Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Photo by John Schreiber.

A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department captain charged with obstructing a federal probe into corruption in the county jails has agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge and cooperate in the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation, according to court papers filed Thursday.

William “Tom” Carey will plead guilty to lying on the witness stand while testifying in the trial of former Deputy James Sexton, who was convicted and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for trying to obstruct the federal probe, according to the plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court.

In exchange for his plea and cooperation, Carey will receive a reduced sentence, and remaining charges against him will be dismissed, according to the document.

Carey and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka were charged in May with obstruction of justice with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice. Carey was also charged with two counts of lying on the witness stand last year during the trials of co-conspirators.

Carey was head of the department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, tasked to “root out the very corruption” charged in the federal probe, then-acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura said in May.

Tanaka, who, like Carey, testified for the defense at three trials stemming from the federal probe, “ran the day-to-day operations” of the sheriff’s department, she said.

“They knew there was rampant inmate abuse” and “did not want the FBI and federal investigators to know,” Yonekura alleged.

According to the indictment, the defendants were well aware of “problem deputies” at the jails, but told guards to work in a quasi-legal “gray area.”

Tanaka and Carey were the eighth and ninth sheriff’s department officials to face criminal charges connected to actions taken in August 2011 when inmate-turned-FBI informant Anthony Brown was hidden from his FBI handlers. Brown was booked and re-booked under a series of false names and eventually told the FBI had abandoned him, prosecutors said.

A half-dozen former department officials — two lieutenants, two sergeants and two deputies — were convicted in 2014 for their roles in the cover-up, and received federal prison sentences ranging from 21 to 41 months.

Stephen Leavins, Gregory Thompson, Scott Craig, Maricela Long, Mickey Manzo and Gerard Smith “endeavored to obstruct justice in a misguided attempt” to protect the sheriff’s department from outside scrutiny, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said before sentencing them.

“Blind obedience to a corrupt culture has serious consequences,” the judge said.

All claimed they had been following orders in assisting a legitimate investigation into how and why a cell phone had been smuggled into a jail. But Anderson said an “us-versus-them” mentality had been inculcated into them and into jailers and internal investigators alike.

The FBI was investigating claims of excessive force against inmates by sheriff’s department jailers and had intended to have Brown testify before a grand jury.

— City News Service 

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