Pandora's Box

Witness Against Former Sheriff Lee Baca Gets 9-Month Sentence

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

Cooperation Versis Obstruction

On Monday morning, William “Tom” Carey, 58, a former captain of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department—and a genuinely crucial witness in the second trial of five-term former LA County sheriff Lee Baca—became the last of the department members charged with obstruction of justice to be sentenced.

U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson surprised most court watchers by giving Carey a sentence of nine months in a federal prison, and a year of probation when he gets out. Carey was also fined $3,000.

The nine-month sentence was a month under the ten months the prosecution had requested, and years less than the up to 60 months he could conceivably have received.

Carey—who was originally charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and perjury, for lying on the stand in three previous obstruction trials—pleaded guilty to the perjury charges in return for having the two obstruction charges dropped.

Carey also agreed to testify at the trial of former sheriff Lee Baca, and to be available to testify at former undersheriff Paul Tanaka’s trial, although in the end he wasn’t called by the prosecution for Tanaka’s proceedings, or for Baca’s first trial.

In the second trial of former sheriff Baca, however, Carey was called and, in his nearly two days of testimony, he made a measurable difference, according to the prosecution.

With all this in mind, the government asked Judge Anderson for a 10-month sentence for Carey.

Carey was, however, a part of the actions that produced the convictions of ten department members for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Among those convicted were the former sheriff, Lee Baca, and the man who believed he would be the sheriff after Baca, Paul Tanaka.

With the other defendants, Anderson handed down sentences that ranged from 18 months, at the low end, to five years, for Tanaka. And, in Baca’s case, the judge gave the former sheriff a full year more than the government had requested.

So what Anderson would do with Carey was considered to be anybody’s guess.


Less “Egregious” Obstruction?

As most readers likely remember, the problems that led to all those obstruction of justice convictions began in August 2011, when the FBI had been investigating an increasing number of reports of brutality and corruption by deputies in the LA County jail system for nearly a year. But while the FBI agents had plenty of complaints from inmates that seemed credible, proving them was another matter. Deputies backed up each other’s stories. And, in general, members of law enforcement were more sympathetic in the eyes of jurors than inmates, even if the inmates were in the right.

So the feds decided to launch an undercover investigation using an inmate/informer named Anthony Brown. In the summer of 2011, Brown participated in a successful sting in which a deputy brought Brown a contraband cell phone in return for a cash bribe.

But then when the cell phone was discovered in a routine search, Brown’s identity as an FBI informant was blown, plus the existence of the undercover investigation came to light.

That is when the obstruction began.

In short order, a complicated plan was devised to hide Brown from his federal handlers. Attempts were made to persuade potential witnesses not to talk to the FBI. And a special agent of the FBI was falsely threatened with arrest—among other less-than-ideal activities.

According to the prosecution’s sentencing memo, however, the government viewed Carey “as being less culpable than many of the others”—others being the former LASD people who had already been convicted for their individual and collective parts in the obstruction scheme.

“First, [Paul] Tanaka was responsible for the [brutal and corrupt] culture in the jails and made statements about the FBI that stoked the flames in the Department,” the prosecutors wrote. “Second, although he was a lower-ranking official, [Former lieutenant Stephen] Leavins was reporting directly to Baca and Tanaka and [was] involved in some of the egregious witness tampering. Third, [former sergeant Scott] Craig and [Maricela] Long were not only involved in the witness tampering, but also made the outrageous statements to [Special Agent] Marx and [others].

“Additionally, defendant is the only one to accept responsibility and plead guilty. Every other defendant went to trial. Defendant is also the only one to have cooperated by the time of his sentencing.”

The defense asked for a “custodial sentence” of not more than five months, with another five months of house arrest.

In addition to arguments about the importance of Carey’s 35 years of service to the LA County Sheriff’s Department, plus his cooperation with the prosecution, and the fact that he had admitted to a crime, Carey’s attorney, Andrew Stolper, described the fact that his client was caring for his ex-wife’s son because the boy’s father was dead, and his ex-wife, the boy’s mother—who is also a former department member—was gravely injured in a car wreck, which left her with “neurological issues.”


“Serious Consequences”

At first it appeared that Judge Anderson was going to take a hard view.

“He was a sworn officer of the law,” said Anderson, adopting his usual fierce tone. “And he came into a federal court and swore an oath to tell the truth. And then he lied.” More than once.

But then Anderson shifted gears. “A nine-month custodial sentence, and one year of supervised release will deter others….” he said.

“If it were not for the defendant’s cooperation,” and his years of service, the sentence would be “much more severe,” Anderson added with a glare, in case anyone thought he was temporarily going soft.

Anderson also spoke about Carey’s struggle as a single father to his ex-wife’s boy.

