Two Former Big Shots In Sheriff's Department Indicted For Being Corrupt As Hell
It's finally happened: federal officials announced that former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former sheriff's Capt. Tom Carey were being indicted on obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges. These are the highest-ranking officials to be indicted in the corruption scandal.
The pair are facing charges not because of all the many, many claims of excessive force that have been levied against the department in recent years but because the pair allegedly tried to block the FBI investigation into that abuse, according to City News Service. They surrendered to FBI authorities this morning.
There had been rumors that deputies at the Men's Central Jail were particularly violent and abusive for some time and in recent years increasingly disturbing stories came to light, like a visitor getting beat up for bringing in a cell phone (and ending up looking like this), an Austrian consul and her husband unlawfully detained during a visit and awful stories of inmates being abused or even killed at the hands of deputies.
But it was the cover-up that led to the undoing of many officials in the department. Sheriff's officials found out that inmate Anthony Brown had become an informant for the FBI in August 2011 when they discovered a cell phone that was used to make calls and send photos of alleged abuse to the feds. FBI agents had been visiting him regularly where he supplied the names of corrupt and abusive deputies in the department. When deputies realized what was going on, they hid him from the FBI. They booked and rebooked him under false names, and finally told him that the FBI had abandoned him.
In December 2013, 18 officials in the department were indicted. Seven were convicted of obstructing justice. Everyone who worked to help hide Brown said that they were following orders from up high. Sheriff Lee Baca stepped down in January 2014.
Tanaka, who was considered a sort of "shadow sheriff" in the department, is the highest-ranking former official to face charges. He retired from the department in March 2013. He later ran for the job of sheriff (though, he barely campaigned) but he was defeated by Jim McDonnell. He is currently the mayor of Gardena.
His attorney H. Dean Steward tells the Los Angeles Times that he plans to fight the charges against him: "At all times, Mr. Tanaka dedicated himself to serving the residents of Los Angeles County honorably, ethically and legally. After all the facts come to light, we are confident he will be exonerated of any wrongdoing."
Both Tanaka and Carey testified at previous trials. Witness LA says Tanaka tried to portray himself in testimony as a distant supervisor who didn't know about the effort to hide Brown—though that clashed with other testimony that portrayed him as a more hands-on leader. Carey is accused of lying during testimony in the trials of lower-ranking officials last year, according to the Los Angeles Times. Carey was in charge of the department's unit for investigating internal criminal matters, and Witness LA says he appeared to be the point man for what unofficially became known as Operation Pandora's Box.
You can read the indictment here.
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