FBI LA County Jail LASD Pandora's Box Paul Tanaka Sheriff Lee Baca U.S. Attorney

LASD Obstruction of Justice Trial: Closing Arguments, Part 2

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon


Last December, seven members of the LA County Sheriff’s Department were indicted for conspiracy to obstruct justice pertaining to the alleged hiding of federal informant Anthony Brown from his FBI handlers, and related actions, an assignment that came, unofficially, to be be called “Operation Pandora’s Box.

In total, 20 members of the LA County sheriff’s department have been indicted as part of the FBI investigation into allegations of civil rights violations and corruption, a probe that U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte described last year as “ongoing and wide-ranging.”

In May of this year, Deputy James Sexton, one of the seven obstruction defendants, was tried separately. The result was a mistrial. The remaining six—deputies Mickey Manzo and Gerard Smith, sergeants Scott Craig and Maricella Long and lieutenants Greg Thompson and Stephen Leavins—are on trial now.


Monday was the second and final day of closing arguments in the obstruction of justice trial in which six members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department are accused of deliberately getting in the way of a federal grand jury investigation into widespread brutality and corruption in the LA County jail system.

On Friday, the prosecution delivered its initial closing followed by hour-long presentations by each the attorneys for three of the six defendants, Lt. Greg Thompson, Lt. Steve Leavins and Deputy Mickey Manzo.

Monday, attorneys for Deputy Gerard Smith and Sgts. Maricela Long and Scott Craig presented closings for their clients, followed by a rebuttal by the prosecution.

(Since the prosecution has the burden of proof, prosecutors get the last word.)

A trial of this kind is a challenging one for the jury because, although it is a single proceeding in which all six defendants are charged with the offenses of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, the prosecution’s allegations of how that obstruction took place are substantially different for each of the six. This means, of course, that the jury must make an individual decision for each defendant about guilt or innocence. In other words, all could be found guilty, or all acquitted. Or the jury could come up with mixed results, finding some guilty, others innocent.


The first up among Monday’s lawyers was Bill Genego, the attorney for Gerard Smith.

In August 2011, said Genego, Deputy Smith’s commanding officer directed that Anthony Brown be isolated, that no one have access to him without the okay of Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

(The suggestion that Tanaka loomed over much of the action as an unseen shot caller was something that Genego made reference to several times.)

“Gerard Smith did his job. He did not obstruct justice. He did not commit a crime.”

Interestingly, both Genego and Deputy Mickey Manzo’s attorney, Matt Lombard, have not spoken much throughout this trial, and their clients names have been largely absent from testimony, at least when compared to mentions of the other four. It is a strategy that the defense clearly hopes will pay off for the two deputies who, although they have now been placed in the narrative during the government’s closing, still could seem to the jury to be peripheral, because of their absence from much of the action described during these last three weeks of trial.

In his closing on Friday, Lombard labeled Manzo as “the fall guy,” a low-ranking department member taking orders from his superiors — orders that came from the very top of the sheriff’s department.

Monday, when Bill Genego’s turn came, he painted a similar picture of his client for the jury, contending that, while Smith was a trusted deputy, he was nothing close to a decision maker, that over and over again he had to ask his boss, Greg Thompson, about anything outside the scope of his orders.

It was not Smith’s decision to move federal informant Anthony Brown nor to change his name, Genego said. When Brown’s inmate file—his “jacket”—was moved and given to Lt. Leavins (which the prosecution has suggested was done to make it un-findable by the feds), “that was not Deputy Smith’s call.”

At the August 20, 2011, meeting called by the sheriff that set the hiding of Brown in motion, Smith was present but mostly as a bystander, said Genego. “The sheriff was upset,” he said, “and Paul Tanaka said this is one of the most important investigations in the history of the department…” But Smith was not involved in all the communications that followed.

When, three days later—after the FBI managed to get in to see Brown and was tossed out—“Greg Thompson and Paul Tanaka decided to move him. That was not Deputy Smith’s call.”

<strong?Similarly, when Smith was told to assign two OSJ deputies to be on Brown at all times, he organized the detail.

“Could he choose not to follow that order?” asked Genego.

“Not his call.” It was a mantra Genego repeated throughout the closing.

