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Court upholds Tanaka sentence


A federal appeals court has denied an effort by the former second-in-command of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to remain free while he appeals his conviction on obstruction of justice charges.

Ex-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was sentenced to five years in federal prison in June following his conviction on charges of conspiracy and obstructing an FBI investigation into deputy jail abuses.

Prosecutors presented evidence that he oversaw a scheme in which deputies threatened an FBI agent with arrest, concealed a jail inmate who was working as a federal informant and pressured underlings not to cooperate with the investigation.

U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson initially ordered Tanaka to self-surrender to federal authorities on Oct. 7. However, that date was immediately set aside when his attorney filed an appeal with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals asking that Tanaka be allowed to stay out of prison while he appeals his conviction.

The appeals court denied that motion, setting the stage for Anderson to schedule a new date for Tanaka to turn himself in.

Tanaka, 58, of Gardena, will serve his term at a low-security federal prison camp in Englewood, Colo.

Defense attorney Dean Steward said he expects the judge to set a January surrender date. The appeal on the conviction will probably be argued in Pasadena during the spring, he said.

Tanaka was the ninth sheriff’s official convicted of criminal conduct based on the circumstances surrounding the hiding of inmate-informer Anthony Brown, a scheme that also involved witness tampering and the threatened arrest of the FBI agent.

His 60-month prison sentence is the longest stretch of any defendant in the Brown case.

Seven former sheriff’s lieutenants, sergeants and deputies convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice received prison sentences ranging from 18 to 41 months. Their appeal was denied by the appeals panel.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Tanaka directed co-conspirators in a scheme to derail the 2011 investigation into allegations of excessive force within the jail system.

Tanaka maintained that his then-boss, former Sheriff Lee Baca, was actually giving the orders and the undersheriff didn’t know what was taking place.

Baca, 74, is being tried in downtown Los Angeles on conspiracy and obstruction counts for his alleged part in the case. He faces a second trial on a false statements charge after the conclusion of the current proceedings.