The former second-in-command at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was expected to face questions Monday about his alleged role in concealing the whereabouts of a jail inmate-turned informant during a federal probe into excessive force within the jail system.
Ex-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka is accused of knowing of and doing nothing to stop efforts by jail guards to thwart attempts by the FBI to contact jail inmate-turned-informant Anthony Brown and bring him before a grand jury in August 2011.
"No," Tanaka responded Friday when asked by defense attorney Jerome Haig if he had ignored a federal subpoena for Brown or helped in "hiding" the inmate within the sprawling jail system. Tanaka also insisted that he was not aware of anyone in the sheriff's department ordering such actions. In testimony that refuted the words of a string of previous witnesses, Tanaka painted himself as not overly concerned when he learned of the FBI's covert probe of brutality allegations at Men's Central Jail and other facilities.
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"I don't remember having any particular reaction," he told the jury when asked about how he handled news of the federal investigation. Witnesses said last week that, in fact, Tanaka was furious and had repeatedly cursed the FBI after discovering that the agency had "flipped" an inmate and was secretly looking into abuse allegations.
According to prosecution testimony, Tanaka was aware of the illegal plan by deputies to conceal Brown's whereabouts as well as an attempt to intimidate the FBI's case agent on the probe. In his testimony Friday, he portrayed himself as an ambitious, demanding law official who had no tolerance for deputies who violated the rules.
"Those that violate the policy should be treated accordingly," Tanaka told the Los Angeles federal jury. Tanaka is charged with two counts of obstructing justice by attempting to derail the federal investigation. If convicted of both counts, Tanaka, 57, would face up to 15 years in federal prison.
He is expected to return to the witness stand this morning to face cross- examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox. Fox's questioning Friday was interrupted by a defense objection almost as soon as it got started when he asked Tanaka about his time as a sergeant at the Lynwood sheriff's station in the 1980s.
As soon as Fox mentioned the Vikings, a clique of Lynwood deputies who have been described in court papers as a white supremacist gang, Haig leapt up to object. The judge sent the jury home for the weekend and ordered both sides to brief their arguments involving the issue. Tanaka has admitted to having a Vikings tattoo on an ankle.