By Fred Shuster, City News Service
Posted: 06/20/14, 6:02 PM PDT |
A prosecutor urged a jury Friday to convict six members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department of witness tampering, but their attorneys countered that the defendants were simply following orders from superiors when they helped keep an inmate informant hidden within the jail system during a federal probe of prisoner abuse.
In closing arguments on the 18th day of trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys offered contrasting views of events that took place during two weeks in 2011.
The defendants — lieutenants Stephen Leavins and Gregory Thompson, sergeants Scott Craig and Maricela Long, and deputies Gerard Smith and Mickey Manzo — are accused of conspiring to transfer and rebook a federal informant at a time when the FBI wanted to interview the inmate and put him in front of a grand jury investigating allegations of use of excessive force against county jail prisoners.
The six schemed to “silence the witness,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maggie Carter told the jury. “Even if this was standard operating procedure, this was a federal investigation and they had the intent to commit obstruction of justice.”
Defense attorneys countered that their clients were merely following orders from then-Sheriff Lee Baca when Brown was moved to various cells within the Men’s Central Jail downtown, then to a Temple City sheriff’s station, and finally to a San Dimas substation, where he was kept under 24-hour guard, during August and September 2011.
“There’s no evidence that Lee Baca could not be trusted,” David Stothers, who represents Thompson, said in his closing argument. “Those orders came down the chain, and my client complied with them.”
The defendants are charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice, which together carry a potential maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Craig and Long are each charged with an additional count of making false statements for allegedly telling the FBI case agent in the jails probe that she was under investigation and could face arrest. That charge carries a possible prison sentence of up to five years.
Carter told the panel that informant Anthony Brown was not transferred back to the Men’s Central Jail until he had told his jailers that he had decided against cooperating with the federal investigation.
“The informant’s been hidden until silenced,” the prosecutor said.
Peter Johnson, Leavins’ lawyer, said his client was following Baca’s directive when he ordered Brown moved to the San Dimas substation.
“The government is asking you to believe” that Leavins “knew of a criminal conspiracy to hide Anthony Brown from the FBI,” Johnson said. “They are dead wrong.”
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