District Attorney Paul Tanaka

Lawsuit Says Former LA Undersheriff Paul Tanaka Pushed DA To Falsely Charge Deputies

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

A Long Held Vendetta

On Wednesday, attorney Ron Kaye filed a civil lawsuit in behalf of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies Robert Lindsey Jr. and Charles Rodriguez, alleging that members of the department’s Internal Criminal Investigative Bureau (ICIB) pushed for criminal charges to be wrongly filed against the deputies by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office because of a long held desire for vengeance by the once powerful undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

According to the lawsuit, the investigation against Lindsey and Rodriguez, which began on August 18, 2011, and subsequent pressure placed on the DA’s office to file the case, was directed by then ICIB Lieutenant Stephen Leavins, and in part carried out by then ICIB Sergeants Maricela Long and Scott Craig, with then captain Tom Carey heading up the bureau. At that time, Carey reported directly to Paul Tanaka, who the complaint alleges was nurturing a personal vendetta against Robert Lindsey, a now-retired commander of the LA County Sheriff’s Department, who is also Deputy Lindsey’s father.


By weird coincidence, August 18, 2011, was also the day that a series of actions began at the highest levels of the LA County Sheriff’s Department, which would ultimately lead to federal indictments and convictions for Carey, Leavins, Craig, Long, and Tanaka—plus former sheriff Lee Baca, and five others, for corruption of justice or related charges.

In total, 21 members of the sheriff’s department have been convicted of federal charges of corruption and/or brutality. Tanaka was convicted in 2016 of charges of corruption of justice, and conspiracy to corrupt justice. The former undersheriff is serving five years in a federal prison in Colorado.


Reluctance to File Charges



According to the lawsuit, the case was given to the district attorney’s office by ICIB with a recommendation that deputies Lindsey and Rodriguez be charged with filing a false police report in the course of a drug-related arrest. Yet, before the case got to a preliminary hearing, it was dismissed.

The lawsuit also alleges that the deputy district attorney on the case, Kevin Stennis, who is now a Superior Court Judge, admitted much later to Lindsey’s defense attorney, Kasey Sirody that, due to “lack of evidence,” he hadn’t wanted to refile charges against the deputies after the first dismissal. But then, Mr. Stennis’ reportedly explained, “someone from the Sheriff’s Department came and had a meeting with my boss and I was told I would re-file the case.”

Stennis reportedly did as he was told and re-filed. But at the first preliminary hearing, the prosecution’s primary witness failed to show up and, for a second time, the case was dismissed. Deputy DA Stennis filed the case a third time.

The third time around, Stennis allegedly made an unofficial side deal with the sister of his witness, an undocumented man named Uriel Salgado who reportedly had multiple aliases and multiple prior drug convictions. He is also the person whom Lindsey and Rodriguez had arrested after they found a “bindle” of cocaine in his car.

In series of emails between Stennis and the sister (that WitnessLA has obtained from other sources), Stennis appears to promise he will assist Salgado in applying for a special kind of visa, known as a U-Visa, in exchange for his testimony. A U-Visa is set aside for immigrants who are victims of certain crimes, which carry with them mental or physical abuse. The immigrant victims much also be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.

Salgado did not fit. So it appears that, during the email period, Stennis filed an extra charge against the deputies for obstruction of justice, which the communication with the sister suggests he added specifically to help Salgado meet the criteria of the U-Visa.



The emails themselves were legal, said attorney Ron Kaye. But what Stennis did that was not legal, said Kaye, “was to hide from the defense exculpatory evidence, which was this tremendous bias on the part of the witness who was undocumented, and who was being given a U-Visa for showing up. It was a huge Brady violation.”

(By “Brady violation” Kaye is referring to the landmark 1963 Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, which established that the prosecution must turn over all evidence that might exonerate the defendant to the defense. To do otherwise, the court ruled, is to violate the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.)

Kaye also described how, at the second preliminary hearing, the defense asked the witness if he had received any representation from the prosecution “that he might receive immigration relief.” According to Kaye, Salgado said “unequivocally under oath, ‘No. Never.’ It is “illegal.” said Kaye, “for the an officer of the court, especially a deputy district attorney, to sit in the courtroom and knowingly allow perjurious testimony to take place.”


