TANAKA SENTENCED TO PRISON

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Paul Tanaka photo by Gary Kohatsu

Former undersheriff to serve five years; defense will appeal

Two months after a jury found him guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice in an FBI probe of jail abuse and corruption, former L.A. County undersheriff Paul Tanaka was handed a five-year prison sentence on Monday.

Former undersheriff to serve five years; defense will appeal

Two months after a jury found him guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice in an FBI probe of jail abuse and corruption, former L.A. County undersheriff Paul Tanaka was handed a five-year prison sentence on Monday.

In a packed courtroom of both supporters and detractors, Tanaka, 57, was called “the ringleader” of the Men’s Central Jail’s abuse to inmates that received national attention five years ago. U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson delivered his searing speech based on evidence presented, condemning Tanaka for wielding an iron fist as the Sheriffs second in command.

Tanaka denied the allegations throughout the trial process, and was stoic and “unremorseful” during the sentencing, Anderson noted as he issued his judgment .

“Your ambition and arrogance has been on display the entire time you provided testimony to this court,” Anderson said.

“Not only did he fail to identify and address problem in the jails, he exacerbated them,” the judge added.

Tanaka, who will begin his 60-month sentence Aug. 1, joins nine other Sheriff’s Department officials who have pleaded guilty or have been convicted in this corruption case. The other Sheriffs’ personnel received sentences of 18 to 41 months.

The defense, led by attorney Dean Stewart, said that calling Tanaka “the ringleader’ was “patently ridiculous.” Steward and his team claimed that Tanaka was only following orders from his boss Lee Baca, and asked the judge to grant their client probation time.

After the hour-long hearing, Stewart told the Media they will appeal the sentence.

“We’re confident we’re going to win an appeal,” Stewart said outside the federal courthouse on Monday.

Prosecutors had recommended a five-year prison sentence, although Tanaka could have faced a maximum of 15 years in prison.

The stiff sentence by Anderson won praise from the Attorney’s office and others, who said it sends a message that nobody is above the law. However, Anderson’s sentencing went above federal guidelines, which call for a 41 to 51-month prison sentence. The judge noted that the guidelines failed to account for the public harm.

His attorney believes that Tanaka will be able to remain free during the appeal process.

Baca, who pleaded guilty in February to one count of lying to government investigator looking into the civil rights and corruption scandal by Sheriff deputies, has denied involvement. Prosecutors are seeking a six-month prison sentence for the longtime Sheriff when his hearing comes up July 11.

Anderson could opt for a longer prison sentence.

Baca stepped down as head Sheriff in 2014. Last week, court documents indicated he is suffering the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Tanaka, who is nearing the end of his fourth term as Gardena mayor, was officially removed from his post on Monday after the sentencing.

Gardena Council members will have 60 days as of Monday to fill the vacancy, either through appointment or special election.

TANAKA SENTENCED TO PRISON