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6 Deputies Found Guilty Of Hiding FBI Informant During Investigation Into Inmate Abuse
Six L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. deputies were convicted on Tuesday for trying to thwart an FBI investigation into the abuse of inmates in county jails.
The deputies, sergeants and lieutenants were found guilty of hiding an informant from the FBI during the agency's 2011 investigation into excessive force at the jails, according to the Associated Press. Sgts. Scott Craig and Maricela Long were also convicted of making false statements: they threatened an FBI agent with arrest.
"The deputy sheriffs found guilty today participated in a scheme to thwart a federal grand jury investigation into violations of basic constitutional rights guaranteed to both prisoners and visitors to county jails," United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. said, in a statement. "While an overwhelming majority of law enforcement officials serve with honor and dignity, these defendants tarnished the badge by acting on the false belief that they were above the law."
In 2011, an inmate, Anthony Brown, cooperated with FBI agents to uncover evidence of excessive force at the jails. Former deputy Gilbert Michel, who didn't know about the probe, accepted bribe money from the undercover feds to smuggle a cell phone to Brown. (Michel pleaded guilty in 2012 to one count of bribery and agreeing to cooperate with federal prosecutors, and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.)
Once the other deputies discovered Brown's phone in jail, they worked hard to hide Brown from his FBI handlers. Prosecutors said that the deputies would move Brown within the jail system and book him under phony names, according to City News Service. Attorneys for the deputies argued that the group was just following orders from then-Sheriff Lee Baca.
"There’s no evidence that Lee Baca could not be trusted,” one of the defendant's attorneys said in his closing argument. “Those orders came down the chain, and my client complied with them.”
When Craig and Long had discovered who was in charge of the FBI investigation, they threatened the agent at her home and told her they were planning on arresting her for smuggling in the cell phone to Brown.
Along with Craig and Long, Lts. Stephen Leavins and Gregory Thompson; and Deputies Gerard Smith, and Mickey Manzo were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for in the federal courthouse downtown on Tuesday. They face a potential maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Craig and Long could face an additional five years for their other conviction.
James Sexton was the seventh deputy charged in the case; however, his case was declared a mistrial in May when the jury was split 6 to 6 on the decision. He was charged separately from the other six deputies because he had given the federal government info on them.