The Back Story

Lindsey & Rodriguez with 2 jurors after acquittal

The charges against Lindsey and Rodriguez stem from a June 2011 drug-related arrest outside the Durango Bar in Huntington Park. Earlier in the evening, the partners had reported gotten a tip from a confidential informant that a man named “Abraham” was dealing cocaine in the Durango’s parking lot out of a white Lexus. When the twosome arrived at the bar’s lot, they spotted a white Lexus SUV with two men standing outside the vehicle with the driver’s door open. One of the two men matched the description the deputies had of the possible dealer named Abraham. Lindsey reportedly exited the patrol car and called out to the man who immediately identified himself as Abraham Rueda, which was reportedly one of Uriel Salgado’s aliases.

According to Lindsey’s report, while shining a light in the car windows, he spotted a plastic “bindle” of what appeared to be cocaine protruding from an air-conditioning vent. After he and Rodriquez searched “Rueda” and his companion, then placed them inside the patrol car, Lindsey and Rodriguez proceeded to search the Lexus and removed the protruding bag containing one quarter gram coke, but subsequently found no additional drugs.

Believing there might be more drugs still hidden, the deputies called and requested a drug-sniffing dog from their boss, a supervising sergeant named Brandon Dean, who said no K-9s were available and that the deputies should just drive the Lexus to the Lynwood station where it could be further searched in a contained environment. Rodriquez and Lindsey reportedly did precisely that, with Lindsey driving the Lexus, Rodriguez the patrol car, which contained Rueda and his pal.

After the search, Lindsey wrote up the report, which he admitted later was briefer than usual, due to the fact he’d reportedly worked overtime every day the previous week, and was unusually fatigued.

Yet Sergeant Dean would testify that the report was appropriate, and and matched what he personally knew of the night’s events.

ICIB investigators alleged that some elements of the deputies reports did not match what they saw on a cell phone copy of a fragment of surveillance video that Salgado had acquired.

Specifically the prosecution alleged that Lindsey was not standing where he said he was standing when he first spoke to Salgado and first glimpsed the cocaine and scrap of packaging in the air-conditioning vent. Prosecutors also claimed that Rodriguez lied and said that he and Lindsey drove the Lexus and the two suspects to an undisclosed second location—not the station—to search the Lexus for drugs. And finally, the deputy DA said that Salgado and his friend were handcuffed when they were transported to be booked, although the deputies reported that they were not.

Neither Salgado nor the District Attorney’s Office disputed that the small bindle of powder cocaine seized by Plaintiffs Lindsey and Rodriguez was recovered in Salgado’s vehicle as stated in Lindsey’s arrest report.


The Farther Back Story

Paul Tanaka during his 2016 federal trial

According to the lawsuit, in 2002, then-Captain Robert Lindsey, the father of Deputy Lindsey, reportedly challenged then Chief Paul Tanaka’s authority on multiple occasions, culminating in Lindsey Sr.’s refusal to “fraudulently change answers of applicants on the LASD promotional Lieutenant’s Exam.” Essentially, according to the lawsuit and other accounts, Robert Lindsey refused to cooperate with Tanaka’s efforts to place his selected LASD deputies in the position of lieutenant “where they did not merit this advancement based on their test scores.” As a result of this refusal, Tanaka reportedly screamed at Robert Lindsey, telling him, “using expletives and threatening language,” that his career “was over” in the Sheriff’s Department.

This account is in keeping with accounts WLA has received from several retired LASD sources familiar with the events pertaining to the alleged lieutenant’s exam incident of 2002.

Deputy Lindsey also reports in the lawsuit that, after his graduation from the department’s training academy in 2005, he was repeatedly approached by Paul Tanaka, whom he had never met until then. According to Lindsey, Tanaka would move in close to the deputy to ask, “How’s your father doing? Say ‘hello’ for me,” in tones Lindsey found deliberately provocative and threatening.

Then in May of 2012, after the ICIB investigation of the two deputies became public within the LASD, Lindsey and Rodriguez were reportedly on “desk duty” at the Century Station when then station captain, Joe Gooden, ordered the two into his office, where Gooden reportedly told them that then undersheriff Tanaka had ordered him to send the deputies “the fuck home.”


The Trial and the Jurors

Lindsey, Rodriguez, and team with 7 jurors after trial ends

When the case finally went to trial, the jury took less than three hours to acquit the two deputies of all charges, on June 11, 2015.

Once the verdict had been announced, instead of rushing to get to their cars to avoid the press, as is usually the case, the jurors waited in the hallway outside Judge Renee Korn’s courtroom in the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Some of those who were present described how the jurors wanted to meet and talk with the two deputies, to tell them how convinced the panel had become of their innocence. Seven of the jurors stayed still longer to take selfies and a group photo with Lindsey, Rodriguez and their families. (See photo above.)

