The Downfall of Paul Tanaka

Prosecutors Call for 5 Years in Prison for Former LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka



THE RINGLEADER FROM THE BEGINNING

“Defendant Paul Tanaka is responsible not only for obstructing justice, but also for fostering the culture that led to the significant problems in the Los Angeles County jails….While defendant claimed at his and three previous trials that he had only limited involvement in the conspiracy, the evidence showed instead that he was the ringleader from the beginning.
”

So begins the 23-page sentencing memorandum filed last week, in which government prosecutors ask U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson to sentence Paul Tanaka, the former second in command at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, to 60 months—or 5 years—in federal prison.

Tanaka, as most readers know, was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, on April 6. He is due to sentenced by Judge Anderson on Monday, June 27.

The government’s sentencing memorandum makes for interesting reading. In it U.S. Attorneys Brandon Fox, Lizabeth Rhodes, and Eddie Juaregui not only reiterate the crimes for which Tanaka was convicted, they also paint a picture of a rogue supervisor who fostered a toxic culture that allowed for a pattern of civil rights abuses and corruption in the LA County jail system, and beyond. This pattern of abuse, say the prosecutors, led to the multi-year FBI investigation that Tanaka was convicted of obstructing.

And Tanaka wasn’t just any participant, the prosecutors write. He was “in charge of” the obstructive operation, was “involved in all aspects of the obstruction,” and he “set the tone of the operation early and repeatedly with his ‘F**k the FBI’ statements.”


THE CONTEXT AND THE CRIME

This attitude of Tanaka’s was not a new one, according to the prosecutors. It was, they contend, his signiture style as a supervisor that created the context for the crimes of which he and other department members have been convicted:

“During his time as an executive,” they write, “[the} defendant threatened to discipline supervisors who frequently referred deputies to Internal Affairs, transferred Captains who tried to reduce deputy abuse and break up cliques, instructed deputies to work in the ‘gray area’ of law enforcement, and expressed his desire to gut Internal Affairs. Defendant’s actions caused deputies to believe that they could act with impunity, which, unfortunately, they did much too frequently.”

Moreover, according to the prosecution, Tanaka “chose as his co-conspirators those who were ordinarily supposed to investigate the same type of crimes that they began covering up.”

The specifics of crimes of which Tanaka has been convicted are as follows: from mid-August 2011 through September 26, 2011, in a series of actions that came to be known, unofficially, Operation Pandora’s Box, Mr. Tanaka and department members under his direction, devised a scheme to hide a jail inmate turned-confidential informant from his FBI handlers through a complicated strategy of multiple name changes that made the federal informant, Anthony Brown, appear to vanish from the LA County jail system by making his name and distinguishing details vanish from the jail database.

The government also described how department members under Tanaka’s command attempted to intimidate potential witnesses, who had information about deputy wrongdoing, into refusing to cooperate with the FBI. Then the same group falsely threatened an FBI agent with arrest in an unsuccessful attempt to intimidate her into giving them information about the ongoing federal investigation.

For all these actions, say the prosecutors, Paul Tanaka was “the ringleader.”


COMPARATIVE SENTENCING

In the memo, the government notes that the other seven former department members who were convicted of obstruction of justice for participation in the same actions that Tanaka has been convicted of directing and influencing, have been given sentences ranging from 18 months for then-deputy James Sexton, to 37 and 41 months, respectively, for former lieutenants Greg Thompson and Stephen Leavins, at the top end, with former deputies Gerard Smith and Mickey Manzo, plus former sergeants Maricela Long and Scott Craig, receiving sentences in between.

The government makes the logical case that since Tanaka was the guy in charge, the shot caller, he must get the longest sentence.

The prosecutors also address the Baca factor, which the defense will undoubtedly point to vigorously when they argue for a lower sentence.

Former sheriff Lee Baca, as most of you are aware, made a plea deal with the feds in early February of this year, in which he admitted to lying to federal agents about his part in this whole mess. In return, the feds have agreed to a sentence of between 0 to 6 months in federal prison.

(Anderson will be sentencing Baca on July 11, at which time the judge is theoretically supposed to hand down a sentence between those guidelines. Yet legally, Anderson could sentence Baca to as much as five years, or anything in between. However if Anderson goes at all outside the 0 to 6 parameter, then the plea deal becomes null and void—unless Baca and his attorneys decide to accept a higher sentence rather than lose the plea deal, and move to an indictment.)

