The former second-in-command of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was convicted on Wednesday of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, stemming from a long-running corruption probe of the largest county jail system in the United States.
Paul Tanaka, who retired as undersheriff in 2013, is among a number of sheriff’s department employees convicted in the federal investigation of inmate abuse, cover ups and other wrongdoing at two Los Angeles County jails.
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca pleaded guilty in February to lying to investigators during the probe, which clouded the final years of his long career with the department.
Baca, 73, faces sentencing later this year as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. He retired in 2014.
Tanaka, who was indicted in May 2015, was convicted by a jury after a two-week trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
Prosecutors told jurors the ex-lawman tried to stymie the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe. They said he ordered two sergeants to attempt to intimidate an FBI agent, approaching her outside her home and threatening her with arrest, and worked to hide an informant within the jail system.
Tanaka’s defense attorneys argued at trial that it was Baca who orchestrated attempts to undermine the FBI investigation.
“The era of corruption which characterized the upper management in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has ended with the conviction of former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka,” George Hofstetter, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said in a statement.
“The Department can move forward now that the truth about the failed leadership of disgraced former Sheriff Lee Baca and Undersheriff Paul Tanaka has been revealed through the judicial process,” Hofstetter said.
Tanaka, 57, also serves as mayor of the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena but took leave from that office to fight the federal charges against him. He faces up to 15 years in federal prison when he is sentenced in June.
SOURCE: Reuters, Dan Whitcomb