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UPDATE: 6 sheriff's personnel convicted in federal obstruction case

Posted: July 1, 2014 3:34 p.m.
Updated: July 1, 2014 6:14 p.m.
 

A Sheriff’s Department lieutenant who lives in Santa Clarita was among six sworn officers found guilty Tuesday of obstruction of justice for interfering with a federal civil rights investigation at the Men’s Central Jail.

Lt. Stephen Leavins, 52, of Valencia proved a central figure during the month-long trial as prosecutors questioned him for three days with a focus on his role as head of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Internal Affairs section.

On Tuesday, a jury in the downtown Los Angeles federal courthouse determined the six defendants, including another lieutenant along with Leavins, tried to influence witnesses, threatened an FBI agent with arrest and concealed an FBI informant who should have been turned over to federal authorities.

While he was on the witness stand, Leavins maintained he was doing his job investigating deputies and protecting an FBI informant — not trying to obstruct the FBI’s probe.

Leavins, who has lived in Valencia for more than 20 years, and four of the other defendants were relieved of duty without pay in December 2013; a sixth defendant retired.

Federal prison
All six of the defendants were convicted of participating in a broad conspiracy to obstruct justice, a plot that began in the summer of 2011 after they learned that a jail inmate was an FBI informant and was cooperating with a federal investigation into corruption and civil rights violations at the jail, prosecutors said.

All six defendants face statutory maximum sentences of 15 years in federal prison.

“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,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. during a news conference Tuesday on the steps of the courthouse.

“Our civil rights investigation exposed criminal conduct and a toxic culture within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” Birotte said.

Convicted
The other defendants convicted Tuesday are:

• Gregory Thompson, 54, a now-retired lieutenant who oversaw LASD’s Operation Safe Jails Program;

• 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;

• Maricela Long, 46, a sergeant who assigned to the Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau.

The evidence presented at trial showed the defendants learned an inmate received a cellular phone from a deputy sheriff who took a bribe and that the inmate was part of a federal civil rights investigation.

The deputies took affirmative steps to hide the informant from the FBI and the United States Marshals Service, which was attempting to bring the inmate into federal custody pursuant to an order issued by a federal judge.

As part of the conspiracy, records were altered to make it appear as if the informant had been released, but he was re-booked under different names.

The sworn personnel also engaged in witness tampering by attempting to influence witnesses to not cooperate with the federal grand jury investigation, including the informant and the sheriff’s deputy who had taken a bribe to smuggle the cell phone into the jail.

Sentencing
All six sworn personnel were convicted of obstruction of justice offenses. Craig and Long were also found guilty of making false statements to an FBI agent and to her supervisor about seeking a warrant for her arrest.

The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 8 by United States District Judge Percy Anderson.

jholt@signalscv.com
661-287-5527
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

 

 

Comments

EgbertSouse4U: Posted: July 1, 2014 7:10 p.m.

Don't y'all love crooks in uniforms??


Unreal: Posted: July 2, 2014 11:13 a.m.

Wow, "Threatened an FBI Agent with arrest"! That takes some b*lls.

If that is how they treated an FBI Agent imagine how they treated the visitors to the jail and the prisoners they had control over!

I am sorry for the families of this guy. They have to live with the shame their husband and dad brought on the family.


Leykis101: Posted: July 2, 2014 11:28 a.m.

Do these entitled public sector criminals still get their life-time pension?


timothymyers02: Posted: July 2, 2014 11:56 a.m.

Only problem is that Tanaka and Baca should have been in the dock as well. Tanaka has even admitted that he was involved.


chefgirl358: Posted: July 2, 2014 1:30 p.m.

What a waste of taxpayer money. This whole case was nothing more than a grudge match between two law enforcement agencies. Those officers were just following orders. If the FBI was going to go after people, they should have gone after the top guys who were giving the orders. This was a bs case and these cops the fallguys.


Before87: Posted: July 2, 2014 5:05 p.m.

Those officers were just following orders


Shoot that guy That's an Order
Hide that paper work That's an Order
I know but charge him anyway That's an Order


They are cops (The Dangerous Kind) they know the law
Put them in Gen-Pop --edited.


chefgirl358: Posted: July 2, 2014 7:37 p.m.

Before87, I guess you don't understand how things work in a paramilitary organization. If they don't follow orders, they will be punished. They weren't the ones who came up with that stupid plan, they were simply told what to do. In fact, the Lt Leavins guy in his testimony, consulted over the case several times with the head attorney from County Counsel as well as the attorney from the Office of Independent Review to discuss pursuing a case against the FBI for violating laws for bringing drugs and a phone into a jail. He genuinely thought he was doing his job.

I think there are definitely people who should be held accountable in this whole scenario, I just don't believe it should have been these 6 people. It all starts at the top.


Before87: Posted: July 3, 2014 11:32 a.m.

Chefgirl let's assume (ass-u-me) that for the purpose of this thread
that i know absolutely nothing about paramilitary organizations.

Just because this is a paramilitary organization does not make
this ok.
They should nail these 6 guys to the wall so the rest of the
underlings will understand that if they do this I might go to Jail.
Which they already know.

I agree that the guys on top should be standing next
to these 6 guys.
But like the guys that set the economy on fire nothing will happen
to them. And so it goes on.

Some day the lower sheriffs are going to grow up and be big sheriffs
and dispense the same orders.And a round we go. There needs to be
a stick thrown in the spokes.

We both know that this is not the first time this happened and is daily
operations.I am glad the FBI did this so it can be brought to light.

This not their job to dispense punishment on inmates.That is for the Judge!
I understand that for the most part these prisoners should be there and
they mouth off to the deputies. And I can even understand a gut punch
or even a forearm in an extreme case. But to Beat guys to near death
while hancuffed is not ok. Most of these deputies are trained in hand to hand.
Which means their hands are deadly weapons. That is what I was Taught.

I don't agree with your thoughts on this and you don't agree with mine and that's good.
Im sure will have future debates Have a good day. Mike


chefgirl358: Posted: July 3, 2014 1:19 p.m.

Before87,

These guys weren't on trial for brutality issues with inmates. They were on trial for lying to federal investigators (which cops are entitled to do at any time when conducting an investigation...they all use a "ruse" more often than not with suspects). And they were on trial for obstructing the FBI's case by hiding their informant inmate from them. The fbi provided the inmate a cell phone (which is a felony for them to possess in a jail), as well as actual DRUGS, which could have killed someone who actually used it, or caused assaults among inmates, or between deputies and inmates due to their being high and/or combative. There were a number of things the fbi did that were exceptionally poor choices, and highly illegal. I'm not saying LASD responded well either, but they FELT they were justified in their investigation and I have a "reasonable doubt" that they should have been found guilty.

Yes, we definitely have to agree to disagree because if I was on that jury, the outcome would have been entirely different.

Have a great 4th of July!



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