In the Tanaka sentencing memo, the prosecutors don’t exactly argue that Baca is less guilty than Tanaka, but that the “quantity and the quality” of the evidence they have against Lee Baca is less than the mounds they have against Tanaka. In other words, you charge what you can dead bang prove.

Then, in a curious sentence near the end of the memo, in which the prosecutors call the judge’s attention to “the issues raised in Baca’s PSR. Those issues place him in a very different position than the others involved in this case,” they write.

“PSR” stands for Pre Sentencing Report, the report written up by probation officials with a sentencing recommendation, that the judge may follow or disregard. We don’t know what “issues” to which the government is referring in their reference to the “PSR,” but our best guess is that the former sheriff is claiming health issues that he and his attorney maintain should preclude him from going to prison.

We’ll see what Judge Anderson makes of all this on June 27—And then again, on July 11, when he sentences former sheriff Baca.

In the meantime, former Deputy Gilbert Michel will be sentenced Monday morning.


You can find the government’s Tanaka sentencing memo here.

35 Comments

  • He made his deal with the Devil, Baca, back in the the early 90’s. And he thought he was the Devil Junior. All mighty and better than the Ol’ Devil Baca. He was the new and improved Devil T! Figured he would do the Devil thing, do the Devil’s bidding and then shove the Ol’ Devil into the fire pit when the time came. He shoved A LOT OF GOOD SOULS into the fire pit in the 20 plus years he had the Devil’s ear. ALL of them just simply because they were trying to do good, like they were supposed to and were hired and tasked to do. He deserves a HELL of alot more than 5.

  • #1: Totally agree but we must ask how did Tanaka do all he did without the approval and endorsement of just not Baca but also Stonich and Waldie? Please recall that T-Nut was a Lieutenant was Baca was first elected. Baca, Stonich and Waldie all knew and were all in agreement with T-nut’s strategy to Hope and Change LASD. I wonder if Stonich and Waldie will be in attendance when Baca or Tanaka get sentenced? Sadly, not everyone got tried!

  • It’s a sad day when an undersheriff and his eager-to-please underlings commit such corrupt activities daily for over a decade, on an organization and all employees in it as well as the community it is supposed to serve, and receive slaps on the wrists such as this potential 5 year term for Tanaka. What will former captain Carey receive? Community service? How about Cruz? He was in the trenches at CJ, indoctrinating “the fellas” and showing them how “Mr. Tanaka” wanted things done, and overseeing two Christmas party beat-downs of fellow employees. And he’s skating, free and clear. The Federal prosecutors aren’t going to rebuild faith with the local law enforcement community or population at large by showing these types of results. With this little spanking, what’s to prevent some future Tanaka from acting on his/her impulse to act similarly? This is really disappointing.

  • Two weeks and counting…. Still time to get your cards and letters in to Judge Anderson’s courtroom.

    How relevant it is for him to hear from actual Department members about how YOU feel and the wrongs you and the Department have suffered. Very persuasive to hear from those on the inside who know best. Tell him your personal stories.

    It will make a difference! Write now.

  • I am sorry but the buck stops with Baca, period. He was the daddy who wanted to be in charge. You don’t get to push everyone he was responsible for as Sheriff under the bus and walk away with a minor sentence.
    What about all the people Baca totally screwed with out Tanaka even being involved. The term don’t ask don’t tell is how Baca escaped. I am so surprised that more people did not react to Baca’s sentence but instead will settle for Tanaka to get their fix. Like him or not he was never in charge of the department, Baca was.

  • Oh Paulie, Gilbert Michel (won’t give that piece of shit the distinction of calling him “former” deputy) just received six months in the big house, DESPITE the prosecution requesting only four months of house arrest. So guess what that means little big man? It means your chances of getting significantly more time than FIVE years recommended just took a huge leap. I’m guessing (or hoping) for eight to ten years in the slammer. You best get your affairs (and that includes all your 924’s) in order real quick. Just think of all of the damage you have done to LASD and to all the good people who just wanted to do their job. Think of all the cigars you smoked on the back deck with the “fellas,” all the smack you talked. Your name will ALWAYS be associated with disgust, dishonor, corruption and narcissism. Wow, that’s a mouthful. And to all of you disgusting bun boys from the rank of Assistant Chief on down who rode on little Paul’s coattails, active and retired, you are equally loathed for what you did, the head turning and the suckassing to pimp yourself to the little man. This is far from over.

