Baca retrial: Ex-lieutenant Greg Thompson takes stand for 1st time

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It took a subpoena from federal prosecutors and a court-ordered grant of immunity to haul former LASD Lieutenant Greg Thompson into court Tuesday at the corruption retrial of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. (KABC)

It took a subpoena from federal prosecutors and a court-ordered grant of immunity to haul former LASD Lieutenant Greg Thompson into court Tuesday at the corruption retrial of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Prosecutors aimed to tie the ex-Sheriff to acts they say prove Baca illegally stonewalled an undercover FBI probe into inmate abuse and deputy corruption inside L.A. County jails.

Thompson is one of eight Baca subordinates who say they followed what they believed to be lawful orders from LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and Baca to get to the bottom of an FBI covert operation inside Men's Central Jail.

Thompson and six other former LASD officials have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 18-41 months.

Thompson is expected to begin serving his 37-month sentence in March. Tanaka will spend five years in prison and surrendered in January.

On Tuesday, federal prosecutor Lizabeth Rhodes zeroed in on orders to restrict FBI access to inmate-turned-FBI informant Anthony Brown after jail deputies learned Brown had a smuggled cellphone linked to the FBI's civil rights unit.

Thompson told jurors that his initial plan was to ship inmate Brown, a recently convicted armed robber, to state prison as soon as possible.

"I figured it was the safest place he could be," Thompson testified.

Baca, however, had other plans.

"No, don't do that," said Baca sternly, according to Thompson. "I was ordered not to send him."

Another Baca order? No one was to have access to inmate Brown without prior approval from Tanaka.

Then came the screw up. Three FBI agents got in to see Brown at Men's Central Jail despite Baca's orders.

That August 2011 FBI interview with inmate Brown was abruptly halted by LASD deputies and Brown was whisked away.

Thompson was summoned to Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau where he says Tanaka "may have" reacted to the news by yelling profanities.

Tanaka "directed" Thompson to give Sheriff Baca the bad news.

Baca's reaction to Thompson's apology for the breach of security that allowed the FBI in to see Brown?

"Pretty business-like," Thompson recalled. "It's a chess game," Baca said of the FBI's moves, according to Thompson.

Thompson also testified that Baca put Tanaka in charge of reviewing LASD's participation in federal task forces - that Baca was thinking of pulling his deputies from joint federal operations.

On cross-examination, Baca defense attorney Nathan Hochman sought to cast doubt on Thompson's testimony against Baca by pointing out Thompson's longtime ties to Tanaka.

The two have known one other for at least 25 years, smoked cigars together and Thompson donated to one of Tanaka's campaigns.

Hochman went on to point out that when Baca ordered that Brown remain in LASD custody, many questions remained unanswered.

Were there more dirty deputies taking bribes? What was the name of the deputy who smuggled the phone to Brown? Were there more contraband cell phones - or even drugs - inside the jail?

And it was Tanaka who reacted emotionally - yelling profanities about the FBI - not Baca.

BACA'S ALLEGED LIES

On Monday, jurors heard evidence from Baca himself -- an audio recording of Baca giving a voluntary interview to federal prosecutors and FBI agents a year and a half after the jail debacle.

"I had no clue this was a civil rights investigation," Baca said in the April 2013 interview.

That's one of several alleged lies by Baca that prosecutors are pursuing for the first time in the retrial of the former Sheriff.

Was Baca informed that FBI agents had been "kicked out" of the jail while interviewing Brown in August of 2011?

"No," Baca said in the 2013 interview.

"So, Mr. Thompson never came to you and apologized for allowing the FBI to interview Anthony Brown in jail?" asked prosecutor Brandon Fox.

"No," said Baca.

Prosecutors say that was a lie - as was Baca's answer to whether he knew LASD deputies were dispatched to an FBI agent's home to threaten her with arrest.

"No, I wasn't aware of any of the investigative particulars," Baca said in 2013.

Hochman emphasized to the jury that Baca was recalling events from 2011 to the best of his ability.

Baca is in the early stages of Alzheimer's - something jurors presumably do not know at this point.

Testimony resumes Wednesday with former LASD Deputy James Sexton expected to take the stand.

Got a tip? Email ABC7 investigative producer lisa.bartley@abc.com.
Related Topics:
newscorruptionlos angeles county sheriff's departmentlee bacatrialcourt caseFBIinvestigationsLos AngelesLos Angeles County
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