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Deputy James Sexton Trial, Day 4: Should the Prosecution Be Able to Edit Testimony?

On Friday, the final “witness” for the prosecution in the retrial
of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy James Sexton was James Sexton himself.

Well, a version of James Sexton, at least.

As they had done in Sexton’s first trial, the government finished up its case with someone from the prosecution’s camp reading an excerpt from Sexton’s November 28, 2012 grand jury testimony, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Liz Rhodes played her part as the prosecutor asking questions.

At Sexton’s first trial, the approximately 75-minute dramatic recreation provided the prosecution with plenty of legal ammunition since, in it, Sexton cheerfully admitted to such things as having helped to hide inmate Anthony Brown. Yet the testimony seemed to produce a variety of effects on its listeners, in that Sexton’s answers were nuanced and detailed, and appeared to be very candid, rather than defensive or guarded, as if he was doing his best to be helpful to the feds, overly so, really–—never suspecting, one presumes, that he would be indicted and that much of many of his words would be used as evidence against him on some future day court.

Interestingly, the jurors for that first trial took the grand jury testimony so seriously that, as they were deliberating, they asked to have the whole thing read to them, one more time. Then, although six of those jurors voted to convict, six voted to acquit.

Friday’s grand jury presentation was structured in much the same way as that of the first trial, with someone reading Sexton’s part, and prosecutor Liz Rhodes playing the prosecutor. Again, the reading was taken from Sexton’s November 28, 2012, grand jury appearance. (Deputy Sexton appeared in front of the grand jury twice, first in August 2012, then in November, more than a year after the events in question took place in August and September 2011.)

Yet Friday’s excerpt was quite a bit shorter than that of last May, lasting around 45 minutes, not the 75 minutes of the first trial. More importantly, various topics, contexts and shadings of meaning present in the first trial’s version, are absent from the second.

They have been edited out.

For instance, in a couple of instances in the first trial, Sexton talked about orders that he had been given having come from higher up than just his then immediate boss, Lt. Greg Thompson; that the orders were coming from Paul Tanaka, and/or Lee Baca. He also talked about how, in some cases, he and other deputies had to use Tanaka’s name to get others to cooperate.

In the version read on Friday, the references to higher ups, to the “big bosses,” or to Tanaka or Baca, are cut—leaving the impression that Sexton is not merely one more team member following orders that come from the department’s highest levels, but more of a planner and an originator of strategies, along with Lt. Greg Thompson, Deputy Gerard Smith and Deputy Micky Manzo—three of the six who have been convicted.

In another instance, a paragraph is deleted that explains the fact that the adversarial attitude to the FBI expressed by some of the OSJ personnel—namely by deputies Smith and Manzo—was not one shared by Sexton and his closer friends on the squad, and that they’d talked with each other about this division.

(Operation Safe Jails, or OSJ, was where Sexton worked in 2011, and was the squad that was tasked with hiding federal informant Brown.)

When the qualifying statements that separate Sexton and his buddies from this adversarial attitude toward the feds are edited from Friday’s version, one is left with the impression that the attitude is pervasive throughout the squad and that Sexton surely shares it—giving his actions with Brown a critical intent that might otherwise be absent had the edits been restored.

In other cases, some of Sexton’s impressions are made to appear as solid knowledge, rather than the gossip-driven surmises, or conclusions likely drawn after the fact, that they are shown to be in the longer, less-edited versions.

And so on.

In other words, a strong argument can be made that these and other similar edits change the context and meaning of some of Sexton’s testimony in very crucial ways.

Certain of the changes that the snips produce are subtle, but cumulatively they could make a difference to a jury.


So is all this snipping and trimming fair-minded?

Sexton’s attorneys say no, and point to legal precedents that agree with them.

In a motion in Limine [a pretrial request] made in August, Sexton’s lawyers asked the judge to fix the matter by ordering that the problematic cuts be put back in. The motion reads in part:

Deputy Sexton will and hereby does move for an order requiring the Government to present an accurate rendition of his testimony before the Federal Grand Jury on the grounds that the excerpts of testimony offered by the Government are misleading and incomplete and that Deputy Sexton will be prejudiced by the Government’s failure to include testimony (included in his first trial) regarding (a) the fact that Deputy Sexton was acting on orders issued by the command and control structure of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (“LASD”); (b) the fact that Deputy Sexton did not have credible, first-hand knowledge necessary to find him guilty of obstruction of justice; and (c) the fact that Deputy Sexton offered demonstrably mistaken testimony regarding the facts of this action. Failure to include this testimony suggests, contradictory to his testimony as read into the record at the last trial, that Deputy Sexton was not acting on orders from LASD authority reaching as high as Sheriff Leroy Baca, and that Deputy Sexton was aware of certain facts of which he had no knowledge. This renders his testimony, as heavily edited by the Government, misleading.

