A jury was unable to reach a verdict Thursday in a six-count corruption case against one of seven Sheriff’s Department officials accused in the alleged conspiracy and obstruction of a federal investigation.
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In the meantime, the trial against Sheriff’s Department Lt. Stephen Leavins, of Valencia, is in the jury-selection phase, and opening statements could begin as early as Tuesday, Mrozek said.
Federal prosecutors are expected to a make an announcement next month regarding whether they will retry Deputy James Sexton, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“We’ll be back in court on June 9 to announce whether or not we’ll retry him,” Mrozek said, after a 6-6 vote was reported from the jury.
Leavins is one of seven defendants named in an indictment that garnered national attention in December when the indictment was announced, and was one of Sexton’s supervisors.
The Sheriff’s Department officials are being tried separately due to evidentiary concerns, Mrozek said. However, all seven are charged in connection with an alleged criminal conspiracy accusing the deputies of trying it coerce and silence federal witnesses against the Sheriff’s Department in a jail-abuse investigation by the FBI.
Lee Baca, the department’s leader for more than 15 years and a 48-year member of the department, abruptly resigned less than a month after the allegations came to light.
Related article: Sheriff Lee Baca Announces Retirement After 48 Years With Department
Leavins is accused of two counts: Count 1 is a conspiracy charge, and count 3 is an obstruction charge, which carry maximum penalties of five and 10 years, respectively.
Count 1 of the indictment filed Nov. 20 accuses Leavins of taking part in an effort to hide a federal informant, referred to in court documents as Inmate AB, from FBI special agents.
The alleged illegal activity began in August of 2011, when a deputy reportedly found a cellphone in an inmate’s possession, which is illegal Deputies later determined the inmate was using the phone to contact federal agents, according to an account of the incident in Los Angeles Magazine.
Inmate AB was cooperating with FBI special agents who were attempting to investigate accusations of corruption in the Los Angeles County jail system, which is overseen by the Sheriff’s Department.
Count 3 alleges that Leavins “corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct and impede the due administration of justice by: a) hiding inmate AB from the FBI, US. Marshall Service and the federal grand jury; b) convincing and attempting to convince witnesses not to cooperate with the FBI; and c) authorizing and directing LASD Sergeants Scott Craig and Maricella Long to approach Special Agent LM outside of her home in an attempt to cause the FBI to disclose the nature and extent of the federal investigation.”
Leavins remains free on a $25,000 bond while he awaits trial.
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Source: Santa Clarita News