Uso de Prendedor de Estrella de Sheriff se Vuelve Polémico En Tribunales

February 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Un juez federal le prohibió a Lee Baca, ex Sheriff del condado, de usar un pequeño prendedor con la estrella del sheriff durante su próximo juicio por acusaciones de corrupción, pero la decisión sobre si el ex agente de la ley podrá usar gemelos decorativos en sus mangas está pendiente.

Durante una audiencia, el juez de distrito Percy Anderson concedió la petición de la fiscalía de que Baca se abstenga de usar el pequeño prendedor de seis puntas con la estrella del sheriff en su solapa, como lo ha hecho durante cada cita con la corte desde que se presentaron cargos contra él hace un año.

“El lo usa para comunicarse con el jurado”, dijo el Asistente Fiscal de los Estados Unidos Brandon Fox al juez.

En los documentos de la corte, Fox argumentó que al usar la estrella, Baca está enviando un mensaje sutil a los jurados de que él es un hombre de ley honorable, y respetuoso de tal anterior y que cuenta con el apoyo del departamento.

La defensa, sin embargo, describió tales preocupaciones como “paranoicas”.

El abogado defensor Nathan Hochman argumentó que el alfiler de solapa es similar a un anillo de clase o una insignia y no tiene poder para perjudicar al jurado.

Según el gobierno, el ex-legislador de 74 años “testificó esencialmente” sin tomar el puesto de testigo o ser sometido a un contrainterrogatorio con el uso de la pequeña insignia durante el juicio que duró dos semanas, considerado nulo el 22 de diciembre.

Al usar el prendedor de solapa Baca “intentó cubrirse con la credibilidad, autoridad y apoyo del Departamento del Sheriff”, sostuvieron los fiscales en los documentos de la corte.

Hochman respondió en su moción diciendo que el gobierno está simplemente atribuyendo su fracaso en condenar “al poder casi místico y talismán que una estrella del sheriff de una pulgada” pudiese haber tenido sobre el jurado federal de Los Ángeles. Él describió los temores de la acusación como “acusaciones paranoicas”.

La prenda “era apenas visible para el jurado”, escribió Hochman, señalando que su cliente se sentó a 20 o 30 pies de distancia de la caja del jurado.

Anderson, sin embargo, ordenó que Baca no use el prendedor en presencia del jurado en cualquier situación en la que pueda entrar en contacto con los panelistas, incluyendo en la cafetería del juzgado.

Poco tiempo después, Fox notó que Baca también llevaba puestos gemelos en sus mangas adornados con la estrella del sheriff y también lo trajo a la atención del juez indicando que la joyería decorativa también debería de ser prohibida. Se espera que el juez emita una orden incluyendo los gemelos decorativos juntamente con el prendedor.

Las acusaciones contra Baca se centran en un período de tiempo en que el sheriff de la cárcel central de los hombres según tropezó una investigación secreta del FBI sobre presuntos abusos contra los derechos civiles y golpes injustificados de reclusos dentro de la cárcel.

Los fiscales afirman que Baca estaba tan resentido por la investigación de las cárceles que él intentó forzar al FBI a retirar a sus oficiales ilegalmente al mandar a oficiales a enfrentar a un agente en su apartamento. La fiscalía también alega que Baca ignoró por años las quejas sobre la fuerza excesiva usada ilegalmente contra presos en instalaciones del condado manejadas por el departamento del sheriff.

La tercer acusación es por presuntamente haber hecho declaraciones falsas al mentirle al FBI en abril de 2013 sobre su conocimiento de los esfuerzos del departamento en subvertir investigaciones federales sobre el sistema penitenciario.

Nuevo Juicio Se Anuncia en Contra de Lee Baca Por Cargos de Corrupción

January 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los fiscales federales anunciaron el 10 de enero que planean reintentar el caso en contra del ex Comisionado del Condado de Los Ángeles, Lee Baca. Él se enfrentará de nuevo a los cargos de corrupción que fueron derivados de su supuesto intento de impedir una investigación federal sobre la mala conducta de los alguaciles del sheriff en el sistema penitenciario.

Un jurado compuesto por seis hombres y seis mujeres se estancó en su decisión a favor o en contra el 22 de diciembre referente al ex legislador de 74 años. Los jurados dijeron que el panel se dividió 11-1 a favor de la absolución de los cargos.

El juez del distrito, Percy Anderson, declaró el juicio nulo. El juez sugirió que la “complejidad” del caso, particularmente la dificultad de entender el concepto de “intención”, jugó un papel en la incapacidad del jurado para llegar a una decisión. También dijo que consideraba posiblemente los efectos del agotamiento.