Judge Anderson evidently sided with the government that the cuts were fine. Thus the edits remained.


Former undersheriff Paul Tanaka will testify Monday morning. Unless something changes, however, it now does not appear that former sheriff Lee Baca will be called.


  • Looks like the Prosecution is playing dirty………Why are we not surprised? I hope that the jury see right through this tactical deletion of critical and crucial testimony. It is quite evident that Sexton would TRUMP the Prosecution if that information was admitted.

  • This is so hard to stomach that I don’t even want to be sarcastic.

    The Feds and Leroy D. Baca should be ashamed for what this young deputy is going through.

    This is not justice and this escalation of a jurisdictional pissing contest has gone to far.

    But hey, I guess we should all shuffle along and say Oh Well….

    Roll Tide Mr. Sexton

  • Let’s see……All this started for what reason ???? Deputies allegedly giving unwarranted beatings, alleged dope slinging by deputies, patterns of corruption and the Sheriff Dept not doing anything about it ?

    What’s that ? Everybody pretending it wasn’t happening and Internal Affairs not doing anything either ?

    For Pete’s sake, throw the guilty in jail, take their pensions away and lets move on…..

  • This story should be all over the LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post and all other major news outlets. How can you stop the governments behavior and misconduct if you keep this behind close doors. When a crime happens you are taught that if you don’t say anything they will do it again. We’ll here you go IF we keep quite this will happen again and again!!! Celeste, you do a great job!!! How can we get other news outlets to look at this story????

  • Wild Turkey, Jack Dawson, Interesting,
    You can now save me a seat in the Sexton cheering section. What the government is doing is bullshit. I have remained neutral to thi point. Not anymore. I find it reprehensible what the government is doing. Since the announcement of the retrial I have said they had no business go after him again. Now they’re going to be chicken shit and dishonest in the way they do it?
    Wild Turkey,
    There will be no more questions. They have all been answered.
    The government IS playing dirty.
    It’s never too late to learn. I have learned a valuable lesson.
    My apologies to anyone attending the trial and providing first hand information that I have doubted as providing accurate information.

  • Can anyone explain how a Sheriff Deputy defendant caught up in a stupid obstruction of justice fiasco like James Sexton ends up represented at trial by a high stature attorney the likes of Thomas O’Brien?

    I suppose the plight of Deputy Sexton and the nature of his cause has struck a nerve with O’Brien and stirred his passions.
    O’Brien hasn’t come across as demonstrably passionate in this case, but maybe that has never been his style in the courtroom.

    Of course, the fact that O’Brien once held the position of U.S. Attorney for the Central District makes him a good choice to represent Deputy Sexton. Since O’Brien used to work on the other side of the bench, he brings an insider’s understanding of how the prosecution works and strategizes.

    On the other hand, a defendant needs to exercise extreme caution and carefully evaluate the risks associated with using an attorney who used to work for the other side.
    Conflicts of interest,some tangible and others intangible, can reduce the attorney’s ability to provide an adequate, thorough and best possible defense for his client.

  • I guess the U.S. Attorneys Office has taken a page from our Internal Affairs Bureau playbook. You can make anyone look guilty by what you don’t put in your report. Special attention retired Sergeant J.K. and Commander Karyn Mannis.

  • Oh Well: It takes a certain amount of class to admit when you’re wrong. You’ve gone waaay up in my book. Welcome to the club. Free with membership is a bottle of maalox and a barf bag…

    I can’t believe this is real sometimes, and it’s not happening to me. Can you imagine the nightmare the Sexton family must be living, watching the government LIE, in their efforts to send Sexton to prison?

    The government is after the LASD for bending the truth to fit their narrative. In doing so, the government is bending the truth to fit their narrative. It’s insane. It’s like the plot of some post modern dystopian novel.

  • It’s refreshing to see that at least one person following this case has seen the light. Hopefully the jury will follow suit.

    The Feds in this case disgust me to no end. Hiding evidence that shows Sexton fully cooperated dozens of times shows just how weak their case is. Again, hopefully the jury sees right through it. What may be more disturbing is a Federal Judge is allowing all of this to happen right in front of his nose.

    Roll Tide Sexton!

  • I really cannot put words with how I feel, this is disgusting. You lost so get over it.

    He is not a criminal, he followed instruction BY YOUR LEADERS, and you are prosecuting him rather than going after the higher ups. Why? Because it is easier. You see it time and time again.

    Why not go after the cartel drug dealers? Because you are a bunch of pussies so you go after the low level dealers to make it look like you are doing something. It is a modern day witch hunt and it’s pathetic. [EDITED BY WITNESSLA.]

