Six Current and Former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies Sentenced to Federal Prison for Obstructing Federal Civil Rights Investigation
LOS ANGELES – Six sworn deputies who were working in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department each were sentenced today to federal prison terms for
interfering with a federal civil rights investigation into misconduct at the Men’s Central Jail.
The six defendants received prison terms of up to 41 months from a federal judge who said they all lacked “courage to do what is right” and then failed to show “even the slightest remorse.”
United States District Judge Percy Anderson issued the sentences after a federal jury determined that the defendants, including two lieutenants, attempted to influence witnesses, threatened an FBI agent with arrest and concealed an FBI informant who should have been turned over to federal authorities.
All six of the defendants were convicted of participating in a broad conspiracy to obstruct justice, a plot that began in the summer of 2011 after they learned that a jail inmate was an FBI informant and was acting as a cooperator in a federal investigation into corruption and civil rights violations at the jail.
“Blind obedience to a corrupt culture has serious consequences,” Judge Anderson told the defendants before ordering each of them to begin prison sentences in the coming months.
Acting United States Attorney Stephanie Yonekura stated: “In their corrupt attempt to shield the Sheriff’s Department from scrutiny, these deputies brought scandal and shame to themselves and their department. These deputies decided to impede a federal investigation, and in doing so they threw away their careers and their freedom. These law enforcement officers have now been held accountable for their unlawful actions.”
The defendants who were sentenced today are:
• Gregory Thompson, 54, a now-retired lieutenant who oversaw LASD’s Operation Safe Jails Program, who was ordered to serve 37 months in prison and to pay a $7,500 fine;
• Lieutenant Stephen Leavins, 52, who was assigned to the LASD’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, who received a 41-month prison sentence;
• Gerard Smith, 42, a deputy who was assigned to the Operation Safe Jails Program, who was ordered to serve 21 months in prison;
• Mickey Manzo, 34, a deputy who was assigned to the Operation Safe Jails Program, who received a 24-month sentence;
• Scott Craig, 50, a sergeant who was assigned to the Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, who was sentenced to 33 months; and
• Maricela Long, 46, a sergeant who assigned to the Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, who received a sentence of two years in federal prison.
Following the completion of their prison sentences, each defendant will serve one year on supervised release.
“Interference with a federal investigation cannot be tolerated,” said Bill Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The sentences imposed today allow us to move forward toward an environment of mutual trust and the common goal of delivering justice to victims of crime. I look forward to continued collaboration with our trusted partners at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”
All six were found guilty on July 1 after a jury heard evidence about how the defendants learned that an inmate received a cellular phone from a deputy sheriff who took a bribe and that the inmate was part of a federal civil rights and corruption investigation. The deputies took affirmative steps to hide the cooperator from the FBI and the United States Marshals Service, which were attempting to bring the inmate into federal custody pursuant to an order issued by a federal judge. As part of the conspiracy, records were altered to make it appear as if the cooperator had been released, but he was re-booked under different names.
The deputies also engaged in witness tampering by attempting to influence witnesses to not cooperate with the federal grand jury investigation, including the informant and the sheriff’s deputy who had taken a bribe to smuggle the cell phone into the jail.
Over the course of several weeks, the defendants sought an order from a Los Angeles Superior Court judge that would have compelled the FBI to turn over information about its investigation to LASD. After the judge refused to issue such an order, based on a lack of jurisdiction, Craig and Long confronted an FBI special agent at her residence in an attempt to intimidate her into providing details about the investigation and to try to deter the FBI from conducting the federal investigation. The sergeants falsely told the special agent, and later her supervisor, that they were obtaining a warrant for her arrest.
Speaking of the confrontation at the special agent’s home, Judge Anderson said it was one of the most striking incidents related to the obstruction conspiracy, particularly because it was videotaped. “They did this to scare and intimidate the FBI…and they intended to obstruct justice,” the judge said.
In addition to the conspiracy count, all six deputies were convicted of obstruction of justice offenses. Craig and Long were also found guilty of making false statements to the FBI agent and to her supervisor about seeking a warrant for her arrest.
Thompson, Craig and Leavins are no longer with the Sheriff’s Department. Smith is on approved leave. Manzo and Long, according to the Sheriff’s Department, were relieved of duty without pay in December 2013.