Obstruction Convictions Uncover Recordings of LA Sheriff's Dept. Officers Threatening FBI Agents And Federal Witnesses

from the more-of-a-criminal-enterprise-than-a-law-enforcement-agency dept

Above the law? The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department seems to feel it is. Or, at least, it felt that way right up until seven of its members were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The convictions -- with sentences of 21-41 months -- are being appealed, but the evidence collected by ABC 7 of Los Angeles paints a very disturbing picture of a law enforcement agency that would stop at nearly nothing to keep the feds from cramping its corrupt, brutalizing "style." Almost everything obtained either originated at the hands of those convicted or was preserved via video and audio recordings

It stems from the nasty little side business the Los Angeles Sheriff's Dept. runs: the county jails. Part of the problem was the LASD's hiring standards: there weren't any. Criminals, sex offenders, officers with severe misconduct on their records -- all were hired by the LASD. 200 officers who were rejected by other law enforcement agencies because of past problems found a welcoming home at the L.A. county jails.

The undersheriff in charge of screening applicants blamed the extra duties dropped on the LASD by the disbanding of the Dept. of Public Safety. Then he simply said he didn't remember any specifics and refused to answer any more questions. Finally, he and the rest of the LASD did everything they could to prevent this news from going public.

Beyond the misconduct-friendly screening process was the incredible amount of abuse occurring within the jails themselves. The ACLU filed suit on behalf of two LASD deputies, alleging routine abuse of inmates, claiming sheriff's deputies (themselves known to be members of a racist gang) turned over control of the jails to white supremacist factions and, perhaps most shockingly, hid an FBI informant from his handlers.

For more than two years, LASD officers worked together to "keep the FBI" out of its jails. In addition to threatening whistleblowing officers, LASD personnel also worked in concert to intimidate federal investigators.

By late September 2011, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department "Special Operations Group" had FBI Agent Leah Marx under surveillance for more than two weeks. Her partner, FBI Agent David Lam, was under surveillance as well…

On September 26, 2011 Sgt. Scott Craig and Sgt. Maricela Long confronted FBI Special Agent Leah Marx outside her home; they flash[ed] their LASD badges at Marx and then threaten[ed] her with arrest.
These two LASD officers didn't have the power to arrest the FBI agent. They also didn't have even the slightest legal basis for the charges they threatened her with. Supposedly, the LASD was going to take the FBI agent down for smuggling a phone into its jail (to Anthony Brown, the FBI informant who was hidden from the FBI by the LASD), even though Sheriff Baca himself had been informed of this by the head of the FBI's Los Angeles field office.

The recordings obtained by ABC 7 contain even more indications that these LASD officers believed themselves untouchable. One recording catches them laughing over a panicky phone call from FBI Agent Marx's supervisor concerning the threatened arrest. Another recording captures Lt. Steve Leavins performing a bit of tampering, hoping to turn an FBI witness into a friendly LASD voice. Further recordings capture several of the convicted officers trying to convince FBI informant Anthony Brown to give up details on the FBI's investigation.

Judge Percy Anderson, who handed out the sentences, addressed both the audacity of the LASD's actions...
"Perhaps it's a symptom of the corrupt culture within the Sheriff's Department, but one of the most striking things aside from the brazenness of threatening to arrest an FBI agent for a crime of simply doing her job and videotaping yourself doing it, is that none of you have shown even the slightest remorse."
as well as his hopes for the future:
The court hopes that if and when other deputies are faced with decisions similar to those you face, they will remember what happened here today. They will not look the other way or obstruct an investigation; that they will recognize that blind obedience to a corrupt culture has serious consequences, that they will enforce the law rather than conspire to commit crimes, that they will do what is right rather than what is easy.
When a culture of corruption runs as deep as LASD's apparently does, it will take a whole lot more than a few 2-4 year sentences to effect a turnaround. An agency of that size doesn't go from feeling so far above the law that it casually threatens federal agents to walking the straight-and-narrow -- at least, not because of a few convictions. It helps, but it's not nearly as transformative as Judge Anderson hopes. A few years of federal supervision will help as well, but the most hopeful sign is the new attitude being displayed by the LASD's Chief of Detectives, the person tasked with heading up internal investigations. Rather than shift the blame to software, policies or the public's perceptions, he takes responsibility for the unaddressed problems within the department.
The sheriff's department has an early warning system. "Our diagnostic systems were fine," said the department's Chief of Detectives, Bill McSweeney, who advised his agency on creation of the warning system. "Our managerial and supervision response was not fine. It's that simple."
The LASD is far from fixed. But at least some of its uglier characteristics have been dragged out of the darkness and publicly displayed.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Oct 2014 @ 7:04pm

    Question:

    Why is anyone from the agency still employed? If they were so corrupt that they felt they could get away with threatening FBI agents, then it sounds like their bosses and everyone in the chain of management were either involved, heavily, or intentionally turning a blind eye to the abuses. You don't do something that ballsy without being damn sure your boss will cover for you.

    Gut the agency, fire everyone employed there, file charges where appropriate, and start from scratch. That would send the proper message. Throwing a few patsies in jail for a year or so just sends the message of 'Don't get caught next time'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 21 Oct 2014 @ 10:03pm

      Re: Question:

      Can we have that for the NSA, please?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 4:24am

      Re: Question: clean slate

      "Gut the agency, fire everyone employed there, file charges where appropriate, and start from scratch. That would send the proper message."