It was a more positive outcome than expected for Carey, who was the head of the Internal Criminal Investigative Bureau (ICIB) for the sheriff’s department, the unit that theoretically should have investigated the kind of criminal acts by department members that the FBI investigated for approximately six years, resulting in 21 convictions.

But the point was made. “Obedience to a criminal culture has serious consequences,” said Anderson.

Carey is expected to surrender to federal marshals on July 24.


POST SCRIPT: On Friday of last week, former LA County sheriff’s deputy Mickey Manzo—who was one of those ten department members convicted of obstruction charges—applied for a reduction of his 24-month prison sentence, based on what is known as the 1033 rule. Manzo too was an important witness in both of the Baca trials, and in the trial of Paul Tanaka.

Anderson reduced Manzo’s sentence to 14 months in prison, from the original 24.

While the reduction was good news, according to Manzo’s attorney, his client—who is now working for Home Depot—was just offered a promotion. Now, of course, he cannot receive it.

Manzo attempted to be good-natured when he heard the news. But, still, the reality of it was a blow.

Manzo may have been thinking of former LASD deputy James Sexton who, after cooperating with the feds, was released by Anderson in January of this year into six months of home detention followed by another six months of formal probation.

Yet, Sexton had already done four-and-a-half months in a string of federal prisons that turned out to be much harder time than anyone intended. (For more details on Sexton’s prison experience read our previous story here.)

Manzo’s reporting date is June 2.

14 Comments

  • Assistance Request –

    I am seeking information regarding details about the release of confidential information in November 2013, by LASD executives, LASD attorneys, or other LASD personnel. Specifically I am looking for the person, or persons, who identified me to the media as the information source regarding possible criminal activity within the LASD, in the Antelope Valley area (Reference story: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-deputy-allegations-20131126,0,6975602.story#axzz2ljnpwuvv)

    If you have this information, please email me at kvoyer@gmail.com

    Respectfully,

    Katherine Voyer, Retired LASD Lieutenant

    • Good luck with any response. As you already know, getting information identifying Venomous Vipers in LASD is like walking on water. The Vipers are still embedded in LASD. Did PPOA assist you at that time.

  • This guy is very lucky, nine (9) months is nothing, considering the fact he fabricated too many criminal cases against so many good deputies, while at the same time covering up for the higher ups. I was reading a book by Robert Shaffer, convicted deputy for murder in 1970. ( http://whenlawmenlie.com/ ) He said it seemed cover-up was part of the job. They teach deputies to cheat, lie, cover-up, as long it benefits the higher ups. It is all good. Then the higher ups, dispose of a deputy or two when they want a bump in pay. They then come after low ranking deputies with vengeance, even if they have to fabricate cases against them. Also read a book written by a former LASD Lieutenant, “The Firestone Syndrome,” a commander in 1979 wants to make Chief, and fabricates a story about Firestone Deputies, looking at burning some to get the Chief promotion. The commander asked the Lieutenant to assist and promised him the Captain promotion if the lieutenant helps in taking the Firestone deputies down….nothing has changed…it is the same as it was in 1969, 1979….they will fabricate, or cover-up a deputy crime according to their needs…

    • It should be noted that Robert Shaffer’s roommate (also his locker mate at Firestone Station) went into the DEA & led the Donald P. Scott raid.

      That raid can be Googled for more info.

  • @Unknown and Ownership, hold on a second. Schaffer’s story is full of self-serving bullshit. Sure there was 10-30 stuff going on at Fpk – nothing new here. But to believe his story was anything but making excuses for what he did is to believe in the Tooth Fairy. He was trying justify his actions by saying he was a product of the peer pressure and environment that was prevalent at Fpk. – like it was the “norm” to execute the crooks rather than go 10-15, and then toss a throw-away at their feet! And then the brass would cover it up? Yeah, right!

    As far as the other book is concerned, it may be helpful to know that the author (another self-server) was shown the door after he was caught stealing county property. Then he writes a book in which he makes very little effort to disguise himself as the “hero” who is the white knight amongst the corruptness of the LASD. If you ever worked around this arrogant, pretty-boy you would not have been surprised at his attempt to make himself look good.

    Two guys who were much more suited to sell used cars than be Deputy Sheriffs – or to write books.

    • Old as Dirt, totally agree with you, Robert Shaffer acknowledges, he lied once, why should we believe him right? However, we can all read between the lines, we know what is possible and was is not. The peer pressure is always there, how people react to it, is a different story. Shaffer’s trainee (Curtis William Malone ( http://villagenews.com/obituaries/curtis-william-malone/ ) allegdly did not fall for that pressure and ultimately turned Shaffer in. He was hailed as a hero, and the incident mentioned in his obituary. There is the suspicion he was upset at Shaffer and FPK for not making patrol training, and that could have been his motivation. Also, Mr. Pitchess was under political pressure, more like “fresh eyes”, Sheriff McBuckles is now. At the end, even the LA County counsel backed Robert Shaffer in the civil lawsuit. Shaffer through the county counsel stated the shooting was accidental, that he was “startled” and out fear, to make the shooting more legal, planted the gun. Robert Shaffer, though points out some good facts that can be corroborated, such as the intense pressure by the department to incriminate himself, under promises of leniency. His forced confession was not allowed during the trial, however, the department and the DA’s office put all their effort into making sure he was convicted. The problem is, once a person lies, is hard to know the truth….maybe he is still lying, and the truth is that he heard the jewelry falling out of the suspect’s pockets, on the concrete, causing him to believe it was the “click” of the gun’s firing pin, hitting a bullet that did not fire. He is the only one who knows for sure what really happened, but changing the story, unfortunately, makes him not credible…The two things that bother me about his case is, How did Shaffer learn to cheat, and who taught him to throw a gun after a questionable shooting? The post-shooting investigation was completed without “much suspicion”, it was not until months later when Malone complained to HQ that the real investigation was initiated….something to think about…so I end with the same last sentence, nothing has changed…it is the same as it was in 1969, 1979….they (higher-ups) will fabricate, (instigate, exaggerate) or cover-up a deputy crime according to their needs…

  • Old as Dirt….. Dont know anything about the FPK caper. Did my rides there and that was it.
    I was referring to Unknowns last sentence about brass decision making that benefits them and fucks the grunt.

    Sorry, I should have clarified that

  • Tom was given a gift with only a nine month sentence. The Captain of the Internal Criminal Investigation Bureau engaged in a full court press case of Obstruction of Justice with Tanaka. Tom sat in those meetings and did nothing to stop this clusterfuck of an operation. Tom allowed his lieutenant and two sergeants to march to their demise. Those folks are sitting in Federal prison because Tom didn’t have the backbone, integrity nor balls to tell Tanaka “No.” But that was Tanaka’s M.O., put Yes Men and Yes Women right where he wanted them to do his dirty work. Personnel, MCB, Narco, IAB, ICIB, just to name a few, is how the little man controlled LASD. All those lives ruined because Tom went along to get along with his eyes wide open. What was in it for you, Tom? Another bump? That’s what it was all about, keep the little man happy, roll over and do tricks for him and you might get a bone or maybe that coveted coin. Well Tom, I think all you received was a bowl full of disgrace while “your people” are serving serious time in the joint. What kind of “nice guy” would ever have let that happen? And to those who spew, “Oh poor Tom, he was just following orders.” Really? Ok, if that makes you feel good. Maybe you can repeat that concept to an academy class with a straight face because I’d sure like to see that performance.

    • Working for Paul is not as binary as you would suggest. He didn’t go over the edge overnight. Just as was true with many other cases (Majors II being a good example), things went wrong by degrees and people recognized the danger at different points along the slope. I had a good experience working for him in ’96, but others, whom I greatly respect for their observational skills, saw his ethical shortcomings before that. I was away from the department for military service from 9/11 until 2003 and when I returned found Paul to be a markedly different individual.

      You very accurately described Paul’s placement of loyalists in key positions. I’ve often referred to those folks as Tanaka’s “Fedayeen”. That term being taken from Iraq’s “Fedayeen Saddam.” When Saddam Hussein lost the first Gulf War, he discovered a key reason was that many of his senior military commanders had been co-opted by the coalition. He formed the “Fedayeen” out of his most loyal followers, and then placed them into key positions throughout his military. Their role was to inform Hussein of any disloyalty and to facilitate the bringing of sanctions against the disloyal. This is remarkably similar to what Paul did. But this approach limits the organization to the capabilities of the leader alone and that makes for a weak organization. A collegial team type of organization will realize the highest common denominator of capabilities across its range of staff. That’s a big difference, and “Fedayeen” do a great job of killing that type of organization.

      I can’t view Tom Carey in the same way. I never worked with him directly, and can’t make any personal observations, but I do know and trust many folks who did. I suspect that Tom, like myself, just didn’t see Paul’s failing soon enough, and he, along with his subordinates, are going to pay a big price for that failure.

  • @Unknown, not to beat a dead horse, but the County Counsel’s job is to back Schaffer when he is defending the County in a civil suit brought against the County in an unlawful death suit. But that is trifling. I have one question for you. If Schaffer was such a saint (well he did tell a little fib), why did he just happen to have a throw-away gun in his possession to plant on the dude he made in to Swiss cheese? How many times did you go ’97 at a call with a non-traceable piece tucked in your waistband?

    AND this wasn’t Schaffer’s first such caper – he didn’t happen to mention that in the book did he? He was known as a “heavy” at Fpk but that wasn’t good enough for him, he had to go beyond that – way beyond that.

    Forget the BS about Pitchess being under political pressure and all the other crap Schaffer comes up with, he wrote the book to make excuses for what he did pure and simple. Fiction lad, pure fiction.

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