Sin precisarlo, Anderson añadió: “He considerado el posible efecto de la coerción – hubo una necesidad manifiesta de declarar un juicio nulo en este caso. … Creo que los fines del público fueron servidos declarándolo nulo”.

Durante una audiencia el martes por la mañana, los fiscales dijeron que querían probar a Baca nuevamente. Anderson dijo que quiere que se abran las declaraciones el 21 de febrero, pero no se fijó una fecha para el inicio de la selección del jurado.

SheriffBaca_Muslim-Public-Affairs-Council_May2011

Baca se retiró en 2014 a la altura de la investigación federal. Él había sido sheriff desde diciembre de 1998. Foto: Archivo de EGP

Anderson también dijo que el nuevo juicio incluiría los tres cargos contra Baca – la obstrucción y la conspiración, junto con un cargo por dar declaraciones falsas a los investigadores federales. La acusación de declaraciones falsas no fue incluida en el primer juicio, ya que anteriormente Anderson había decido que Baca sería juzgado por separado en esa cuenta.

Baca es acusado por la conspiración de cometer y por cometer obstrucción de la justicia desde agosto a septiembre de 2011. Esto fue en parte resultado de un incidente en el que dos investigadores del sheriff se enfrentaron a un agente del FBI, involucrada en la investigación de la cárcel, en la entrada de su apartamento, alegando falsamente que estaban en proceso de obtener una orden de arresto en su contra.

Los cargos contra Baca se enfocan en el período de tiempo cuando los alguaciles del sheriff basados en la Cárcel Central de los Hombres se encontraron con una investigación secreta del FBI. La investigación era relacionada a los presuntos abusos de los derechos civiles y golpes injustificados de presos dentro de la cárcel.

Después de que los guardias descubrieran que el preso Anthony Brown trabajaba secretamente como informante del FBI, lo reservaron bajo nombres falsos y lo trasladaron a diferentes lugares para mantenerlo oculto de los investigadores federales que querían usarlo como testigo federal.

Los fiscales afirman que Baca resintió de tal manera la investigación de las cárceles del gobierno federal que hasta trató de obligar al FBI a que cediera al mandar ilegalmente a sus diputados a enfrentar a la agente en su apartamento. La fiscalía también alega que Baca ignoró años de quejas sobre la fuerza excesiva usada ilegalmente contra presos de la cárcel en las instalaciones del condado manejadas por el departamento del sheriff.

El tercer conteo – el hacer declaraciones falsas – sostiene que Baca le mintió al FBI en abril de 2013 sobre su conocimiento de los esfuerzos del departamento para subvertir una investigación federal sobre la corrupción y el abuso de presos en el sistema penitenciario.

El juez originalmente planeó llevar a cabo un juicio separado sobre ese cargo después de aceptar el testimonio de un experto en demencia, pero sólo en referencia a la alegación de falsas declaraciones. Los abogados de Baca dijeron que el ex sheriff está en las primeras etapas de Alzheimer.

En los argumentos finales del juicio de Baca, un fiscal dijo a los jurados que Baca “autorizó y aprobó” la conspiración para impedir la investigación federal, pero la defensa le echó la culpa al ex segundo al mando de Baca, Paul Tanaka.

Tanaka fue condenado el año pasado por cargos de conspiración y obstrucción y sentenciado a cinco años de prisión.

Lee Baca Corruption Trial Ends in Mistrial as Jurors Deadlock

December 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

With jurors saying they were hopelessly deadlocked, a judge declared a mistrial last week in the federal corruption trial of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, saying the possibility of “coercion” played a role in his decision.

The mistrial came on the fourth day of deliberations by the six-man, six-woman jury in downtown Los Angeles. Earlier in the day, attorneys in the case had a nearly hour-long series of private, sidebar discussions with the judge that at times included one of the jurors and Baca.

At the time, there was no public announcement of what the discussions entailed, despite objections from some members of the media in the courtroom audience.

The jury went back into the deliberations room around 2 p.m., and within 30 minutes, they sent a note to U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson, who brought the panel into court. Jurors then announced they were hopelessly deadlocked. Anderson asked the panel if additional deliberations might break

the logjam, but jurors unanimously indicated that further discussions would be fruitless.

Anderson declared the panel “hopelessly deadlocked” and dismissed the jury. The judge suggested that the “complexity” of the case, particularly difficulty grasping the concept of “intent,” played a role in the jury’s inability to reach a decision. He said he also considered possibly effects of

exhaustion.

Without elaborating, Anderson added, “I’ve considered the possible effect of coercion — there was a manifest necessity to declare a mistrial in this case. … I believe the ends of the public are served by declaring a mistrial.”

One juror told reporters the panel was split 11-1 — in favor of acquittal.

The jury deliberated for a total of about 24 hours over the course of four days, following roughly two weeks of testimony.