“He wasn’t on the task force. He’s not on any of those emails. He had no corrupt purpose. Gerard Smith did his job,” attorney Genego concluded. “He did not commit a crime. He is not guilty.”


Michael Stone, Scott Craig’s bow-tie sporting attorney, and Maricela Long’s attorney, Angel Navarro, continued the defense theme of officers following what they believed were lawful orders, stressing that Sheriff Baca and Paul Tanaka were briefed all along the way.

“On August 18, a lawful criminal investigation was ordered,” said Stone, referring the initial meeting in which Baca set in motion the hiding of Brown, ostensibly for his protection, and the probe into the undercover operation led by FBI special agent Leah Marx.

“Conducting a lawful investigation is not a conspiracy.”

After Scott Craig and Maricela Long were assigned to that criminal investigation, “…did you ever hear any evidence that Baca put the brakes on? ” Stone asked. “No. Because it didn’t happen.”

The two sergeants were “worker bees” doing what they were asked to do, he said.

Stone had a somewhat harder time defending Craig against the government’s allegations that he had deliberately tried to persuade deputies Gilbert Michel and William David Courson not to talk to the FBI. The jury had, by this time, had clips of Craig’s and Leavins’ interviews with both men played for them repeatedly. Craig’s interactions with Michel, were particularly hard to dismiss as nothing more than interview techniques designed to get Michel to feel comfortable, which is how the defense portrayed Craig’s side of the conversation.

Both Craig and Long alone are also charged with lying to federal agents, an allegation that stems from the twosome’s visit to Marx’s home where Craig told the FBI agent that he was “in the process of swearing out a declaration for an arrest warrant for you,” a threat that Long later repeated in a phone conversation with Marx’s FBI boss.

Craig and Long’s attorneys claimed that the arrest threats were were genuine, even though the sergeants would later learn that they had no jurisdiction to make such an arrest (and their grand jury testimonies on the matter were somewhat contradictory).

After all, said Stone, “Baca believed that the FBI agents violated the law.”

It was time for Sheriff Baca to put on his big boy pants and take control of the situation,” said Stone, as he came to the end of his closing.

And then he repeated the question that continues to hang like smoke over this trial.

“Where is Baca? Where is [ICIB Capt. Tom] Carey? Where is Tanaka?”


When prosecutor Brandon Fox began the government’s rebuttal, he talked at first, not about the allegations at hand, but about the “widespread abuse of inmates,” about “jail visitors being assaulted” when they came to see family members, about “false cases” filed against inmates to cover up assaults by deputies, and other allegations by such groups as the ACLU “going back years.”

“Deputies knew they could beat inmates with impunity” said Fox, because LASD executives “didn’t know or didn’t care about the abuse—either possibility equally damning.”

And so the federal government investigated.

“Mr. McDermott said that there was no evidence that this investigation needed to be done,” Fox continued, referring to Lt. Greg Thompson’s attorney, Kevin McDermott, whose closing was Friday.

And once the LASD learned that the feds were probing, “their purpose was to get the federal government out, to get the grand jury out.”

But “that’s not their choice,” said Fox.

And if the LASD felt “disrespected” because they weren’t told all about the government’s undercover investigation…

“That’s not their choice.”

Agent Leah Marx’s investigation was an operation that was approved all the way up to Washington D.C., Fox told the jury.

“It was her work that helped open up Pandora’s Box.”

This was no “turf war” as some of the defense attorneys had argued, he said. It was “a one-sided war on the FBI, on the federal grand jury, and the US Attorney’s Office.”

Fox recapped the government’s reasons for the charges against each one of the six but he was the most scathing when it came to Lt. Steve Leavins.

On Friday, Leavins’ attorney, Peter Johnson told the jury that his client represented “leadership, integrity, excellence and service.”

Fox now listed the words for jury members:


Then he went about dismissing Leavins’ claim to the qualities, erasing all but the first letters of each word as he did so, leaving only….


