Deputies Say Racist Gang Wields|Power at Top of L.A. Sheriff’s Dept.

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – White racist gangs operate at the highest levels of Los Angeles County’s Sheriff’s Department, threatened the lives of deputies who exposed it and branded them as “race traitors” and “snitches,” two deputies claim in court.
     Deputies Michael Rathbun and James Sexton sued Los Angeles County, Sheriff Leroy Baca, Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, Lt. Greg Thompson and “Detective Perkins,” in Federal Court.
     They seek damages for retaliation, constitutional violations, malicious prosecution, conspiracy, harassment and other charges.
     The 39-page complaint makes alarming allegations, including that the Sheriff’s Department hid an inmate from the FBI, that Thompson and Tanaka covered up an incident involving a skinhead deputy, and that Sheriff Baca blew off the threats to his deputies and was indifferent to the corruption.
     Rathbun and Sexton claim they worked in an intelligence unit known as Operation Safe Jails (OSJ), using jail informants to help prevent gang violence and crime in America’s largest local jail system.
     Though Lt. Thompson and Undersheriff Tanaka oversaw the intelligence unit, they are members of a racist cop gang, the Vikings, according to the complaint.
     “On or about August 2011, Lt. Thompson ordered Rathbun, Sexton, and other members of OSJ to transfer and hide a specific inmate, ‘Anthony Brown.’ Rathbun and Sexton learned that the inmate was being hidden from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. On information and belief, the order to hide Anthony Brown came from Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka in an effort to obstruct a federal
     investigation,” the complaint states.
     Anthony Brown is an FBI informant who reported on abuse in county jails, the Los Angeles Times reported in August 2012.
     In a subhead to the Aug. 27 story, the Times wrote: “Anthony Brown, the FBI informant who reported on abuse within L.A. County jails, is serving 423 years to life for armed robbery and has a history of making unfounded allegations about police.”
     In their complaint, Rathbun and Sexton claim: “Increasingly, Thompson ordered OSJ to engage in activities meant to ‘keep the FBI out of the jails.’ In fact, discussions were held about wiring interview rooms when FBI agents or informants were present. On information and belief, Thompson was carrying out the directives of Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka.”
     Rathbun says he was “stunned” by what happened next: “On or about February 2012, an informant told Rathbun and Sexton that Deputy Joseph Britton, who was assigned to Men’s Central Jail, was engaged in illegal behavior in association with a powerful white gang member (while on duty and using his powers as a law enforcement official), who was in charge of illicit activity at MCJ. Rathbun and Sexton provided a confidential intelligence memorandum to Lt. Thompson. Moreover, Rathbun had the powerful white gang member moved to high-powered housing,” the complaint states.
     It continues: “On the same day, Sexton provided Thompson with an analogous memorandum about another prison official, Remington Orr, and improper association with a prison gang.
     “A few days later, Rathbun followed up with Lt. Thompson about the memorandum.
     Thompson informed Rathbun that he showed the memorandum to Deputy Britton and inquired whether the allegations were true.
     “Rathbun was stunned. The memorandum was unredacted and thus, Britton was informed about Rathbun and Sexton’s identities as well as the identity of the informant. Thompson had intentionally placed Rathbun, Sexton, and the informant in danger.
     “On information and belief, Thompson showed Britton the memorandum in order to intimidate Rathbun and Sexton as well as give Britton the heads up and thus, permit Britton to cover up any illegal activity.
     “In contrast, Thompson forwarded the Orr memo to ICIB, which ensnared Orr in a narcotics sting. Subsequently, Orr was terminated.
     “Britton and Orr were treated completely different. While Orr is black, Britton is Caucasian.
     “News of Rathbun and Sexton’s confidential memorandum was disseminated throughout the jail system by Thompson and other LASD personnel. Rathbun and Sexton were now referred to as snitches by LASD deputies and officials.
     “Additionally, LASD deputies and officials began to use inmates against Rathbun and Sexton. An inappropriate relationship exists between certain LASD personnel and various inmate jail gangs, especially white supremacist. LASD personnel use these jail gangs as proxies or agents to retaliate against other LASD deputies and inmates. Within these inappropriate alliances, the gangs are given certain privileges that they are otherwise legally precluded from. Similarly, the gangs provide LASD personnel with certain benefits, which include carrying out certain tasks on behalf of LASD personnel. Thus, these gangs often act under color of law because of powers delegated or provided by LASD.