Prosecutors will have to decide whether to seek a retrial on the charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Representatives for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to immediately comment.

Anderson scheduled another hearing in the case for Jan. 10.

Outside the courthouse, Baca said he felt “great.”

“The nature of this jury’s intense scrutiny of the whole facts in the case was extraordinary,” Baca said.

He thanked jurors for their service, saying, “This is what America thrives on — is jurors that really care.” He added that the jurors took the case “extraordinarily to heart.”

Baca’s attorney, Nathan Hochman, said prosecutors tried to tarnish Baca’s reputation, but “thankfully 11 out of 12 jurors found that argument came up short.”

One juror said she couldn’t find a “smoking gun” proving Baca’s guilt.

“That’s what we kept on looking for was the actual axe to fall on Baca,” she said. “Even when I was taking notes I kept … looking for Baca’s name and trying to link it to guilt, and could not come to that conclusion.”

Another juror added, “I don’t feel there was any evidence that showed that Mr. Baca was guilty. Unfortunately we were unable to set that in stone and we were a hung jury.”

Baca is accused of conspiring to commit, and committing, obstruction of justice from August to September 2011, partly stemming from the incident in which two sheriff’s investigators confronted the FBI agent in the driveway leading into her apartment and falsely told her that they were in the process

of obtaining a warrant for her arrest.

The charges against Baca focus on a period of time five years ago when sheriff’s deputies based at the Men’s Central Jail stumbled upon the FBI’s secret probe of alleged civil rights abuses and unjustified beatings of inmates within jail walls.

After guards discovered that inmate Anthony Brown was secretly working as an FBI informant, they booked him under false names and moved him to different locations in order to keep him hidden from federal investigators who wanted to use him as a federal grand jury witness.

Prosecutors contend Baca so resented the federal government’s secret jails probe that he attempted to force the FBI to back down by illegally having deputies confront the agent. The prosecution also alleges that Baca ignored years of complaints about excessive force used illegally against jail inmates

in county facilities managed by the Sheriff’s Department.

Baca, 74, also faces a third count — making false statements to federal investigators in April 2013, which will be the subject of a second trial.

Prosecutors contend Baca lied to the FBI about his knowledge of department efforts to subvert a federal probe into corruption and inmate abuse in the jail

system.

The judge split the trial into two parts after he agreed to allow testimony by an expert on dementia — but only as it relates to the false-statements charge. Anderson agreed to hold a separate trial on those counts so the jury could hear the medical testimony. Baca is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

In closing arguments in the trial, a prosecutor told jurors that Baca “authorized and condoned” the conspiracy, but the defense threw blame on Baca’s former second-in-command.

In his summation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox told the six-man, six-woman panel that during Baca’s years as sheriff, he “abused the power given to him by the people of Los Angeles County” by ignoring evidence of brutality against jail inmates and working to ensure “dirty deputies” were

not brought to justice.

“He wanted to ensure that no outside law enforcement would police the jails,” Fox said.

Jurors also heard accusations from the prosecution that the retired lawman was the “heartbeat” of the sheriff department’s illicit response to the federal grand jury probe. Hochman countered that it was former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka who was to blame for the department’s actions.

The then-sheriff “was not the driving force,” Hochman said, telling jurors that Baca had no idea that Tanaka was running things. Tanaka was sentenced to five years in prison and is expected to begin serving his time next month.

Hochman told the jury that the government had “completely failed” to prove its case and had included graphic testimony of jail violence “to poison your mind” against his client.

Baca retired in 2014 at the height of the federal probe. He had been sheriff since December 1998.

 

Jury Deliberations Continue in Case Against Ex-Sheriff

December 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Jurors continued deliberating Wednesday in the federal corruption trial of former Sheriff Lee Baca, who is accused of authorizing a conspiracy to thwart a federal probe into civil rights abuses in Los Angeles County’s jail system.

The panel ended its first full day of deliberations Tuesday without reaching a verdict, but jurors heard a read-back of some trial testimony and watched a prosecution videotape. The short videotape of two sheriff’s sergeants confronting an FBI agent at her home and threatening her with arrest was played for the jurors in open court.

The jury also heard a read-back of the testimony of former Los Angeles Times reporter Robert Faturechi, who told of an article he wrote based on an interview with Baca. Just before hearing the reporter’s testimony, the jury submitted a note asking, essentially, if it was illegal for the sheriff’s department to approach the FBI agent.

The judge answered that, essentially, it was up to the panel to determine if the approach of the agent was part of a lawful investigation or whether it was intended to obstruct justice. The jury later canceled its request to re-hear other witness testimony.

