Written by The Business Journal Staff
(AP) — The former second-in-command of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department was sentenced Monday to five years in prison in a federal corruption investigation that also brought down his boss and 19 other members of the department.
Ex-Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was sentenced in federal court in Los Angeles He was convicted in April of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
His attorney appealed the sentence just a couple hours after it was handed down by Judge Percy Anderson, who blasted Tanaka for his arrogance and “gross abuse of public trust.”
Tanaka was the ringleader of the department’s efforts to hide a jail inmate after deputies discovered he was an FBI informant, prosecutors said. Tanaka played a key role in sending sergeants to intimidate an FBI agent in the case and threaten to have her arrested, they said.
In recommending that Tanaka get five years in prison, they said in court filings that he was “the most culpable” of everyone in the department.
Tanaka’s attorney, H. Dean Steward, said in court records that the government distorted the facts from the beginning and again laid the blame on Tanaka’s boss, former Sheriff Lee Baca
Baca pleaded guilty in February to lying to investigators. He faces up to six months in prison when he’s sentenced next month.
Steward wrote that Baca was the true ringleader and called his plea agreement with the government “a sweetheart kiss of a deal.”
“Mr. Tanaka was a fearless executive in the department who fought to weed out problem deputies, not encourage them,” Steward wrote. “The only culture he fostered was excellence and he made daily efforts to accomplish it.”
Tanaka testified that Baca was angry at the FBI and choreographed efforts to hamper the federal agents. Tanaka said he was not involved.
Tanaka must begin serving his prison sentence Aug. 1.
Overall, 21 members of the sheriff’s department have been convicted of federal crimes that include beating inmates, obstructing justice, bribery and conspiracy. The convictions stem from a grand jury investigation that began in 2010 into allegations of abuse and corruption at the downtown Men’s Central Jail.
Baca had said he was out of touch with what was going on and denied knowing about efforts to stifle the probe by hiding the FBI informant.