Inside the sheriff's department's informant scandal with Witness LA

Big story for Celeste Fremon's small volunteer (but respected and aggressive) LA investigative news site:

Pandora_Opens_The_Box.jpg"For 18 days in the summer of 2011, members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department reportedly went to elaborate lengths to hide a federal informant from the FBI, an operation that those involved say was approved at the highest levels, including by former-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, then the department’s powerful second in command, and by Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca himself. Despite a grand jury convened to investigate the matter, and a lengthy and ongoing probe by the FBI, Baca and his spokespeople still maintain that the informant was hidden for his own safety.

"(The sheriff’s main spokesman, Steve Whitmore will be interviewed by the FBI on the matter early next week.)

"However, those department members who actually did the hiding say that the official line is untrue, that even back in 2011 when they were in the midst of 'Operation Pandora’s Box,' as they came to call it, they knew without question that what they were doing was illegal.

"This is the inside story of that operation."

Read the story at Witness LA. Here's the lede:

In the summer of 2011, Anthony Brown, 44, was a convicted armed bank robber languishing in Los Angeles County’s Men’s Central Jail, while he waited to be transferred to the California state prison at Lancaster, his first stop in a very long stay behind bars. As it turned out, however, in addition to being a jail inmate, Brown was something else: a carefully cultivated informant for the FBI.

At the time, the feds were—and still are—investigating charges of widespread brutality, abuse and corruption inside the Los Angeles County jails, which are run by the LA County Sheriff’s Department. As a part of the investigation, Brown was embedded as a spy in Men’s Central Jail—MCJ—the county’s largest, most rundown and statistically the most troubled facility. In order to secretly report to his federal handlers, Brown had a contraband cell phone, which allowed him to call or text information about any misconduct and wrongdoing on the part of deputies he might personally witness, or hear about via the jail’s very gossipy grapevine.

Phones are, of course, strictly forbidden inside the jail.

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