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Records Sought on FBI Probe of L.A. Jails

(CN) - A Los Angeles group that runs a public affairs show sued the Department of Justice for records on the FBI's investigation of brutality and corruption in Los Angeles County jails.

The American Association of Women, based in Marina del Rey, runs the "Full Disclosure Network" TV show. It sued the Justice Department on Wednesday under the Freedom of Information Act, in District of Columbia Federal Court.

The Los Angeles Times reported in July this year that the FBI had launched a covert probe of brutality in the jail system because the agency believed that former Sheriff Leroy Baca and his undersheriffs might stymie the investigation.

The American Association of Women says it filed a FOIA request in July, which the FBI denied in August.

The association sought records and communications between the FBI and federal prosecutors in Washington and Los Angeles, relating to the decision to keep the investigation secret from Baca.

It also asked to see any communications between the FBI and Times reporters Cindy Chang and Jack Leonard.

It appealed the FBI's rejection, but the U.S. Office of Information Policy has yet to rule, though its statutory deadline was Oct. 29, according to the lawsuit.

The association claims it is being "irreparably harmed" by the withholding of records.

The lawsuit came just days after the announcement that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors agreed to settle a 2012 lawsuit alleging widespread abuses against inmates in the jail system by a cadre of deputy sheriffs.

The federal lawsuit Rosas v. Baca came after a series of reports by American Civil Liberties Union. Those reports laid bare an endemic system of brutality, that in some cases, "left inmates with shattered bones, eye sockets and teeth," according to the ACLU.

"There was even a gang of deputies inside the jails, dubbed 'The 3000 Boys,' inked up with signature tattoos, who proved their allegiance to the brotherhood by beating up inmates. Inmates with serious mental illness - deputies called them 'dings' - were prime targets for violent abuse," the ACLU said Wednesday in a statement announcing the settlement

Baca consistently denied allegations that his deputies were mistreating inmates. Officials scorned on the idea that they would obstruct an investigation.

"We've never obstructed the FBI or any agency in any investigation," retired Deputy Larry Waldie told the Times. "We wouldn't do that. That's insane to do something like that. That didn't happen."

Under the federal decree, the jail system will have to implement changes to policies and practices to clean up its act.

The American Association of Women is represented by Michael Bekesha with Judicial Watch, in Washington, D.C.

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