Baca Sentenced to 3 Years in Federal Prison

May 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was sentenced today to three years in prison and one year of supervised release for obstructing a federal probe into corruption in the jails, with a judge lashing out at the longtime lawman and calling him an embarrassment to the profession.

Baca, 74, was also ordered to pay a $7,500 fine.

Baca’s attorneys had asked that he serve only home detention, and they have vowed to appeal his conviction. His attorney filed papers this week urging that the ex-sheriff be allowed to remain free pending arguments before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson, however, ordered Baca to surrender to begin serving his prison term on July 25.

(EGP photo archive)

(EGP photo archive)

Baca was convicted March 15 of obstruction of justice and two other federal charges for his role in the scheme to thwart the FBI probe into inmate mistreatment in the jails that he ran, and of lying to the FBI.

After about two days of deliberations, a criminal jury in downtown Los Angeles – the second to hear the case – found that Baca authorized and condoned a multi-part scheme that now has resulted in the conviction of 10 former members of the Sheriff’s Department.

During his two trials, prosecutors described Baca as being the top figure in the conspiracy, which also involved his former right-hand man, Paul Tanaka, and eight deputies who took orders from the sheriff.

Baca showed no emotion as Anderson handed down the sentence. At one point, he nodded at his wife, but Baca did not speak during the hearing.

Prosecutors had asked for a two-year prison term, noting that they would ordinarily seek about four years, but took into account Baca’s age and diagnosis of being in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. During the sentencing hearing, however, Anderson lashed out at Baca and said if it hadn’t
been for the ex-lawman’s health, Baca would have received the same five-year term given to his former second-in-command, Paul Tanaka.

Anderson told Baca his Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not a “get-out-of-jail-free card.”

The judge referred to the “lasting damage you caused our community and the sheriff’s department,” saying Baca’s actions were taken “to burnish your legacy – all at the expense of the public’s trust.”

“Your loyalty was perverted,” the judge said, adding, “Your actions embarrass the thousands of men and women who put their lives on the line every day.”

Speaking to reporters outside court, Baca thanked his wife, his attorneys and “the people of Los Angeles County,” saying he has continued to hear words of support from the public.

“I would like to say that for me, it was an honor to serve the county of Los Angeles for over 48 years,” he said.

Baca did not specifically address comments made by Anderson, but said he was honored “to see the performance of such wonderful people that are deputy sheriff’s in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”

“I’m grateful for their willingness to sacrifice many, many hours without pay to continue to do their jobs,” Baca said, adding that he has been “a blessed person.”

In a pre-sentencing memorandum, prosecutors wrote that in helping derail the FBI probe, Baca “abused the great power the citizens of Los Angeles County had given him,” while false statements made during a sworn interview with investigators was a “deliberate attempt to deflect blame and place it entirely on the shoulders of others within his department,” the prosecution wrote in pre-sentencing documents.

In its papers requesting a probationary term in home detention with community service, the defense cited Baca’s decades of public service, diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer’s disease and “peripheral” role in the wide-ranging conspiracy.

Attorney Nathan Hochman asked the judge to consider “an individual with one of this country’s most exceptional public service careers spanning over almost 50 years, an individual who suffers from the incurable and rapidly progressing and debilitating mental health disease of Alzheimer’s, and an
individual for whom prison will not allow him to obtain medical care in the most effective manner and will subject him to especially harsh treatment due to his medical condition as well to his age and former position as LASD Sheriff.”

Hochman spoke for nearly an hour during the sentencing hearing, asking that his client be spared prison time. But his request was sternly rejected.

Baca – who ran the nation’s largest sheriff’s department for more than 15 years – was first tried in December on obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice counts, and prosecutors had planned a second trial on the false statements count. But a mistrial was declared after jurors
deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquitting the former sheriff, and Anderson combined all three counts in the retrial. Baca did not take the stand in either trial.

The charges stemmed from events six years ago when a cellphone was discovered in the hands of an inmate at the Men’s Central Jail. Sheriff’s deputies quickly tied the phone to the FBI, which had been conducting a secret probe of brutality against inmates.

At that point, sheriff’s officials closed ranks and began an attempt to halt the formerly covert investigation by concealing an inmate-turned-informant from federal prosecutors, who had issued a summons for his grand jury appearance.