     “In late February 2012, Sexton was corned in the OSJ office. Two OSJ deputies told
     Sexton in a threatening manner that he and Rathbun ‘better shut up or else’ about the Britton matter. Both deputies were on duty, and in department uniform. “Officially, LASD deputies are not permitted to wear their firearms in certain parts of jail facilities. On information and belief, the deputies were following orders from Lt. Thompson, Sheriff Baca and/or Undersheriff Tanaka to intimidate and/or silence Sexton and Rathbun.
     “The OSJ team at Men’s Central Jail refused to work or cooperate with Rathbun and Sexton. In fact, MCJ [Men’s Central Jail] deputies accused Rathbun of ‘fucking up their program’ by moving the powerful white gang member from MCJ. At all relevant times, certain members of OSJ associated with, and cooperated with, certain jail gangs, including partaking in illicit activities. Sheriff Baca and/or Undersheriff Tanaka knew or should have known about these improper relationships, but took no action to stop it and implicitly ratified the improper conduct.
     “Soon thereafter, Rathbun and Sexton’s informant was moved without their consent. The informant was moved out of protective custody and into the general population. Consequently, the informant’s life was placed in serious jeopardy. After Rathbun and Sexton interceded, the MCJ OSJ team had no answer (at least, claimed no answer) as to why the informant was moved out of protective custody.
     “Subsequently, Sexton was informed that Lt. Thompson ordered the move of the informant after Rathbun and Sexton’s confidential memorandum. On information and belief, Thompson wanted to neutralize the informant by providing white supremacy gangs with access to him. Moreover, Thompson intended to send Rathbun and Sexton a ‘message’ that bad things would happen (i.e., physical or bodily harm) if Rathbun and Sexton did not backtrack or drop the Britton matter.
     “Sheriff Baca and/or Undersheriff Tanaka knew or should have known about Thompson’s actions. On information and belief, Sheriff Baca and/or Undersheriff
     Tanaka supported and ratified Thompson’s misconduct.
     “On or about March 2012, Sexton conducted an interview of a suspect at LASD custody facilities. Besides members of LASD and the inmate, no one else was present. The interview somehow ended up on YouTube. Sexton’s identity was publicly disclosed and thus, his well-being placed in jeopardy.
     “Sexton asked Lt. Thompson to investigate the incident, but Thompson replied that Sexton should forget about it. Thompson took no action or any investigation about how an in-custody interview found its way on the Internet. On information and belief, LASD personnel, including but not limited to Lt. Thompson, leaked the interview in order to further intimidate Rathbun and Sexton.”
     Rathbun claims that to “cope with the intense pressure,” he became dependent on alcohol and “got into a fender bender” and was charged with “misdemeanor DUI.”
     He claims that unidentified department officials tried to leak video of his arrest to the media, “in a further effort to discredit Rathbun and ruin his life.”
     The complaint continues: “Subsequently, ‘white power’ literature was left at Rathbun’s home. No other homes had such material distributed and no prior incidents of this nature had previously occurred. Rathbun’s home address is confidential because he is a peace officer and thus, his life would be placed in jeopardy if the information was either public or known to certain individuals. Members of LASD are the only individuals with access to such sensitive information. On information and belief, LASD officials, including members of the OSJ teams, used their contacts with white supremacy gangs to threaten Rathbun.
     “LASD personnel, using jail gangs as their agents, labeled Rathbun and Sexton as ‘race traitors.'”
     Then Rathbun’s misdemeanor was upgraded to a felony “without any notice,” the complaint states.
     It continues: “Rathbun’s criminal attorney was not notified. Fortunately, Rathbun discovered the new charges and appeared in court. Otherwise, a bench warrant would have been issued for Rathbun and he would have been taken to Men’s Central Jail, exposing him to criminals he had been investigating for years.
     “Absolutely no legal or factual basis ever existed for a felony DUI.”
     Rathbun and Sexton say they reported the threats and harassment Sheriff Baca, who was “dismissive and unmoved.”
     The complaint continues: “In the summer of 2012, Rathbun and Sexton went to the FBI and disclosed various information, including evidence about LASD’s violation of various state and/or federal laws. At this time, LASD personnel were under unofficial orders from the department not to speak or cooperate with the FBI. Rathbun and Sexton were under no official duty to report the various legal violations but did so despite directives from LASD to the contrary.
