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Trial gets under way in Sheriff’s Department obstruction case

Valencia man among those charged by U.S. Attorney’s Office

Posted: May 27, 2014 1:11 p.m.
Updated: May 27, 2014 1:11 p.m.

Prosecutors presented opening statements Tuesday in their case against six sworn Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officers — including a Valencia resident — accused of obstructing a federal investigation into the Los Angeles County jail system, a U,S. Attorney’s Office spokesman said.

Lt. Stephen Leavins, 52, of Valencia, and five other LASD officers named in the federal obstruction case faced a jury in U.S. District Court Tuesday, spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

“The jury was seated last week,” Mrozek said Tuesday. “They (jurors) heard opening statements this morning.”

In December, Leavins was one of 18 sworn Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officers named in an FBI probe into allegations of corruption and of civil rights abuses in the jail system.

Last Thursday the trial of another sheriff’s deputy accused of obstruction ended with a hung jury.

The jury could not agree on whether to convict James Sexton, 29, for what prosecutors said was his role in hiding an inmate informant from FBI agents.

Leavins was assigned to the LASD’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, which scrutinizes the conduct of LASD deputies.

Leavins and co-defendant Deputy Mickey Manzo entered a plea of not guilty Dec. 9, the day federal prosecutors unveiled details of a criminal complaint and four grand jury indictments.

The obstruction case developed when Sheriff’s Department personnel assigned to Men’s Central Jail learned an inmate was an FBI informant and was cooperating in an FBI civil rights and corruption probe of the jail.

After learning the inmate received a cell phone from a deputy who took a bribe, those allegedly involved in the obstruction scheme took “affirmative steps to hide the cooperator” from the FBI and from the United States Marshals Service, which was trying to get the inmate to testify before a federal grand jury in response to an order issued by a federal judge, prosecutors claim.

As part of the conspiracy, they said, Sheriff’s Department personnel named in the indictment allegedly altered records to make it appear that the cooperating inmate had been released.

They then re-booked the inmate under a different name and told the inmate he had been abandoned by the FBI, the indictment says.

Over several weeks, the Sheriff’s Department personnel also allegedly tried to obtain an order from a Los Angeles Superior Court judge that would have compelled the FBI to turn over information about its investigation to the LASD.

After the judge refused to issue such an order, according to the indictment, two LASD sergeants who are charged in the case confronted an FBI special agent at her home in an attempt to intimidate her into providing details about the investigation.

The sergeants falsely told the special agent and her supervisor that they were obtaining a warrant for her arrest, according to the indictment.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt




Unreal: Posted: May 27, 2014 1:25 p.m.

Abuse of power. I am glad they are taking a look at this. The jails in LA have been run by a what is tantamount to a gang for a while. I know two SCV kids (one is the son of a close friend I work with) and his friend who were 18 and picked up for pot a few years ago. These were good kids, never been in trouble before, scared (not mouthing off) who had their heads slammed into the walls by deputies who told them they had better get used to it. They were out in less than 48 hours (with some brusing) but what a bunch of thugs running the jails.
The deputies committed worse crimes of assault than the crime of a little pot that these boys had.
New deputies, after learning everything from these thugs, are the same ones who then come and patrol the streets of SCV.

Let the jury hear testimony and decide this case. I hope it starts to clean up this mess.

Now if we could just clean up the FBI and NSA........ --edited.

DMeyer: Posted: May 27, 2014 1:58 p.m.


If those kids you knew just were in possession of pot they would have been cited to a court appearance and released on the spot. Those kids were either dealing or there is more to the story that you were not made aware of.

chefgirl358: Posted: May 27, 2014 2:24 p.m.

Yep, DMeyer is right.

lasddeputy: Posted: May 27, 2014 2:37 p.m.

The Feds are a bunch of clowns. All they indicted were the soldiers carrying out the orders from a corrupt Sheriff Baca and his underling, Paul Tanaka. Baca and Tanaka are the ones who should be on trial. Tanaka is also the one who ordered jail supervisors to back off of the deputies and let them beat the inmates in the first place. This case is more about abuse of power than obstruction of justice.

Unreal: Posted: May 27, 2014 3:10 p.m.

