A sentencing hearing today was delayed for a week for a former L.A. County sheriff’s deputy whose bribery case was central to a corruption probe that resulted in almost 20 indictments of law enforcement officials.
Gilbert Michel, 43, pleaded guilty in January 2012 to a federal bribery charge and admitted that he accepted money in exchange for smuggling a cell phone, cigarettes and a note into Men’s Central Jail for an inmate.
U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson postponed sentencing until June 13 so attorneys could file additional briefs.
The discovery of the smuggled phone in the hands of the inmate, who was also an FBI informant, subsequently led to multiple convictions of sheriff’s personnel — including former sheriff Lee Baca and ex-undersheriff Paul Tanaka – – who were found to have attempted to thwart a wide-ranging federal investigation of corruption within jail walls.
As part of his plea agreement, Michel agreed to cooperate, then testified at two trials of sheriff’s officials, including Tanaka’s. The former undersheriff , who was found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice, is expected to be sentenced June 27.
Michel was “brave enough to tell the public what was happening inside the jails,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lizabeth Rhodes wrote in pre-sentencing papers.
During the three years Michel worked as a jail guard, “inmate abuse was seemingly rampant and un-checked and corruption went all the way to the top,” the federal prosecutor wrote.
The felony bribery charge carries a potential 10-year prison sentence, but because of Michel’s early plea and “significant” cooperation, prosecutors are recommending that Anderson impose a four-month term in home detention.
Baca pleaded guilty to a federal charge of lying to investigators during the probe of corruption in the jail system. His sentencing hearing is set for July 11.
—City News Service