LOS ANGELES – Attorneys for two sheriff’s deputies acquitted of perjury and conspiracy charges filed a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against the department’s now-jailed former undersheriff, among others, alleging they were the victims of a politically motivated prosecution.
Patrol deputies Robert Lindsey Jr. and Charles Rodriguez contend they were wrongfully prosecuted at the direction of Paul Tanaka stemming from a grudge the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s then-second-in-command held against Lindsey’s now-retired father, a sheriff’s commander who frequently challenged the undersheriff’s authority.
“The charges were not based on evidence — they were based on a personal vendetta,” said attorney Ron Kaye, who filed the lawsuit in federal court. “Tanaka pushed the Los Angeles (County) District Attorney’s Office to press trumped-up charges.”
Kaye said that if one of Tanaka’s subordinates ever went against him, “your career in law enforcement was in jeopardy.”
Representatives of the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office declined comment on the complaint, which also names Kevin Stennis, who was then a deputy district attorney and is now a judge, and former members of the sheriff’s Internal Criminal Investigative Bureau (ICIB).
The suit seeks unspecified damages and attorney’s fees.
According to the lawsuit, ICIB — which reported to Tanaka — recommended to the District Attorney’s Office that Lindsey and Rodriguez be charged with filing a false police report in connection with a June 2011 drug bust outside a Huntington Park bar.
A prosecutor said charges against the deputies were pursued after surveillance video appeared to contradict details in Lindsey’s arrest report — but the case was dismissed after a key witness failed to appear for the preliminary hearing, the suit states.
However, Stennis moved against the deputies a second time after “someone from the Sheriff’s Department came and had a meeting with my boss and I was told I would re-file the case,” Stennis told Lindsey’s then-attorney, according to the lawsuit.
Kaye said the circumstances surrounding the case illustrate the “collusion between the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office.”
When the case against the deputies went to trial in June 2015, the lawmen were acquitted of all charges in less than three hours. Lindsey and Rodriguez were then reinstated as patrol deputies, according to Kaye.
“There was a complete lack of evidence,” Kaye said. “The case was built on air.”
Tanaka is serving a five-year sentence in federal prison for his role in a 2011 scheme by sheriff’s officials to thwart an FBI investigation into inmate abuse by deputies in the county’s jails.
Former members of ICIB — including its then-Captain William “Tom” Carey — were also convicted in the case and have been sentenced to various prison terms.