  • Say what you want about Paul Tanaka and his antics, but to me the real story is about Lee Baca and how he sold out his undersheriff and deputies to save his own ass. Now he has Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease??? Interesting, considering not long ago he was peddling health products on line and boasting how he would live to be 100. He didn’t look so sick the other night when the Jewish community was praising him for his leadership and he was claiming not to be afraid of anything. Biggest joke ever. He soiled his pants when the FBI came knocking and now he’s a tough guy who isn’t afraid to do 180 days. Please Leroy, is that why you’re feigning illness now? This guy is beyond pathetic. Leroy, I dedicate the definition below to you my friend.
    Full Definition of RAT:
    1. any of numerous rodents (Rattus and related genera) differing from the related mice especially by considerably larger size
    -any of various similar rodents
    -a contemptible person: as
    -one who betrays or deserts friends or associates
    -scab
    -informer

  • CSN83…. No disagreement on Baca. But Banaka was coined based on good reasoning. Tanaka was an adult, principal in Baca’s crimes and indiscretions, and a full on suspect in many of his own, where Baca played the support principal suspect role. Them switching back and forth holding onto the victims while the other actually did the shod “political” foot 245, the punk crooks they are, doesn’t absolve him in any way. And someone else mentioned all he was in the beginning was a lieutenant, and what about Waldie and Stonich. I can’t speak to Stonich, but spot on on the loud mouth punk Waldie. However, EVERYONE knew Tanaka was a Lieutenant unlike any other, straight dis-ing Captains, and Commanders and above knew to leave him alone, as Baca moved him along. On all those ridiculous unit meetings with Baca after his election, it was Waldie, Stonich, and that Lieutenant Tanaka up there running back and forth doing high then low five with Leroy.

  • @ 7 et al: Tanaka’s offense level is calculated at 24 yielding a resulting guideline range of 51 – 63 months. As much as we all might feel he deserves more or would like to see him get more, I don’t think the judge can sentence beyond the 63 months set by the guidelines.

    However, with the prosecution’s recommendation of 60 months, it leaves a little room for the judge to have the last word and “throw the book at him” if he wants to with the full 63! That I think he CAN do.

    Let’s hope.

  • @Trump, I agree that Baca is trying to pull a scam and hopefully the judge will see right through his gutless charade. Baca is an absolute loon, his arrogance and delusional view of grandeur was fed by everyone who worked around him, virtually all for self serving purposes. But the evidence against him in Pandora’s Box was slim at best. But he knew enough of this operation where he should have shut it down immediately and fired everyone. But in true Baca fashion, he and his sock puppets went along with this stupid idea and gave the ball to Tanaka. Baca is truly responsible for everything that Tanaka did over the years, because Leroy was the ultimate enabler.

    But Tanaka, now this little worm is going to get his and he will earn every year he is soon to receive. His entourage of money and power sucking vermin will receive their dose of karma in due time. I bet Valerie’s ass isn’t being kissed anymore, her pathetic fall from the Queen’s throne room is on full display. It used to pain me when I had business at Lenox Operations and watched the aura of arrogance follow her. Now she is the wife of a convicted Federal felon, a disgraced one at that. The brass have all but turned their weak asses on little Paul. The same ones that stuffed his pockets with shakedown cash, lit his cigars and did his bidding. Piss on all of them. If I didn’t live out of state, I’d be the first one in line at the Federal courthouse.

  • 14: That’s a great description of all of them;sock puppets! Do you think they used Vaseline to get their socks on? Ha! With your permission I’m going to use that term from now on.

    Paul: I’ve known you for years and from the beginning you had ruthless ambition pulling you to the dark side. Like Bill Stonich you didn’t care who your hurt but instead of a knife in the back, Bill Stonich style, you would knife anybody at anytime for any reason. Stop and reconsider your family and how they have stayed with you all this time. I know I never had much influence with you but come forward and tell the truth. Otherwise whatever life you have left will be marred by a mental hell that will be the end of you. There is no honor by being dishonorable!

    Sadly, it appears the current McD cartel is just as bad. Did Tyler look stooopid or what over the weekend?

  • #14 ain’t that the truth. How about Tom Carey’s wife (or is it ex, no one knows). Basically handed a Captains promotion from the Mr T camp. Now that this has happened, she acts as though Tom is in the clear. Haaaaa, he’s a snitch

  • It is great for the LASD to have this chapter finally come close to the end. Tanaka and Baca have tarnished the department in such a way that it may take a generation to correct. Watching the crazy man (BACA) and his crazy ideology over the years has been, say entertaining. On the other hand, watching Tanaka rant and rave through the halls of the 4th floor, threatening staff, transfer people, and demand money and respect has been a horrific experience.

