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Ex-Undersheriff Tanaka Convicted On Conspiracy And Obstruction Charges

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Former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was convicted Wednesday on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges. During his closing arguments Tuesday, a prosecutor told a federal jury that the conspiracy case was like a movie where Tanaka had been the director, but now they would get to write the end of the story. And write it they did, villain in hand. The jurors deliberated for only three hours over two days before reaching the verdict, according to City News Service.

The former second-in-command at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who currently serves as mayor of Gardena, now faces up to 15 years in federal prison for obstructing an FBI probe of misconduct in the county jails. The FBI was investigating corruption and civil rights violations by sheriff’s deputies at two downtown jail complexes, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Tanaka was indicted alongside former sheriff's Capt. Tom Carey in May 2015.

Prosecutors charged that Tanaka directed eight alleged co-conspirators to stymie a 2011 FBI investigation into allegations of excessive force within the jail system, according to City News Service. The scheme to thwart the federal investigation allegedly began in August 2011, when deputies recovered a mobile phone from an inmate at Men’s Central Jail and then linked the phone to the FBI, discovering that the inmate was an informant.

Defense attorney H. Dean Steward argued that Tanaka was not actually in control of the situation, and that he was being pushed by his former boss, then-Sheriff Lee Baca (Baca pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to investigators in February, and will be sentenced in May). The defense also argued that much of the prosecution’s testimony against Tanaka was driven by jealousy, and that the retired sheriff's officials who spoke against him had grudges against Tanaka, according to City News Service.