     “In the summer of 2012, Rathbun was suspend[ed] without pay. Rathbun plead[ed] his case with Chief Yim, who ignored Rathbun’s concerns. Numerous members of the department who committed a DUI are given much greater leniency. On information and belief, LASD officials discovered that Rathbun had spoken to the FBI, and thus, his suspension without pay was retaliation for the disclosure.
     “In contrast, Lt. Thompson was transferred to Narcotics Division. The new assignment was a coveted position. Undersheriff Tanaka made sure Thompson was given the new position.”
     The plaintiffs say that after they spoke to Los Angeles Times, and testified in August 2012 before a federal grand jury they were subjected to threats and more intimidation: “On or about November 2012, Lt. Thompson’s son, Deputy Matt Thompson, and another LASD deputy cornered Sexton. The two men informed Sexton that ‘the boss is aware that Rathbun and he testified in front of the grand jury.’ But the ‘boss’ did not think he would get indicted, yet Sexton and Rathbun will ‘answer’ for their testimony. Thompson’s son and the other LASD employee delivered their threat while on duty and in uniform. On information and belief, the threat was conveyed at the direction of Sheriff Baca, Undersheriff Tanaka, and/or Lt.
     “On or about late 2012, Rathbun’s vehicle was vandalized on LASD property.
     “In late 2012, high-ranking LASD officials expressed concern Lt. Thompson may attempt to kill Sexton and Rathbun.
     “In late 2012, Rathbun discovered that LASD personnel, including Detective Perkins, were the ones who escalated his DUI charge from a misdemeanor to a felony.”
     The harassment and retaliation were unrelenting, the men say in the complaint: “Rathbun and Sexton have each been targets of bogus IA [Internal Affairs] investigations, which are merely meant to ruin their careers further. In fact, Rathbun and Sexton have been involved in four internal investigations each. The LASD has a practice and pattern of using internal investigations to retaliate against employees. Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka put into place such practices and used it extensively against plaintiffs.
     “Lt. Thompson is a close confidante of Undersheriff Paul Tanaka. Thompson, like Tanaka, is a tattooed member of the ‘Vikings.’ In fact, Tanaka got his ‘Viking’ tattoo when he was a sergeant, which is odd because it is quite rare to have supervisors get such a tattoo.”
     A federal judge determined as long ago as 1991 that the Vikings “were a racist group of deputies who existed within the Los Angeles County Sheriff s Department and
     Lynwood Station,” the complaint states, citing Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, case no. CV 90-5217. It continues: “Thompson was a named individual defendant in Thomas v. County of Los Angeles. This group had terrorized minority members of the general public by using unjustified force, fabricating evidence, and engaging in cover-ups. On information and belief, Tanaka and Thompson adopted the ‘Viking’ brand of law enforcement.
     “In fact, Tanaka allowed and encouraged the further development of deputy gangs within the LASD. For instance, the Regulators flourished in the Department. When some LASD officials tried to stop these gangs, they were stopped and retaliated against by Tanaka. Similarly, Tanaka allowed and encouraged deputy gangs in the jails. At various points in time, Tanaka would recite a version of his ‘working in the gray’ message.
     “Tanaka’s ‘working in the gray’ is an informal policy that directs LASD members to operate outside the confines of the law, in contravention of state and federal laws. Lt. Thompson and Deputy Britton ‘work in the gray.’ LASD officials’ attempts to obstruct justice and interfere with federal investigations is pursuant to the ‘work in the gray’ policy.
     “While Tanaka directed/ordered such illegal activities, Sheriff Baca ratified the unlawful actions. Baca has tolerated Tanaka’s misdeeds. Baca has done nothing to break up the deputy gang-cliques inside the LASD. Baca has done nothing to combat discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based either on protected activities or protected characteristics.”
     The plaintiffs cite two other deputies who they say were subjected to violent threats, including at gunpoint, for objecting to the institutional racism and violations of law and the Constitution.
     In sum, the officers say: “Defendants Baca, Tanaka, Thompson, Perkins and Does 1-6, acting within the course and scope of their duties as peace officers of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, deprived plaintiffs of their rights to free speech as delineated herein above, and thereafter in violation of plaintiffs’ due process rights proceeded to make threats, falsify evidence, submit false police reports and offer perjurious testimony so as to ensure that plaintiffs would be harmed.”
     Rathbun and Sexton seek a jury trial, lost wages and benefits, including future wages and benefits, medical and legal expenses, civil penalties, and damages for 11 counts, including Bane Act violations, municipal liability, and state and federal labor violations.
     They are represented by Milad Sadr with Goldberg & Gage of Woodland Hills.

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