      Georgia (the nation-state, not the the province-state) actually did just that a few years ago -- the country's entire police force was fired and replaced. And the new one has reportedly worked out well.

      So yes, it could indeed be done.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 5:56am

      Re: Question:

      I wonder if it was the Kingdom of Georgia but the Police force was so problematic and corrupt that they fired the entirety of it and replaced them anew. Surprisingly things didn't go chaotic in the few days with no law enforcement and today the cops are actually respected. Sure we are talking about a small country here but then again maybe it can be done county by county.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 21 Oct 2014 @ 10:22pm

    Did they use a stingray against the FBI?
    And why does it seem that the FBI only noticed after the ACLU lawsuit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 10:30pm

    So all it takes...

    for corrupt and criminal behavior to get punished within law enforcement, is to threaten someone higher up the food chain.
    But what about when those highest in the chain does it? They have to threaten the president for something to happen?
    It sure doesn't bode well for mr. and mrs. public when all they can hope for is that the officer who violated the law against them, some day does it against an undercover agent in order for that officer to get punished for his/her illegal actions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 10:32pm

    Michael Dorn

    Makes some of what he claimed seem far more likely now doesn't it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 10:38pm

      Re: Michael Dorn

      Um... Christopher Dorner, I think you mean.

      Don't get me wrong: Michael Dorn is awesome. And I'm a big fan of Worf. I'm watching DS9 right now in fact. But...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      PRMan, 22 Oct 2014 @ 10:35am

      Re: Michael Dorn

      I felt bad for the guy. They ruined his life (and all further job chances) because he stood up for an abused cripple.

      The way he went about it was wrong for sure, but they didn't leave him with any options.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 10:32pm

    And people wonder why there are some out there with grudges against the police

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:00pm

    Lack of morals everywhere

    This is what you get when most of the leadership in all of our various institutions have the morals of a shark. Its the real "trickle down" in action.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    any moose cow word, 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:25pm

    Perhaps they need a sassy Georgia cop to get them in line.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      any moose cow word, 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:27pm

      Re:

      Well, that's how it worked on TV anyway.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        AnonyBabs, 22 Oct 2014 @ 11:40am

        Re: Re:

        Actually, it didn't. DC Johnson had no problem "bending" the rules to suit her purposes. She engineered the murder of a perp she couldn't pin and made sure the rest of the squad covered her ass. Shows like that (which I admit I watched and often enjoyed) make it seem okay because the guy probably was a criminal. The audience is supposed to excuse such behavior because she's otherwise "such a nice lady" and just interested in "justice."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 12:28am

    Again and again there is ample evidence of why the citizens of this country don't trust the police. I am still amazed at the audacity of that Deputy Matt's blaming the public for not trusting the cops.

    It seems every week or so we get a dose of these fine examples of why the public shouldn't trust the cops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    WysiWyg (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 12:33am

    Hang on, the FBI just busted actual bad people? And LEOs at that!?

    Where do I send the flowers? Or should I double-check my water for hallucinogens first?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:21am

    To think LASD is but one example. Most cops, FBI included, seem to believe they are above the law. We must not forget the warrantless activities (mass surveillance for instance) that even the FBI is engaged into. LASD had the FBI to rein it in. Who will do it for the FBI?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 3:09am

    Don't they watch Hollywood movies?

    I don't know how it is in real life (being from a distant country and all that), but one thing I learned from Hollywood movies, is that you don't threaten FBI agents. If you do, they'll get you by the end of the movie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 7:56am

      Re: Don't they watch Hollywood movies?

      We haven't even gotten to the climax of this movie, let alone the end!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 22 Oct 2014 @ 6:28am

    See FBI? Now that you are using these new fangled "recordings" as evidence, it's working out pretty well isn't it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Unanimous Cow Herd, 22 Oct 2014 @ 7:19am

    True

    "that they will recognize that blind obedience to a corrupt culture has serious consequences"

    All of us should realize this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 7:21am

    "Perhaps it's a symptom of the corrupt culture within the Sheriff's Department, but one of the most striking things aside from the brazenness of threatening to arrest an FBI agent for a crime of simply doing her job and videotaping yourself doing it, is that none of you have shown even the slightest remorse."


    It had to be an FBI agent (I'm glad something happened) But I wonder how many Citizen complaints fell on deaf ears due to them not having the benefit of the doubt and instant trust that LEO's do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 7:38am

    duplicate categories

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:09pm

    IQ Tests Back to bite them

    Clearly setting a maximum IQ has screwed the LAPD over. Since anyone with a body temperature IQ knows that threatening FBI investigators is counterproductive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Reality bites, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:22pm

    the rot starts at the bottom and gets worse the higher it goes.

    There isn't even one person employed by the LAPD that shouldn't be on trial for their life.

    Psychopaths protecting psychopaths.... sounds like the feral pigs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 5:00pm

    Higher standard

    Criminals, sex offenders, officers with severe misconduct on their records -- all were hired by the LASD.


    Isn't it interesting to know that the LASD will hire people who would be ineligible to even be a janitor in many places. We grant cops power over others that nobody else has, including the power to kill or imprison. It's good to know that these people are being held to the higher standard that such a position would require.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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