LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Paul Tanaka, the former second-in-command of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, was sentenced Monday for corruption.
The former undersheriff remained stone-faced and stood in silence as U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson gave him a tongue-lashing and sentenced him to five years in federal prison.
He was also ordered to serve two years of supervised release after he gets out of prison and pay a $7,500 fine.
“The sentence today demonstrated that indeed no one is above the law,” U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said.
The judge told Tanaka he did everything he could to interfere with a grand jury investigation into alleged jail beatings. Anderson also said the 57-year-old’s “ambition and arrogance was more important than following the law. You value loyalty above honor.”
“That’s what he said. And we, of course, disagree with that,” Tanaka’s attorney, Dean Steward, argued. “I think all of that blended into the judge’s demeanor today at sentencing. It’s most unfortunate. And that’s why they gave us a court of appeals.”
After a month-long trial, it took jurors less than an hour in April to convict Tanaka of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Tanaka was the ninth sheriff’s official to be convicted of criminal conduct based on the circumstances surrounding the hiding of inmate-informer Anthony Brown. It was a scheme that involved witness tampering and the threatened arrest of an FBI special agent assigned to the jail investigation.
The case started in 2011 when an inmate at the L.A. County Men’s Central Jail was found to have a mobile phone.
Sheriff’s deputies connected the phone to the FBI, which had been conducting a secret probe into alleged inmate beatings and other misconduct.
Prosecutors claimed Tanaka derailed the probe and spearheaded efforts to keep information from federal investigators.
Tanaka claimed he simply was following orders from his then boss, former sheriff Lee Baca, also his one-time good friend.
But the jury did not buy that argument, and neither did the judge.
Baca will be sentenced in two weeks for lying to the FBI.
“It is sweet that Mr. Baca is being brought to justice. But it’s sad that it took this long,” said Peter Eliasberg of the ACLU.
Seven former sheriff’s lieutenants, sergeants and deputies who were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice received prison sentences ranging from 18 to 41 months.
Tanaka must report to prison on Aug. 1. He must also resign immediately as mayor of Gardena.
The earliest he is eligible for parole will be Thanksgiving of 2020.
Tanaka’s lawyer vowed he will file an appeal.