In a final statement of defiance – and a pointed criticism of the FBI’s smuggling of a phone to the jailhouse informant – Baca told reporters outside court Friday, “I will never accept a cell phone in a county jail given to a career criminal. I don’t care who puts it in.”

The charges involved a host of illegal acts, including a 2011 incident in which two sheriff’s investigators confronted an FBI agent in the driveway leading to her apartment and falsely told her they were in the process of obtaining a warrant for her arrest. Baca denied having advance knowledge of the illicit attempt to intimidate the federal agent.

Prior to the first trial, Baca had pleaded guilty to the lying count, but subsequently backed out of a plea deal – 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 then indicted on the three felony counts for which he was subsequently convicted.

Prosecutors described the defendant as “a study in contrasts. He championed certain reforms in the criminal justice system, yet ignored warnings that his deputies were committing serious abuses in the Los Angeles County jails. He touted his close relationship with federal officials, yet was angry
that the federal government was investigating his department. He recited the LASD’s ‘Core Values’ – which emphasize honor and integrity – during the same interview in which he lied to the federal government.”

While physically fit and able to function in his daily life, prosecutors wrote, Baca now faces “an uncertain prognosis for how quickly his mild cognitive impairment will advance.”

In his argument for a non-custodial sentence, Hochman wrote that Baca’s condition would be best treated outside of prison.

Baca became sheriff in December 1998 and won re-election on several occasions. He was poised to run again in 2014, but federal indictments unsealed in December 2013, related to excessive force in the jails and obstruction of that investigation, led Baca to retire the following month.

In his request that Baca remain free pending appeal, Hochman argued that he is not likely to flee and poses no danger to the community.

The defense attorney further wrote that his appeal is justified because the court erred in barring jurors from hearing evidence of Baca’s “cooperation” with both the federal probe and an independent county review board, and that the panel should have heard about the ex-sheriff’s Alzheimer’s
diagnosis.

Hochman also claimed the jury should have been allowed to consider evidence of improvements Baca made in the training of jail guards to de-escalate problems and successfully deal with violent and/or mentally ill inmates. Baca was not charged with any instances of jail brutality.

Prosecutors Seek Two-Year Prison Term for Baca

April 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison term for ex-Sheriff Lee Baca for conspiring to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation into civil rights abuses and corruption within Los Angeles County jails, but the defense is asking for a sentence of home detention, court papers obtained Tuesday show.

Baca, 74, was convicted March 15 of obstruction of justice and two other federal charges for his role in the scheme to thwart the FBI probe into inmate mistreatment in the jails he ran and of lying to the bureau.

After about two days of deliberations, a criminal jury in downtown Los Angeles – the second to hear the case – found that Baca authorized and condoned a multi-part scheme that now has resulted in the conviction of 10 former members of the Sheriff’s Department.

During his two trials, prosecutors described Baca as being the top figure in the conspiracy, which also involved his right-hand man, Paul Tanaka, and eight deputies who took orders from the sheriff.

In helping derail the federal probe, Baca “abused the great power the citizens of Los Angeles County had given him,” while false statements made during a sworn interview with investigators was a “deliberate attempt to deflect blame and place it entirely on the shoulders of others within his department,” the prosecution wrote in pre-sentencing documents.

Normally, the government would recommend a prison sentence of three to four years for the convictions. But due to Baca’s age and cognitive condition, “the interests of justice will not be served by defendant spending many years behind bars in a severely impaired state,” the document states.

In its papers, the defense cited Baca’s decades of public service, diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer’s disease and “peripheral” role in the conspiracy to support a probationary term in home detention with community service.

Attorney Nathan Hochman asked the judge to consider “an individual with one of this country’s most exceptional public service careers spanning over almost 50 years, an individual who suffers from the incurable and rapidly progressing and debilitating mental health disease of Alzheimer’s, and an individual for whom prison will not allow him to obtain medical care in the most effective manner and will subject him to especially harsh treatment due to his medical condition as well to his age and former position as LASD Sheriff.”

Baca – who ran the nation’s largest sheriff’s department for more than 15 years – faces up to 20 years in federal prison when he is sentenced May 12 by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson.

The retired lawman was first tried in December on obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice counts, and prosecutors had planned a second trial on the false statements count. But a mistrial was declared after jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquitting the former sheriff, and Anderso combined all three counts in the retrial. Baca did not take the stand in either trial.

