LA jail scandal: Deputy James Sexton returns to court

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A Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputy accused of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for allegedly helping hide an FBI informant returns to court Monday to battle over what evidence he can use in his own defense.

James Sexton walked out of federal court in May after a jury split six to six on whether he was involved in a conspiracy to thwart an FBI investigation into inmate abuse and deputy misconduct in L.A.'s county jails. Since then, six of his former colleagues have been convicted in the conspiracy. Prosecutors decided to retry Sexton soon after obtaining convictions against Gregory Thompson, Stephen Leavins, Gerard Smith, Mickey Manzo, Scott Craig, and Maricella Long. 

One of the issues at hand Monday is whether Judge Percy Anderson will delay sentencing the six until after Sexton's retrial. They're currently due for sentencing September 8--one day before Sexton's trial begins. 

In court papers, defense attorneys argue media coverage of the scheduled sentencing could make it hard for attorneys to find jurors unfamiliar with the case.

Another open question is whether Sexton will be allowed to introduce evidence that proved key in his first trial. 

Sexton is accused of helping hide a jail inmate, Anthony Brown, who was also working as an FBI informant from his FBI handlers. Prosecutors say Sexton helped fudge the jail's computer system to make Brown disappear from the books and later stood guard outside his cell to make sure no other sheriff's employees or outside law enforcement accessed the inmate.

Sexton's attorneys argued he was a low-level deputy following orders from much higher-ups in the department, like then Sheriff Lee Baca and Undersheriff Paul Tanaka (who's currently a candidate for sheriff). His attorneys painted a picture of a "turf war" between high level people in high-level agencies, fighting over who had jurisdiction over the jails. 

According to jurors who served on the trial, those arguments resonated with some. 

"He was definitely low-hanging fruit for the prosecution," one juror, who voted for acquittal, told KPCC. 

Now, prosecutors have asked that in his second trial, Sexton not be allowed to make any arguments "regarding a purported 'turf war' between the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the federal government," nor make any arguments about orders that were given to deputies, unless they were specifically communicated to Sexton himself. 

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