September 16, 2014

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Convicted of Obstruction of Justice for Interfering with Federal Civil Rights Investigation in County Jails

LOS ANGELES—A deputy in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department was found guilty this afternoon of obstruction of justice for interfering with a grand jury investigation into misconduct at the Men’s Central Jail.

James Sexton becomes the seventh sworn officer to be found guilty of attempting to quash an investigation by the FBI into civil rights abuses at jail facilities operated by the Sheriff’s Department. The jury determined that Sexton was part of a broad conspiracy to obstruct justice—a plot in which conspirators, 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.

“This case involves a select group of Sheriff’s Deputies who were tasked with ensuring safety and security within the jails, but they violated the law by trying to protect their department from federal scrutiny,” said Acting United States Attorney Stephanie Yonekura. “This case, which has now resulted the conviction of all seven charged, proves those who tarnish their badge and their oath will be brought to justice.”

Bill Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Division, said: “Today’s verdict is another reminder that law enforcement must work together to protect the civil rights of all we serve. As we move toward ending a period of corruption and restoring trust at the Men’s Central Jail, we should also be reminded to respect the employees of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who have continued to serve with distinction throughout the duration of this investigation.”

Sexton was found guilty of conspiring to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice. As a result of today’s convictions, Sexton faces a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on December 1 by United States District Judge Percy Anderson.

The conspiracy to obstruct justice began in the summer of 2011 after sheriff’s deputies assigned to the Men’s Central Jail 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. The evidence showed that the defendants learned that the inmate received a cellular phone from a deputy sheriff who took a bribe and that the inmate was part of a federal civil rights investigation. Those involved in the obstruction scheme took affirmative steps to hide the cooperator from the FBI and the United States Marshals Service, which was 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 jury heard evidence that Sexton, who was part of a gang intelligence unit called Operation Safe Jails, changed the name of the informant in the jail computer system and changed his booking number, which allowed members of the conspiracy to hide the informant from the FBI.

Six co-conspirators who were tried separated were found guilty of obstruction of justice and other charges earlier this summer (see: Those defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Anderson on Monday, September 22.