    As a member of the department, I hope that all of those hard working men and women of the department who were bashed by the Tanaka machine can rest easy knowing he got what he deserved. As for all of you YES FOLKS, and we know who you are as the donation list are common knowledge, shut up and move on. Your king is nothing more than a power ranger now, we shall call him “rump ranger”. I truly hope somebody can get a picture of him in his federal jumpsuit.

    I hope that their pictures will never grace the halls of any department building in this county. They are crooks, thieves, and tyrants. He should have been stopped years ago but nobody is the yes camp would ever let that happen believing they would be able to promote well above their abilities. I hope Tanaka knows they will be teaching classes about him at the FBI academy for all the future executes on the department.

    As for the YES FOLKS who retired, should I ever see you stranded on the side of the road, I will drive right past you. I have zero respect for the bunch of you.

    God bless the men and women of the LASD who will carry the greatest law enforcement agency into the future. May we never make the same mistakes.

  • Who is kidding who. Tall Paul might be gone, but he left behind a thriving set of coin holders, campaign contributors and yes men that are still in place. Still navigating their way up the ranks because our failed leadership never cleaned house. Maybe the pay to play list should be buried in the “Time Capsule” and when they dig it up, we will see how far they all got, and what destruction they caused.

  • There is one aspect that has gone unmentioned, that of potential fines for Baca & Tanaka. Both will received multi six figure retirements. Baca profited in a major way while in office; trips, gifts & direct payments. Baca received more gifts than all,the other California Sheriff’s combined. Aside from substantial prison time, fines in the seven figure range seem appropriate. Instead of six months for Lee Baca, how about two years & a $1,000,000’fine., Tanaka eight years & a $1,000,000 fine.
    The profound dishonesty & its cost to the taxpayer & the devaluation of LASD personnel ( outside employment) should be delt with via HEAVY fines.

  • The Past,

    Your proposal concerning the imposition of hefty fines certainly has some merit. Their conduct does warrant severe sanction.

    Dr. Baca and Mr. Tanaka are being sentenced for their violation of the law.

    Don’t you think that you should also be following the law in your recommendation of a sentence?

    Please check out the provisions of 18USC3571. The fines for their conduct are capped at $250K.

    Just how are you gonna make that million dollar fine idea work?

  • 19: You have very good points. And recall that Waldie got free meals, hotel rooms, cars, sporting tickets (LA Times) and who knows what else. Baca got hundreds of thousands for so-called Leadership talks in Alabama. And didn’t the sheriff from that county become a chief for LASD?

    C: Lacy should go after all the ill gotten gains by all current and past execustives!

  • Rick D, aren’t you sharp, who knew that the fine was limited to $250k.I get to the $1,000,000 by the $250k statutory fine & then calculate $250k per year, about what each nets after taxes per year, & hope they offer the difference as an honorable act of contrition. Absent the aforementioned offer Dr.
    Baca ends up with 3 1/2 years & Mr. Tanaka with 8 years. The Dr. title for Lee Baca is an embarrassment to USC but is consistent with undo influence.

    Question, exactly, they should be sued for conduct outside their job duties & responsibilities. I think the Board of Supervisors should try to recover the incredible costs that have followed the mis & malfeasance of Baca & Tanaka. Their criminal conduct will cost tens of millions & is Not in the scope of their job. If the Board of Supervisors won’t order the County Counsel to sue perhaps a private independent effort should be made.

  • I think I still have a picture of Waldie’s freshly crashed Dk Blue Taurus towed from the Palm Springs area when it arrived at Walnut Station before it was rushed to Fleet! Was he 390 when he caused all the damage?
    My Sheriff will always be Sherman Block with his leadership skill, glad I’m pulling the plug in a year!

  • Sheriff I have a question. If a Lt/Sgt/Dep has a relationship with someone of lower rank what would happen to them. In today’s law enforcement environment most likely they would be terminated. They would be terminated under “General Behavior”. The culture of this department will never change unless you abolish the double standards of punishment between line personnel and upper management. When an executive has an affair with a subordinate it should be grounds to terminate that person. [WLA EDIT] The sad thing is your commend staff has several people who fall under this category, and it is accepted. You can’t split your personal life from department life. There needs to be a balance. But this will fall on deaf ears and life will go on. Hopefully Sheriff you wake up today and grow a pair.

  • Questions,

    The dollar amount of the potential fines are limited to 250K. There are provisions for larger fines, primarily in financial type crimes, but those provisions don’t apply here.