They had over an ounce and it was before the "new laws". They were not dealing. They were good kids going to COC. The one who was the kid of the co-worker has now completed his degree at CSUN and is working and has a family.
I don't know about the other one, but I have no reason to assume he did not do well too.

Unreal: Posted: May 27, 2014 3:12 p.m.

I agree it had to go all the way to the top to continue for so long.

Just like the IRS scandal goes all the way to the top (white house).

DMeyer: Posted: May 27, 2014 6:34 p.m.

Can't be Unreal. Obama already told us that there is "not a smidgen of corruption" at the IRS.

bobforte: Posted: May 28, 2014 6:45 a.m.

Unreal, I like how you keep referring to the fact they were good kids. Was it the arrest that made them bad, or are they just bad kids in general now.

Unreal: Posted: May 28, 2014 8:53 a.m.

They were good kids at the time. Now great adults.

If I was arrested for something, not sure what but let’s just suppose, and thrown in jail, I would hope I would not have to fear the jailers. This would be wrong.

I know everyone wants to think of gang bangers and how much they deserve to be beaten but is that really the point?
If you let jailers run roughshod over prisoners this is a breakdown of our system of justice and we are no different than totalitarian or corrupt countries. Look how worried we are about the VET in Mexico. Is this what we want for our country?

bobforte: Posted: May 28, 2014 3:28 p.m.

Interesting how every deputy is guilty in your opinion.

lasddeputy: Posted: May 29, 2014 9:51 a.m.

Unreal, I am a deputy and it is obvious that some others on here are too. Please understand the sensitivity that all of us feel when we are unfairly labeled as thugs. Likewise, I think the deputies on here should not assume that your friends are bad people and that abuse does not occur in the jails. They know it does, but the vast majority of deputies are good cops who don't abuse inmates. We really should be united in eliminating corruption in our police force. It is best for the communities and it is best for the good, legit cops. Cops should applaud the identification and prosecution of bad cops (unless of course you are one) and community members should support the good cops and not label us all as bad cops.

DMeyer: Posted: May 29, 2014 1:14 p.m.


Most of us really do appreciate the hard work you do and we support you. And we realize that there are problem people in EVERY facet of life and in every line of work. There are some folks that post here that just hate cops no matter what and that's sad.

JpCazedores: Posted: May 29, 2014 7:25 p.m.

Most of us appreciate the fact that the cops who are now in court broke the law. Plain and simple. I also know of a young man picked up and arrested for pot. Spent the night in jail and went before the judge who released him. What a wasted of tax payer money. DMeyer @deputy get real and if these cops broke the law let them rot

Unreal: Posted: May 30, 2014 11:16 a.m.

lasddeputy: You are correct. There are many good deputy and cops out there.
I have said before I have a cousin working LAPD, and a cousin who is a retired cop from San Diego area where he was one of the top leaders. Also know a couple deputies from my church. I dated a cop and dated a detective at one time. Both very nice men.

One of the deputies from my church said that he had issues with others at the jail in Castaic where he worked. They were abusing prisoners and doing stupid little things like changing the channel to the TV 5 minutes before a show ended. They really think it is their job to make prison as bad as they can, not understanding that being removed from their lives is the punishment, not hitting, or other harassment type conduct.

If you overlook the small stuff it grows into the systemic abuse at Twin Towers.

I used to think the pharse "vast majority" was correct concerning deputies but now I feel it is split more like 60% goood 25% questionable,
and 15% rotten.

DMeyer: Posted: May 30, 2014 1:49 p.m.


The "young man" you know who was picked up and arrested for pot also "broke the law". Seems as though you didn't want him to "rot in jail" like you want these deputies to.

Interesting.........are you one of the cop haters I was referencing? Or is it ok only for people you know to get away with breaking the law??

Unreal: Posted: May 30, 2014 2:29 p.m.

Because there is a huge difference between smoking pot and abuse of power.
Do you not get it?

When another person is at your mercy, like persons who have been arrested (not even found guilty yet) or the kid who was handcuffed in the back of the patrol car and was beaten in the face by the deputy and you abuse them that is really a low act.

"Abuse of power under the color of authority" hurting other human beings is an awful crime. To try to equate it with pot smoking is ridicules.

And by the way, the good deputies should be more outraged than anyone else.
This ruins the communication and the public trust that they depend on making their jobs twice as hard and much more dangerous.