While physically fit and able to function in his daily life, prosecutors wrote, Baca now faces “an uncertain prognosis for how quickly his mild cognitive impairment will advance.”

In his argument for a non-custodial sentence, Hochman wrote that Baca’s condition would be best treated outside of prison.

Baca became sheriff in December 1998 and won re-election on several occasions. He was poised to run again in 2014, but federal indictments unsealed in December 2013, related to excessive force in the jails and obstruction of that investigation, led Baca to retire the following month.

 

Ex-Sheriff Baca Convicted in Federal Corruption Retrial

March 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was convicted Wednesday of three federal charges for orchestrating a scheme to thwart an FBI investigation into inmate mistreatment in the jails he ran and of lying to the bureau.

Jurors reached the verdict this afternoon, in their second full day of deliberations in Baca’s retrial. The eight-man, four-woman jury got the case Monday afternoon after hearing nine days of testimony involving more than a dozen witnesses.

Baca was convicted of all three counts with which he was charged — obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements to the FBI — and faces up to 20 years in federal prison, according to prosecutors.

The 74-year-old retired lawman was tried in December on the first two counts, and prosecutors had planned a second trial on the lying count. But a mistrial was declared after jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquitting the former sheriff, and the judge combined all three counts in the retrial, which
began Feb. 22 with jury selection.

Sheriff Baca @ Cops4Causes Press Conf.

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff, Lee Baca, faces up to 20 years in federal prison after being convicted, Wednesday. EGP Archive Photo.

The charges partly stemmed from a 2011 incident in which two sheriff’s investigators confronted an FBI agent in the driveway leading into her apartment and falsely told her they were in the process of obtaining a warrant for her arrest. Baca denied having advance knowledge of the illegal attempt to intimidate the agent.

Nine former sheriff’s officials, including Baca’s top deputy, Paul Tanaka, have been convicted in the case.

In his closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox used a chess analogy, calling Baca “a king” who used his subordinates as chess pieces in a tit-for-tat between the Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.

“The pawns and bishops go out to attack and do all the dirty work” Fox said, adding that Baca was now “trying to disown everything that happened.”

Nathan Hochman, Baca’s lawyer, countered that there was no chess game.

“This wasn’t even a checkers game,” he said.

Hochman repeatedly pinned blame for the obstruction on Tanaka, who has already been convicted and is serving five years in federal prison.

Hochman insisted Baca did nothing to subvert the probe, but he actually “wanted to join the federal investigation.”

However, a second prosecutor insisted Baca was not only guilty, but was especially culpable given his decades of experience in law enforcement.

“That experience is damning — not a positive — when you talk about committing these crimes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Liz Rhodes told the jury as she summed up the government’s case.

Rhodes walked the jury through a timeline of the prosecution’s case, saying Baca orchestrated a conspiracy to derail the FBI probe into mistreatment of inmates at jails managed by the sheriff’s department, then lied to federal investigators about his involvement.

Baca “ran this conspiracy the same way he ran this department,” Rhodes said, telling jurors the ex-sheriff appointed Tanaka to oversee the scheme.

At the same time, “the sheriff was having multiple briefings because he wanted to know every little thing that was going on,” the prosecutor said.

Baca ran the nation’s largest sheriff’s department for more than 15 years before he retired in 2014 amid allegations of widespread abuse of inmates’ civil rights.

The defense contends that the ex-sheriff is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and suffered some cognitive impairment as long as six years ago. However, the judge barred Hochman from presenting medical testimony during the retrial.

Ex Sheriff de Los Ángeles Condenado Por Corrupción Federal

March 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

El ex Sheriff del Condado de Los Ángeles, Lee Baca, fue declarado culpable el 15 de marzo por un cargo de obstrucción de la justicia y dos cargos federales por orquestar un plan para obstruir una investigación del FBI y por mentirle a la agencia.

Después de su segundo día completo de deliberaciones, el jurado compuesto por ocho hombres y cuatro mujeres, alcanzó un consenso el miércoles por la tarde. El grupo empezó su deliberación el lunes por la tarde después de haber escuchado por nueve días testimonios de docenas de testigos.

Al ser declarado culpable de los tres cargos – obstrucción a la justicia, conspiración para obstruir la justicia y por declaraciones falsas al FBI- Baca no mostró ninguna emoción.

El ex sheriff de 74 años se enfrentará hasta 20 años en una prisión federale, según los fiscales.

