The Trial of Former LA Undersheriff Paul Tanaka Begins With Two Very Different Stories


It was just after 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon when opening statements finally began in the trial of Paul Tanaka, the former second in command of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and the man whom many viewed as the real power behind former sheriff Lee Baca’s throne.

Tanaka is charged with obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice in relationship to what the government alleges was both a deliberate and a criminal attempt to undermine a federal investigation into brutality and corruption in the county jail system. The alleged obstruction occurred after Lee Baca and Tanaka discovered the investigation’s existence. According to the government, Tanaka was the chief obstructor and that he did so through multiple means, including ordering what became an elaborate plan to hide an inmate-turned-federal-informant named Anthony Brown from his FBI handlers. The prosecution will also try to convince the jury that teams under Tanaka’s direction endeavored to keep potential deputy witnesses from talking to the FBI, and also secretly surveilled and threaten a federal agent.

Voir Dire, as jury selection is called, had taken nearly two days, as scores of potential jurors were asked about any severe hardships they might experience if they were selected to sit through what is expected to be a three week trial, not counting jury deliberation. They were also asked if they had any relatives in law enforcement. Or, alternately, would be jurors were queried about any prejudices against law enforcement. There were other questions of that nature, including some pertaining to whether any of the jurors or their families had been in jail or prison. (A startlingly high percentage of the jury pool answered yes to this last question.)

But eventually a jury of seven women and five men, plus four alternates, was seated in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson.

And, the curtain on the main event was finally raised.


During their opening statements, the prosecution and the defense described dramatically different views of the events that took place in August and September of 2011

The prosecution, as is customary, was up first, with Assistant U.S Attorney Brandon Fox delivering the opening for the government.

In 2011, said Fox, defendant Paul Tanaka was confronted with the discovery of a federal investigation into abuse and corruption in the county jail by his jail deputies.

At that point, Fox told the jury, Tanaka “had a decision on his hands.”

And Tanaka “decided to conceal the crimes of his deputies— and committed a crime of his own in the process.”

Specifically, Tanaka and his coconspirators, according to the prosecution, hid a federal informant from his handlers, tampered with potential witnesses, and threatened the arrest of the FBI case agent.

But “every crime has a context,” said Fox.

In this case, to explain the government’s theory of the “context” of the alleged obstruction of justice, Fox laid out a narrative beginning in 2006, in which he described deputy cliques working inside Mens Central Jail on the 2000 and 3000 floors, and severe problems with force and physical abuse of inmates in MCJ and other jails in the system.

Similarly, said Fox, in 2007 at one of the LASD’s high crime stations, the station’s captain “noticed excessive force,” among the deputies and—as had been the case at MCJ—the rise of a deputy clique.

Fox then talked about various supervisors—including a lieutenant, two captains, and a commander— whom he said reported the problems to the former undersheriff along with suggested solutions, only to have the defendant allegedly undo their attempts at reform and, in several cases, sideline the reformers.

Thus, in 2011, when Baca and Tanaka discovered the existence of the FBI’s undercover investigation into brutality and other wrongdoing in the jails, “since he could not overrule it,” said Fox, “he undermined it.”

At the end of his presentation, Fox repeated his opening refrain: “Paul Tanaka tried to cover up the crimes of his deputies, and committed his own crime in the process.”


When it was the defense’s turn, attorney Jerome Haig assured the jury that the real facts of the case were far different and far simpler than what the prosecution contended

“His goal was to be a good cop, not to be well-liked,” said Haig of his client. But while Haig presented Tanaka as a fair but tough supervisor who demanded excellence from himself and those around him, and who “showed up every day to do what the sheriff wanted him to do,” he also stressed that Mr. Tanaka would not tolerate any crossing of legal lines.

He “would never look the other way” if he encountered wrongdoing, said Haig.

