LA jail scandal: All 6 Sheriff's Department officials found guilty on all counts

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All six current and former L.A. County Sheriff's Department employees accused of trying to obstruct a federal investigation into corruption in L.A.'s jails were found guilty Tuesday on all counts.

Gregory Thompson, Stephen Leavins, Gerard Smith, Mickey Manzo, Scott Craig, and Maricella Long were all accused of conspiracy and obstruction of justice in an alleged plot to hide a jail inmate working as an FBI informant and intimidate an FBI agent by threatening her arrest.

A jury found all of the defendants guilty on obstruction of justice and conspiracy. Those charges together carry a potential maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, according to City News Service. 

Long and Craig were also found guilty of making false statements. That charge carries a possible prison sentence of up to five years, CNS reports.

"It was a hard decision," said Juror #1, who is named Ron. He wouldn't give his last name. He's a truck driver trainer from the Crenshaw district. "You see some of these great careers and all of the sudden it's, swoop, it's gone. But the evidence we had, it was pretty ... definite that they were hiding, and there is no other way to to look at it."

Ron said that it was easier to decide once the jurors were able to put aside their emotions about how their decision would affect the defendants.

"Each of us [that] was there went through that part where, we didn't want to harm anyone, and we had a job to do," Ron said, "and there is not a good moment where you have to do something like we had to do."

"This is a devastatingly sad day for our entire County," said L.A. County sheriff candidate Jim McDonnell in a statement.

McDonnell also brought up his opponent in the election this fall, Paul Tanaka.

"According to sworn testimony, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, a witness for the defense at trial, remains a subject of this ongoing federal investigation," McDonnell noted. "All of us deserve the opportunity to move beyond past problems and bring the shine back to the LASD badge."

In May, the trial of James Sexton, who was also accused but whose case was handled separately,  ended with a hung jury.

Charges in the cases stem back to 2011, when deputies working in Men's Central Jail discovered a cell phone belonging to an inmate named Anthony Brown. Brown at the time was working as an informant for the FBI and deputies traced the numbers on his phone and calls made via the jail's phone system to the FBI's civil rights division.

Soon after, the group started moving Brown from jail to jail under fake names, and not permitting his FBI handlers access. They also ignored a federal court order to produce Brown for testimony, prosecutors say.

"It went over the line when they started when they knew the investigation went as far as the FBI and when they started to hide" the informant, Ron said, "and they began to do things that were outside the law."

As "phase two" of the operation to thwart the FBI investigation, prosecutors say Long and Craig showed up at the home of FBI Special Agent Leah Marx, the lead investigator on the jail corruption probe, and threatened to arrest her for helping bring a cell phone into the jail.

Defense attorneys in Sexton's case argued the group was following orders from higher level officials in the department — and that hiding Brown and confronting Marx was part of a legitimate investigation into jail contraband.

"Now, I'm not here to knock the Sheriff's Department because I've got great respect for them, and that's another thing that made it very hard for us all," Ron said. "I have great respect for these gentlemen, but I think by following orders, once you follow orders and they become, well, you breaking the law, that's a problem."

The Sheriff's Department claimed the man was transferred to another location for his own protection, according to the Associated Press.

Jurors in that case split six to six on whether or not to convict Sexton.

Attorneys for the remaining defendants lined the courtroom during Sexton's trial, seeking insight into the government's case. 

Attorneys in Sexton's case have not yet said whether he'll face a second trial.

Correction: A news alert that went out on this story incorrectly identified the job titles of some of the Sheriff's Department employees. KPCC regrets the error.

This story has been updated.

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