It was a parlor trick, but an effective one when followed up by an account of how Leavins gave misleading testimony about the supposed approval of his actions by deputy county counsel Paul Yoshinaga, and the OIR’s Mike Gennaco, claims that fell apart under further examination, and rebuttal testimony from Gennaco. After that, Fox reminded the jurors how, in another instance, Leavins tried to change his testimony altogether to claim that a significant meeting in late August 2011 between Baca and U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte and others—in which Birotte had told the sheriff in so many words to “But out” of the federal investigation—-had occurred instead, a month later, at the end of September,* when it would have better suited Leavins case, nevermind that Leavins appeared not to have been present at the second meeting at all.

Leavins was “the Forrest Gump” of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, quipped Fox, claiming to be everywhere, whether he was or not.

As for the fact that, as defense attorney Stone had pointed out, the primary order-giving higher-ups of the LASD remained conspicuously unindicted, Fox said, “to the extent they’re ever charged, that’s for another jury to consider on another day.”

The case went to this jury of six men and six women on Tuesday.

*We originally wrote that the second meeting Leavins said he’d attended was in early October, which was not correct. He testified that it was at the end of September.


  • Along with being known as Forrest Gump…. He’s a “Cowardly Chump”. Once again, The cost of ARROGANCE and “BEING A JACK-ASS” has finally caught up with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

    With nearly three decades on this department, I’ve seen good deputies lives & careers ruined by “DIRTY DEPUTIES” along with “Abuse and Hatred”towards certain communities and Inmates by “DIRTY DEPUTIES”.

    The exposure of the Sheriff’s Department is long overdue. You may call the ACLU bleeding liberals, along with the Los Angeles Times Newspaper and Civil Rights Groups, however the nation has an inside view of the Devastation and Corruption that has been known very little outside of those directly connected.

    Trust me…….There is more to come.

  • Eventually this will end, Baca and Tanaka will never be indicted, and the complete miscarriage of justice will be forgotten. Some middle men and fall guys will go to jail, and the men who organized, ordered and supervised Pandora’s box will walk away unscathed. This is an outrage. Celeste, don’t stop asking the question in the media: Where are the indictments for Baca and Tanaka?

  • If the jury finds in the favor of any of these folks, they still have to face Sheriff Scott or Sheriff McDonnell at the conclusion of an IA, that won’t be pretty. In my opinion and that of my partners in my unit after some very frank discussions, none of these folks will be looked upon as martyrs who were doing police work and took one for the team. They will be scorned and looked upon as fools, they will be and are, icons, poster kids, of everything that is wrong with LASD. The Tanaka Six, as someone posted, will always be remembered as water boys for the disgraced dynamic dual and LASD wrecking balls, Baca and Tanaka. And if the jury finds against you guys, it will be a scene out of Good Fellas, a “going away party” by a bunch of guys wearing faded red Tanaka for Sheriff T-shirts, slaps on the back, the wives and kids crying, and bam!, they will be alone.

    And to the media, as Turkey mentioned, why is Baca and Tanaka not at the table with these folks? I bet it’s all about politics. Not from a coverup and give them cover perspective, but rather from the AUSA not having the courage to hammer everyone and I mean everyone connected with this stupid plan. I don’t want to hear ” Oh, let’s see if we can convict the low hanging fruit first. Then we’ll go after the brass.” That is cowardly Washington politics, but of no surprise. Every captain, commander and chief who had knowledge of this stupid operation and said nothing or did nothing to stop this black bag job should be fired. We still have all of these other trials to endure, what a train wreck.

    God as my witness, I’d never thought I would ever say this. I can’t wait until McDonnell is sworn in as Sheriff. He had better clean our house, because it’s filthy. And he better start from the top, that’s where the slime still is.

  • Look like Steve put in for retirement. Too bad if he’s convicted, he’ll lose it under the
    California Public Employees’ pension reform act of  2013.Good riddance Forrest. I think Baca and Tanaka will be indicted eventually. Deputy Edwin Tamayo wore a wire for the Feds on a investigation unrelated to this trial. Who knows how many  others with inside knowledge of all the fourth floor shenanigans have  spoken to the Federal investigators. I think when Dumb and Dumber  face the Feds  in court, and it will be on multiple charges.


  • The problem with Paez and people like him is we ignore problem behavior early in their careers. How many trainees have we terminated over the years that should have been? Case in point I have a trainee that has not business being a Deputy. Mistake after mistake. However, instead of terminating him during probation, we just extend his training period and pass him only to see him most likely fail later. Wake up Sheriff Scott.