But the facts of the case, said Haig, were not about Tanaka’s style as a manager. “The facts of this case” are about “what happened between August 18, 2011 and September 26, 2011,” in other words, when Baca and Tanaka heard about FBI informant Anthony Brown and his contraband cell phone. That was when, according to the defense, Baca ordered the protection of inmate Anthony Brown for his own safety, along with an investigation into how and why a dangerous contraband cellphone had made its way into the possession of an inmate in the county jail.

What occurred during that August/September, 2011 time period, as Haig spelled it out, was lawful and, in the case of Tanaka, done at the direction of his boss, the Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.


The trial resumes at 8 a.m. Friday morning at which time the prosecution is expected to call Al Gonzales, a former LASD lieutenant, now retired, who was one of those who reportedly tried to rein in problem deputies in Men’s Central Jail. Gonzalez will likely be asked to describe how he was slapped down forcefully by Mr. Tanaka when he attempted some kind of discipline and reform in LA County’s largest and most historically troubled jail.


  • I find it hilarious that Tanaka’s defense team is still trying to play the “we hid him to protect him” game at the trial. This line of defense should be a slam-dunk for the prosecution to refute, just by pointing out that MCJ housed throughout the entire time period, and before and after, 187 suspects who killed deputy sheriffs. In fact, the killer of one of MCJ’s own was housed there, but didn’t need to be hidden for his safety. So why Anthony Brown?

  • In order to stay a step ahead of the game and to continue to put black shoe polish in his hair, I would suggest Paul put his application in NOW as shoe shine trustee at the Federal Pen. He would never be without his hair products.

  • Tanaka was a lil tyrant. He vowed to take care of all those who paid to play or would engage in his bidding. The midget hated most who worked other regions outside of what was known as region 2 at that time. My beloved ELA was one of those Stations he feared and hated. ELA didn’t give a damn about his political aspirations or “working in the gray”. We did it “our way” and he hated us for it thus, Tanaka ensured few from the station promoted or got good jobs. I for one am happy to see this tyrant go away. I guess working “the gray” didn’t help you “Mr. T”. God bless each and every one of you whether you’re a Custody Dep or at an elite unit. These are times are rough, they will get better. As for Tall Paul, I pray you get what you have coming to you day one in the yard. You ruined a lot of careers and lives. For those of you still drinking the “enano’s” michelada, sober up, he’s bought and paid for.

  • Tanaka ran the department by fear and intimidation. He placed all of his cigar holders throughout the department to keep everyone in check. He also had them report back to him without using any type of chain of command. Hey check into all of the force packages that sat dormant. The Lts that sat on the jackets all became captains.

  • I popped in for a bit this morning and had to leave, PT looked like a soup sandwich. That bald spot in the back of his head is growing, probably from tossing and turning, and the cheap hair dye, geez. The Defense attorney asking Gonzales to point to and identify Tanaka from the witness stand, I’m still scratching my head. The Defense asking witnesses questions that were nonsensical only to discover, it was the wrong witness. Well, what can I say. This will play out the way it’s going to play out, let the truth be told. If I were a family member of his and sitting in the courtroom, listening to what was said this morning, I’d be ashamed. An ugly story of how and why LASD has gone to hell in a hand basket is being told by the POWs themselves, so to speak. After hearing all of this again, I think of all the people who carried his water still sitting in the same chairs. All very sad.

  • Most of us in Region 2 would have liked to drag the little puke to the parking lot, but everyone knew that Chief Baca, then Sheriff Baca, and Baca et al Waldie and Klan, had the little accountant protected.

    From Block banished IRC Lieutenant, to backroom, fast-tracked Lennox (patrol-for a millisecond), then Lennox Operations, then handed the COPS program, where he REALLY started to recruit his small hand selected clown car of blind followers and future corrupt play to play, taxpayer money laundering, cash and check donating minions (can’t call them fools, because its still ALL working out for them. They still draw their higher salaries and probably do less now then the corrupt stuff they had to do for him). He bounced the entire COPS Team and replaced them with all his deputies and sergeants (mostly from his millisecond as the early morning watch commander).