During those minutes after the trial, when the jurors spoke to the deputies and their lawyers, jurors also reportedly said that a partial surveillance video from the Durango Bar parking lot, which the prosecution portrayed as central to its case, instead supported the accounts of Lindsey and Rodriguez, according to jurors, who said that they’d reviewed the video with extraordinary care, frame-by-frame.

“In all my years of practice, I’ve never had a jury do any of that,” said James Blatt, Rodriguez’ criminal attorney, when he described the jurors’ strong desire to wait to meet the defendants.

(We wrote earlier about the trial and some of the events that came afterward.)


Examining the Aftermath

Interestingly, while Lindsey and Rodriguez are suing Paul Tanaka and Kevin Stennis personally, they are not suing Los Angeles County or the sheriff’s department. “This is because my clients value their employment at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department,” said Ron Kaye when asked about the issue. It also seems the deputies had to sign an agreement that they would not sue the department in order to be reinstated after their acquittal, and the internal affairs investigation that followed.

Upon their reinstatement, although the deputies had been without salary for two and one half years years, they received only one year of back pay, Kaye said.

“The backpay should be 100%,” a retired LA sheriff’s department supervisor with extensive experience working internal affairs told WitnessLA. “However,” he said, “I have seen ALADS attorneys [attorneys for the deputies’ union] negotiate with the department for significantly less backpay to sweeten a reinstatement offer.”

It was frightening, the source added, “to think that Tanaka or anyone, could thwart the legal and ethical obligation of a DA to reject or dismiss a criminal case. But nothing surprises me with the corruption of Tanaka, and his army of blind followers.”

Ron Kaye too felt that Tanaka’s actions were no longer a surprise. “It’s within the scope of what we know that he would have this…revel of animosity.”

Yet, he sensed, Kay, said, “the most important parts of this lawsuit have to do with making the district attorney accountable. What this lawsuit says is the district attorney’s office is a political body, as much as it is an office that has been delegated the responsibility of upholding the law. But here we believe we have the legal basis to hold a DA responsible.”

WitnessLA reached out to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, which had no comment about the lawsuit. We also reached out to thee Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, but they have yet to comment.

34 Comments

  • Good news for Paul Tanaka.
    He may be returning to Los Angeles a lot sooner than expected.
    That is if he is called to testify in this civil case.
    And he gets free airfare and housing at MDC.

  • The Los Angeles District Attorney’s (LADA) office is as corrupt if not more than the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department. Both entities conspire to destroy peoples life’s but they go into high gear if the suspect is a Deputy Sheriff, a “must win the case”, even if they have to cheat. There will be more lawsuits coming up against both, LA Sheriff Deputies (ICIB-IAB, Executives), and LADA deputies in the near future. I remember when the corruption in the Orange County Sheriff Department was unraveled at the time Corona was in charge, ultimately, he was convicted in federal court. A few years later it was Los Angeles County Sheriff, and ultimately, Mr. Baca was convicted as well. Currently, the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) and his deputies are under Federal investigation for violating their code of ethics and wrongly convicting criminals. They will end up in federal prison, just watch. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is next in that they will too, will be under federal scrutiny, just like OCDA. The good (or bad?) part is that even the feds engage in the same mentality “must win a case” which is bad for the OCDA and LADA if the feds ever make a case against them…

  • And in the end, nobody in the DA’s Office or Sheriffs Department will be held accountable.
    Mark my words.

  • And the L.A County Board of Supervisors will vote to foot the bill from the lawsuit like they did recently.

  • Just to add to the storyline, the events surrounding then captain Lindsey and the promotional exam occurred in 2003, when he was summarily removed from being the director of personnel on orders of Tanaka. The job of overseeing the appeals process was given to one of Tanaka’s lackeys at the time, commander Ronnie Williams. To this day there are plenty of lieutenants, captains, and higher who owe their rank due to the unlawful manipulation of the examination process back then. In retirement, Williams has admitted as much under oath. This was the first major corrupt move of Tanaka, who was the newly promoted chief of admin services. The slide continued downhill with each examination after that, and each transfer to assignments Tall Paul deemed critical to his empire building schemes.

    And to think this august group makes up the overwhelming majority of Fresh Eyes McDonnell’s command staff. How’s that working for you Jim?

  • Interesting that the “Retired” Supervisor witnessed the “Sly & Conniving” negotiations, when it came to ALADS Attorneys “double dealing” with the County to reinstate deputies. With all of ALADS award dinners, Raging Waters and countless other events, they can never cover the bullshit that they’re known for doing or not doing. Amazing!

