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LA County Sheriff’s Candidate Paul Tanaka Testifies In Trial Of Deputies Accused Of Obstruction

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka told a federal jury Friday ex-Sheriff Lee Baca gave the order for deputies to pay special attention to a jail inmate working as an FBI informant in 2011.

Tanaka testified for over two hours as a defense witness in the case involving six deputies accused of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Federal prosecutors say the defendants – Lt. Gregory Thompson, Lt. Stephen Leavins, deputies Gerard Smith and Mickey Manzo, Sgt. Scott Craig and Sgt. Maricella Long – hid inmate Anthony Brown for two weeks in August 2011 upon discovering Brown was investigating allegations of brutality against prisoners in county jails for the agency.

Tanaka testified that he knew Brown was moved around the jail and given a new identity, but denied giving the orders.

“The people that were charged with protecting (Brown) were authorized to use any means available to keep him safe,” Tanaka testified.

Tanaka is preparing for a runoff election against Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell for the county sheriff’s job in November. He spoke to KCAL9’s Dave Lopez outside the courtroom, where he made it clear he’s unhappy about how the media has linked the case to his campaign.

“Oh, certainly you guys have made it the focal point of my campaign, which is unfortunate,” he said. “That’s how I view it. You’ve made this trial the focal point of my 33 years of experience and qualifications I have to run for the office.”

The U.S. government has meanwhile made no secret that Tanaka has been the subject – not the target – of the grand jury investigation alleging the beatings of inmates at county jail.

Outside the courtroom, he bristled at the suggestion he gave misleading responses during his cross-examination, answering with, “I don’t remember,” or, “I can’t recall,” to several questions about his knowledge of Brown’s case Friday.

“You’re talking about something from three years ago,” Tanaka told Lopez.

“Whatever I’m testifying to is always the truth and to the best of my recollection,” he continued later, adding, “All the actions I took, as far as I’m concerned, were lawful, and were done in a proper fashion.”

Tanaka’s testimony is expected to resume on Tuesday.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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