then on certain nights, whatever deputy was guarding Brown would be told to bring him to a particular room in another area of the station where three to five Leavins team members would question him for hours.
When the investigators were finished for the night, the OSJ guard would be texted to retrieve Brown from what was often an otherwise empty room, littered with snack wrappers and coffee cups.
Not surprisingly, the OSJ deputies were not informed as to what the Leavins team investigators ever got out of Brown.
However, one night during the first few days of the operation, an OSJ deputy happened to have few moments alone in Brown’s cell during the period when the informant was briefly seeing a nurse. Out of curiosity, the deputy stepped over to Brown’s stacks of papers and legal pads, and glanced through some of the 20-some pages of handwritten notes that Brown had evidently been keeping. The team member reportedly saw three or four names of jail deputies whom Brown listed as having gotten him cocaine. There were also names of deputies who Brown indicated owed him money in return for some kind of favor. According to a source, Brown wrote about most of these transactions in pages and pages of highly detailed prose, in which he itemized every nuance of the various alleged exchanges.
The OSJ deputy had only a few minutes in the cell, thus could only skim Brown’s approximately 25 pages of longhand. But, the impression he came away with, he said, was that, if what Brown wrote was true, the informant had information that could implicate a number of MCJ deputies in criminal acts.
SO, DID THE FBI TRY TO GET HIM BACK?
Sheriff’s department spokespeople have maintained that, at no point did the FBI come looking for their informant. The LASD also maintains that several calls to the feds about Brown got no reply. WLA was not able to determine the truth of the latter statement, but we do have some information about the former.
While, indeed, sources tell us that, to their knowledge the FBI did not come knocking on the front door of Men’s Central Jail and demand to see Anthony Brown. But according to several sources, about a week into Operation Pandora, the US Marshalls knocked on the door in the FBIs stead. “A woman who works at IRC called and told us that they’d just gotten a call on the law enforcement line from a US Marshall who said the marshalls had a removal order, which is a court order, to collect an inmate named Anthony Brown,” said a source. (“IRC” is the jail system’s inmate reception center). According to members of Operation Pandora, “she told the marshal’s ‘I’m sorry sir but there’s was no one by that name in our system.”
The marshal reportedly replied, “That’s bullshit,” or words to that effect.
Another OSJ source confirmed the report that marshals had come knocking and added that, on two separate occasions when he was on guard detail for Brown, once at MCJ, a second time at San Dimas, he got a call from Gerard Smith who said that he and his partner should be prepared for the arrival of some US Marshals who had a removal order for Brown.
“Do not let him take the inmate,” Smith reportedly told the two deputies.
The OSJ deputy on duty was a bit taken aback. “I wasn’t sure how exactly I was supposed to stop some armed federal marshals,” he said.
It turned out to be a moot point as, in both cases, the marshals never arrived.
“The whole time everyone was terrified of leaks,” said another OSJ deputy—meaning the kind of leak, he explained, that might allow the FBI to swoop in and grab Brown.
By the evening of September 11, the Leavins team was finished with Brown. The following day, Brown was transferred to the California State Prison at Lancaster.
In order to make the transfer possible, the Pandora team had to perform one more act of digital sorcery. Brown’s ghost inmate self was “released, and Brown was booked into Men’s Central Jail as a brand new inmate under his old booking number, which was attached to his old case number. Then the real Brown was live scanned, and voila! Anthony Brown was digitally rematerialized. Minutes later, a deputy informed AIJIS that inmate Brown was being transferred out of county jail to the custody of the state.
Four of the Operation Pandora’s Box team members, Mickey Manzo, Gerard Smith, James Sexton, and Noah Kirk, piled into a two-car convoy, and personally drove Brown to the California State Prison at Lancaster on Monday night.
And that was that.
The next morning, Deputy Smith sent out the following email to the Pandora team.
Over the past few weeks you have helped out tremendously, with the safeguarding of inmate Anthony Brown. You have done so without asking to [sic] many questions and prying into the investigation at hand. Inmate Brown was transferred to Lancaster State Prison last night, so that part of the investigation is over, however this investigation is and will continue to be a time consuming affair. I am both proud and thankful to have each and every one of you to rely on, in a time of need. Your dedication and professionalism is and will continue to be needed. There will continue to be times during this investigation when I will need your help. I am confident that I will be able to call on any of you in a time of need. Once again thank you.
