LA jail scandal: 1st of 20 indicted sheriff's deputies faces trial Tuesday

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, take questions on the five criminal cases filed against 18 current and former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies as part of an FBI investigation into allegations of civil rights abuses and corruption in the nation’s largest jail system, during a news conference in Los Angeles, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The FBI has been investigating allegations of excessive force and other misconduct at the county’s jails since at least 2011. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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, take questions on the five criminal cases filed against 18 current and former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies as part of an FBI investigation into allegations of civil rights abuses and corruption in the nation’s largest jail system, during a news conference in Los Angeles, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The FBI has been investigating allegations of excessive force and other misconduct at the county’s jails since at least 2011. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Nick Ut/AP

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The first of 20 deputies charged in a sweeping investigation into corruption and civil rights violations in L.A.'s county jails goes to trial Tuesday.

James Sexton is charged with obstruction of justice related to an incident involving an inmate working as an FBI informant.

According to prosecutors, a group of deputies learned an inmate at Men's Central Jail, Anthony Brown, was working as an informant for the FBI. The FBI was investigating corruption--such as deputies smuggling contraband into the jails--and civil rights violations that included deputies beating inmates.

Prosecutors say when deputies learned Brown was an informant, they interviewed him, took his cell phone away, and fudged records to make it look like he'd been released from jail. Meanwhile, Brown was being moved from jail to jail under a false name.

Sexton is accused of helping falsify records, keeping watch over a hidden Brown, and denying access to FBI agents who arrived at the jail to talk with Brown.

He later approached the FBI with his concerns over the episode, but nevertheless was charged as part of a larger obstruction of justice case against seven deputies allegedly involved in hiding Brown. 

Sexton's defense attorney's are expected to argue he was following orders from higher ups, that he was unaware he was being investigated when he cooperated with the FBI, and that he did not intend to obstruct justice, as evidenced by his later cooperation with federal authorities. 

The remaining six deputies in the case are expected to go to trial when Sexton's trial concludes.