Crime & Justice

Former LA County deputy testifies against corruption case targeting boss

On Monday Dec. 9 Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca held a press conference to respond to the F.B.I. arrests of 17 Los Angeles sheriff's deputies.
On Monday Dec. 9 Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca held a press conference to respond to the F.B.I. arrests of 17 Los Angeles sheriff's deputies.
Ken Scarboro/KPCC

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For a second day, former sheriff's deputy Mickey Manzo will take the stand Friday in the corruption case against his former boss, retired Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca. 

Manzo hid an inmate informant from the FBI and was later convicted for his role in the scandal. Federal prosecutors want to show the conspiracy to thwart federal agents' investigation into inmate abuse reached the very top of the department - the sheriff, himself. 

On Thursday, federal prosecutors called Manzo to the stand. He told jurors it all started when he and his fellow deputies discovered that an inmate had a cell phone, and then traced the phone to the FBI. Manzo said he alerted leadership "as soon as we found out." 

His boss, Lt. Greg Thompson, told Manzo to interview the inmate to "lock him to whatever story he was going tell," Manzo recalled.

Prosecutors played a muffled interview in the court room. "I know you are working with the feds, dude," an officer said to the inmate, Anthony Brown. Brown asked for a coffee and cheeseburger or at least a cigarette and a soda to start talking. 

"A nurse didn't bring me the phone," Brown said sarcastically,"a deputy did."

After the interview, Manzo said, he sat down "to brief the sheriff and undersheriff on the investigation," explaining that the deputy who supplied the phone to Brown was caught in a sting set up by the FBI.

Manzo said the sheriff started asking questions: Why are they doing this? Why didn't they come to us? 

The undersheriff at the time Paul Tanaka, "slammed his hand on the desk...and went off," Manzo said.

Manzo recalled Tanaka said, "Fuck them."

That's when Manzo and other deputies started moving the inmate so that the FBI could not contact him. Manzo was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Tanaka and Thompson were also criminally convicted.

Manzo is out on $50,000 bond, working at Home Depot, and may get his sentence reduced for testifying. 

The jury will have to decide if Baca, too, played a criminal role in hiding the inmate from the FBI. 

His defense attorney argues there are many names tied to the evidence, but none of it implicates Baca.

Baca's intent was to keep inmate Brown safe, his attorney said, and investigate how the cellphone was smuggled in. The defense claims it was the undersheriff who"operated his own agenda" to "F the FBI."

The defense is expected cross examine Manzo Friday.