  • Clean House: Just spoke to LACERA. In regards to AB 340, any public employee convicted of a felony will lose only the benefits earned after the felony was committed. They will still be able to retire based on benefits already earned. FYI….

  • Under current law only “elected” officials will lose their retirement benefits if convicted of certain felonies.

  • That’s either a dumb article or bad litigation. How about a little fact checking before slamming Century Station. Paez didn’t work at Century. Dumb deputies do dumb things because of who they are, not because of where they work or who they associate with.

  • Hey # 7…..your statement is partially true, however many trainee’s have been F…CKED over by ASSHOLE T.O.’S only to go to another station and excell.

  • Truth Serum #12. I’m sure they trainees you are referring to were rolled up from R2 and “excelled” at San Dimas or another similar station. Nice.

  • You’re right truth serum. It’s the a-hole t.o. Just keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better. It wasn’t your fault. And #7, I got your back. #11, It’s spelled “you’re”, as it is a conjunction of “you are.” I think #7 has you beat in the English category.

  • #12, Truth…..ABSOLUTELY!!! Too many ego’s going on….why not be a teacher? No, more important to be a “good ole boy”…..NOPE, got to be an F’with…..Good job guys!! Way to carry on tradition!! I have seen this OVER and over again in my 25 years!!! And we wonder why we have problems??!!??

  • #12, how true it is, the games insecure deputies play. “Who does he/she think he is not playing the game? I’m gonna paper f__k him.”

  • Anyone know what’s up/rumos with current Sergeant list? Why testing so soon again when there is a long list still? POPA blocking promotions?

  • “Been around a while” is obviously just joining the mob mentality that surrounds him/her who says if you are arrested you are guilty. None of the six defendants conspired to do a thing wrong. Smith and Manzo were following orders and never had a clue that anything they were doing was wrong. The four supervisors–same thing. You love to talk crap about guys who’s lives have been ruined, but this is all about overzealous feds and their obsession with headlines and promotions–nothing more. Why don’t you stop getting your 1/2 off lunches at Pollo Loco and actually use some V time to sit in the court and hear what a weak case they have? Oh yeah, you can’t do that because the thought of not having your duty weapon strapped to your leg for an hour makes you too nervous. Next time you go 10-8 (if you aren’t already strapped to a desk for the rest of your career) thank God True Heros like Lt. Thompson, Leavins, Sgts Craig and Long, and Deps Manzo and Smith are out there making the world safe for YOU.

  • @ # .14) & .15)…….in agreement with “thanks a lot” you two were/are typical of suburbanites who go to other communities and think “you’re the shit” because you have a badge and gun.
    A 211 is a 211 whether it’s in Cresenta or Compton. Paper Tigers talk shit in blogs, just like you two….. Dulce / Hard Times equates to “Sweetness” / Soft Tank.
    Yeah, I already know…….your 1st fight in life was beating a handcuffed suspect and you hook 5 franks per day. WHAT A JOKE. You’re worse than BOOMER

  • It does not look good for those guys or should I say P.T’s criminals. Verdict will be out by noon, Monday, not in their favor.

  • Hey cowboy, I never said a word about a certain station or area, so slow your roll. The only point I was making was that A. Unmotivated/unprepared/unsafe trainees will often use the excuse that their training officers screwed them over. A bad trainee is a bad trainee, no matter what station they are at, and B. I merely pointed out that hehehe’s criticism of someone else’s grammar was a bad move, with his lack of writing skills. I was backing up my fellow FTO, because that’s what we as deputies do. I have a feeling that most of the complainers on this site were never made training officers, and it’s just one more thing they are venting about. And finally, cowboy, I’m not sure what your personal beef is with me, but rest assured that you are incorrect in your closing statements. I’m not the greatest deputy on the dept, not even close. That guy might be pushing a car at century, norwalk, or san Dimas, or he could be working a courtroom or a lockup, trying to recover from another divorce, or he (or, I apologize, she) could be handling cases at an investigative unit. The point is, it could be anyone, and it’s that deputy’s peers who will let you know. I am secure in knowing that my partners could/can depend on me to roll hard to their stops, and that my stats and written product have been pretty decent at the variety of units and stations I have worked at, all throughout the county. So sorry, I’m not going to let you disparage me because I won’t agree that there is an epidemic of trainees getting screwed over by crooked FTO’s. I’m sure my trainees would tell you that I was hard, but that I taught them a lot. That’s what this job is about.