After hearing closing arguments Monday, the jury at the new federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles spent a couple of hours in discussions before going home for the day.

baca

Baca is accused of conspiring to commit, and committing, obstruction of justice from August to September 2011. The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. The obstruction count carries a maximum of 10 years.

Baca faces a third count of making false statements to federal investigators in April 2013, which will be the subject of a second trial. That charge carries a maximum possible penalty of five years in federal prison.

Prosecutors contend Baca lied to the FBI about his knowledge of department efforts to subvert a federal probe into corruption and inmate abuse in the jail system.

In closing arguments, a prosecutor told jurors that Baca “authorized and condoned” the conspiracy, but the defense threw blame on Baca’s former second-in-command.

In his summation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox told the six-man, six-woman panel that during Baca’s 16 years as sheriff, he “abused the power given to him by the people of Los Angeles County’’ by ignoring evidence of brutality against jail inmates and working to ensure “dirty deputies’’ were not brought to justice.

“He wanted to ensure that no outside law enforcement would police the jails,” Fox said.

During nearly two weeks of trial, jurors heard accusations that the retired lawman was the “heartbeat” of the sheriff department’s response to the federal grand jury probe. Defense attorney Nathan Hochman countered that it was former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka who was to blame for the department’s actions.

The then-sheriff “was not the driving force,” Hochman said, telling jurors that Baca had no idea that Tanaka was running things. Tanaka was sentenced to five years in prison and is expected to begin serving his time next month.

Hochman told the jury that the government had “completely failed” to prove its case and had included graphic testimony of jail violence “to poison your mind” against his client.

Baca, 74, listened intently, an impassive expression on his face during about four hours of attorneys’ summations.

Prosecutors rested their case on Thursday, and the defense called a parade of witnesses Friday – including former district attorneys Ira Reiner and Steve Cooley – to speak on his behalf. Baca was not called to the stand.

The judge split the trial into two parts after he agreed to allow testimony by an expert on dementia – but only as it relates to the false-statements charge. Anderson agreed to hold a separate trial on those counts so the jury could hear the medical testimony. Baca is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

The charges against Baca focus on a period of time five years ago when sheriff’s deputies based at the Men’s Central Jail stumbled upon the FBI’s secret probe of alleged civil rights abuses and unjustified beatings of inmates within jail walls.

After guards discovered that inmate Anthony Brown was secretly working as an FBI informant, they booked him under false names and moved him to different locations in order to keep him hidden from federal investigators.

They also went to the home of an FBI agent and threatened her with arrest.

Leah Tanner, the case agent on the FBI’s civil rights investigation into excessive force and corruption among jail deputies, testified that on Sept. 26, 2011, two sheriff’s investigators confronted her in the driveway leading into her apartment and told her that they were in the process of obtaining a warrant for her arrest.

Prosecutors contend Baca so resented the federal government’s probe that he attempted to force the FBI to back down by illegally having deputies confront Tanner.

 

Lee Baca Corruption Trial Begins

December 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was the “heartbeat” of an internal conspiracy to thwart a federal probe into abuses in the jail system, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday at the onset of Baca’s corruption trial, but a defense attorney threw blame squarely on the ex-lawman’s former second-in-command.

In a roughly hour-long opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox told the six-man, six-woman jury that county residents had “entrusted (Baca) with an important power … to bring to light any criminal acts.”

“When it was his department, Mr. Baca abused that power,” Fox said, adding that the then-sheriff tried to “sweep (the abuse of power) under the rug.”

Baca is accused of conspiring to commit and committing obstruction of justice from August to September 2011. He will be tried separately at a later date on charges of making false statements to the federal government in April 2013. Prosecutors contend Baca lied to the FBI about his knowledge of

department efforts to subvert a federal probe into corruption and inmate abuse in the jail system.

Fox said he will present jurors with “an overwhelming amount of evidence” to show that Baca was “the heartbeat, the leader of that conspiracy.”

Defense attorney Nathan Hochman countered that it was former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka who was largely to blame for the department’s actions to subvert the FBI probe. He called Tanaka a “man with his own agenda.”

“You will hear that when Baca found out (about the jails probe), he was open, transparent and direct,” Hochman said. “The FBI was his brother in arms.”

Hochman spent a large portion of his opening statement recapping Baca’s nearly half-century career with the sheriff’s department, which operates the jail system. He said prosecutors “will fail” in their effort to prove that Baca was the ringleader of the conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The first prosecution witness was a jail chaplain who told the jury that seven years ago he witnessed LASD deputies stomp a handcuffed, unresisting inmate into unconsciousness. Prosecutors hope to show jurors the sort of incident that helped spark the federal probe.

