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Ex-Undersheriff Tanaka and Former Captain Indicted on Federal Obstruction of Justice Charges

Tanaka out at LASD.

Tanaka out at LASD.

By FRED SHUSTER
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The former undersheriff and an ex-sheriff’s captain
are facing obstruction of justice charges for allegedly directing efforts to
quash a federal investigation into excessive force and corruption in the
county’s jails, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced today.
The charges against Paul Tanaka and William “Tom” Carey bring to 22
the number of current or former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
officials charged in an ongoing federal probe into corruption and civil rights
violations by guards at two downtown jail facilities.
Tanaka — formerly the department’s second in command and the current
mayor of Gardena — and Carey, who oversaw an internal sheriff’s criminal
investigations unit, are charged in a five-count indictment returned Wednesday
by a federal grand jury.
H. Dean Steward, one of Tanaka’s attorneys, said his client planned to
“aggressively defend” himself in court against “baseless” charges.
“After all the facts come to light, we are confident he will be
exonerated of any wrongdoing,” Steward said.
Carey’s lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.
Tanaka and Carey, both 56, surrendered at the FBI offices in Westwood
early today and were expected make an initial Los Angeles federal court
appearance before a magistrate judge this afternoon.
“As the allegations demonstrate, Tanaka had a large role in
institutionalizing certain illegal behavior within the sheriff’s department,”
said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura. “This case also illustrates how
leaders who foster and then try to hide a corrupt culture, will be held
accountable, just like their subordinates.”
Yonekura declined to answer questions regarding ex-Sheriff Leroy Baca’s
possible involvement in the alleged conspiracy.
Tanaka and Carey are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, and
each is named in one count of obstruction of justice. Carey is charged with two
counts of making false declarations for perjuring himself last year during the
trials of co-conspirators.
According to the indictment, the defendants were well aware of “problem
deputies” at the jails, “allegations of rampant abuse of inmates” and
“insufficient internal investigations” into deputy misconduct.
But against that backdrop, Tanaka told deputies assigned to the jails to
work in a “gray area,” and that he thought the sheriff’s Internal Affairs
Bureau should be reduced from 45 investigators to just one, the indictment
alleges.
Tanaka and Carey are the eighth and ninth sheriff’s department officials
to face criminal charges stemming from actions taken in August 2011 when
inmate-turned-FBI informant Anthony Brown was hidden from his FBI handlers.
Brown was booked and re-booked under a series of false names and eventually
told the FBI had abandoned him, prosecutors said.
A half-dozen former department officials — two lieutenants, two
sergeants and two deputies — were convicted in 2014 for their roles in the
cover-up, and received federal prison sentences ranging from 21 to 41 months.
Stephen Leavins, Gregory Thompson, Scott Craig, Maricela Long, Mickey
Manzo and Gerard Smith “endeavored to obstruct justice in a misguided
attempt” to protect the sheriff’s department from outside scrutiny, U.S.
District Judge Percy Anderson said before sentencing them.
“Blind obedience to a corrupt culture has serious consequences,” the
judge said.
All claimed they had been following orders in assisting a legitimate
investigation into how and why a cell phone had been smuggled into a jail. But
Anderson said an “us-versus-them” mentality had been inculcated into them and
into jailers and internal investigators alike.
The FBI was investigating claims of excessive force against inmates by
sheriff’s department jailers and had intended to have Brown testify to this
before a grand jury.
Former deputy James Sexton was separately sentenced to 18 months
imprisonment for trying to obstruct the federal probe.
Tanaka, who has been mayor of Gardena since 2005, announced his
retirement from the sheriff’s department in March 2013. He then ran for the job
of sheriff but was defeated decisively by Jim McDonnell, the former police
chief in Long Beach.

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