Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca in 2011; a grand jury is now hearing testimony about the actions of Baca and Paul Tanaka, his top aide at the time, as they reacted to discovery of a cellphone provided to a county jail inmate by the FBI. (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times)

By Cindy Chang
January 11, 2015

It seems that federal prosecutors are after the “big fish” in L.A. County Jail obstruction-of-justice inquiry

Sheriff’s officials convicted of obstructing a federal investigation into the Los Angeles County jails have been testifying before a grand jury as prosecutors set their sights on the highest echelons of the department, according to sources familiar with the probe.

The questioning has focused partly on meetings where then-Sheriff Lee Baca and his No. 2, Paul Tanaka, discussed how to deal with the discovery of a cellphone provided to a county jail inmate by the FBI. In addition to the convicted officials, some current Sheriff’s Department officials have also received grand jury subpoenas.

Many in the Sheriff’s Department believe that low-ranking officials took the fall for following orders from Tanaka and Baca. Now, with the convening of the grand jury, it appears that prosecutors are attempting to target more sheriff’s officials after convicting seven last year for obstructing justice.

Of the seven, Gregory Thompson, a former lieutenant, and two ex-deputies, Gerard Smith and Mickey Manzo, are known to have testified before the grand jury in December, according to a source.

Most of the convicted officials, who received sentences ranging from 21 to 41 months, were scheduled to report to prison Jan. 2, but they remain free until a court rules on their bail requests as they appeal their convictions. None was ranked higher than lieutenant.

Tanaka testified in the trials of the seven officials, acknowledging that he was the subject of a federal investigation; Baca was not called to testify. A sheriff’s captain, William “Tom” Carey, said at trial that he also was a subject of the probe.

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