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Dozens of L.A. Sheriff's Officials Expected To Be Arrested After Hiding FBI Informant [UPDATED]

Men's Central Jail. Photo by Matthew Logelin via the LAist Featured Photos Pool on Flickr
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Updates are below

Seven Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials are facing obstruction of justice charges after hiding an informant from the FBI, and at least a dozen more arrests are to come. The arrests come after at two-year investigation by the FBI regarding the treatment of the informant.

The officials have yet to be named; all we know right now is that they are a deputy, a lieutenant and a sergeant. The arrests come after a grand jury heard from witnesses about how the officials dealt with Anthony Brown, an inmate who was cooperating with the FBI to uncover excessive force in Men's Central Jail,the L.A. Times reports. One witness claims that officials repeatedly moved Brown and changed his name to throw off FBI officials. Sheriff's officials, meanwhile, have claimed that they were actually hiding Brown from other inmates, rather than the Feds. Brown is currently serving life in prison for armed robbery.

According to the Times:

Sheriff's officials discovered the informant's identity after jail deputies found his phone during a cell search in August 2011. The phone included calls to the FBI. In an interview with The Times last year, the informant said he had been using his phone to take photos and document excessive force inside Men's Central Jail. Brown said FBI agents regularly visited him in court and at the jail, where he supplied them with the names of corrupt and abusive deputies. Brown said FBI agents rushed into the jail to visit him soon after they learned his cover had been blown. But as the meeting began, Brown said, a sheriff's investigator came in and ended it. "This … visit is over," the official said, according to Brown.
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Men's Central Jail has been under the microscope in recent years regarding its reputation for extreme brutality. A coupe of years ago, jail employees even roughed up a visitor because he had a cell phone.

The arrests are yet another blow to the department, which has been under massive scrutiny regarding practices and behaviors by officials in jails and on the streets. Just last week, the L.A. Times detailed how the department hired employees with huge red flags on their professional and personal records, including excessive force, solicitation of prostitutes and sexual misconduct with minors.

UPDATE 1:10 P.M.: According to documents obtained by the L.A. Times, seven L.A. County Sheriff's Department officials have been indicted on charges of conspiracy, obstruction and giving false statements to the Feds.

The officials named in the indictment are Lt. Gregory Thompson, Lt. Stephen Leavins, Sgt. Scott Craig, Sgt. Maricella Long, Deputy Gerard Smith, Deputy Mickey Manzo and Deputy James Sexton.

Ironically, three of the indicted officials were part of the "Operation: Safe Jails" program; Thompson was in charge of the program, while Manzo, Smith and Sexton worked for him. Long and Craig worked both worked for the Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, which oversaw alleged wrongdoing by deputies, according to CNS.

The document goes into lurid detail about the charges levied against the officials: Thompson and his Operation Safe Jail underlings would actively try to hide Anthony Brown from FBI officials who were working with him, even going so far as to remove him from the database, saying that he was released from custody. Leavins, Long, and Craig attepted to dissuade witnesses from testifying under the Federal grand jury.

Meanwhile, Long and Craig tried to threaten the FBI Special Agent working with Brown by claiming that they were going to arrest her, apparently not knowing that one cannot arrest an FBI agent for work relating to a federal investigation, regardless of what state or local laws that agent might have broken.

WitnessLA has been reporting on this case since its inception, and has levied allegations that Sheriff Lee Baca and Assistant Sheriff Paul Tanaka had knowledge of the obstruction against the FBI and may have signed off on it. Thompson is alleged to have told his deputies that the order to hide Brown came from both Baca and Tanaka.

Thompson had been in trouble before—a report by the L.A Times last year detailed how he obstructed an investigation into allegations that another deputy was smuggling drugs for skinhead gangs in the jail. Manzo has also been in hot water over an email he sent to members of Operation Safe Jails that identified the two African-Americans working with the program as "Black Panthers."

UPDATE 1:40 P.M.: City News Service is reporting that 18 current and former L.A. County Sheriff's Department officials will be facing charges in connection with an FBI probe into excessive force and misconduct in county jails. The officials facing charges include the seven involved with obstructing inmate/FBI informant Anthony Brown, as well as others who have been charged in various excessive force cases.

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