Paulino Juarez – who has worked at Men’s Central Jail since 1998 providing spiritual support to prisoners – testified that he watched unseen on the morning of Feb. 11, 2009, as deputies beat the inmate senseless, leaving the man in a puddle of blood.

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is accused of conspiring to commit and committing obstruction of justice from August to September 2011. (EGP Photo archive)

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is accused of conspiring to commit and committing obstruction of justice from August to September 2011. (EGP Photo archive)

The Catholic minister gave the same testimony in January at the trial of two former jail guards who were subsequently convicted of violating the civil rights of the inmate and then writing false use-of-force reports to cover up their actions.

Juarez said he saw the inmate, his back against the wall, and three deputies in front of him, punching him. Juarez told the panel that he never saw the inmate putting up any resistance.

The chaplain filed a report at the time and was interviewed by LASD investigators. In the weeks after he filed his complaint, he said, passing deputies would swear at him and call him names.

After hearing nothing for two years, Juarez reached out to the department and was granted a meeting with then-sheriff Baca. The sheriff, Juarez said, told him he had never heard about the incident.

“This happened two years ago and I’m only finding out about it now?” Baca asked his staff, according to the chaplain.

Baca looked over the file, and told the chaplain his investigators had determined that the inmate was schizophrenic. Juarez said Baca told him that deputies had to punch the inmate a couple of times to get him into the cell.

Mark Rosenbaum, a civil rights attorney who spent more than four decades with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, was called to the stand to tell the panel that the sheriff’s department mostly stonewalled decades of litigation over abuses within the county jail system.

The ACLU, he said, has been attempting to improve jail conditions for more than 30 years with little improvement. He said he has never had a “full, open, candid” discussion with Baca about the situation.

U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson split the trial into two parts after he agreed to allow testimony by an expert on dementia – but only as it relates to the charges of making false statements. Anderson agreed to hold a separate trial on those counts, so Baca – who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s

disease – is bring tried first on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges, saying the former sheriff’s mental state is not relevant to those counts. The conspiracy and obstruction charges carry a possible prison sentence of up to 15 years.

A second jury will be selected at a later date to hear testimony on the false statements count, which carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison.

The charges focus on a six-week period in August and September of 2011 when sheriff’s deputies based at Men’s Central Jail stumbled upon the FBI’s secret probe of alleged civil rights abuses and unjustified beatings of inmates within jail walls.

After guards discovered that inmate Anthony Brown was an FBI informant, they booked him under false names and moved him to different locations in order to keep him hidden from federal investigators. They also went to the home of an FBI agent in charge of the investigation and threatened her with arrest.

Baca – who ran the nation’s largest sheriff’s department for 16 years – claims he knew nothing of the plan to impede the jails probe and that Tanaka was in charge of the operation. Ten ex-sheriff’s officials – including Tanaka – have been convicted or pleaded guilty in connection with the obstruction

case, and 10 others have been convicted of various charges connected to the overall federal probe.

Tanaka, who alleges that Baca initiated the plan, was sentenced to five years in prison but is free pending appeal.

Baca, 74, previously backed out of a plea deal on the lying count – which called for him to serve no more than six months in prison – after the judge rejected the agreement as too lenient. If Baca had not withdrawn from the plea, he could have been handed a sentence of five years behind bars. He was subsequently indicted on the three felony counts he now faces.

Although Baca admitted in court to lying to investigators, that and other previous admissions cannot be used against him in the current case.

Baca retired in 2014 at the height of the federal probe. He had been sheriff since December 1998.

A federal appellate panel upheld the convictions of seven former sheriff’s department officials convicted in the conspiracy.

Both sides stipulate that Baca is competent to stand trial.

The trial – which resumes Thursday – is expected to last two to three weeks.

Judge Orders Mental Exam for Lee Baca

September 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A federal judge has ordered a psychological examination of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to determine if he suffers from any mental impairment that would prevent him from understanding the corruption charges against him or assisting in his own defense, according to court papers obtained Monday.

In his order for a Nov. 21 hearing, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson ruled that a mental competency exam — conducted by a licensed, court-approved doctor — must take place no later than Sept. 30, followed by the preparation of a report describing whether Baca is suffering from a mental issue and, if so, its history, current symptoms and diagnosis or prognosis.

The tests should signal whether Baca is “mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense,” Anderson wrote in the Friday order.

In a separate court filing last week, government prosecutors asked Anderson to determine whether Baca is fit to stand trial. The motion came after Baca’s attorney indicated he would employ a “mental defect” defense based on a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox wrote that while he believes Baca is competent, he wants a definitive ruling to alleviate any doubt prior to the December trial.

Baca is charged with conspiring to obstruct justice, obstructing justice and lying to the federal government, stemming from his alleged response in 2011 to a covert FBI investigation into corruption and brutality by guards at Men’s Central Jail.

