Turf War Results in Feds Vindictively Pursuing Conviction of Los Angeles County Law Enforcement
Denver, CO -- (ReleaseWire) -- 04/18/2017 -- On September 27, 2011, the LA Times reported that the "FBI orchestrated an undercover sting" to smuggle a cell phone into an inmate at a Los Angeles County Sheriff Department (LASD) jail and about Sheriff Lee Baca's public comments that the FBI's actions were criminal (http://lat.ms/2nPxAJ1). "Our review of the case shows the FBI may have engaged in misconduct and possibly committed a crime that endangered the lives of LASD deputies," says Lamont Banks, Executive Director of A Just Cause. "When Baca ordered a lawful and legitimate internal investigation into alleged FBI misconduct, the FBI cried obstruction of justice, claiming the Baca and subordinates who were conducting the investigation against FBI agents were interfering with their federal probe," adds Banks. "As a result, Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and eight other LASD subordinates were wrongly convicted and sent to prison for following orders of Baca to investigate," says Banks. "A Just Cause is hurting for these, their spouses and their children and will fight to vindicate them and tell their side of the story where the mainstream media failed to do so," adds Banks.
The facts, evidence and common sense indicate that Los Angeles federal prosecutors may have vindictively pursued Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and eight other highly-decorated and dedicated LASD officials (Captain Tom Carey, Lt. Steven Leavins, Lt. Greg Thompson, Sgt. Maricela Long, Sgt. Scott Craig, Deputy Mickey Manzo, Deputy Gerard Smith and Deputy James Sexton) on obstruction of justice charges after Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca publicly accused the FBI of misconduct and pursued an arrest of an FBI agent. Baca believed he had a legitimate gripe and justification to decry misconduct after FBI agents participated in smuggling a cell phone into a violent inmate imprisoned at a LASD jail, which could have endangered the lives of his deputies. According to Townhall.com's "Ex-Los Angeles County sheriff awaits verdict in 2nd trial" article dated Mar 14, 2017, Baca's attorney said, "Baca thought the FBI committed a crime when agents had the cellphone smuggled to the inmate informant", which A Just Cause believes was the flash point for igniting a turf war between the FBI and LASD resulting in the collateral damage of numerous alleged wrongful convictions of subordinate LASD officials.
Unbeknownst to Baca, the FBI was conducting a secret probe into LASD deputy abuses and had solicited the help of violent inmate Anthony Brown to use a cell phone to gather evidence of alleged beatings and to induce/entrap deputies into accepting bribes for smuggling contraband. Brown had been convicted of multiple armed robberies and was awaiting transfer to a state prison after being sentenced to over 400 years in prison. A source tells A Just Cause that FBI policy requires federal agents to notify the number one or two ranking officer when conducting a covert investigation at a local police agency which apparently didn't happen, because both Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka were unaware of the probe or that the cell phone was smuggled into the jail. It's baffling that the FBI would provide a cell phone to a violent inmate when the FBI website discusses the dangers of inmates using cell phones to "facilitate criminal acts."
In July 2010, on fbi.gov, the FBI published an article titled "Cell Phones as Prison Contraband," and stated that there are "real and potential dangers that inmate wireless phone possession poses, not only to prison and jail personnel and other prisoners but to the community at large" and explained "how (prison and jail) officials have taken aggressive measures to detect them." The article goes on to recommend that "correctional institutions need to continue their vigilance toward detection of smuggling and possession of devices by prisons by both traditional and innovative methods." In the April 15, 2016 'USA Today' article titled "Cell Phones are too dangerous for prison", former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who is now the U.N. Ambassador in the Trump Administration, discussed how inmates in her state used a cell phone to order a hit on correctional officer Capt. Robert Johnson at his home. A gunman kicked in Johnson's front door and shot him six times. Inmates were upset with Johnson for confiscating contraband, including cell phones, in the prison."
Baca became aware of the cell phone, not from the FBI, but through a random search of the property of inmate Brown. Baca, who had a lawful obligation and responsibility for the safety of his officers, directly ordered Captain Carey and Lt. Leavins to investigate how Brown obtained the cell phone and who smuggled it into the jail. It was determined through the LASD investigation that the cell phone was linked to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. The FBI contacted Baca and confirmed that the phone was FBI property and asked for its return but refused to provide any details about how Brown could have gotten the phone. With no answers to his questions, Baca told the FBI he would keep the phone until LASD investigators determined how Brown acquired it. Baca's investigators interrogated Brown and found that the cell phone was smuggled into the jail after Brown, who was working with the FBI to gather pictures of alleged beatings and induce/entrap deputies into smuggling contraband, bribed Deputy Gilbert Michel to get the phone from an FBI agent who was posing as his friend. LASD sergeants Long and Craig ultimately went to the home of the FBI agent who orchestrated smuggling the phone into the jail and told her they were seeking a warrant for her arrest. Shortly after Baca's public criticism and threat to arrest an FBI agent, the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office filed conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges against Baca and all LASD subordinates who followed Baca's orders to conduct a legitimate and lawful internal investigation, including Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who, according to Baca, was not involved in the internal investigation.
