The oddest recent part of the already bizarre story of a Southern California cop accused of conducting a secret alliance with organized crime characters isn’t that a judge ordered the Los Angeles Times to remove contents of last week’s guilty plea from an already published article.
John Saro Balian admitted to charges of obstruction of justice, bribery and lying to investigating officers, but U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter wanted that development sealed from public consumption before it was accidentally posted on an electronic court records system.
What’s most remarkable is Balian’s maximum prison exposure at his scheduled Sept. 24 sentencing hearing: up to two years.
That’s seemingly a gentle punishment given members of an FBI task force believe the 46-year-old Seal Beach resident betrayed his oath and used his job for years to assist the Mexican Mafia, Gulf Cartel and Armenian mob.
They accused the Glendale cop of using “burner” cell phones for illicit communications about drug deals, tipping the mobsters to upcoming police raids, running an auto theft operation, planning extortion plots, trying to use sensitive government databases to hunt down mob targets and helping initiate a 2016 shooting, according to a task force report.
“I believe Balian has obstructed justice, provided false and misleading statements to federal agents and accepted a bribe,” Special Agent Michael Hyland wrote in May.
Hyland added that the cop had been in “criminal collaboration” with numerous underworld figures.
Balian, who has been locked inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, hoped to win pre-sentencing bail, noting in part through his attorney that he expects a “relatively short length of the likely sentence.”
But U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia G. Rosenberg refused.
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.