  • Overkill, pull back on that throttle and shutdown the afterburners. None of this is personal, it is just objective opinions. To call the Tanaka 6 heroes is defensive overkill and without objectivity. Nothing those folks did was heroic, nothing. I can give you a long list of unsung heroes who risked their lives in actual incidents of peril and those who lost their lives doing the same. Those folks are heroes. The Tanaka 6 (gold star to whoever coined that name) knew exactly what they were doing and yes, they were carrying out orders, I will agree. But they were carrying out orders they knew were wrong and quickly knew were unlawful. They quickly knew what they were doing was Obstruction of Justice and they did it to please Baca and Tanaka. Not one of those lieutenants, their captain’s, their commander’s or their chief’s, who were all aware of what was going on, hand the backbone, the guts or the balls to stop this stupid operation. In my opinion, the Tanaka 6 rolled the dice to garner favor with B&T because they wanted something out of it and wanted to be known as the “Go to crew.” They knew what they were doing. I do hope things work out for them, if convicted, the careers are over and regardless, lives shattered. Those two lieutenants should be ashamed of what they did to their troops. B&T, now those are two people whose house is about to be rocked like an 8.4 earthquake.

  • In reference to @20……you do make have a point about the “underlings” under Sgt’s > Manzo &, Smith. I will differ with you re: Craig, Long and Bipolar Leavins.
    As far as making the world safer for others concerning that fiasco, Don’t make us laugh, any deputy working custody could have did the same thing.
    They are not heroes. They are deputies doing as they were told without knowing the severity of the consequences. Some of them were cocky and thought of themselves as Special and Bad Ass. The truly sad part is that the two heads (Baca and Tanaka) of the Operation left their men to die.
    This is the biggest LASD embarrassment since “Operation Big Spender”. This is also embarrassing to the families of Deputies who were killed in the line of duty, actually doing the Lord’s work, unlike Pandora’s Box deputies,who were flexing and acting like their BALLS were bigger than the Federal Government.

  • CanweSay Overkills?, or CanwesayTanaka Apologist? I think the term “hero” is the last one I’d use to describe the actions of these six individuals. Hubris is a dangerous thing. It leads otherwise rational people to do incredibly stupid things, like getting into pissing matches with the feds when they are trying to do their job, regardless of how well they try to do it.

    Then again, this same crowd, drunken with the perceived power of the Tanaka regime, did a lot of stupid things to advance Paul’s control over the organization. Some of their actions were criminal, others unethical. Hopefully there will be a full reckoning…

  • @Cowboy: Well said, but talking to Dulce and Boomer is like talking to a wall. Those of us who actually “work(ed)” Region 2 aren’t as arrogant and cocky as those two. Like they say, if you’re always talking about it, you probably didn’t really do it.

    Our Department is like our Government, “the lunatics have taken over the Asylum!”

  • @Can We Say, I have a question for you. Let’s say you are working patrol, Station DB or OSS, and you are working a fresh 187. You have information that Little Johnny, your suspect, is at home. You knock on the door and tell Little Johnny’s Mom he’s wanted for 187 and want to know if he is home ’cause you want to hook him. She say’s “I have no idea where he is, haven’t seen him. Nope, you can’t come in unless you have a warrant, but I will call you as soon as he comes home.” So lets just say for the sake of conversation, you Code 5 the house (forget about circumstances in which you might go inside anyway, roll with me on this.” So you are watching the house and the desk gets you on L-Tac and says, “We have a confidential informant on the line, says Mom is going to leave the house with Little Johnny inside the trunk in 2 min.”

    Sure enough, Mom leaves the driveway and down the road she goes. You and your partner makes a T-Stop and approach the car. “Hello Mam, where you going? Have you seen Little Johnny?” Mom says, “I have no idea where he is, I told you I’d call you if I saw him and I haven’t. I gots no idea where he is.” So now you pop the trunk and you find Little Johnny.

    What are you going to charge Mom with?