    I’m glad you got your media attention for those who wanted it, but…


  • Celeste – On what legal grounds did the AUSA argue, and the court agreed, to allow for an edited version of Sexton’s GJ testimony to be presented?

  • The full weight of the Federal Govt was thrown at this Deputy once and I would say he prevailed in pushing them back. The Feds have their six examples, why pursue this? Move up the chain of command if you have the evidence but don’t hid evidence just to win this one!

  • “So is all this snipping and trimming fair-minded”?

    Decidedly not. The Right to a Fair Trial is a legal precept that has always been regarded as sacrosanct, no matter what side of the aisle, Conservative or Liberal, a judge may sit.

    A judge’s ruling is not Writ in Stone until ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it is puzzling why Judge Anderson is making decisions that will probably be reversed further up the appellate ladder.

    Is he really that stupid?

  • Wow, if the feds are only serving edited versions of grand jury testimony, I can make Ithacaboomer buying tickets to Ferguson to rally in support of the gentle giant. Birotte, you have a stain on your character that will not be erased by swathing yourself in judge’s robes, and hiding in chambers. Is this the deal you cut with Holder?

    Until Baca and Tanaka bear the full weight of just law, you are no better than those two scumbags. In fact, you may be worse.

  • My only shock is that some people are surprised the Feds play dirty. Come on, it wasn’t about justice, its about power. Its always about power. Power, egos, and promotions. The Feds get promoted from their cases and convictions. It is really a disgusting and shameful system. The Agents take exams, but if they don’t have a great case, and someone helping them, then GS 14 can be a lot harder to make. And AUSA’s always work on the conviction promotion system. IMO.
    To go after this low fruit, who WAS AN INFORMANT, is nothing more than a pissing contest. They (the Feds) want the conviction for the stat book, the AUSA wants to save face.
    And the irony, the two people who were in charge, walk away, cause the Fed is scared to arrest them. So who REALLY has the big stick? Celeste care to weigh in with you observation of this cluster? The department needed a cleaning of bad leadership, and bad people, but for the Feds to waive a victory flag for this case? Shut the Front Door, and go get the real crooks.

  • Hey Mo’Teff….The answer to question about acquiring Thomas O’Brian was made through connections (another story).The failure of ALADS to represent Sexton was a blessing in disguise. Sexton picked him….ALADS will pay him (indirectly).

  • Meanwhile, Mr. Tanaka is preparing for his campaign re-kickoff this Saturday, September 20 from 12 pm-4pm at his new campaign headquarters located at 9660 Telstar Avenue in the City of El Monte. Captain Chuck Antuna has the handle.

    A quick records check indicates the property is owned/controlled by Reserve Deputy Tappan Zee. Comments?

    Would be a shame if any reporters…or persons upset about Mr. Tanaka’s allowing deputies to take the fall for his crimes should happen to show up. :-/

    PS- Just in case you wanted to throw up a little, noticed this bit or Orwelian spin posted over at Tanaka’s website and on YouTube. Pretty ironic this was posted just about the same time Mr. T was testifying over in Federal Court. Comments are disabled, of course.

  • Oh well, very cool my friend. Extremely admirable and you have a lot of respect in my book.

    Tom O’Brien is a partner at Paul Hastings LLP, and was hired by Lil Sexton and his family. Deputy Sexton had a disagreement with ALADS regarding the quality of lawyers they were hiring for this case.

    He went 415 w Mr. Shinee after he told him “he would take the attorney he [shinee] gave him and he would like it.”

    This is of course after they [ALADS] forgot he had a FGJ subpoena and thought he didn’t need a lawyer. Hence, the Feds getting their fangs in him and whoola!!! We got a confession from a young pissed off deputy….

    Where are the adults? Where are the people concerned with stopping real corruption e.g. The bastard who couldn’t confidently recall his orders today!!!

  • I’m curious how Mr T performed on the stand. Did anyone have an abacus handy to track the ” I don’t knows” and “I don’t recalls”

  • Lefty,
    Good points. I’ve always believed this was a pissing contest, was about egos, who the big dog on the yard is, etc. The feds can’t settle for sending six LASD cops to prison? They can’t call it good after that? They can’t call it good after causing Baca to retire and costing Tanaka any chance of being sheriff? They’ve got to retry Sexton, and then go about it in an extremely chicken shit way?
    It makes me wonder what happened at that meeting when Sexton told them he wouldn’t wear a wire on his old man. They must be really, really pissed off at Sexton.
    This whole clusterfuck is like a bad nightmare. Think what you want about the other people, but I’ll never believe they belong in prison over this. Not when we watch hundreds of predatory types avoid prison every day for far more egregious crimes against innocent victims. The feds are going to retry Sexton and do a victory dance over this, but they weren’t interested in Bernice Abram, who they had dirty as a motherfucker on tape?
    Think about it.