Defense attorney Nathan Hochman says the 74-year-old ex-lawman is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and was impaired by the illness at the time of the charged offenses five years ago.

Hochman told the judge last week he planned to introduce evidence of a mental defect long plaguing his client. Anderson responded: “You mean to say people who suffer from Alzheimer’s don’t know right from wrong?”

Hochman also said he may make an attempt to have the trial moved out of Los Angeles County, asserting that widespread publicity tainted the jury pool.

In addition, the attorney said Baca’s earlier guilty plea — which was withdrawn — to a false statements charge was a “unique fact” that was also widely publicized to the detriment of his client.

At his Aug. 12 arraignment, Baca told Anderson he suffered from periods of “cloudiness in my brain” due to Alzheimer’s disease, but the judge found him capable of entering a plea.

The ex-sheriff backed out of the earlier plea deal on the lying count, which called for Baca to serve no more than six months in prison, after Anderson rejected the agreement as too lenient. If Baca had not withdrawn from the plea, he could have been sentenced to up to five years behind bars.

He was subsequently indicted on the new charges, and he could face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted of all counts, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Although Baca admitted in court to lying to investigators, that and other previous admissions cannot be used against him in the current case.

Baca — who ran the nation’s largest sheriff’s department for 16 years — is accused of participating in a wide-ranging conspiracy to derail the FBI’s probe of corruption and brutality in county jails.

After jail guards discovered that an inmate, Anthony Brown, was an FBI informant, they booked him under false names and moved him to different locations in order to keep him hidden from federal investigators. They also went to the home of an FBI agent and threatened her with arrest.

Baca claims he knew nothing of the plan and that his former second-in-command, Paul Tanaka, was in charge of the sheriff department’s response.

Ten ex-sheriff’s officials — including Tanaka — have been convicted or pleaded guilty in connection with the obstruction case.

Tanaka, who alleges his former boss ordered the response to the discovery of the jails probe, was sentenced by Anderson to five years in prison, but is free until Oct. 3 pending appeal.

Baca had initially pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to investigators about his knowledge of the plan to threaten the FBI agent. That false statements count is one of the three counts Baca is now facing.

Baca retired in 2014 at the height of the federal probe. He had been sheriff since December 1998.
A federal appellate panel recently upheld the convictions of seven former sheriff’s department officials convicted in the conspiracy.

Former Sheriff Lee Baca Indicted, Facing 20 Years in Federal Prison

August 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Four days after he withdrew from a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was indicted Friday on charges of conspiring to obstruct justice, obstructing justice  and lying to the federal government.

If convicted of all charges, Baca – who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease – could face up to 20 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

On Monday, Baca backed out of a plea deal he reached with prosecutors earlier this year. The deal had called for Baca, 74, to serve no more than six months behind bars on a single count of lying to the FBI, but U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson balked at the plea agreement, saying the sentence was too lenient considering the retired lawman’s role in obstructing an FBI investigation into Los Angeles County jails.

Rather than face a sentence of up to five years in prison, Baca opted to withdraw his guilty plea – opening him up to a more wide-ranging indictment.

“I made this decision due to untruthful comments about my actions made by the court and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that are contradicted by evidence in this case,” Baca said. “While my future and my ability to defend myself depends on my Alzheimer’s disease, I need to set the record straight about me and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on misleading aspects of the federal investigation while I’m capable of doing this.”

“I want to thank my friends and family for encouraging me to stand up for what is right. My spirits are high and my love for all people is God’s gift to me.”

The indictment handed up Friday by a federal grand jury charges Baca with single counts of conspiracy to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

An arraignment date on the new indictment has not yet been set.

Lee Baca Withdraws Guilty Plea, Heads to Trial

August 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca withdrew his guilty plea to a federal corruption charge Monday and will go to trial, with a court date tentatively set for September.

After a morning of delays and last-minute negotiations, Baca told U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson he wished to withdraw from an agreement in which the retired lawman had pleaded guilty to a false statements charge, which ordinarily carries a possible five-year prison sentence.

The plea deal called for Baca to serve no more than six months behind bars.

With the ex-sheriff backing out of the deal, prosecutors said they would file an updated indictment against Baca and call him back into court for arraignment. Anderson set pretrial hearings on Sept. 6 and 12, and a Sept. 20 trial date, but that is expected to be postponed.

“For the peace of my family, to avoid a lengthy and expensive trial and to minimize the court drama associated with this case, several months ago I entered a guilty plea to one charge filed against me – be very clear, one charge,” Baca said outside the courthouse Monday. “Today I’m withdrawing my guilty plea and will seek a trial.”

