Six former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were sentenced Tuesday to prison terms ranging from 21 to 41 months as a result of corruption convictions, part of a widespread probe into abuses within the county’s jails.
Stephen Leavins, Gregory Thompson, Scott Craig, Maricela Long, Gerard Smith and Mickey Manzo will begin serving their prison terms on Jan. 2.
Each defendant was accused of corruption stemming from an alleged scheme to hide an FBI informant from his handlers during a federal investigation into civil rights abuses at the hands of jailers.
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Defense attorneys argued the deputies were simply following orders of high-level officials within the department.
"Blind obedience to a corrupt culture has serious consequences," U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson told the defendants in court, according to a Department of Justice statement.
Outside of court, Thompson made a statement to a crush of reporters.
"I thought we were following lawful orders," he said.
Prosecutors had successfully argued that when inmate-turned-federal-informant Anthony Brown was discovered in 2011 with a cellphone planted by FBI agents, the deputies participated in an operation to keep him hidden while interrogating him about what he might have disclosed to investigators.
The indictment against the six deputies said two even went so far as to show up at the home of an FBI agent in an attempt to intimidate her.
"They did this to scare and intimidate the FBI…and they intended to obstruct justice," Anderson said.
Jurors said after the convictions that it was clear the deputies' conduct was criminal.
So far, 20 deputies have been arrested as a result of the investigation.