  • @Oh We’ll you also have my respect!!! This is a tough bunch to admit when you are wrong. Should go to Jury tomorrow. Hope the jury sees the the Feds for what they are. Not all Feds but this bunch!!
    God Speed Sexton. Hey Sexton, you are a lucky man you have great support and a beautiful wife!!!!!!

  • Leah Marx, Liz Rhodes and Brandon Fox should hang their heads in shame. Absolute shame. They went after the easiest targets, with no real regard for justice.

    They haven’t convicted a single real criminal, with the exception maybe of Greg Thompson, and they didn’t even prosecute him for the wrong he did, in the Rathbun/Sexton “memo incident” (see Celeste’s ‘Betrayal of Trust’ article). This is disgusting. Absolutely sickening.

  • @ D.S. Closet………Thanks for breaking it down Re: legal. In ADDITION To That Floyd Hayhurst gave James a ration of shit at Alads Headquarters on March 14,2015. Floyd told him that ALADS was “under attack” (Macias) and James situation was secondary to ALADS problem at hand. It continued downhill

  • Having Sexton the Grand Jury without representation was shady, sneaky and planned that way.No doubt that Hayhurst was part of the plan. It back fired on Alads. Now it is time to pay the piper.

    Funny how Steve Remige, and Mark Divis are conveniently now in this picture. It happened on their watch (initially). Why am I not surprised. Because they were all in Tanaka’s camp before Macias was voted in as President. WOW!

  • @ Dick Shinee’s Closet……..How in the hell, does any legitimate Legal Law Firm “FORGET” to provide legal representation to a client who is going before a Federal Grand Jury? Unbelievable!. …. (Not for ALADS) What an idiot.

  • Would it surprise any of you if ALADS said they wouldn’t represent some witnesses for the trial and retrial of Sexton? Why would they elect to represent certain witnesses and not others? Last I checked sexton was a “witness” until the government fucked him, where was ALADS? Once ALADS saw this going to trial, they did all they could to not provide representation to certain witnesses. Why? What are deputies paying for?

  • I agree with ya’ll, ALADS has a lot to answer for here. I can confirm the information Dick Shinee’s Closet shared is indeed 100% factual:

    The day of his grand jury testimony, a Green and Shinee attorney was to meet Sexton at the Federal Courthouse and provide him with legal counsel. No attorney ever showed, and Sexton was left with his dick in his hand. He went into the Grand Jury without having consulted an attorney.

    This whole thing stinks. What’s intensely odd, is that Rathbun was given an attorney by ALADS for his fed testimony, but Sexton wasn’t. Someone in ALADS was settling a score.

  • This might be far-fetched, but what is the possibility that they are squeezing the younger Sexton to force the older one to come forward? Older was in the inner circle, even if for a cup of coffee, and maybe the fed suspect he has things to say about the activities of Leroy and T? It the only way I can think of that makes any sense (other than the fact the Feds are trying to make a point and screw over the LASD as much as they can).

  • Folks, I would start thinking about paying LASPA their dues just to have access to their lawyers if nothing else. Time to put some heat on ALADS, they are beyond repair because they refuse to admit they have a problem.

  • At LATBG and every deputy……In concert with the feelings of most of tenured deputies, I’m all for going to LASPA to be covered for legal representation

    ALADS is a sham and a scam! They have no shame.


  • I have seen some low down dirty deeds in my time, but this was so low it is just troubling. But what I do know and feel is that Tanaka testified (perjured) three times on the stand. I have a feeling deep down, the feds are saving him for last.

  • @Investigative mind- Nope They won’t indict Tanaka. They may want to but politically the AG and USA cannot, strike that, will not, indict.
    But they will walk around with a swollen chest saying how they were able to convict 7 deputies for obstruction of justice. Even though Sextons conviction will be tossed on appeal.

  • #35 , Just a thought. I have no knowledge of ALADS these days so I will reserve judgement, but you might take a look at a personal liability “Umbrella Policy ” THey cover just about everything. And are inexpensive. I pay about $200.00 per year per $1 million in coverage., I have read a lot on this site castigating ALADS, so where there is smoke……………

  • It would appear that the Feds can do whatever they wish to do. They can, in some instances convict you of a crime for merely knowing about it. What happened to Sexton Jr. is simple; He played with the FBI up to a point where he said “Hell No, I am not doing that!” The “that” is between him, the FBI, and his family. Bravo to him for telling the FBI to pound sand! Karma is a bitch, so beware Mr. T. There is no fat lady singing, stand by!

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