LA jail investigation: Undersheriff Tanaka’s role questioned

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A new wrinkle is unfolding in the sprawling federal investigation into suspected corruption and inmate abuse among Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies. At the center of the latest development  is a former member of the department's top brass who is now running for sheriff. 

Related: 18 current or former LA Sheriff officers charged in jail abuse case

The FBI had an inmate working inside the jail as an informant, reporting back on questionable behavior by deputies. Sheriff's officials found out about that informant and then tried to hide him away in the jail system. They even changed his name on custody records, according to federal prosecutors.

Now an internal sheriff's department email obtained by the LA Times raises questions about the role played by the undersheriff in charge of the jails, Paul Tanaka. In it, deputies are directed to be sure Tanaka himself or one of his subordinates is present before any movement of the inmate informant, Anthony Brown.

Federal officials say sheriff's deputies hid Brown, despite a court order to turn him over to testify before a grand jury. Sheriff's department officials have said they moved Anthony Brown into an isolated holding cell to protect him from deputies who may have wanted to seek revenge against him.

Tanaka since resigned and is running for LA County Sheriff.

He hasn't been accused of any wrong doing in the investigation. He says he could be subpoenaed as a witness in the upcoming obstruction trial and declined to answer questions because of that.

Tanaka issued a written statement saying he "was involved in some aspects" of implementing orders he says came from former Sheriff Lee Baca on the matter. But Tanaka says he "was not involved in" other aspects. Tanaka also says his name was sometimes used without his knowledge or consent because of his position.

Here is Tanaka's full statement:

When the indictments were first released, I refrained from going into details about my involvement because the investigation is ongoing, and out of respect for the process, I believed these matters should be handled in the courts and not in the press. However, after multiple attacks by opponents, I now feel compelled to make a broader statement.  I have been interviewed by the FBI and I have testified before the grand jury regarding my knowledge and involvement in this matter. That being said, with regard to a deputy unlawfully providing a cellphone to inmate Anthony Brown, the Sheriff made two broad directives with regard to his handling and the smuggling of the cellphone. Both of which were direct orders and, to my knowledge, were made in good faith and were not illegal. While I was involved in some aspects of the implementation of these orders, I was not involved in or had knowledge of other aspects and my name was sometimes used without my knowledge or consent because of my position. Because of the ongoing nature of these matters, I have been told that I will be subpoenaed as a witness in the upcoming obstruction trial, and I think it would be inappropriate for me to make further public statements on this matter.

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