Always remember we are a UNIT. We were picked by people, who want to see us succeed and grow. I believe we all have similar goals for our unit, so if someone is lacking in a particular area, we must all work together to help them succeed. If we work together, we will always succeed. If you need anything, give me a call. THANX, Smitty
THE CIGAR DEBRIEF
There was no formal debriefing for Operation Pandora’s Box, but two or three weeks after Brown had been driven to prison, Lt. Thompson called an informal meeting, again outside the jail complex in Hero’s Park. He handed out cigars to the nine or so OSJ participants, then Thompson reportedly articulated in plain terms what the OSJ’s mandate was when it came to dealing with the FBI.
“It is our job to keep the FBI out of our jails,” Thompson said, “and to make life as difficult for the FBI as possible.” There was even a discussion at the cigar meeting about putting clandestine recording devices in the interview rooms that the feds used when they were talking to prisoners. But, according to our sources, that plan was never carried out.
Yet the message was unambiguous.. “Fuck the FBI!” Lt. Thompson reportedly said to his troops before the meeting disbanded, a cigar still in his hand, his features arranged in a rakish grin.
POSTSCRIPT: WHAT ABOUT INDICTMENTS?
Since the operation ended, many of the members of Thompson’s team have been questioned by FBI agents, as have others involved in some aspect of the operation, such as clerks at the jail’s Inmate Reception Center. Team members have also been subpoenaed to appear in front of a grand jury in order to talk about the hiding of Anthony Brown, some appearing as many as three times.
No one whom we spoke with who had been interviewed by the feds had any doubt that the FBI was pursuing the Anthony Brown operation with the intention of issuing criminal indictments. In addition to the issue of obstruction of justice, the feds reportedly mentioned such federal statutes as 241 and 242, Conspiracy Against Rights, and Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law, respectively.
If the ongoing investigation does result in indictments, exactly when such indictments might be brought, how many, and how high up they might go…is anybody’s guess. This is, after all, just one of at least three—possibly as many as five— major investigative tracks being pursued by the feds against members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
We do know that Paul Tanaka testified in front of a grand jury regarding Operation Pandora (and other issues) on December 19, 2012, with FBI interviews conducted a month earlier. We also know that he has been interviewed again by the FBI at least once late this spring, “in connection with the pending grand jury investigation,” and that Mr. Tanaka has hired a high profile criminal defense attorney named Ron Nessim.
As for the sheriff, he was interviewed by the FBI about Anthony Brown on April 12, 2013, prior to which time he received a letter specifying that he was not the object of the investigation.
We have not yet been able confirm whether or not he has been interviewed since that time.
We do know, however, as we mentioned earlier, that Baca’s longtime spokesperson, Steve Whitmore, is one of the newest people to be summoned by the FBI for an interview about the Anthony Brown operation. The interview is to take place on Monday, July 29.
When I spoke to Whitmore about the Brown investigation in general, he said that the department and the sheriff were cooperating in fully with the FBI and welcomed their investigation. Whitmore also again confirmed that it was Baca’s contention that Anthony Brown was hidden for the inmate’s safety.
As for his own testimony, Whitmore said that he looked forward to fully cooperating. “I want to help in any way I can.”
Just before we ended the call, I asked if he was at all nervous.
“A little nervous,” Whitmore admitted.
“But as they say, and I truly believe this” Whitmore added, “’The truth will set you free.’”
*The Vikings are the once notorious deputy clique that originated at the department’s Lynwood station.
UPDATE: On the morning of December 9, the first round of federal indictments against 18 members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were unsealed by U.S. Attorney Birotte. Among those charged were seven members of the teams that hid or questioned Anthony Brown. Those indicted on the Brown matter included two lieutenants, two sergeants, and three deputies—Gerard Smith, Mickey Manzo and James Sexton, despite the fact that Sexton had reportedly acted as a whistleblower and come to the FBI on his own accord. To date, no one above the rank of lieutenant has yet been indicted regarding the Brown operation.
Illustration by Walter Crane (1845-1915) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons