LASD The Downfall of Paul Tanaka

Attorneys for Paul Tanaka Fight for Probation Only, Saying Former LA Sheriff Baca Was the Real “Ringleader”


“The truth is that the crimes charged in this case were planned, directed and carried out by Leroy Baca, the former Sheriff for the County of Los Angeles. None of this would have happened if Baca had simply cooperated with the FBI at the beginning.”

Last week we wrote about federal prosecutors’ argument that former Los Angeles County undersheriff Paul Tanaka should be sentenced to 60 months—or 5 years—in federal prison when he comes before U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson on Monday.

Tanaka, as most readers know, was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, on April 6, having to do with what the feds contend was Tanaka’s involvement in attempting to derail a federal investigation into abuse of jail inmates by sheriff’s deputies and other departmental wrongdoing. Judge Anderson is due to sentence Tanaka on June 27.

This week we have the defense’s argument about sentencing, in which Tanaka’s attorneys, Dean Steward Jerome Haig, argue that their client should have no prison time, but only probation, that if anybody deserves a stretch in a federal lock-up, it is the former-undersheriff’s boss, former sheriff Lee Baca.

When the presented their sentencing memo two weeks ago, the prosecutors contended that the former undersheriff, more than the sheriff, 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.

“While defendant claimed at his and three previous trials that he had only limited involvement in the conspiracy,” they wrote, “the evidence showed instead that he was the ringleader from the beginning.

In their sentencing brief, the defense argues energetically otherwise. If there was any “ringleader,” they wrote, it was the four-time elected sheriff of Los Angeles County, Lee Baca.

“Baca himself told federal officials that he, Leroy Baca, called the shots on the Brown/cell phone incident.” The “boots on the ground” in the matter of hiding federal informant Anthony Brown, writes the defense, were the six department members already convicted of obstruction, “who were simply following Baca’s orders.” These facts, they write, “could not be any clearer.”


One of the most interesting moments in the defense’s sentencing brief comes when defense attorneys Steward and Haig compare the government’s suggested 5-year sentence for their client with the 0-6 month sentence to which the feds have agreed in their plea deal with Lee Baca.

“In their sentencing memo,” the defense writes irritably, “the government feigns concern about disparity in sentencing. And yet they offered and agreed to a deal, that if accepted by this Court, gives Leroy Baca the gift of no more than 6 months in jail, while they gleefully request 5 years for Mr. Tanaka.” (The ital. is ours.)

And then there is this: “The government may respond that Baca is different, as he has issues that were submitted to this Court under seal, and revealed to the defense. However, these alleged facts fly in the face of Leroy Baca’s speech and acceptance of honors from a local religious group last month.”

As for Baca’s “issues,” reference to which are under seal, but were “revealed to the defense,” we again presume that Steward and Haig are talking about the report that the former sheriff is suffering from Alzheimer’s and that his lawyers have argued that this purported diagnosis should figure into his sentencing. (WLA broke that story here.)

The defense then cites a lively interview Baca gave to the Jewish Journal after he was honored on May 29 by the local LA group, Congregation Bais Naftoli, for “his years of friendship to the Jewish community.”

The defense seems to infer that if Judge Anderson buys Baca’s contention that he can do no prison time because he is too incapacitated by Alzheimer’s, then they’ve got some nice swamp property they’d like him to buy, or possibly a bridge….


To bolster their contention, that Tanaka’s involvement was peripheral, that at most he was simply a conduit for the sheriff’s directives, the defense cites, among other things, a Sept. 26, 2011, letter from the former sheriff to then-U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte. The letter was written after all the actions that caused the obstruction charges were already over, yet it is indeed a remarkable document.

In his correspondence, Baca expresses his state of pique over subpoenas for records the department has received from the FBI as part of the feds’ continuing investigation into brutality and corruption in the jails. Baca objects to the subpoenas, and tells U.S. Attorney Birotte that the FBI is, in fact, unqualified to investigate brutality in the jails, that the LASD alone has the experience and the know-how to do such an investigation.

“Due to the FBI’s aforementioned incompetence in investigating alleged civil rights violations concerning force taken by deputy sheriffs,” Baca writes, he wants the US Attorney and his office to “ameliorate”—AKA dial back—support from the federal investigation into wrongdoing in his jails, and instead “support the Sheriff’’s Department’s investigation to it’s conclusion.”

And, just to make sure Birotte gets the picture that he better get with the program and dump the FBI’s probe into department wrongdoing, in favor of the LASD’s far superior work, Baca threatens to pull the sheriff’s department out of all the “many ongoing joint missions” in which the department participates with the FBI “due to the breach of trust that will take time and corrective action to heal.”

If you’d like to read the entire letter, you can find it right here: Baca 9-26-2011 letter to Birotte


So what will Judge Anderson make of all this?

There is no way of knowing, of course. But perhaps the U.S. District Court Judge will decide that he does not need chose send either Baca or Tanaka to prison, that he can select Door No. 3, and give healthy prison sentences to both of the once allies, now enemies.

We will learn the answers to these sentencing questions on June 27, for Tanaka, and July 11, for Baca.

Oh, yes, and on July 5, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the appeal of the cases of former sheriff’s deputy James Sexton, and the six former department members convicted of obstruction of justice, Gerard Smith, Mickey Manzo, Scott Craig, Maricela Long, Stephan Leavins, and Gregory Thompson.

So stay tuned!


  • This recent “scandal” … “incident” involving an LASD member….

    If the information arising is correct…. it involves an executive, who is also an elected official of the very city, that the LASD contracts with, where the incident occurred… there wouldn’t be any conflicts occurring would there?? not providing the public information relating to the incident? I’m pretty certain in the past I have witnessed the press all over issues like these…saying, shouting, the public has a right to know about its public officials. Especially when there’s the possibility the very official is holding others to standards that now they apparently don’t observe themselves… what does the head of his Department have to say regarding the matter??? Yes, it’s a horrible matter for his family members, whom he has subjected this incident upon, but that has never stopped the presses thirst for the 1st Amendment before….

  • Oh lil Paul, this must be HARD for you… you ALWAYS stood on other misguided followers shoulders so you could be heard SHOUTING at the top of your little itsy bitsy lungs. Now all this whining… your lil head must be so pressurized it’s already popped several times over…

    lil guy, not only did you drive the car, but you had to sit on Leroy’s lap to reach the steering wheel. And then you didn’t just stay at the wheel to act as a look out, you ran those lil legs of yours like two sticks being rubbed together to make fire, so you could help yell, “Boss, the FBI, Boss the FBI” as you pointed to the sky and the eclipsing Moon of Leroy’s head swinging back around to scoop you up and run back to the car and speed away. Butt, you two didn’t get away this time. The End.

  • I’m sure Tanaka wrote that letter to the FBI and used Baca’s machine. Just another part of Tanaka’s play to become the next sheriff. Nd

  • A sergeant can fry for an incident he or she wasn’t even present at. Why weren’t you there? Where was the plan? What training did you provide your deputies? Sorry, it’s on you, enjoy your days off without pay!! Who’s held accountable when the upper echelon disgraces the department?!?! Apparently nobody.


    Dear “Nancy D.”

    Your comments reminded me that I’d not posted the 2011 Baca letter to Birotte, which I meant to do. But you can find links to it now within the post.

    Thanks for jogging my memory.


  • Everyone one involved in all of these cases chose to follow orders from their supervisors. All had a choice to say yes or hell no. If you say yes it works until you get caught, then you blame everyone else for you situation. If you don’t get caught you become a yes man and live under the rules of Baca. If you say no than you take a hit. I guess the question is what can you live with.
    Baca is the main man. He selected those he could control and did a great job of totally screwing up the department. Those still working and making the big money are just as guilty as Tanaka for screwing people that said No to them.
    I suppose it is all about integrity.

  • Yep, let’s give Tanaka an ankle bracelet and a latte.

    Big Gulps;;;; and good luck to their team. I hope it goes as well as the bid for Sheriff.

    #1, the department does not believe it happened so it did not happen, because they do want to acknowledge it happened.

  • Tanaka’s followers didn’t just drink the koolaid, they sold their souls; karma happens.

  • Tanaka ran the entire operation. He was in control of every move, transfer, promotion, investigation for sworn and civilian. So why wouldn’t he be in charge of this issue. As said many time before Baca was a figure head and nothing more. I wonder who the Doctor was that determined Baca’s sickness. Does the Doctors name end with ian?

  • 1: I agree. They didn’t give anyone else any slack when lies and deceit were put into the press!

  • Baca was paid to be the sheriff and not the figure head. The department is the victim to this man and should not be paid as the sheriff if he just sat around looking at himself in the mirror.

  • OK, so Baca is claim mental incompetence and Tanaka is blaming Lee for all his troubles. Since they are both convicts, here’s a solution. Put Baca in soft restraints for his sentence (for his own safety, of course) and have Tanaka be his bedpan changer for the entire time. Then Tanaka can go off and do the rest of his sentence in General Population. Shot caller that he is, he should be running the joint in no time! Oh, and how are things in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood?

  • here’s the latest word on the yard. A certain executive is going to be leaving the Sheriff’s Department before being tossed out on his rear end. The reasons are plentiful and I’ll leave them to your imagination. It’s to his advantage to leave for a number of reasons, the first being $$$$$$. Rumor has it he’s going to be the chief of police in a small city (northeast) L.A. County where he can pad his Cal Pers retirement? What, Cal Pers? I thought we were LACERA. Well, he’s got a little deal going with Cal Pers which spans a couple of decades. Good for him!! Can you say poster boy for Pension Reform? LACERA X 2 plus Cal Pers equals Cha Ching!!! I have no problem with it personally, but I do take exception to all of the people he has screwed the last few years in the position he was gifted before stabbing everyone in the back. Also, he need to check his mother who was spouting off at recent event in the South Bay about how MAC D doesn’t like her son and she can’t figure out why. Wasn’t getting him promoted to Captain enough? So there you have it. I’m not getting into anyone’s private life, although strangely it was open game on Stephens, Ward, and Hellmold in recent times. Strange how the informants are immune from personal life gossip. Oh yeah, what better way to run for Sheriff then as a Chief of Police?? It worked for Mac D, but not until nutcase stepped down. Anyhow, I kept it as clean and real as possible. Wishing a quick recovery to the Bellflower heroes!!!!!

  • Well now, I wonder if the fellas are having a going away party like in the gangster movies, for Little Paulie? Although the hammer drops Monday, he will most likely be allowed to remain out on bail pending an appeal. It matters not, he will toss and turn during the appeal process just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m guessing he will pick up 7-8 years on Monday, he can drag it out all he wants. When the time clock runs out, Pauli checks on.

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