HORSE’S MOUTH: The Grand Jury and the Sheriff’s Department

0

YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published Jan. 13, 2015)

As I often write, I was sitting on the front porch of our house trying to think of what I could use for today’s column. This time, I fell asleep.

If it weren’t for one of our cats, there might not have been a column today.

The cat jumped on my lap and woke me up, so here I am with today’s “Mouth.”

Well, since a cat woke me up I might open today’s chatter with “Meow.”

On the other hand, if I have to rely on a cat waking me up to write a column, maybe it is time for me to consider hanging ’em up.

If people want me to keep writing, they may be driving by and dropping off their kittens.

Heh, heh.

Well, whatever. Let me get rolling with today’s chatter.

+++

According to a news release, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka is still being targeting in the ongoing investigation of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

Tanaka lost his bid to become the head man in the Sheriff’s Department when he ran for the office last year.

Sheriff’s deputies convicted of obstructing a federal investigation into the Los Angeles County Jail have been testifying before a grand jury as prosecutors set their sights on the highest echelons of the department, according to sources familiar with the problem.

The questioning has focused partly on meetings when then-Sheriff Lee Baca and his No. 2, Paul Tanaka, discussed how to deal with the discovery of a cell phone provided to a county jail inmate by the FBI. In addition to the convicted deputies, some current department officials have also received grand jury subpoenas.

Many in the Sheriff’s Department believe that low-ranking officials took the fall for following orders from Tanaka and Baca. Now, with the convening of the grand jury, it appears that prosecutors are attempting to target more sheriff’s officials after convicting seven last year for obstructing justice.

Most of the convicted deputies, who received sentences ranging from 21 to 42 months, were scheduled to report to prison this week, but they remain free until a court rules on their bail requests as they appeal their convictions. None was ranked higher than a lieutenant.

Tanaka testified in the trials of the seven deputies, acknowledging that he was the subject of a federal investigation. Baca was not called to testify.

Baca said that he was unaware that the grand jury was meeting and that he has not spoken to federal officials about the jails for years. He would not comment on the actions he took after he discovered that the FBI placed an informant in the jail as part of its investigation of deputy-on-inmate abuse.

“I don’t think anyone knows what it’s going to lead to,” Baca said. “I have no opinion one way or another.”

Neither Tanaka nor his attorney responded to requests for comment. Tanaka retired from the Sheriff’s Department in 2013 and still serves as the mayor of Gardena. He ran for sheriff against Jim McDonnell but lost by a large margin in the general election.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles had no comment.

Tanaka testified at trials that he did not have a clear memory of many events but that the inmate was moved under false names for his own safety and to protect the Sheriff’s Department’s investigation into the smuggled cell phone.

Brian Moriguchi, president of the L.A. County Professional Peace Officers Association, which represents Sheriff’s Department supervisors, said the union has provided attorneys for some current sheriff’s officials who have recently received grand jury subpoenas.

“It’s my opinion that those responsible have not yet been accountable,” Moriguchi said.

I have tried to contact Tanaka on this matter but to date, no luck. However, I’ll keep trying.

+++

In case any of you readers are planning on a trip to Las Vegas, let me remind those driving that you will find that the weather conditions are not suitable due to the heavy downpour of rain.

It has been reported that driving under these conditions is the worst thing a California motorist can attempt to do.

I chatted with a friend who did drive to Vegas during the rainstorm, and he agrees. His words: “If you’re thinking of driving to Vegas, forget it.”

As most of you know, I’ve driven to Vegas on most of my trips there and haven’t faced that kind of weather conditions.

If any of you readers have been in Vegas during the current weather situation, drop me a line and let me know how you survived. I’ll print every word you submit.

+++

I doubt if any of you ever heard of Chris Sugai. I never did until I received a news clipping from an old friend, George Wakiji.

Sugai runs a mountain bike business in Fort Collins, Colorado. That doesn’t sound like a great news article, but when I read his business will reach $17 million in 2015, up from $15 million last year, it’s more than just eye-catching.

Sugai’s company has 34 employees, but he says the time is right to hire more workers and boost capital spending.

Needless to say, we will be hearing more and more about the JA-owned bike business this coming year.

+++

Here’s a story about a group of elderly Nisei who will always remember a baseball series played 70 years ago because it was their symbol of freedom.

The group is among more than 120,000 Japanese Americans who were relocated to ten camps following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The camps allowed the Nisei to play baseball. The players made their own baseball fields and conducted league games.

In 1944, some 20 players from the Gila camp in Arizona traveled to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, to play a series of games.

The bus trip started at the end of August and was financed with pay saved by the players for their labor in the camp and a small amount pitched in by other inmates. It took several days as the bus they traveled in broke down from time to time.

First baseman and pitcher Tetsuo Furukawa, now 87, recalled the strange sensation he felt because the air outside the Gila River camp seemed fresh.

The players slept in the bus at night as part of the effort to avoid drawing unwanted attention.

When they were filling the bus with gas at a service station in a small town along the way to Heart Mountain, a Caucasian man approached and asked them what they were doing. They fell silent before one of them replied they were going to work at a farm for more food production for the United States. To their relief, the man accepted the explanation and walked away.

The 1,243-mile trip by the inmates during wartime was an incredible adventure.

The Gila River all-stars and Heart Mountain all-stars played 13 games.

Pitcher George Iseri, 86, who won two games for Heart Mountain, said the series was his “best” memory. He could forget anything unpleasant while playing baseball.

“We did a long journey,” second baseman Kenso Zenimura, 87, said. “I was a bitter teen at the time. It’s been 70 years since.”

“Baseball was a ticket for freedom, a symbol of freedom under suppression during the war,” baseball historian Bill Staples Jr. said. “The journey was in a way a declaration of independence, a celebration of freedom, and all made possible through the game of baseball.”

The goal of the commemorative event held last year at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose was to capture the Nisei ballplayers’ story so that “it can be shared with future generations in the world,” said Staples, who helped organize it.

+++

Yay, Japan.

Global life expectancy has risen by six years, and guess who is leading the way in the world? If you guessed Japan, you’d be right. Top honors go to Japanese women with 87 years. Japanese men are eighth in the world with 80 years.

The U.S. is doing better than average, with a female life expectancy of 81 and male life expectancy of 76, but ranks 37th overall and does not make the top 10 for either gender.

In poor countries, fewer children are dying before age 5, thanks to medical advances. But life expectancy remains below 55 in nine countries, all in sub-Saharan Africa.

+++

Yes, only in Japan. As last Christmas approached, when Japanese people posed for a photograph, instead of saying, “Cheese,” they said, “Butter.”

Why?

Because cheese is more plentiful than butter in Japan, and the worsening shortage of butter continues to grow. Or is it because “bataa” is easier to pronounce than “chiizu”?

Well, I hope my jumping around from subject to subject didn’t turn off the readers.

+++

This is the start of a new year and I’m going to have to adjust to the changes in 2015. In the meanwhile, hang in there with me.

I’ll go back to my regular chatter to entertain you wonderful readers. Catch you next Saturday.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

Tags

Share.

Leave A Reply