Un residente de 51 años de Los Ángeles, elegido para ser el encargado del jurado, le dijo a los periodistas que la evidencia mostró que Baca intentó “en varias ocasiones” bloquear la investigación del FBI y que era evidente que el sheriff “trataba para proteger su imperio”.

El encargado, quien prefirió quedar en el anonimato, añadió que el testimonio más convincente provino de la asistente del Sheriff , Cecil Rhambo, quien dijo haberle advertido a Baca en contra de obstruir los procedimientos del FBI.

baca

Baca, dirigió el departamento del sheriff más grande de la nación durante más de 15 años, y se retiró en 2014. Foto: Archivo de EGP News.

Baca fue juzgado en diciembre por los dos primeros cargos. Los fiscales habían planeado un segundo juicio exclusivamente para el conteo de mentira. Pero el primer juicio fue declarado nulo después de que los jurados bloquearon 11-1 a favor de su absorbición. El juez Anderson luego combinó los tres cargos en el nuevo caso actual que comenzó el 22 de febrero.

Los cargos provienen en parte de un incidente en 2011 en el que dos sheriffs investigadores se enfrentaron a una agente del FBI en la entrada de su apartamento y falsamente le dijeron que estaban en el proceso de obtener una orden de detención en su contra. Baca negó haber tenido algún conocimiento previo del intento ilegal de intimidar a la agente.

Durante su argumento final en el juicio, el abogado de Baca le dijo a los miembros del jurado que el acusado no había hecho nada para impedir la investigación y que realmente deseaba colaborar con el FBI .

Sin embargo, un fiscal insistió en que Baca no sólo era culpable, sino especialmente culpable, dado a sus años de experiencia en la aplicación de la ley.

“Esa experiencia es condenatoria – no es positiva – en referente a estos crímenes”, dijo la Fiscal Federal Auxiliar, Liz Rhodes.

Rhodes guió al jurado a través de una línea de tiempo del caso de enjuiciamiento, señalando que Baca orquestó una conspiración para descarrilar la investigación del FBI sobre el mal trato de los presos en las cárceles administradas por el departamento del sheriff. Además, dijo que Baca luego le mintió a los investigadores sobre su participación.

Baca “dirigió esta conspiración de la misma manera en que dirigió este departamento”, Rhodes dijo en su conclusión, añadiendo que el ex sheriff nombró a su superior diputado, el entonces-Suplente Paul Tanaka, para supervisar el esquema.

Al mismo tiempo, “el sheriff estaba teniendo múltiples sesiones informativas ya que quería mantenerse informado sobre los pequeños detalles que estaban sucediendo”, dijo la fiscal.

En su argumento final, Hochman repetidamente culpó a Tanaka, quien ya ha sido condenado y está sirviendo cinco años en una prisión federal, por la obstrucción.

Hochman insistió en que Baca, no obstruyó la investigación y que al contrario, él “quería unirse a la investigación federal”.

El abogado defensor dijo que Baca “no abusó de su poder sino que responsablemente utilizó su poder para investigar las cárceles”.

Rhodes disputó los argumentos de la defensa, pintando a Baca como el cerebro detrás de la conspiración e instándole al jurado a “mantenerlo al mismo nivel que todos los demás acusados detenidos por el delito”.

Sin embargo, Hochman respondió diciendo que “evidencia faltaba” para condenar a Baca.

La defensa afirmó que el ex sheriff se encuentra en las primeras etapas de la enfermedad Alzheimer y que comenzó a sufrir deterioro cognitivo hace seis años. Sin embargo, el juez le prohibió a Hochman presentar un testimonio médico durante el nuevo juicio.

Otras nueve personas, entre ellas Tanaka, han sido condenadas por cargos relacionados.

Caso de Corrupción Contra Ex Sheriff Se Intensifica Con Nuevas Evidencias

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Un agente del FBI testificó el 6 de marzo que un patrón de correos electrónico y llamadas telefónicas con el ex Sheriff de Los Ángeles, Lee Baca, en momentos claves demuestran que él mantuvo contacto con los subordinados que conspiraron para frustrar una investigación federal.

La ráfaga de contactos “muestran la implicación” de Baca y varios oficiales del sheriff que fueron condenados posteriormente por participar en la conspiración, dijo Leah Marx, la principal agente del FBI en el caso, a los jurados en el nuevo juicio contra Baca por cargos de corrupción federal.

