DID LASD INVESTIGATORS PUSH THE DA’S OFFICE INTO FILING ON 2 INNOCENT DEPUTIES DUE TO PAUL TANAKA’S DECADE OLD WISH FOR REVENGE?
The accusation seems outlandish, but insiders, and a new lawsuit suggest otherwise.
On Thursday, June 11, of this year, a Southern California jury took less than three hours to acquit two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies of charges alleging that the twosome conspired to file false police reports in the course of a drug arrest.
After the verdict was announced by the jury foreman, however, something unusual happened. The attorneys, the defendants and other trial watchers filed out of the Judge Renee Korn’s courtroom in the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center. But the jurors, who after most trials typically walk quickly to their cars to avoid the press, in this instance didn’t seem to want to go home. Instead, they waited in the court hallway in order to meet and talk with the two deputies, Robert Lindsey, 33, and Charles Rodriguez, 40, to tell them how convinced the panel had become of the deputies’ innocence.
Several of the 12 insisted on hugging the newly-acquitted defendants. One juror, a tall black man named Alvin Green, reportedly told David Martinez, the lead investigator for the Lindsey defense—who is also a retired LASD lieutenant—that “it was a shame” that the two deputies had been prosecuted, that they “had done nothing wrong.”
Another, juror, a woman named Sylvia Thomas, took Lindsey’s mother Kathy Lindsey aside to explain how she and her fellow panelists had become so sure of the rightness of their decision.
After that, everyone trooped outside the court building, where exuberant selfies were snapped—along with a group shot featuring seven of the jurors and the two deputies, plus some of the legal staff.
“In all my years of practice, I’ve never had a jury do any of that,” said James Blatt, Rodriguez’ attorney.
Yet, despite the June acquittal, although the two deputies are again receiving their salaries they have not gotten the months and months of back salary, they are not back to work, nor do they have their badges, guns and credentials. Instead, they are now both the subjects of an Internal Affairs investigation by the LASD which, in turn, means that they are on what amounts to house arrest. Thus if they need to leave their homes during business hours, they must get permission from the department.
With all of the above and considerably more in mind, on October 8, Deputy Robert Lindsey—known to his friends as Robbie-–filed a notice, through his attorney, Paul M. Mahoney, of his intention to sue the County of Los Angeles for $15 million for actions that include “the deliberate fabrication of evidence,” “the creation of false police reports,” “the violation of the claimant’s civil rights,” among other things. (You can find the Notice here: Government Claim Oct 8th)
Those to be named in the lawsuit include: former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, former captain Tom Carey, Captain Rod Kusch, Sergeant Dan Tobin, former department members, Stephen Leavins, Scott Craig, Maricela Long, plus a string of deputy DAs, and more.
THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM
The case involving Lindsey and Rodriguez was a curious one right from the beginning. In an era when great swaths of the American public are suspicious of U.S. prosecutors whom they believe are overly reluctant to file on law enforcement officers, the LASD’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau (ICIB), along with some members of LA District Attorney’s office, pursued the two deputies with what appears to be unusual vigor.
In fact, it reportedly took three tries on the part of the ICIB investigators involved with the case to get a charge to stick in the district attorney’s office. In the first instance, the reviewing deputy district attorney approached by the ICIB guys in the spring of 2013, reportedly said there was nothing to file.
A month later, ICIB personnel found a more sympathetic prosecutor who agreed to assign the case. However, on its first round in front of a judge at a preliminary hearing the case again ran into a wall when the judge did not find enough evidence to support the charges and kicked the case.
Undaunted, the investigators and prosecutor pressed on and managed to acquire a copy of a video that they claimed would support their charges. A new prelim was held, and Lindsey and Rodriguez were indeed bound over for trial.
COCAINE, VIDEOS AND U-VISAS
Although this time the deputies were charged, they were also firmly acquitted by jurors who clearly felt they had saved two good men from an obviously wrongful fate. The charges for which Lindsey and Rodriguez were tried stem from a June 2011 drug-related arrest outside the Durango Bar in Huntington Park. Earlier in the evening, the partners had gotten a tip that a man named Abraham Rueda was dealing cocaine in the Durango’s parking lot out of a white Lexus. When the twosome arrived in the lot, they spotted a white Lexus with two men standing outside the car with the driver’s door of the vehicle open. One of the two men matched the description they had of Rueda. Lindsey exited the patrol car and called out to Rueda who immediately identified himself.