    Sad that he gave Region 2 such a bad name, as the MAJORITY of us were no different then what Region 1 – ELA por vida speaks of, we just did the work for the sake of doing the work we signed up for and swore an oath to.

    Then even after he screws it up at Century COPS, with the over the top unprofessional yelling at the female deputy incident, Baca gives him COPS back as the Captain. Probably because of the shear freedom and unaccountably of that place so he could do Leroy’s bidding’s, and HIS. Then Commander, then Chief, AS, and US….. F@#$ing SAD.

    And ALL the Command Staff that could have been whistle blowers, stood by selfishly and HOPED for some scrapes to fall to the floor, as his hand picked Sgt’s and Lt’s. walked passed their 4th floor doors to report directly to the little man’s chain of command. They stood by well he circumvented the ENTIRE rank of Captain, Commander, Chief, and Assistant Sheriff, Department Wide. COWARDS! Everyone of them. Then in Custody, completely, and in Patrol for a large part, he circumvented the ranks of the line supervision, sergeants and lieutenants, ESPECIALLY in Region 2.

    Here’s anbelievable thought, just about as unbelieveable as two individuals being able to WREAK the largest Sheriff’s Department: Paul is found guilty, the judge is able to slam him with some heavy sentence he never even thought was possible, and then:

    His psychopathic behavior comes through: You just know the arrogant accountant, coin numbering/issuing fool, had someone keepin book, if not himself. Kinda like the Executive email group that was mostly anyone but an executive. Once his minion group got larger, he probably had to put it on a spread sheet.

    Paul, they all failed you… you were just trying to be a good cop… they failed you Paul. Or Pauline, because your just a little itty bitty boy at the end of the day. Make a deal Paul. Sell out all those pay to play players still walking around the department. You know them all Paul. Paul, your getting sleepy… very sleepy…. They don’t deserve you…The ones that aren’t making their county car payments to you still….the ones not holding the cash at the door cigar nights for your personal fund. They ones no longer kicking you back part of the extra tax payer dollars you gave them test answers for… They failed you Paul, they don’t deserve your loyalty….

    Heck, I’d live with a COMPLETE walk for you Paulie… following booking and 1 day of course, if you give up your cheat sheet….

    Sure would make room for a LOT of promotional spots for McBlind to fill, so many that it would be hopefully an impossibility for him not to find at least 50% deserving people. Maybe even bring back an appropriate AP process, that would actually be vetted and find people that have actually done something in their career to learn and gain the NECESSARY experience to properly supervise. The kind that would stand up as a group IMMEDIATELY if some fools like these two ever showed up again and started going off script.

    Oh, and one more thing, just for curiosity…. hopefully the Judge will have his tats, that will be photoed at the prison made public. We know he has that Viking he’s so proud of, that he UNBELIEVABLY was given when he was a Sergeant! What does that tell you about him. His deputies giving him a deputy tat. He must have REALLY had their backs. And maybe we’ll finally get the truth on whether the deputies at his beloved Lennox gave him a tat as a lieutenant, maybe he even has one from Century (or two or three, who can keep track of how many they have)… oh, oh, wait, and then there’s his 2000 and 3000 MCJ tats, and then the OSS one with the smoking barrels… he’s gotta be #1 on all of those last ones…

    Here’s tossing a penny into the wishing well… Stranger things have come to pass…..

  • To #5: Makeup of Jury: (with reasonable certainty)

    4 Hispanic, 3f, 1m
    5 Caucasian, 3f, 2m
    1 African American, f
    2 Asian, m

    3 Caucasian, 2f, 1m
    1 Asian, m

    To # 7:
    I had the same observatoon you did that Mr. Steward seemed confused at the end when questioning witness Bob Olmsted. (Of all the witnesses who should be well known and memorable!) As you perceived, seemed some of his questions were clearly intended for another Witness. Couldn’t keep his thoughts straight. Timeline, rank, assignments, etc. Weird.

