LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Six former members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department were sentenced Tuesday to federal prison time for conspiring to foil a federal probe into deputy violence against inmates in county jails.
A judge sentenced Stephen Leavins, Gregory Thompson, Scott Craig, Maricela Long, Gerard Smith and Mickey Manzo with prison terms for up to 41 months and said the six defendants all lacked “courage to do what is right” and then failed to show “even the slightest remorse,” U.S. Attorney’s spokesman Thom Mrozek said.
A jury on July 1 found the defendants, including two lieutenants, attempted to influence witnesses, threatened an FBI agent with arrest and concealed an FBI informant who should have been turned over to federal authorities.
Thompson, 54, a now-retired lieutenant who oversaw the sheriff’s department’s Operation Safe Jails Program, was ordered to serve 37 months in prison and pay a $7,500 fine. Leavins, 52, a lieutenant who was assigned to the department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
Smith, 42, and Manzo, 34, were both deputies assigned to the Operation Safe Jails Program and received 21 and 24 months, respectively, in prison. Craig, 50, and Long, 46, were both sergeants assigned to the Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau and received 33 months and two years, respectively.
Defense attorneys say the ex-deputies were simply following orders from then-Sheriff Lee Baca and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka to move informant Anthony Brown to various cells within the Men’s Central Jail downtown, then to a Temple City sheriff’s station and finally to a San Dimas substation, where he was kept under 24-hour guard during August and September 2011.
“Blind obedience to a corrupt culture has serious consequences,” United States District Judge Percy Anderson said, before ordering each defendant to begin their prison sentences in the coming months.
“Those sentences should not be seen as a broad brush characterization of the quality of work performed or commitment to the public, the men and women of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department deliver each and every day,” Sheriff John Scott said in a statement.
A seventh former deputy, James Sexton, was convicted last week in a separate trial and will be sentenced in December.
The case stems from July 2010, when the FBI began looking into alleged civil rights abuses committed by members of the sheriff’s department within Los Angeles county jails. As part of the investigation, the FBI interviewed prisoners, including Brown, who had been convicted and was awaiting transfer to state prison to serve a life term.
Prisoners had reported significant levels of civil rights abuses, but federal investigators had no way of verifying the reports because they had no access to either deputies or sheriff’s department documents.
Thirteen other deputies charged in the jailhouse corruption probe in February are awaiting trial.
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