Looking in the car windows, Lindsey spotted a plastic “bindle” of what appeared to be cocaine protruding from an air-conditioning vent. After he and Rodriquez placed Rueda and his companion inside the patrol car, Lindsey proceeded to search the Lexys and removed the protruding bag of coke, but subsequently found no additional drugs.
Believing there may be more coke hidden, Rodriguez requested a drug-sniffing dog from his boss, a sergeant, who said none were available and that the deputies should just drive the Lexus to the Lynwood station where it could be further searched in a contained environment. Rodriquez and Lyndsey did precisely that, with Lindsey driving the Lexus, Rodriguez the patrol car, which contained Rueda and his pal, both of whom who had, by that time, been Mirandized but were not handcuffed.
At the Lynwood station, Lindsey further searched the car, while Rodriguez booked the prisoners. Then each deputy wrote brief reports about the night’s activities and the arrests.
ICIB investigators alleged that some elements of the deputies reports were untrue.
But, as described above, the purported discrepancies were not persuasive enough to form a case the first two times around. It was not until the district attorney’s office was provided with videotape from a security camera focused on the bar’s parking lot, that the case managed to move forward.
Lindsey was charged with one count each of filing a false report, conspiring to file a false report and conspiring to obstruct justice.
Co-defendant Rodriguez, was charged with one count each of conspiracy to file a false report, conspiracy to obstruct justice and being an accessory after the fact.
In plain English, the prosecution alleged that Lindsey was not standing where he said he was standing when he first spoke to Rueda and first glimpsed the cocaine and scrap of packaging in the air-conditioning vent. Prosecutors also claimed that Rodriguez lied and said that he and Lindsey drove the Lexus and the two suspects to an undisclosed second location—not the station—to search the Lexus for drugs. And finally, the deputy DA said that Rueda and his friend were handcuffed when they were transported to be booked, although the deputies reported that they were not.
There was no accusation of planting of drugs, no claim that the deputies had roughed up the two arrested men, tricked them, or otherwise violated their rights.
And the video, which was central to the case, turned out to support the accounts of the deputies, and not those trying to convict them, according to jurors, who said afterward, that they’d reviewed the video with extraordinary care, frame-by-frame.
Moreover, it was revealed during the trial that Rueda, who was the primary witness for the prosecution, was an undocumented man who had been promised, in return for testimony, what is called a “U-Visa,” which was originally created for victims of crimes who have endured mental or physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement and government officials investigate and prosecute the abuser.
It was further revealed that one of the deputy DAs who brought the case told Rueda’s sister that he added the obstruction of justice charge to the other two charges against Lindsey and Rodriguez specifically in order to qualify Rueda for the U-Visa.
(WitnessLA has obtained documents that show multiple exchanges between then prosecutor Kevin P. Stennis—who is now a Superior Court Judge—and Rueda’s sister, Veronica Flores.)
Nevertheless, by the trial’s end most of Reuda’s testimony had reportedly decompensated and changed enough that it too supported that of the deputies.
THE TANAKA FACTOR
So why in the world would the internal criminal investigative arm of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department push and keep pushing to have two of the department’s deputies brought up on criminal charges for actions that, when pulled apart in the light of day, caused a jury to reject them dramatically and vocally?
And why would several prosecutors at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office buy in to what appeared to be a loser of a case at best and, at worst—if the defense is correct—may have persuaded the prosecution to either deliberately ignore or outright alter facts in order to get the thing to trial at all?
Sources close to the case told us that the answer may be found in a previous LASD vendetta, which had nothing whatsoever to do with Deputy Lindsey or Deputy Rodriguez—at least not directly. It’s roots, they claim, have everything to do with Robbie Lindsey’s father, retired LASD commander Robert Lindsey, who allegedly refused to engage in actions he was ordered to perform for former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, more than a decade ago, actions that Lindsey Sr. believed were unethical and likely illegal. As a consequence, sources said, threats were allegedly made by Tanaka, who was—at the time—still at the rank of chief.
The charges against Lindsey Jr. were the threats being made good all these years later, with Rodriguez as “collateral damage,” sources claim. To accomplish the deed, sources further claim, required the participation of various FOPs—Friends of Paul—both in the LASD and possibly in the DA’s office, in at least one case.
There are many additional colorful details to the story, of course. But they will have to wait.
The specifics of the claim will reportedly be laid out in the civil case, which is scheduled to be filed in LA Superior Court in the near future.
So stay tuned.