Sheriff's deputies sentenced for blocking probe

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Six current and former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, sergeants and lieutenants were sentenced Tuesday to federal prison for trying to block an FBI probe into alleged guard abuses in the nation's largest jail system.

Sentences ranging from 21 months to nearly 3 1/2 years were ordered for Stephen Leavins, Gregory Thompson, Scott Craig, Maricela Long, Gerard Smith and Mickey Manzo.

"None of you has shown even the slightest remorse," U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson told the defendants.

Thirteen other deputies are awaiting trial on corruption charges. The cases stem from a grand jury investigation that began in 2010 into allegations of abuse and corruption at the downtown Men's Central Jail.

Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka — who is now a candidate for sheriff — is a subject of the ongoing investigation. He has not been indicted.

Prosecutors said the defendants sentenced Tuesday tried to hide an FBI jail informant from his handlers for two weeks in 2011 by shifting him from cell to cell at various jails under different names and altering jail computer records. The FBI wanted the informant to testify to a grand jury.

The defense argued that the employees were following orders from higher-ups.

Tanaka has said he knew about efforts to hide the inmate but believed the Sheriff's Department had a duty to protect the man while it investigated his claims that he was an FBI informant and that a sheriff's deputy had smuggled contraband into jail.

Judge Anderson said those sentenced Tuesday lacked courage to do what was right, and there was an us-versus-them mentality between jail employees and investigators.

"Blind obedience to a corrupt culture has serious consequences," he said.

The defendants — two deputies, two sergeants and two lieutenants — were convicted in July of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Craig and Long also were convicted of making false statements by telling an FBI agent involved in the investigation that she could face arrest.

Thompson, a retired lieutenant, once headed the sheriff's Operation Safe Jails Program.

Craig and Leavins also are no longer with the Sheriff's Department. Smith is on approved leave, and Manzo and Long were relieved of duty without pay, authorities said.

A seventh defendant, Deputy James Sexton, was convicted last week of conspiracy and obstruction of justice in his second trial. He could face up to 15 years in prison.

Another deputy, Gilbert Michel, pleaded guilty in 2012 to bribery for accepting cash to smuggle an FBI cellphone to the jail informant. He could face up to 10 years in prison.

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