A white-power gang operating inside the L.A. County jails had ties to sheriff's officials charged with running the lockups — ties that led up as far as Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.
That, at least, is one of the shocking allegations in a lawsuit filed in L.A. federal court this week. The plaintiffs are two deputies who worked the jails. Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore, however, dismissed the idea that Tanaka and other law enforcers were associates of a Vikings cop gang allied with white supremacist inmates. He told the Weekly:
What's interesting about this racist organization is that a Japanese American and a lot of Latinos and African Americans are supposedly in it. It doesn't make sense.
The filing alleges that Vikings-affiliated officials allied with white gangsters behind bars and used them “as proxies or agents to retaliate against other LASD deputies and inmates.” It claims that deputies even participated in unspecified “illegal activities” with the locked up gang members.
Tanaka “is a tattooed member of the 'Vikings,'” the plaintiffs allege.
The suit was filed by deputies Michael Rathbun and James Sexton. The latter of the two, strangely, is the son of former Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ted Sexton, who was recently hired by Sheriff Lee Baca to head the L.A. department's Homeland Security Division.
Rathbun's father is retired sheriff's official who had 35 years on the force, according to the suit.
Both deputies worked on the Operation Safe Jails gang intelligence team, which was overseen by Tanaka. (The controversial department number-two, long criticized for his deputies' use of force behind bars, announced he's leaving the job this summer).
The suit claims that the plaintiffs were ordered to “hide” an inmate, Anthony Brown, discovered to be talking to the FBI about deputies' behavior inside the county jails.
The suit says the plaintiffs believed the order came from Tanaka.
But wait, there's more:
Sexton wrote memos to a superior about deputies, including Remington Orr, who he believed were affiliated with the white gang, the suit says. The superior showed one memo to its subject, Joseph Britton, and thus put the whistle blowers and a jail informant in danger, the plaintiffs claim.
After that, the two were labeled by fellow law enforcers as “snitches,” the suit says.
Retaliation included putting a video of Sexton on-the-job on YouTube, elevating a DUI case against Rathbun that could have put him in jail with the very inmates he policed, death threats, and “bogus charges,” the plaintiffs allege.
Interestingly, another man outed as an alleged gangster cop, Remington Orr, pleaded guilty today to accepting a bribe, possession of a controlled substance in jail, permitting a loaded firearm in a vehicle, and driving on a suspended license, the L.A. County District Attorney's office announced this afternoon.
The highlight of the D.A.'s allegations, apparently unrelated to the lawsuit's claims, was that Orr was arrested on-the-job, at the Men's Central Jail, with two ounces of cocaine in his possession. A statement from prosecutors says Orr was “trying to smuggle cocaine into a jail to sell to inmates.”
The plaintiffs, meanwhile, are claiming all kinds of pain, suffering and emotional distress. The suit, which names L.A. County, the department, Baca, and Tanaka, seeks unspecified damages.