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9 Dec, 2013 21:05

LA County Sheriff’s Department officials indicted for conspiracy, obstruction of FBI probe

LA County Sheriff’s Department officials indicted for conspiracy, obstruction of FBI probe

​Seven officials of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have been indicted on charges of conspiracy, obstruction and giving false statements in connection with the FBI’s investigation of alleged misconduct in the county’s jails.

According to federal officials 18 current and former LA County sheriff's deputies saw themselves as being "above the law" when they engaged in crimes that included beating inmates and jail visitors, falsifying reports, and trying to obstruct an FBI probe of the nation's largest jail system, reported the AP.

The indictment shows the FBI alleges the Sheriff’s officials hindered a longstanding investigation after the Department realized an inmate was acting as a federal informant.

The officials subsequently moved the inmate - Anthony Brown, known as AB in the indictment - to a different facility and changed his name. The Department also revised its internal inmate database to falsely report that the inmate had been released.

Brown told the LA Times last year he was using his phone to take photos and detail abuse inside the Department’s Men’s Central Jail. He said FBI agents visited him often to exchange information. When the Department found out about Brown’s status as an informant, it ended the FBI’s contact with him.

"I didn't know it then, but they were hiding me from the feds," said Brown.

The indictment also reports Sheriff’s officials confronted one of the FBI’s lead agents outside her home. The officials falsely claimed they were in the process of gaining a warrant for the agent’s arrest.

The move of the informant happened despite a judge’s order that the inmate appear before a federal grand jury in the FBI’s investigation, according to the indictment. The Sheriff’s Department was served with the order on Aug. 25, 2011.

The officials listed in the indictment include: Lt. Stephen Leavins, assigned to the unit that investigates alleged misconduct among LA County Sheriff’s Department deputies; Sgts. Scott Craig and Maricella Long, both assigned to the same investigative unit; Lt. Gregory Thompson, who had oversight of the Department’s Operation Safe Jails Program; and Deputies Gerard Smith, Mickey Manzo and James Sexton, all of whom worked for Thompson.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the Department had no immediate response to the arrests. "You have to talk to the FBI," he said, according to the LA Times.

"These incidents did not take place in a vacuum. In fact, they demonstrated behavior that had become institutionalized," said US Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. "The pattern of activity alleged in the obstruction of justice case shows how some members of the Sheriff's Department considered themselves to be above the law."