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Deputy’s Lawsuit Claims Racial Gangs Control Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office Jails

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has white racist gangs operating at its highest levels, threatening the lives of deputies who exposed it, and labeling them as “race traitors” and “snitches.” Those claims are included in a federal civil action filed by two LASD deputies.

Michael Rathbun and James Sexton followed in their fathers’ footsteps and became LASD deputies. By 2011, both were assigned to Operation Safe Jails (OSJ), a gang intelligence squad whose objective is preventing jail violence between rival gangs, prisoners of different races, and the influence of prison gangs on the prisoner population.

Specializing in dealing with white supremacy jail gangs, Rathbun and Sexton turned prisoners into informants, “looking for tips on crimes and gang activity inside the nation’s largest jail system.” They were supervised by Lt. Greg Thompson and were a unit under the purview of Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

In August 2011, Rathbun, Sexton, and other OSJ members were ordered to “transfer and hide” a prisoner. “Anthony Brown is an FBI informant who reported on abuse within L.A. County Jails,” reported the Los Angeles Times. Thompson ordered him to be hidden on orders from Sheriff Leroy Baca and Tanaka “in an effort to obstruct a federal investigation,” states the complaint.

 “Increasingly, Thompson ordered OSJ to engage in activities meant to ‘keep the FBI out of jails,’” continues the complaint. “In fact, discussions were held about wiring interview rooms when FBI agents or informants were present.”

In February 2012, Rathbun and Sexton learned of two deputies assigned to the Men’s Central Jail who were engaged in illegal behavior with prison gangs. They submitted a confidential intelligence memorandum to Thompson detailing the activities of Deputies Joseph Britton and Remington Orr. Rathbun had the powerful white gang member whom Britton was involved with transferred to high-security housing.

A few days later, Rathbun followed up with Thompson, who the complaint avers is a member of the Vikings, a racist group of deputies within LASD. He was “stunned” to learn that Thompson “showed the memorandum to Deputy Britton and inquired whether the allegations were true.” This “intentionally placed Rathbun, Sexton, and the informant in danger” while allowing “Britton to cover-up any illegal activity.

In contrast, the memo on Orr, who is black, went up the chain, resulting in him being ensnared in a narcotics sting and terminated. News of the Britton memo passed to other LASD personnel, which caused Rathbun and Sexton to be labeled “snitches.” They were told they “better shut up or else” about the matter. Their informant was moved out of protective custody as a “message” that something bad would happen if they pursued the Britton matter, the complaint stated.

A March 2012 interview of a suspect at LASD by Sexton landed on the internet, publicly disclosing his identity and placing his well-being in jeopardy. Thompson refused to investigate the leak and told Sexton to forget about it. Although his address is confidential “white power” literature was left at Rathbun’s home. Both Rathbun and Sexton were labeled as “race traitors” by “LASD personnel, using jail gangs as their agents.”

They also received several threats from LASD deputies, including Thompson’s son, of harm if they did not “keep their mouths shut about Thompson and Britton.” The threats were made while the deputies were in uniform. An internal affairs investigation finally began, but “investigators never intended to undertake a good-faith, legitimate investigation,” states the complaint.

 “In fact, at one point, investigators were switched when the initial investigator actually seemed to want to investigate.”

The complaint also states that Rathbun received harsher treatment for a misdemeanor DUI conviction than other deputies, that his vehicle was vandalized on LASD property, and that he and Sexton have been the subject of internal affairs investigations “meant to ruin their careers further.”

Baca minimized the concerns of Rathbun and Sexton when he was presented with them. The complaint states that LASD members are encouraged that they should be “working in the gray” and “operate outside the confines of the law.” While Rathbun and Sexton were denied request to leave OSJ for other units, Thompson was promoted to a coveted narcotics division position.

See: Rathbun v County of Los Angeles, USDC, D.D. California, Case No CV13-02863.

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Related legal case

Rathbun v County of Los Angeles