We hope this is the worst of it — that the L.A. County Sheriff's Department has turned over a new leaf following its inmate-abuse scandal.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. today announced that six sheriff's officials have been found guilty by a federal jury in a crazy obstruction of justice case that included threats to an FBI agent investigating the department's jails.
Prosecutors said two of the defendants …
… actually went to the home of an FBI agent, asked her for information about the investigation, tried to deter her from looking into the jails and ultimately claimed there was a warrant for her arrest.
That was after, the U.S. Attorney's Office says, the “defendants sought an order from a Los Angeles Superior Court judge that would have compelled the FBI to turn over information about its investigation to LASD.”
The defendants also participated in a scheme to hide an inmate who was providing information to the feds about conditions inside county lockup.
According to the U.S. Attorney's statement:
As part of the conspiracy, records were altered to make it appear as if the cooperator had been released, but he was re-booked under different names.
Feds also allege that the deputies tried to get witnesses not to cooperate with the federal grand jury investigation into the department.
The six were convicted of obstruction of justice-related counts, prosecutors say. All six face a possible 15 years behind bars although Sgt. Scott Craig, 50, and Sgt. Maricela Long, 46, face the additional possibility of an extra five years on top of that for making false statements regarding the nonexistent warrant for the FBI agent's arrest.
Here's the U.S. Attorney's defendant ID run-down:
Gregory Thompson, 54, a now-retired lieutenant who oversaw LASD’s Operation Safe Jails Program;
Lieutenant Stephen Leavins, 52, who was assigned to the LASD’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau;
Gerard Smith, 42, a deputy who was assigned to the Operation Safe Jails Program;
Mickey Manzo, 34, a deputy who was assigned to the Operation Safe Jails Program;
Scott Craig, 50, a sergeant who was assigned to the Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau;
and Maricela Long, 46, a sergeant who assigned to the Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau.
The U.S. Attorney in L.A., André Birotte Jr., had this to say:
The deputy sheriffs found guilty today participated in a scheme to thwart a federal grand jury investigation into violations of basic constitutional rights guaranteed to both prisoners and visitors to county jails. While an overwhelming majority of law enforcement officials serve with honor and dignity, these defendants tarnished the badge by acting on the false belief that they were above the law.