- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A Los Angeles County deputy pleaded guilty Monday to illegally building an assault rifle, in the first plea deal among 20 officials charged or indicted in an ongoing federal investigation of the sheriff’s department.

Richard White Piquette admitted in court that he manufactured a Noveske Rifleworks N-4 .223-caliber rifle with an eight-inch barrel, City News Service reported. Under federal law, the rifle’s barrel length should have been at least 16 inches.

The charge carries a possible federal prison sentence of up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Sentencing was set for Oct. 8.

Piquette, who is on leave from the department, served at Twin Towers Correctional Facility, the downtown jail at the center of a sheriff-run jail system that has been riddled with investigations and lawsuits and led to federal indictments in January against 20 department officials, including Piquette.

His charges were among the most minor in the indictments, with many of the others alleging officials beat inmates and jail visitors, falsified reports and tried to obstruct an FBI investigation.

The first jury trial in the corruption case was scheduled to begin Tuesday. Deputy James Sexton faces charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

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