  • Curious as to whether or not the former “Coin Holders” can sell their coveted coinage on Ebay or give them to the “Mob Museum” in Las Vegas.

  • Not to deviate from subject, but where were the unions during this fiasco, be it POPA or ALADS. WHY is the big question…. did they not wield their political influence and put Tanaka’s command staff in check . They should/could have had some influence for the deputies and other command staff to just say no. There was a connection or disconnect. Seems like the unions only came into play when indictments were handed down. Integrity outlasts career movement.

  • Where were the unions? Great question, but the answer is not merely pointing out that Roy Burns was busy playing golf with Baca, it’s much worse. Both unions have effectively emasculated themselves from the political process. Their gonads have been surgically removed and are floating in a jar at the Hall of Administration. The empty scrotum? Donated back to Dick Shinee to wear as a coin purse, only much smaller.

    Both Alads and Ppoa have the combined financial wherewithal to dictate who is the sheriff, the DA, and the five members of the BOS. The union “leaders” made a conscious decision to castrate themselves in exchange for a piece of the Union pie. It’s self-serving, cowardly, and ultimately the worse thing possible for both union members and county residents. Please note no matter how bad things get, who always wins? Elected scumbags and union “leaders.”

    Nationally, that is why Trump and Sanders have gained such traction.

  • This is by far some of the most truthful and best commentary I have read on Witness LA. Unions, are you watching and listening? Agency shop might go away and some of you might find yourselves back on the line!

  • LATBG, thanks for the laugh! Dick’s new coin purse is probably only large enough to hold a few raisinets. The unions stood idly by as their membership were led to slaughter by Tanaka’s henchmen for years. No reason to think they would take notice now.

  • 7&9: Could it be that Stewart’s intention to do just that-confuse the jurors?

    13: When Baca took office he ordered that ALADS be de-certified because ALADS did not support Baca in the election. There was a captain who refused and told them all that he would not support any order to circumvent the will of the deputies and what org the deputies choose as their reps. This captain had no druthers either way toward ALADS or LAPSA but wouldn’t break the law to please Baca and the gang. Just a little historical history. But, it’s true that ALADS has become just like the organization they replaced. How ironic??!!

  • To #16: No way! I know what you mean, but not in this instance. It was HE who was confused…clearly. Very different from trying to confuse jurors – that would be called putting on an actual defense. Haven’t seen a defense yet…. But it’s early yet. Their case in chief won’t start til after next week. Just sayin’ in my opinion defense didn’t seem strong coming out of the box on cross. And that moment was weird.

  • ITK: I doubt you “worked” there. I think you were probably assigned there and it wasn’t your first assignment. Good try though!

  • The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is a great organization. Please don’t allow a small slice of corrupt leaders to dictate the history. Fight to make LASD Great Again. [Editor’s cut. I let a bunch of this go through, but e-nough.] Stay positive and keep the faith.

  • #17, ,ELA is a great Station. You must have been on the lil fellas donor list. You that loser ,,HF? Sorry you got no respect there but it’s earned not demanded. Glad you promoted of that answer key!

  • Friday was a classic day. Tanaka must have been sick to his stomach and felt like Scrooge seeing all of his ghosts of days past that testified. Clark and Roller who were rolled up by Mr T. must of felt good playing a little catch up. Roller was trying to do the right thing at Century and got steam rolled by the little guy, after the “Fellas” complained. Al Gonzalez testified and then I think he went to Disneyland he was probably so happy. Maxwell is out IOD but I think he would have crawled there to say his peace. He is one of the few who ever stood up to Tanaka and everyone though he was crazy,,, who has the last laugh? Olmstead did not win Sheriff, but that was a day he has been waiting a long time for. Tanaka is so delusional that he sat there probably wondering why these guys were doing this to him. Of course we are all waiting for Captain Carey to testify.

