Ex-deputy now cooperating in FBI jail misconduct probe
Federal prosecutors said their investigation into allegations of misconduct by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies is continuing after charges were filed against a former deputy accused of bribery.
“Obviously, it’s important that corruption and any criminal misconduct in any law enforcement agency get rooted out, not just for public safety but, frankly, for the sake of the organization,” said U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte Jr.
The case involves former Deputy Gilbert Michel, who admitted smuggling a cellphone and other contraband into Men’s Central Jail last year for an inmate who promised him a total of $20,000. Michel, 38, didn’t know that the inmate was an informant helping the FBI and that the person who eventually handed him money was an undercover agent.
Federal officials on Friday said Michel is now cooperating with the investigation but declined to detail the information he has provided. But the Sheriff’s Department has acknowledged that Michel implicated several other jailers in “improper” uses of force against inmates.
Michel spoke to investigators at least twice over the last few months, beginning in September, according to court papers.
Discovery of the smuggled cellphone by sheriff’s officials sparked tensions between the department and the FBI last year. Michel’s ensnarement in the federal sting was first reported by The Times in September and helped spark intense public scrutiny of how the Sheriff’s Department has managed the nation’s largest jail system.
Sheriff Lee Baca initially condemned the tactics of federal investigators, accusing them of breaking the law and creating a serious safety breach in the jails. Since then, he has toned down his criticisms and agreed to cooperate with federal agents as they examine allegations of inmate abuse and other deputy misconduct inside his jails.
The FBI investigation has looked into claims that deputies carved racist initials into one inmate’s head and broke the jaw of another inmate, among other allegations.
According to court papers, Michel must turn over any documents he has to federal authorities and testify before a grand jury and in any trials that might result from the investigation.
Michel’s attorney, Robert E. Brode, said Friday that his client’s cooperation could keep Michel from spending any time behind bars.
-- Robert Faturechi and Jack Leonard
Photo: L.A. County Men's Central Jail. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times