Jurors hearing the obstruction of justice case against the former second-in-command at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department heard Thursday how two deputies showed up at the home of an FBI special agent and threatened to arrest her, an intimidation tactic that sheriff’s brass allegedly knew about and did nothing to stop.
Leah Tanner, the case agent on the FBI’s probe of allegations of excessive force within the jail system, testified that on Sept. 26, 2011, Sgts. Scott Craig and Maricela Long confronted her outside her house, flashed their badges, falsely told her that she would soon be arrested and said to contact the department.
Tanner was called to the stand on the sixth day of trial for ex- undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who is charged with two counts of obstructing justice by attempting to derail the federal investigation. If convicted of both counts, Tanaka, 57, would face up to 15 years in federal prison.
The entire confrontation — in which the two deputies falsely told the FBI agent that she was “a named suspect in a felony complaint” — was videotaped by a sheriff’s surveillance team, with the tape played for the jury Thursday and during a previous trial in a related case.
The deputies — later convicted of federal charges partly as a result of their actions that day — had targeted Tanner as a result of her involvement in the covert jails probe, specifically that she had managed to get a cellphone to an inmate-turned-informant at the Men’s Central Jail.
In an audiotape played for the jury, Craig and Long receive a call from Tanner’s boss, FBI Special Agent Carlos Narro, a few hours after the confrontation.
“She indicated to me that you guys indicated to her that there’s going to be a warrant for her arrest?” Narro asks.
Long responds, “There’s going to be.”
Narro then asks if then-sheriff Lee Baca knows about the situation. Long says he does.
The FBI supervisor asks what charges are going to be brought against his agent.
“You’re going to have to talk to the undersheriff, Mr. Paul Tanaka,” Long answers.
When the call ends, the sheriff’s tape recorder is still rolling, capturing a laughing Long talking to her partner.
“They’re scared! They’re like, do you know when is the warrant,” Long says, and is warned by Craig that the tape recorder is still going.
Craig had no cause to arrest Tanner since her role in the cellphone incident was part of an authorized federal investigation.
In evidence presented Thursday, records from Tanaka’s county-issued phone revealed a flurry of calls between the then-undersheriff and Craig and Long after the threat to Tanner.
Craig was sentenced to almost three years in prison, and Long to two years behind bars in a separate trial.
Baca pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators and is awaiting sentencing.
The prosecution is expected to rest after the final witnesses take the stand Friday.
The charges against Tanaka stem from an alleged plan to impede the jails investigation, partly by the use of a scheme to keep the inmate-turned- informer from appearing before a grand jury.
Tanaka’s attorneys counter that their client was kept in the dark about details of the plan, and say Tanaka knew only that Baca had ordered that the informant be “protected” from other detainees and potentially angry jail guards.
— Wire reports