Deputy trial: FBI agent testifies; defense questions witness credibility

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Friday, May 16, 2014
FBI agent testifies in sheriff's deputy trial
An FBI special agent testified Thursday in the federal trial of a deputy accused of hiding a jail informant.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- New and intriguing information was revealed Thursday in the federal trial of L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy James Sexton, accused of hiding a jail inmate-turned-FBI informant. There was testimony about the roles played in that scheme by former Sheriff Lee Baca and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

Anthony Brown is a career criminal who was tapped by the FBI to play a key role in their investigation of possible abuse and corruption inside Men's Central Jail.

Under cross-examination, the FBI's lead case agent Leah Marx testified that Brown provided information to them in at least 50 incidents of abuse inside the jail. Some of those cases are still ongoing.

Marx testified the FBI first considered giving Brown eyeglasses outfitted with a tiny camera, then a homemade cross, also with a hidden camera. Neither option worked.

Brown eventually got a cellphone smuggled in by a corrupt deputy, part of an FBI sting operation inside the jail.

Thursday, defense attorneys raised questions about Brown's credibility, that he'd previously claimed to be a drug dealer with the Gambino crime family and was known to use crack cocaine.

"I was high out of my ------- mind," Brown is heard on tape after his 2009 arrest.

There was very little testimony Thursday about the defendant currently on trial, deputy James Sexton.

Prosecutors played a key video in court Thursday showing two sergeants, co-defendants in this case, confronting Special Agent Marx outside her home and threatening her with arrest.

The tape shows Sergeant Scott Craig telling Agent Marx: "Do you know you are a named suspect in a felony complaint?"

Prosecutors claim Sexton was part of the plan to hide Anthony Brown and that he knew what the two sergeants were going to do.

Defense attorneys say sexton, 26 at the time, was a "junior deputy" only following orders, a pawn in a turf war between the FBI and high-ranking members of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

The prosecution produced documents in court Thursday showing that Sheriff Baca himself approved overtime for deputies involved in the operation to hide Brown from the FBI.

A records clerk at the jail testified Thursday that a lieutenant and three deputies asked her to alter records to make it appear that Anthony Brown had been released from sheriff's department custody.

She refused. They told her it was an order from Undersheriff Paul Tanaka. She testified she told them that Tanaka "needs to put it in writing."

Their response: "Are you going to tell Paul Tanaka 'no?'" Her reply: "Yes".

Tanaka is now running for L.A. County Sheriff, the position vacated by Lee Baca. Tanaka is expected to testify for the defense in this trial that everything done by the sheriff's department was part of their own legitimate investigation into how Anthony Brown got that phone.