When pressed by the FBI in an April 2013 interview, Sheriff Baca repeatedly told federal agents that Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was not directly involved in his internal investigation. In the transcribed and recorded interview, Baca told the FBI that he was the "macro-manager" and Captain Carey and Lt. Leavins were the "micro-managers" who reported directly to him about the internal investigation but did, on limited occasions have Tanaka contact Carey and Leavins to get status. Other facts confirming Tanaka's innocence are that 1) not a single deputy, seven of which were convicted, said Tanaka had ordered any LASD official to obstruct the investigation, 2) not one witness said Tanaka took any action to personally obstruct or hinder the grand jury or FBI investigation, and 3) not one witness said Tanaka had any role whatsoever in Baca's investigation. Tanaka was issued a letter from the U.S. Attorney telling him he was not a target of the investigation, but that soon changed after Tanaka courageously testified at the trials of the other indicted officials, including Deputy James Sexton who was represented by former Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien. Assistant United States Attorneys Brandon Fox and Lizabeth Rhodes appeared to ignore Baca's statements exonerating Tanaka and indicted and convicted Tanaka by painting him as a lead conspirator in obstructing justice allegedly based on the timing of his presence at a jail and routine non-recorded 10-minute phone call with Baca. Deputy Sexton, the son of Ted Sexton, was not only a Division Chief at LASD, but also former Sheriff of the Tuscaloosa Sheriff Department in Alabama and former Undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.
"It appears from our review of this case, this was an turf war between the FBI and LASD, both of whom were conducting legitimate investigations that conflicted with each other," says Banks. "Sheriff Baca was legally justified in pursuing a contraband investigation" adds Banks. "Furthermore, the FBI exercised extremely poor judgment in providing a cell phone to a violent inmate which not only compromised jail security but put deputies' lives at risk," contends Banks. "Under these circumstances, however, the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office's action to prosecute and convict these dedicated law enforcement professionals for simply following orders was unwarranted, unnecessary, and quite frankly, disgraceful," says Banks. "These men have many decades of public service and have put their lives on the line for the citizens of California," says Cliff Stewart, A Just Cause. "Their careers have been destroyed, their reputations ruined, and their families have endured immense pain and suffering because they did their duty and followed the lawful orders of Sheriff Baca," adds Stewart.
"Current research shows that the vindictive actions of AUSA's Fox and Rhodes and the 18 month to 5 years' sentences imposed by federal Judge Percy Anderson is the main contributor to a continuing epidemic of mass incarceration in the U.S.," alleges Stewart.
In his 2017 book "Locked In", Fordham University Professor John E. Pfaff conducted exhaustive research on the true causes of U.S. mass incarceration and found that a prosecutor's "decision about whether to file felony charges against someone...seems responsible for a lion's share of the growth of prison admissions since crime started dropping in the early 1990's," said Pfaff. "In short, between 1994 and 2008, the number of people admitted to prison rose about 40%...and almost all of that increase was due to prosecutors bringing more and more felony cases against a diminishing pool of arrestees," added Pfaff. "The main driver of growth, at least recently, has been steadily rising admissions for fairly short terms," said Pfaff.
"Felony charges should have never been filed against these dedicated law enforcement officers," says Banks. "Now Tanaka, other LASD officials and their families have become a mass incarceration statistic and our government will waste taxpayer money to house, clothe, feed and provide healthcare for them at a federal prison camp," adds Banks. Through both public and private sources, A Just Cause recently proposed to President Trump, Jared Kushner and to members of Congress to close wasteful federal prison camps and end the unnecessary welfare being provided to non-violent offenders when home confinement yields better results at a fraction of the cost (See proposal and online petition at http://bit.ly/2n74zfg).
In May 2009, in joint cooperation with the FBI and U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien, Tanaka led LASD through an operation that resulted one of the largest street gang indictments in U.S. history when 1400 law enforcement officials raided and arrested the Hawaiian Gardens gang (See http://bit.ly/2ocGDqI). Now Tanaka, Carey, Thompson, Long, Craig, Manzo, Smith & Sexton are felons and serving prison time simply for following orders of Baca. "If we are to solve our mass incarceration problem, prosecutors must change their attitude, reign in their ambition and stop abusing their power and discretion to file criminal charges unless absolutely necessary because of the devastating impact to families, society and government spending," concludes Banks.
A Just Cause will be aggressively pursuing presidential pardons and asking Attorney General Sessions and congress to investigate the alleged wrongful convictions of the "LASD9". Additionally, A Just Cause will be dedicating one or more radio programs (http://www.ajcradio.com) to discuss the convictions of the LASD9, their career accomplishments and will be soliciting interviews from family friends and associates about who they are personally.
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