(LASD)

(LASD)

“Why? I made this decision due to untruthful comments about my actions made by the court and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that are contradicted by evidence in this case,” Baca said. “While my future and my ability to defend myself depends on my Alzheimer’s disease, I need to set the record straight about me and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on misleading aspects of the federal investigation while I’m capable of doing this.”

“I want to thank my friends and family for encouraging me to stand up for what is right. My spirits are high and my love for all people is God’s gift to me.”

Going into Monday’s hearing, Baca faced a choice of either withdrawing his guilty plea and proceeding to trial or being sentenced on the false statements charge.

Two weeks ago, Anderson rejected the plea deal that would have given Baca a maximum of six months in prison, saying the sentence was too lenient considering the retired lawman’s role in obstructing an FBI investigation into Los Angeles County jails. Anderson said the deal “would trivialize the seriousness of the offenses.”

Baca’s attorney, Michael Zweiback, told the judge that both sides had failed to find a resolution that would not involve withdrawing the plea.

Asked by Anderson if he wanted to take back his plea, Baca responded, “Yes, your honor.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox told the court that the government would file a new indictment “in the not too distant future.”

Zweiback said he expected that indictment to include a range of charges similar to those that were filed against former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

Zweiback also indicated that his 74-year-old client faced a “significant illness issue” which could affect future proceedings. Baca has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’;s disease.

Anderson said at the July hearing that he would not accept a six-month prison sentence for a defendant who had played a key role in a wide-ranging obstruction attempt that did “substantial harm” to the community.

“It’s one thing to lie to an assistant U.S. attorney,” Anderson said.

“It’s another for the chief law enforcement officer of Los Angeles County to… cover up abuse in Men’s Central Jail.”

To impose the penalty “would not address the gross abuse of the public’s trust,” the judge said, adding that such a punishment “understates the seriousness of the offense.

Baca argued in court papers for a probationary sentence, claiming his medical condition and law enforcement career make him susceptible to abuse while in custody.

“He is suffering from Alzheimer’s, which has become advanced and it’s a very significant and concerning time for him about what he should do next,” Zweiback said Monday outside court.

Federal prosecutors countered that the county’s former top lawman deserves prison time for falsely telling investigators in 2013 that he was unaware that sheriff’s deputies were going to the home of an FBI agent to confront and threaten her over her involvement in the probe of corruption
within the department.

The same year Baca committed the offense, he was named Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriffs’ Association.

The rejected plea agreement — which one of Anderson’s colleagues on the federal bench recently called “troubling” – was widely seen as too lenient.

Hundreds of letters in support of probation for Baca were filed with the court.

Baca pleaded guilty Feb. 10 after denying for years that he had played any role in the wide-ranging scandal that stained the department and led to his retirement.

“I made a mistake and accept being held accountable,” Baca said in a written statement issued on the courthouse steps following his plea hearing.

In the now-rejected plea agreement, Baca agreed not to contest other allegations leveled by prosecutors, including that in 2011 he directed subordinates to approach the FBI agent, stating that they should “do everything but put handcuffs” on her.

Prosecutors also accused Baca of lying about his involvement in hiding a jail inmate from FBI investigators. Baca, they alleged, ordered the inmate to be isolated, putting his second-in-command, Tanaka, in charge of executing the plan.

In addition, Baca falsely claimed he was unaware that some of his subordinates had interrupted and ended an interview FBI agents were conducting with the inmate, who was working as a federal informant, prosecutors alleged in the court documents.

Baca retired in 2014 at the height of the federal probe. He had been sheriff since December 1998.

Prosecutors have said that Baca lied to investigators to either avoid “political fallout” or to avoid more severe criminal charges.

Tanaka’s 60-month prison sentence is the longest stretch of any defendant in the obstruction case. Seven former sheriff’s lieutenants, sergeants and deputies convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice received prison sentences ranging from 18 to 41 months. Their appeal was
recently heard by the circuit court in Pasadena.

Judge Rejects Plea for Ex-Sheriff Lee Baca

July 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A federal judge Monday rejected a proposed plea deal between former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and prosecutors that called for the retired lawman to serve anywhere from zero to six months in prison for lying to investigators.

U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said a six-month sentence would “trivialize” Baca’s role in setting in motion a wide-ranging conspiracy to obstruct justice in the jail system that did “substantial harm” to the community.

“It’s one thing to lie to an assistant U.S. attorney,” Anderson said at the conclusion of the 90-minute hearing. “It’s another for the chief law enforcement officer of Los Angeles County to…cover up abuse in Men’s Central Jail.”

To impose a sentence of six months “would not address the gross abuse of the public’s trust” and would be unreasonable and unfair, the judge said.

Such a penalty, Anderson said, “understates the seriousness of the offense” and “the harm he caused by participating in a broad scheme to obstruct justice.”

