The inmate-turned-informant at the center of a scandal that led to the conviction of former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and other sheriff’s department officials will get a $1 million payout from the county, according to documents obtained today.
Anthony Brown filed a civil rights suit 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 alleged federal civil rights violations while he was in custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and an inmate at the Men’s Central Jail. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to approve the settlement.
“Given the risks and uncertainties of litigation, a reasonable settlement at this time will avoid further litigation costs,” according to the board’s summary. Brown, 54, is serving a lengthy state prison sentence for bank robbery and has a long criminal history.
The Baca case stems from a period in 2011 when Brown, then an inmate at Men’s Central Jail, 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 during a time when prosecutors wanted to interview the inmate/informant. Brown was booked and re-booked under a series of false names, and was eventually told he had been abandoned by the FBI.
Ten former sheriff’s department officials — including Baca, Tanaka, and captain Tom Carey, who headed an internal investigations unit — 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 men’s jail.
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.