    Now what is the difference with Pandora’s Box and the above except the Tanaka 6 went to great lengths to hide Little Johnny, aka Inmate/FBI Informant Brown. No one is buying the “We hid him for his own safety while we pumped him like an oil well for information.” Read it and Weep.

  • IF #22 is accurate, (we have no idea who #22 is or IF the info. is accurate)
    IF they come back guilty, it is the end of Tanaka’s campaign. He won’t be able to give a single radio interview, attend a debate, or speak in any public forum without being questioned about his involvement in Pandora’s Box.
    The only people he will be able to speak to will be those who unfailingly support him already. That 15%. That won’t translate to him making up a 35 point disadvantage to McDonnell in the primary.
    IF what #22 says is correct, it’s over.
    IF it’s true, it is also a very sad, humbling day for the LASD. The message will be sent from the feds. Hey LASD, your shit stinks too and you can’t get away with bullshit just because you’re a member of the high and mighty LASD. You’re not as high and mighty as you think”.
    People might be sent to prison because of egos. The last line in #25 is right on the money.
    IF it’s true.

  • Unfortunately the truth of the matter is this. There is a very thin hairline between the Bully and the Coward. From the playground to the battleground, the bully always look for the smallest/weakest opportunity to have their way.
    The coward is the same bully who will “bitch up” when he is confronted by the biggest/strongest opponent. Sound familiar?

    From sergeants and above involved in this caper, not one (1) person said “let the deputies go, they we told to……..” Did they really have a chance with “Immunity for Baca” “Amnesia from Tanaka” and “No- Show ALADS” (membership footed the bill, not you Hayhurst).

    The other “Big Boys” were spanked before for screwing up (NYPD & LAPD) and they recovered. Now it’s time for medicine and rehabilitation. We will continue to makes mistakes (that’s life) but LASD will never make THIS MISTAKE again.

  • #31,
    Exactly. You called this clusterfuck 100% correct.
    It’s called HONOR. Not one supervisor from Baca on down has shown any.
    ALADS? What a joke.
    This should surely be an eye opener for a lot of people who had illusions of grandeur about some of the individuals involved in this fiasco.
    Talk about looking in the mirror and needing to have a come to Jesus moment about why you’re pledging your loyalty to a man that has shown no honor.
    I don’t envy those in that position. It must make for sleepless nights and self doubt.

  • I have been in and out of that courtroom several times. Regardless of what you think about the individuals standing trial, it broke my heart to see a familiar sight in America. There are a lot of mothers and wives slugging it out day in and day out for their family in there.

    My heart goes out to the families who have paid the highest price in all this.

    My rage goes out to Mr. Baca, Mr. T, and every LASD and ALADS exec who left deputies in the battlefield. Not taking accountability or covering costs is disgraceful.

    Hang in there guys.

  • Jack Dawson, your observations in the courtroom are truly prophetic.
    After the verdict, those of the aforementioned will still be lurking about will be the remainder of LASD executives and ALADS. I would encourage the remaining deputies to have NOTHING to do with them.


    The CURRENT LASD EXECUTIVES who had knowledge about this and stood by like COWARDS, ARE USELESS.

    The main investigative units in this…I.A. & I.C.B. needs to be revamped and replaced with REPUTABLE and HONORABLE ppersonel with the COURAGE to say NO to foolishness.

  • number 31 I agree. There are a lot of bullies in the sheriff department and some of those sworn bullies like to bully professional staff. And they still get away with it, they’re all cowards. The feds need to clean house all the way down to the stations the patrol stations. Better yet come talk to me I’ll give you an earful

  • #35 Intheknow, unfortunately its not the fed’s job to rid LASD of bullies, its ours. I have always stood up to bad supervisors/bullies and paid the price. A lot of people say they they have your back but when you turn around, your alone. Most would rather look the other way and hope they are never targeted. That is why our dept got this far in the hole.

  • Ok fellas, them being found guilty was ridiculous. How come the highest ranking supervisor involved in this unit never got indicted. he gave them guidance during the whole time and wanted so badly to have that team but the second there was trouble he was able to swap out of the unit saving his ass again and again. He testified at the grand jury and I am sure he sunk the ship. any guesses who it might be. I will save you the trouble, It was Eric Parra and tonto Dempsey.

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