Given a choice to withdraw his guilty plea to making false statements to federal investigators, keep his plea and face a more severe punishment or postpone the decision to a later date, Baca chose to have the hearing resume on Aug. 1.

Baca, 74, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, argued in court papers for a probationary sentence, claiming his medical condition and law enforcement career make him susceptible to abuse while in custody.

Federal prosecutors countered that the county’s former top lawman deserves six months behind bars for lying to investigators in 2013 when he said he was unaware that sheriff’s deputies were going to the home of an FBI agent to confront and threaten her over her involvement in the probe of corruption within the department.

The same year Baca committed the offense, he was named Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriffs’ Association.

The rejected plea agreement – which one of Anderson’s colleagues on the federal bench recently called “troublesome” — was widely seen as too lenient in a case where the sheriff’s department’s former second-in-command, Paul Tanaka, was sentenced to five years in prison.

Hundreds of letters in support of probation for Baca were filed with the court.

Baca pleaded guilty Feb. 10 after denying for years that he had played any role in the wide-ranging scandal that stained the department and led to his retirement.

“I made a mistake and accept being held accountable,” Baca said in a written statement issued on the courthouse steps following his plea hearing.

According to the plea agreement, Baca agreed not to contest other allegations leveled by prosecutors, including that in 2011 he directed subordinates to approach the FBI agent, stating that they should “do everything but put handcuffs’ on her.

Prosecutors also accused Baca of lying about his involvement in hiding a jail inmate from FBI investigators. Baca, they alleged, ordered the inmate to be isolated, putting Tanaka in charge of executing the plan.

In addition, Baca falsely claimed he was unaware that some of his subordinates had interrupted and ended an interview FBI agents were conducting with the inmate, who was working as a federal informant, prosecutors alleged in the court documents.

Baca retired in 2014 at the height of the federal probe. He had been sheriff since December 1998.

Prosecutors have said that Baca lied to investigators to either avoid “political fallout” or to avoid more severe criminal charges.

“Defendant’s lies showed that corruption went all the way to the top of the Sheriff’s Department,” prosecutors wrote in the document. “But his crime is not as serious as the crimes by the members of the Sheriff’s Department who were convicted of beating inmates and filing false reports in order to have people charged with offenses they did not commit.”

As for Baca’s claims that he could be in danger of abuse if sent to a federal facility, prosecutors wrote that the Bureau of Prisons houses many “well-known inmates” who are well protected. In any case, the ex-lawman would not be jailed with violent criminals, prosecutors said.

The BOP currently houses some 300 inmates with severe forms of cognitive impairment resulting from dementia or Alzheimer’s, and they are treated and kept safe, according to prosecutors.

At a May sentencing hearing in a related case before U.S. District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell — whose courtroom is opposite Anderson’s – the judge mentioned the Baca plea deal in the context of the tough sentence prosecutors were seeking for two deputies found guilty of a similar charge.

O’Connell described the agreement with Baca as “troubling.”

When questioned by O’Connell about the difference in sentencing recommendations, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Williams said the cases were “apples and oranges,” and noted that Baca had turned himself in, admitted guilt and had not been accused of using excessive force himself.

“He accepted responsibility,” Williams said, adding that Baca’s agreement was “very favorable.”

Ex-LA County Sherriff Lee Baca Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

June 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Less than one month before he is scheduled to be sentenced, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has revealed in documents filed with the court that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The 74-year-old Baca, who admitted lying to federal investigators during an FBI probe of corruption and civil rights violations by deputies in the county jail system, is said to be in the early stages of the disease.

Baca’s attorneys, citing his need for medication and medical treatment, are asking the court to sentence the former sheriff to probation rather jail time; he faces up to six-months in prison. “No one contends he’s a threat to the community,” his attorneys told the court, adding, “He will not offend again.”

Prosecutors, however, after consulting with an expert in neurodegenerative disorders, say Baca’s condition is mild has only worsened very slightly over the last several months.

“It is first important to note that the government does not view defendant’s current condition as having any effect on his decision to lie to the federal government during his interview,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker in a document filed with the court. She went on to write that there was “no indication that he was suffering from any cognitive defects” when he was interviewed in April 2013.

Documents filed by prosecutors filed with the court go one to characterize Baca as “a study in contrasts.”

“He was a champion of certain reforms in the criminal justice system, yet ignored warnings that his deputies were committing serious abuses in the Los Angeles County jails,” prosecutors said.

In the meantime, the court has received numerous letters supporting and praising Baca, including from former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, County Supervisor Don Knabe and former L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who wrote that Baca  “has served all Angelenos with distinction, reliability, and honesty,” calling the charges against him an” anomaly.”

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