LANCASTER – Latisha Clayton says she has been through hell in the past year. The 35-year-old Metro Bus Operator says she was falsely arrested on drug charges, jailed twice and almost lost her job of five years.
“I think it was racist of them,” Clayton said. “They destroyed my life!”
Clayton is referring to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies Anthony Delia and Daniel Farrell, whom she says were the main reasons why she was erroneously arrested and charged with transportation and sale of cocaine last year. She says she has filed a complaint against both deputies with the Internal Affairs department and is looking into filing a possible lawsuit.
She says her ordeal began on August 27, 2010, when she showed up to the Antelope Valley courthouse to give support to Aubrey Anderson, who was in court on a drug case (which was later moved to Federal Court).
Clayton says, as she was leaving the courtroom, she was accosted by Delia and Farrell.
“Delia was like ‘let me see your f**king ID!’ and then the other detective (Farrell) was like ‘yeah, it’s her, it’s her,’” Clayton said. She said she produced her California ID for the deputies who wrote down its information and then requested her mobile phone number, which she gave.
“They said ‘we’ll be in contact with you,’ and then they asked me where I worked and I told them that I worked for Metro,” Clayton said.
Clayton says she was not contacted by deputies. But on November 2, 2010, she was arrested in Los Angeles as she was on her way to work.
“I got pulled over by LAPD saying my tail light was out,” said Clayton. “Then they pulled their guns out and said ‘Step out the car, you have a felony warrant!'”
Clayton said she was horrified to find out there was a felony warrant for her arrest for drug trafficking in Lancaster. She says she was transferred to the Lancaster station where she sat in jail for three days before bailing out.
She later found out that Delia and Farrell had used her ID to have her charged with transportation and sale of cocaine. Seeing her in the courthouse to lend support to Aubrey Anderson, the deputies had tagged her as the woman in photos taken Feb. 2010 during a surveillance operation involving drug enforcement agents, an informant and Aubrey Anderson in Lancaster.
Clayton’s court appointed attorney, Randy Tennen, said the operation went down on Feb. 18, 2010, when DEA Agents sent an informant to buy drugs.
“The female arrives at the location where the informant is and gets out of a silver Honda and walks into the house, and the informant says that the female in the silver Honda brought in cocaine, which the informant bought,” said Tennen.
“So six months later, Latisha Clayton shows up to court to give moral support to Aubrey Anderson and his family, and the cops see Latisha and say ‘hey, doesn’t she look like the woman in those photos?’” said Tennen.
“I personally don’t think she looks like the woman in the photos,” Tennen continued. “When I looked at the photos I said ‘my God, it’s not her!'”
“They were going off my skin complexion and the big earrings that the girl had on,” said Clayton.
The District Attorney went ahead with the case, and tried to get Clayton to accept a plea deal, which she declined.
“Why would I take a deal for something I didn’t do?” said Clayton.
Clayton said while her case was going on, she was arrested and put in jail again for dissuading a witness – the witness being Deputy Delia.
This incident went down on December 10, 2010.
She said while in court on her case, Delia was staring at her, so she stared back. They exchanged words and were both removed from the courtroom for talking, said Clayton.
“Outside the courtroom he (Delia) said ‘you Black b**ch, you should have took the f**king deal, now you’re going to jail and I’ll make sure you go to prison,’” Clayton said. “I told him ‘I’m not taking a deal for something I didn’t do!’”
She said she went to the Sheriff’s station at the courthouse to file a complaint against Delia for the exchange, but found that Delia was already having her arrested for dissuading a witness.
“Because she exchanged words with a cop, they said she was trying to keep him from testifying… nonsense!” said Tennen.
Still, Clayton was jailed again on December 10, 2010 for dissuading a witness, and had to post bail. Those charges were later dropped.
“I wasn’t able to give my son anything for Christmas because I was in jail and had to bail out and had no more money,” she said.
Clayton says her nightmare finally ended when she was acquitted nearly two weeks ago, on November 2, 2011. Her attorney, Randy Tennen, said her innocence was simple to prove. He says the cornerstone of his defense was comparing Latisha’s photos with the photos of the woman deputies claimed to be Latisha.
“I took photos to the courthouse of Latisha, a frontal view to compare with the photo of the female who is looking to the front, a side view to the left, a side view to the right, to compare,” said Tennen. “I said ‘look at the photos, it’s two different people,’ and the jury apparently agreed with me because they acquitted her.”
Clayton says it took about 30 minutes for the jury to reach its verdict.
“At 9 a.m. I was in the courtroom waiting for the jury to make their decision,” said Clayton. “They made their decision at 9:30 a.m. and they came out with a verdict of not guilty.”
Though relieved at her ‘not guilty’ verdict, Clayton says it does little to take away the stress that she has suffered over the past year. She puts most of the blame on Delia and Farrell.
“They need to be punished, because what they are doing to people is wrong; they need some discipline for the way they talk to people, something needs to be done,” Clayton said. “I don’t think they need to be serving on the force if they are going to set people up on cases. I don’t think they need to be a part of the justice system.”
The AV Times contacted the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station to interview Anthony Delia regarding this story. Dep. Michael Rust said Delia was not stationed in Lancaster and was possibly at the Palmdale Station. Palmdale Sheriff’s spokesman Dep. Robbie Royster said Delia is assigned to the Operation Safe Streets Bureau, which is housed at the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station but commanded by the Sheriff’s Headquarters in Los Angeles. A representative from the OSS Bureau was to follow up with The AV Times but had not done so by press time.
We will bring you any updates from the Sheriff’s Department regarding this incident as they become available.