Hung jury for L.A. County deputy caught up in FBI’s jails inquiry

Cindy Chang, Victoria Kim (Los Angeles Times) | May 22, 2014

In the first trial stemming from a broad-ranging inquiry into the Los Angeles County jails, a jury deadlocked Thursday on whether a sheriff’s deputy obstructed justice by hiding an inmate informant from FBI agents.

The mistrial was a setback for federal prosecutors as they move forward with criminal cases against other low-ranking sheriff’s officials, including cases of brutality against inmates and jail visitors, while continuing to investigate higher-level officials. Since December, prosecutors have charged or indicted 20 sheriff’s employees in connection with their inquiry.

After less than two days of deliberations, the jury divided six to six on whether Deputy James Sexton should be convicted.

Using Sexton’s own grand jury testimony, prosecutors argued that he knew he was breaking the law when he and others kept the federal informant in “dark corners of the jail,” then moved the man from jail to jail under a string of aliases.

But Sexton’s attorneys said the young deputy, with just three years in the department, was following orders from his superiors, and called former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka to the stand to prove the point.

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