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U.S. Attorney still waiting on pleas from some sheriff's department defendants

LA Sheriff Corruption

Nick Ut/AP

Andre Birotte, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, at podium, and Bill Lewis, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Division, right, at Monday's announcement of criminal cases filed against 18 current and former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies.

Seven of 18 current and former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials indicted Monday on federal corruption and civil rights charges have pleaded not guilty. Nine others have not entered pleas, and two have yet to surrender to authorities in the wide ranging federal investigation.

Sixteen of the 18 defendants are currently with the Sheriff's Department but are suspended with pay.

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U.S. Attorney’s spokesman Thom Mrozek said Deputy James Sexton and former Sergeant Eric Gonzalez are traveling and will surrender in the "near future."

“We do not consider them fugitives,” Mrozek said.

Gonzalez is accused of encouraging deputies under his command to “engage in excessive force” against visitors who “disrespected” deputies at the Twin Towers Jail in downtown Los Angeles. One man suffered a fractured arm at the hands of deputies under Gonzalez, who allegedly covered up the abuse.

Sexton is charged with six others in connection with an alleged scheme by sheriff’s officials to obstruct justice by hiding a jail inmate from federal authorities. That inmate was acting as an informant for the FBI, which was conducting an investigation into allegations of deputy-on-inmate abuse.

None of the defendants may be in a stranger position than Sexton. As he faces federal charges of trying to obstruct justice, Sexton recently filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department. He alleges department officials retaliated after he complained about inmate abuse inside the jails – abuse he now has been charged with helping cover up himself.

Here are the officials who’ve pleaded not guilty:

  • Deputy Bryan Brunsting – inmate beating case
  • Deputy Jason Branum – inmate beating case
  • Deputy Sussie Ayala –jail visitor beating case
  • Deputy Fernando Luviano – jail visitor beating case
  • Deputy Pantamitr Zunggeemoge – jail visitor beating case
  • Deputy Noel Womack – jail visitor beating case
  • Richard White Piquette – illegal possession of assault rifle case

Here are the officials who’ve yet to enter pleas:

  • Former Lt. Gregory Thompson – FBI obstruction of justice case
  • Lt. Stephen Leavins – FBI obstruction of justice case
  • Sergeant Scott Craig – FBI obstruction of justice case
  • Sergeant Maricella Long – FBI obstruction of justice case
  • Deputy Gerard Smith – FBI obstruction of justice case
  • Deputy Mickey Manzo – FBI obstruction of justice case

Arraignment for the above deputies is scheduled for December 16.

  • Deputy Billy Khounthavong – mortgage fraud case
  • Deputy Benny Khounthavong – mortgage fraud case
  • Deputy Johnny Khounthavong – mortgage fraud case

Arraignment for the three brothers is scheduled for January 7.

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