LOS ANGELES – The inmate-turned-informant at the center of a scandal that led to the conviction of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and other Sheriff’s Department officials will get a $1 million payout from the county, according to documents.
Anthony Brown filed a civil rights lawsuit against the county, Baca and others in March 2015, seeking damages for claims including cruel and unusual punishment and failure to provide adequate medical care. Brown said he suffered federal civil rights violations while he was in custody of the Sheriff’s Department and an inmate at the Men’s Central Jail.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Jan. 11, approved the settlement.
“Given the risks and uncertainties of litigation, a reasonable settlement at this time will avoid further litigation costs,” a county document said.
Brown, 54, is serving a lengthy state prison sentence for bank robbery and has a long criminal history.
The Baca case stems from 2011 when Brown was feeding information to the FBI about alleged corruption and inmate abuse inside the jail, which is run by the Sheriff’s Department.
When guards discovered a cell phone in Brown’s possession had been smuggled into the jail at the behest of federal investigators, they realized they were the target of a federal probe.
At that point, then-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka became involved, overseeing a plan to derail the federal probe and hide Brown from FBI handlers when prosecutors wanted to interview the inmate/informant.
Brown was booked and re-booked under a series of false names and eventually told he had been abandoned by the FBI.
Ten former Sheriff’s Department officials — including Baca, Tanaka and Capt. Tom Carey — were subsequently convicted for their roles in the cover-up. All claimed they had been involved in a legitimate investigation into how and why a cell phone had been smuggled into the jail.
The only deputy to go unscathed was third in command, Cecil Rhambo, who testified on the behalf of the prosecution and defense. Rhambo is credited with “bringing down” Baca and Tanaka with his testimony.
Baca, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, was sentenced in 2017 to three years behind bars after a jury found he oversaw the plan to interfere with the federal probe into inmate abuses in the county jail system and lied to prosecutors about his role. He began his sentence in February 2020 after years of legal wrangling and is expected to be released from a San Pedro halfway house in August.
Tanaka was sentenced in 2016 to five years in prison after a jury found he helped lead the scheme. Carey, who pleaded guilty to obstructing the FBI investigation, was sentenced in 2017 to nine months in prison for obstruction of justice and lying on the witness stand.
2UrbanGirls contributed to this report