LOS ANGELES—Former Los Angeles County Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson on Monday, June 27 to 5 years in federal prison for interfering with a FBI investigation, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Tanaka, also mayor of Gardena, was convicted in April for one count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice. The allegations come from an FBI investigation in 2011 that looked into the prison where Tanaka worked as second-in-command to Sheriff Lee Baca. Baca has since stepped down from his position as sheriff.
Jurors were able to come to the guilty verdict after under two hours of deliberations. During the trial, the prosecutors went over the case of Tanaka interfering with the FBI investigation involving brutality and misconduct allegations of the jail.
The prosecution claimed that Tanaka headed a cover-up plan in 2011 after sheriff’s deputies discovered an inmate with a cell phone that was traced back to the FBI. The phone alerted sheriff’s officials that the FBI was looking into brutality and misconduct allegations against sheriff’s deputies.
According to the prosecution, Tanaka directed sheriff’s officials to relocate the inmate using fake names to prevent the FBI from locating their informant. Tanaka also sent sheriff’s sergeants to the home of the lead FBI agent of the investigation and threatened to arrest her for a sting operation that led to a cell phone being smuggled to an informant inside the jail.
“Not only did he fail to identify and address problems in the jails, he exacerbated them,” said Judge Anderson.
At the trial Tanaka presented himself as a fair but tough leader who was being used as a scapegoat and had little knowledge about what had been happening around him. Tanaka said it was Sheriff Baca who had created the response to the FBI informant and who worked directly with lower-ranking sheriff’s officials.
“The truth is that the crimes charged in this case were planned, directed and carried out by Leroy Baca, the former Sheriff for the County of Los Angeles,” Attorney H. Dean Steward wrote in the memo. “None of this would have happened if Baca had simply cooperated with the FBI at the beginning.”
The jurors told the LA Times that Tanaka’s claims were unconvincing and that he was being evasive. Evidence that was used in the case included records of phone calls from Tanaka to lower-ranking sheriff’s officials and phone calls from Baca to Tanaka, instead of lower-ranking sheriff’s officials.
Since the jail scandal Baca has resigned from his position as sheriff and struck a deal with prosecutors so he would get no more than six months in prison. Judge Anderson could opt for more prison time for Baca when he is sentenced next month. Ten people total have been convicted or plead guilty for their roles in the scandal.