    Some of Mr T’s legacy is still alive and well. McDonnell is being played like a fiddle and T’s people are still advancing their own. Mc D needs to get rid of Barrantes, Anda, Tyler, Mannis, Asmus, Goldman and Hellmold. And that is just from EPC. Everyone of these Cowards stood by as T took down many careers and allowed the open cheating to be done on the Lts test. Mr T is finally getting his justice but many others like theses will not.

    If found guilty,,, which he will, Mr T will be subject to the 2013 Pension Reform Act. His retirement will be effective the time of the crime in 2011. So instead of benefits paid to a 55 yr old Undersheriff, they will revert to a 53 yr old Assistant Sheriff. This will be quite a % hit. The gift that keeps on giving.

    Well the US Attorney had a great first day, lets hope for some more next week.

  • 18: Well, I guess you can be right. Just seems so odd that with all that experience and reputation that PT’s lawyers could be that unprepared?

  • To #23: Agreed!!! I questioned myself at the time, but apparently #7 saw the same thing.

    Just another -with respect- observation, but after attending all the Pretrial hearings last year (prior to the trial being delayed for Mr. Steward’s hip replacement) it seems he doesn’t have quite the same energy level today as he had in those hearings. That’s for sure one heck of a surgery to go through, so maybe it could explain a little…?

    Anyway, let’s see what happens next week, and then on direct….

  • Re: questions, sorry to inform you but you got a bad piece of news, old recirculated ALADS propaganda they created to defend themselves against the LASPA challenge. Nothing could be further from the truth. LASPA was created after a group of ALADS members were kicked out when they sought to get the books on union finances and tried to recall the board of directors at the time. County government, and Baca’s administration, did everything within their power to suffocate LASPA’s growth, which threatened to upset the entire applecart of employer dominated unions. If you have any doubts, dig into the court filings on LASPA v County of Los Angeles, the employee organization certification drive, and anyone not on the ALADS take at the time.

    The last thing Baca wanted at the time was an aggressive, ethical employee organization willing to challenge him in his ruthless quest for absolute power. ALADS and PPOA were nice little puppets who made all the appropriate noise at the required times, but never bit. They were and still are an illusion of normalcy, just like OIR and Merrick Bobb.

    Classic example: In 2006 Ken Masse received an endorsement for sheriff, followed by a check for $1,000.00. Compare that to the million dollar campaign that was launched to support Mark Ridley Thompson’s campaign for the Board of Supervisors. Same with the one that will be done on behalf of the worthless Janice Hahn, as we speak, for Knabe’s old seat. Why did ALADS and PPOA sit on their hands during the Sheriff’s election? The political establishment decided McDonnell was going to the next sheriff, and like good little dogs they fetched when told to do so.

    Both ALADS and PPOA are part of the entrenched political establishment, and they will defend that establishment at all cost, even at the expense of their own membership. They are compromised, and have been that way for a long time. There is nothing they can say to defend themselves, the proof is in their actions.

  • Maybe Tanaka’s attorney is being paid more by the Feds!!! The Feds are cheaters!! I do agree that Tanaka deserves everything that is coming to him plus some but let him get it honestly. I put the prosecution and the “Honorable” Percy Anderson in the same pot with Tanaka and Baca!!

  • Maybe Tanaka’s attorney is playing the “Mark Geragos defense” as used in the Scott Peterson trial.
    “You convicted my client of killing his wife and unborn child, but please spare him the death sentence because I really screwed up his defense”

  • @ 25) LATBG: In your post (last paragraph-first @ first sentence);you hit the bullseye, re:ALADS spending money at members expense. Behind the facade of bylaws, ALADS is spending money “hand over fist” even now re: ALADS V Macias. ALADS turned a governess dispute into a million dollar payday for lawyers. Funny thing is that ALADS will NEVER recover or recoup those funds. Membership is being jacked by ALADS Board. No sweat to spending money when it’s not your own.

  • @ 29. Sources tell me that the ALADS trial (October) is going to make a mockery of labor unions and Police Associations. Should be interesting.

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