    The BOS lacks any legal authority to impose fines. There may have some ability for them to file a civil lawsuit (IANAL and not knowledgeable on any tort theories that would allow recovery) but as a lay person, I’m having a hard time seeing where a lawsuit would be successful. A lawsuit could also backfire on the BOS by highlighting how the BOS failed to “supervise” the activities they are suing over.

  • EDITOR’S NOTE:

    I’m very aware of the latest rumor going around—in detail.

    And, I apologize to those of you whose comments I’ve edited or deleted. We’ve got a policy of not repeating scandals—true or false—about people’s personal lives.

    But I understand your concerns.

    Right now, all we know is that someone in the department is dealing with a very painful family situation. If we hear about clear and verifiable professional wrongdoing, we’ll be happy to widen the discussion.

    I know it’s difficult not to want to talk about all this. We are a storytelling species.

    Have a good weekend. May we all stay cool.

    C.

  • @Maxell, interesting scenario you bring to the table. One’s personal life, regardless of rank, should be personal to a certain degree. But when a subordinate benefits from an extramarital affair on the professional side be it promotion, coveted position, special consideration for assignments, schedule and other perks that no one else receives, then it is wrong, morally, ethically and by Department policy. We have seen inept, seriously non-deserving individuals promote etc. simply because of an affair or even marriage. It makes it worse when it is flaunted in the face of all with such arrogance, it defies any level of civility. How they live with themselves is beyond me. What makes it worse is when the executive is married, rams down everyone’s throat religion and ethics AND “accountability” at every opportunity to make himself appear as a leader, then it becomes sickening. And now Sheriff McD has yet another shit sandwich on his plate, served by yet another member of his command staff, one he retained for reasons no one can understand. Everyone knows of this, so all eyes are on the Sheriff, again, to see how he’s going to handle it. Termination, absolutely not, get real. But retention at ANY EPC level rank, that would be laughable. Your move Sheriff, we are watching, again.

  • Rick D, the Sheriff is a constitutional officer & is independent of the Board of Supervisors. The BOS has budgetary authority but no supervisorial authority over the Sheriff. The Board could easily sue for the criminal acts that will total in the millions in judgements. As a matter of routine most judgements are covered by the County because the personnel are agents of the County & the vast majority of cases are settled as a business decision irrespective of relative merit. The issue here, is overt criminal decision making, well beyond just bad judgement. Why shouldn’t the Board sue is the question. Criminal conspiracies are hardy routine.

  • So, can I say the Sheriff’s have never sent 9 radio cars to my house Let me give you a history lesson,

    My Dad joined this Department in 1956 and worked the old Firestone Station. That was back when when it meant something…

    And Happy Fathers Day to all Sheriff’s Dept Members and those men expecting kids!

  • After a great Father’s Day at the North Pole, Santa’s helpers did an early Monday morning sweep of the FBI Data Network and found that this conversation took place over the weekend in the office of Sheriff McDonnell at the Hall of Justice:

    Sheriff McDonnell: Well Neal, another “Steamer”!

    Undersheriff Tyler: Well, you could be the Mayor of Oakland. There, it is an entire department that is a “cess pool”, here is an isolated case.

    McDonnell: Yeah, I did hear something about their Mayor saying about needing to run a police department rather than a frat house? It’s not that BAD is it?

    Tyler: Ah,….no. And they have the issue of under-age sex by their officers.

    McDonnell: Good, the old “In every cloud there is a silver lining” approach. I would imagine Oakland includes on-duty stuff as well.

    Tyler: Ours might…..

    McDonnell: Damn it, don’t go there!

    Tyler: Sorry.

    long silence

    Tyler: And to think we thought we got it all behind us when we put Rothans and Angel to bed….

    McDonnell: Like Barrantes says…..

    Tyler: “Welcome to the LASD”!

  • The Past,

    You’re correct in that the Sheriff is not personally subordinate to the Board of Supervisors. Even though the Sheriff is a constitutional officer, the Government Code does define the State Attorney General as having supervisory authority over the Sheriff (GC 12560).

    But that distinction isn’t really relevant to my point. The BOS do possess a great deal of functional supervisory authority over the conduct of Sheriff’s Department operations, even if they lack authority over the Sheriff personally. Keep in mind that the Sheriff cannot purchase a single roll of toilet paper for the jail, or even an gallon of gasoline for his patrol cars without budget approval by the BOS.

    I am kinda amazed that the Attorney General seems to have completely escaped any form of scrutiny for her lack of supervision as the department started to go downhill.

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