  • LATBG: How bout that….you choose a life in law enforcement……only to realize that your bosses are more corrupt than the idiots you put in jail…..the sad thing is not much has changed…..where is Serpico when we need him..

  • Is Judge Ennis still on the banch? I would think his clear prosecutorial bias shown in this case would call for his judicial record to be re-examined and numerous requests by those he either processed or set in judgement over to be re-tried or have their verdicts set aside. It just goes to show, that corruption and lack of ethics affect all levels of the criminal “justice system”.

    The DA’s office has some explaining to do it would seem. But who investigates those who are the “King of the Judicial Hill”? The FBI and The Justice Department I guess…Deja Vu…

    • If he is a State court judge, he answers to the Commission on Judicial Performance- located in northern California.

  • LATBG, Haven’t you heard…..

    “Something that happened 20, 25 years ago, or longer, we give that appropriate weight in determining, OK, the person did what they did or made a mistake on this date. What have they done since, from a standpoint of redemption? Have they been a model employee since that time?” McDonnell said.

    It’s ALL GOOD…. and if their Tanaka appointed Lieutenants or above…and as far as ALL the MONIES that I ALLOW THEM to continue defraud the citizens of….. well, as long as they kick some down at the door of my (Sheriff McBuckles) political events like they did for Baca and Tanaka….. I’m all good. ALLS FORGIVEN.

    Jim McDonnell
    Sheriff
    Leader
    Incumbent
    BOS appointed
    Follower

  • Truly goes to show that ALADS intentionally meant to “throw away” Sexton from the beginning during
    Pandora’s Box. Connect the dots to see the big picture.
    Also wondering if Jackie Lacey will immediately fire Kevin Stennis (if not already). After all, she IS the District Attorney for Los Angeles County.

    • Re Stennis… Not Lacy but the “powers that be” in the Judicial Branch to get him off the bench. This is the Los Angeles version of Chicago’s crime and politics.

    • If you want to know what personnel decisions D.A. Lacey is considering, as well any upcoming policy decisions at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, then you should ask to have your name added to the FAX list for Steve Cooley.

      In your request, you should note that your interested in receiving the daily bulletin sent by Cooley titled –

      To:
      JL@LADA
      Subject:
      Today’s instructions and direct orders.

  • Ladies and gentlemen, did we just witness the opening move in a chess game that effectively checkmated Jim McDonnell from a second term? I knew Bob was smart, but this strategy was brilliant. I see five moves to mate, on this strategy alone. Young deputies and supervisors, if you want to learn how good guys can play a hard but ethical game against the bad guys, then watch carefully and patiently what is going to take place over the next 12-16 months. You are likely going to be pleased with the outcome. But do more than watch. Fight for your Department, get involved–force ALADS to move off its own board’s self-interest and represent your interests. Little doubt a lot more to come.

  • Funny how LASD has imploded. From deputies vs. deputies (3000 Boys) to management vs. management (Baca /Tanaka). Even ALADS is one sided on which deputy will get representation. ICIB on daily witch-hunts….What a mess!

    • @lonestar why do you care what job Sexton had? Hope they have you cleaning toilets for 435 years!!! You have too much time on your hands, Oh sorry, that’s all you have is time!!!

  • And once again, Captain Tom Carey’s name resurfaces. And it resurfaced in a case where it is “alleged” Tom and his ICIB crew framed two patrol deputies on behalf of one Paul Tanaka. But that can’t be, because I just read on Facebook LASD Past and Present that Tom was a great leader, a stand up guy, honest Tom, a man of integrity, someone who was screwed by Tanaka and Baca, a man who was just doing his job, and the best one, a guy who got the shaft for simply following (illegal and unlawful) orders. Oh boy, is all of that rich or what? Well, let’s hear the evidence in trial, let’s hear the facts, all of it. But IF, there is evidence to prove Tanaka, Carey and the DA’s Office conspired and framed these deputies, I do hope the FBI opens a separate criminal investigation and IF true, puts the real culprits on trial, again. Let’s see how this shocking allegation plays out. I just want facts, not spin.

    • Anyone who has ever had the pleasure to deal with the ICIB guys should know, they are corrupted, crooked and will do what it takes to make a case against a deputy. When the crooked ICIB guys are found dirty, they fall on the sword, all the way. I supposed there are a few good guys, but they must be afraid to stand up against the crooked. Tom Carey and his crew were caught, by the FBI, but I am sure, the current crew at ICIB, are just a replacement, doing business as usual.

  • Easy….Little Jim. Leave the spouses out of this unless you know something otherwise. It has been stated that the ex wife was involved in a traffic accident and has neurological issues. Take your “Spiderman” underwear off and wear “boxers” like a real man.

