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Baca unhappy with FBI probe in jails

9/27/2011, 6:25 a.m.


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Sheriff Lee Baca is expected to meet with the U.S
attorney in Los Angeles today amid growing tension between his department and
the FBI over a new FBI probe of alleged deputy misconduct in the Los Angeles
County jail system, the nation's largest.

FBI agents orchestrated an undercover sting in which they paid about
$1,500 to a sheriff's deputy to smuggle a cellphone to an inmate, sources told
the Los Angeles Times. The inmate turned out to be an FBI informant.

The revelation was the first public indication that the FBI probe into
allegations of inmate beatings and other deputy misconduct have uncovered
possible criminal wrongdoing.

The FBI conducted the cellphone sting against the deputy without
notifying top Sheriff's Department officials, enraging Baca, who was scheduled
to meet today with U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte.

Baca complained in a television interviews Monday that smuggling a
cellphone inside a secured lockup created a serious safety breach and may have
constituted a crime.

According to The Times, federal authorities are investigating inmate
beatings and other acts of misconduct by deputies in the jails. The allegations
include deputies breaking one inmate's jaw and beating another inmate for two
minutes while he was unconscious.

Besides the jail investigations, federal authorities have two other
inquiries involving the Sheriff's Department under way.

The U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division last month announced
a ``pattern and practice" investigation into allegations that deputies in the
Antelope Valley discriminated against minority residents who receive government
housing assistance.

Also last month, The Times reported that a Sheriff's Department captain
had been put on leave after federal agents suspected hearing her voice on a
wiretap of a suspected Compton drug ring.

Sources told The Times that the deputy allegedly caught in the sting
accepted the money to smuggle the cellphone to an inmate at the Men's Central
Jail. Unbeknown to the deputy, the inmate was working as an FBI informant, The
Times reported.

The deputy, Gilbert Michel, 38, resigned shortly after sheriff's officials put him on leave, according to The Times' sources.