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Crime & Justice

2 LA deputies accuse jail officials of hiding informant and working with inmate gang members

Men's Central Jail is located in downtown Los Angeles and run by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.
Men's Central Jail is located in downtown Los Angeles and run by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.
Erika Aguilar

Two deputies who were part of a jail gang intelligence unit have sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, claiming they were harassed, retaliated against and maliciously prosecuted after they outed department personnel involved in illegal jail gangs. 

Deputies Michael Rathbun and James Sexton filed the suit Wednesday against L.A. County, Sheriff Lee Baca, Undersheriff Paul Tanka and two other members of the department.

They say the department hid inmate informant Anthony Brown from the FBI to avoid a federal investigation about deputy abuse of inmates. They also allege there are deputies involved in illegal activity with jail gang members.

“An inappropriate relationship exists between certain LASD personnel and various inmate jail gangs, especially white supremacists,” the complaint states.

According to the lawsuit, Rathbun and Sexton were assigned to Operation Safe Jails, a group of deputies who turn inmates into informants to prevent violence between rival gangs in jails.

In memos to their their supervisor, Rathbun and Sexton accused a custody assistant of working with a prison gang and a deputy of working with a white supremacist gang member. Both cases were alleged to have happened at Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles.

The suit says Lt. Thompson turned over the case of custody assistant Remington Orr for investigation. On Friday, Orr pleaded guilty to accepting a $700 bribe for smuggling cocaine into jail.

But the deputies claim that in the case of Deputy Joseph Britton, Thompson chose not to seek an investigation but instead presented him with the memo that Rathbun and Sextorn had written. 

“Thompson showed Britton the memo in order to intimidate Rathbun and Sexton as well as give Britton the heads up and thus permit Britton to cover up any illegal activity,” the complaint states.

Rathbun and Sexton say from then on, they were threatened and harassed by other deputies. They point to a video of Rathbun’s DUI arrest that was posted online. He alleges the department elevated the DUI charge from a misdemeanor to felony without reason.

The deputies also say that one of their jail informants was moved out of protective custody into general population where he was vulnerable to attack.

The suit accuses Sheriff Baca and other high ranking LASD officials of ignoring their safety concerns, deliberately trying to avoid an FBI investigation and ignoring warnings that deputies were partnering with white supremacist gang members in the jail.

Rathbun and Sexton are seeking civil penalties and damages, lost and future wages, and a jury trial.