  • Neither of them ever worked for me, I only knew them from a distance. I just have a real problem when someone like Tom, who was up to his eyes in filth, doing Tanaka’s bidding and now this allegation by these two deputies, now being portrayed as a “victim” by his ex. What’s worse, is the Niagara chorus of folks, good folks, many whom I know, chiming in with words of agreement. Tom did not get screwed. Tom disgraced all of us who made rank, he screwed his own people by allowing them to engaging in the most outrageous, suicide mission that I’ve ever heard of; go to an FBI agents home and threaten her, all captured on video tape. Tom did not get screwed. For God’s sake, the man was the captain of ICIB! That entire Division was corrupted by Tanaka, IAB, ICIB and the command staff, those who turned a blind eye, or those who were actively involved with whispering, “Paul wants……” The Discovery and depositions on this civil case is going to be quite revealing. We will see who was really doing the screwing and I hope every bit of it is exposed. The names will raise a few eyebrows, maybe even Buckle’s.

  • Heard both of the deputies were good dudes. Sounds like they got railroaded hard. Also heard the Sergeant got railroaded recently by the current regime. From what I heard, the department demoted him from Lieutenant back to Sergeant because he testified on these deps behalf.

  • I concur, Lindsey and Rodriguez are good dudes, I would take a bullet for them. Sad thing if I were to take a billet for them I would go down as a hero, a freeway would be named after me, and “fresh eyes” would give a political speech saying how great I was, even though he did not know a crap about me. But if I testified on behalf of the deputies, he would order ICIB to fabricate a case against me. That’s the LA Sheriff’s office…

  • About time! My heart goes out to these deputies who were put through the mill by the last and the current regime. One can only imagine what they and their families went through during that process. It’s still incomprehensible to me after reading the article. Those involved in putting a case on these two deputies should be seriously concerned as a possible criminal investigation may be launched.

    I’m also surprised why Fresh Eyes and his Constitutional Policing Gestapo Advisors were not named in the lawsuit. If I was a guessing man, wasn’t Diana T part of the last regime as well? Seems like the deck of cards are starting to crumble for Fresh Eyes.

    It’s also interesting why ALADS did not sent out one their press releases supporting the lawsuit on behalf of their deputies; oh wait, Dick won’t allow them to, since they also had a hand in feeding these deputies to the wolves. I won’t be surprised if more lawsuits begin to pile.

    As always, ALADS and POPA are silently hiding in the background waiting for the bad man to go away. Deputies need to see this free loading organizations for what they really are.

    Major kudos to Maya and Celeste on their reporting of these stories. They are now seeing for themselves how much smoke and mirror acts go on under Fresh Eye’s administration.

    • Kudos to the sharp eye deputies who see the destruction that ALADS create among their own.
      Truly ALADS is the Pied Piper, Pimp and Predator to deputies. When the deputies wake-up……only then will there be a shake-up to cause a break-up.

  • EDITOR’S NOTE:

    Dear Jim Diamond,

    This is the second time you’ve talked trash about someone’s spouse. Criticizing family members, including ex-spouses, is not permitted here.

    I deleted your comment the first time, and now I’ve deleted the second comment. I’m going to assume that time two was a mistake, that you didn’t get my message initially.

    If there is a third time I will view things quite differently.

    Thanks in advance for understanding.

    C.

  • If McDonnell had any class or smarts he would have called Lindsey and Rodriguez in to his office upon their return and told them that he was sorry for what happened to them under the old regime. Then assured them that there was to be no retaliation, and if they EVER felt they were be retaliated against, to let him know. Then he needed to follow it up with advising the EPC of his words to these two Tanaka victims – yeah, I know the EPC is FULL of Tanakaites, but that discussion is for another time.

    Clearly Buckles has neither class nor smarts. He reminds me of a Mr Mcgoo, just stumbling and bumbling along – totally clueless. I feel for my beloved LASD.

    • Exactly, why still go after these guys after that. Yet he still tries to discipline these guys and demotes the sergeant; which no one is talking about. From what I heard, sergeant is good dude and your boy McDonnell laid him out years later because he stood up for these dudes. I hope these deps make a fortune

      • McDonnell is toast. There is zero tolerance for corruption or any form of illegal retaliation, and this is now on McDonnell’s watch. Of course, so was the executive driving a 10-29V, and the captain and ops lieutenant who made a certain CHP 180 disappear, and the executive who whitewashed his captain’s 10-30 pursuit, and lawsuit after lawsuit alleging management misconduct, I’m beginning to see a pattern here…

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