LOS ANGELES – The seventh and final deputy in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department convicted of obstruction of justice for interfering with a grand jury investigation into misconduct at the Men’s Central Jail was sentenced this morning to 18 months in federal prison.
James Sexton, 30, was sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson, who said the defendant “lost the courage to stand up when he knew things were wrong.”
After his case was severed from the other six defendants in the case, Sexton was found guilty in September of attempting to quash an investigation by the FBI into civil rights abuses at jail facilities operated by the Sheriff’s Department. The jury determined that Sexton was part of a broad conspiracy to obstruct justice – a plot in which conspirators, including two lieutenants, attempted to influence witnesses, threatened an FBI agent with arrest and concealed an FBI informant who should have been turned over to federal authorities. Sexton was found guilty of conspiring to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.
The conspiracy to obstruct justice began in the summer of 2011 after sheriff’s deputies assigned to the Men’s Central Jail learned that a jail inmate was an FBI informant and was acting as a cooperator in a federal investigation into corruption and civil rights violations at the jail. The evidence showed that the defendants learned that the inmate received a cellular phone from a deputy sheriff who took a bribe and that the inmate was part of a federal civil rights investigation. Those involved in the obstruction scheme took affirmative steps to hide the cooperator from the FBI and the United States Marshals Service, which was attempting to bring the inmate into federal custody pursuant to an order issued by a federal judge. As part of the conspiracy, records were altered to make it appear as if the cooperator had been released, but he was re-booked under different names.
The jury heard evidence that Sexton, who was part of a gang intelligence unit called Operation Safe Jails (OSJ), changed the name of the informant and his booking number in the jail computer system, which allowed members of the conspiracy to hide the informant from the FBI.
Sexton’s lieutenant “called him into the OSJ office and asked defendant Sexton to use his expertise in navigating the archaic LASD computer system to help [hide the informant] from the federal authorities,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing document filed with the court. “Defendant knew he was being asked to become an essential part of a criminal plan. Defendant knew that he would be taking part in wrongdoing, and, as the conspiracy progressed, he knew time after time that the actions he took and those taken by his co-conspirators were wrong and illegal.”
Following the 1½-year prison term, which Judge Anderson ordered to begin on February 16, 2015, Sexton will be on supervised release for one year.
Six co-conspirators who were tried separated were found guilty of obstruction of justice and other charges earlier. They were sentenced in September to federal terms of up to 41 months (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2014/127.html).
Release No. 14-161