Los Angeles County Sheriff

Victoria Kim
May 15, 2014

The wide-reaching federal investigation into abuse and corruption in L.A. County jails that has thus far ensnared 20 deputies in the largest mass arrests of sheriff’s officials in decades arose out of a letter from a jail inmate detailing instances of violence by deputies, the lead case agent testified Wednesday.

FBI Agent Leah Marx took the stand in the trial of Deputy James Sexton, one of seven sheriff’s officials charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice for allegedly scheming to keep an informant hidden from federal agents in an attempt to impede the investigation into the jails. It was Marx who arranged for a cellphone to be smuggled into the informant by bribing a corrupt deputy, so that the informant could report back to the FBI on excessive force and other abuses in the jails.

Marx said the investigation began in June 2010, more than a year before the cellphone sting. She testified that a letter from an inmate in county jail detailing incidents of deputies using excessive force was passed along to her. What began with an inquiry into the individual incidents eventually grew into a sweeping joint civil rights and public corruption investigation, Marx said.

Marx recounted on the witness stand that two or three months into the investigation, she was told by an inmate she should contact Anthony Brown, an inmate at Men’s Central Jail, because he had information about violence by deputies. After interviewing him numerous times, she signed him up as an informant for the FBI, Marx said.

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