“Today's arrests underscore the high level of corruption that has plagued the Sheriff's Department under the failed leadership of Sheriff Lee Baca and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka,” Olmsted said in a statement. “It would be no surprise to me at all if there was a direct link between Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka and these arrested sheriff's regarding their actions of obstructing justice and their attempts to prevent the FBI from further investigating corruption inside the department.”
[Added at 2:30 p.m.]: At a news conference this afternoon, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said that although no Sheriff's Department higher-ups were charged, “the incidents did not take place in a vacuum.” Birotte also said that some of the abuses outlined in the indictments had become “institutionalized.”
The 18 defendants were charged in five separate cases, two of which involve inmate abuses. Among the most notable incidents is one from June 2011, when the Austrian consul general was placed in handcuffs while visiting an Austrian national in county jail — an apparent violation of diplomatic protections.
Birotte also alleged that during the dispute about the jail informant, sheriff's deputies came to the home of an FBI agent and threatened to arrest her.
Birotte was repeatedly asked about Baca's role in these incidents, but he declined to comment, except to say that “the investigation is ongoing.”
Outside the federal building, candidate Bob Olmsted gave several media interviews. “This is just the first wave,” Olmsted predicted. “They're going after the low-lying fruit first… Everybody indicted today does not have the authority to do what they're accused of doing. This could not have happened without the top people knowing about it.”
Tanaka declined to comment.