DMeyer: Posted: May 30, 2014 5:01 p.m.

"like persons who have been arrested (not even found guilty yet)"

Oh, mean like these deputies that are on trial in this case right?

It's quite telling how quick you are to condemn these accused deputies but easily exonerate drug dealers?

If you have been following this case at all you are aware that the first deputy tried (Sexton) was not found guilty despite the unlimited resources of the United States government pulling out all of the stops trying to secure convictions. Doesn't the saying "innocent until proven guilty" apply to everyone"? Or does is apply to just people you and Jp know and drug dealers??

JpCazedores: Posted: May 30, 2014 5:04 p.m.


The young man did not break the law as he whether you like it or not carries a valid I.D. card that permitted him to have it. The attorney general ruled it legal and the people voted it in. The cop who I spoke with said they don't recognize Ca. law just the Federal Law in Santa Clarita. That good buddy is a joke. No law broken just a waste of tax payer money spent.

Do you DMeyer live in a closet eating crackers saving your raisins for Sunday?

FrankS: Posted: May 30, 2014 5:20 p.m.


For the Justice Dept. to file charges they must have some pretty damming evidence or they wouldn't bother to file.

On the issue of arresting people for weed. If you are legal you are not breaking the law. Santa Clarita isn't a a state all by itself last time I checked and must abide by the law of California. So I say WTF and your quote of "like persons who have been arrested and not proven guilty yet" ...very laughable indeed.

DMeyer: Posted: May 31, 2014 10:43 p.m.

Perhaps you forgot your Junior high school classes(or you ditched to go get stoned). It's time for a refresher course. When state law and federal law conflict federal law trumps state law.

Start with the basics and then maybe when you learn those you can come sit at the adult table and join the discussion.


That was a quote of Unreal's prior statement, I was pointing out the hypocrisy in her views.

As for the Justice Dept having some pretty damning evidence, maybe so. Or maybe this is their way of trying to show who has the bigger wanker. Either way it was pretty obvious from the first trial that this is a loser of a case, and like Jp says "a waste of money". Perhaps they should have filed on the upper echelon who gave the order to hide the inmate (Baca and Tanaka).

Either way I'll withhold judgement until all of the facts and evidence comes out. If the deputies broke the law then they should be fired and they should receive jail time for their crimes. If they are not guilty then they need to be left alone. After all, isn't that the American way?

JpCazedores: Posted: May 31, 2014 12:53 p.m.


Wrong again as California Judges obey the voters rights and the writing of the Attorney General. So to say the cops don't harass young people is wrong again. I carry a valid card and they wrote me a ticket and it was dismissed just like our CALIFORNIA law states. Now the young man in question also had a valid card and was booked, jailed and then the case thrown out.

Move to a zero tolerance state and prey one day you don't end up in a situation with crooked cops.

DMeyer: Posted: May 31, 2014 3:59 p.m.


Your brain has been damaged from years of abusing drugs. Please see the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. Perhaps you've heard of that document.

But thanks for the chuckle ....."California Judges obey the voters rights"..... What a knee slapper!

JpCazedores: Posted: June 1, 2014 10:50 p.m.


Nope to the abusing drugs. Get out of your closet sometime, change your adult diaper and enjoy the sunshine.

DMeyer: Posted: June 1, 2014 7:43 a.m.


Did you look up the Supremacy Clause yet? At least you could get clarification on misconceptions that you have, that is if you're open to learning. Otherwise you look kind of foolish when you spout off information that is just plain wrong.

FrankS: Posted: June 2, 2014 9:24 p.m.

DMeyer ....must know the guilty cop

DMeyer: Posted: June 2, 2014 10:36 p.m.

FrankS must be a convicted criminal. Who obviously didn't read what I posted earlier. I'll cut and paste for you since you're not that bright. Oh, and I don't know any of the cops who are on trial, nor do I know any of the inmates who got their butts beat down. And I'm certainly not all that worked up about it like you seem to be.

My earlier statement:

"Either way I'll withhold judgement until all of the facts and evidence comes out. If the deputies broke the law then they should be fired and they should receive jail time for their crimes. If they are not guilty then they need to be left alone. After all, isn't that the American way?"

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