La frecuencia de los mensajes y la forma en que corresponden las llamadas con importantes acontecimientos en un cronograma del caso demuestran que todos los caminos “dirigen a una sola persona”, dijo Marx, refiriéndose al acusado de 74 años de edad.

Bajo el interrogatorio de un fiscal del gobierno, Marx explicó el significado de las ayudas visuales destinadas a ilustrar una ráfaga de llamadas telefónicas de Baca inmediatamente antes o después de los acontecimientos significativos. Estos incluyen el descubrimiento de un teléfono celular de contrabando perteneciente al FBI en la cárcel, la llegada de una orden federal para un preso-convertido en informante, y la noticia de que un ex diputado confesó haber golpeado a los presos.

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)

El ex sheriff del Condado de Los Ángeles, Lee Baca, es acusado de conspirar para cometer y obstruir la justicia de agosto a septiembre de 2011. (Foto de Archivo de EGP).

El asistente del abogado de los Estados Unidos, Brandon Fox, también utilizó clips de una entrevista que Baca dio bajo juramento a los investigadores federales en abril de 2013 para reforzar los cargos contra el ex-sheriff.

En un momento, Baca dijo que “cuando todo esto surgió, el Capitán (Tom) Carey me llamaba y me decía” lo que estaba pasando. Sin embargo, los registros demuestran que el ex-subcomisario Paul Tanaka, quien fue condenado, parecía estar entregándole muchas de las actualizaciones, ya sea por teléfono o en reuniones a puerta cerrada, de acuerdo a Fox.

Se espera que cuando el abogado de Baca, Nathan Hochman, interrogue a Marx el próximo martes, él intente probar y demostrar que los registros de teléfono y correo electrónico ofrecen poca evidencia de la participación del entonces sheriff en la conspiración.

Fox dijo que él espera concluir su caso el martes después de que llame a dos testigos adicionales, seguido por el caso de defensa de Hochman.

Carey, quien está esperando sentencia por mentir bajo juramento en un caso relacionado, pasó varios días respondiendo preguntas sobre la supuesta participación de Baca en la conspiración. La semana pasada, Carey fue cuestionado sobre el encubrimiento de un informante que trabajaba para el FBI para exponer su supuesta brutalidad contra los detenidos en la cárcel de hombres en 2011.

Fox esperaba usar el testimonio de Carey para demostrar que Baca estaba en la cima de un esquema complejo para mantener encarcelado a Anthony Brown, un preso que podía darle evidencia a un gran jurado federal sobre el presunto uso de fuerza excesiva por guardias de la cárcel contra los detenidos.

Baca está siendo juzgado en el Centro de Los Ángeles por cargos de obstrucción a la justicia, conspiración para obstruir la justicia y hacer declaraciones falsas ante el FBI. El ex oficial, ahora retirado, fue juzgado en diciembre por los dos primeros cargos; los fiscales planeaban un segundo juicio para tratar los cargos de mentira. Pero el caso fue declarado nulo después de que los jurados bloquearan 11-1 a favor de la condonación del ex sheriff, y el juez del distrito Percy Anderson combinó los tres cargos en el nuevo juicio, que comenzó el 22 de febrero.

Los cargos provienen en parte de un incidente en 2011 en el que dos sheriffs investigadores se enfrentaron a Marx en el camino que conducía a su apartamento y falsamente le dijeron que estaban en el proceso de obtener una orden judicial para arrestarla. Baca niega tener conocimiento previo del intento ilegal de intimidar a la agente.

Carey testificó que oyó a Baca aconsejar a los diputados antes de que se dirigieran a enfrentar a la agente. La defensa dice que Tanaka, el agente superior de Baca, fue realmente el que dirigió la conspiración. Hochman sostiene que su cliente fue víctima del ex agente del sheriff ahora encarcelado y su agenda oculta para tomar represalias contra el FBI.

Tratar de bloquear al FBI “no estaba en la agenda del sheriff Baca”, le dijo el abogado defensor al jurado en su declaración de apertura. Al igual añadió que su cliente tenía una reputación de largo plazo de ser “abierto y directo” con el FBI, a quien consideraba “hermanos de armas”.

Carey y otros ocho ex diputados fueron condenados en el caso.

El segundo juicio contra Baca difiere del primero. Anderson le ha prohibido a Hochman de poner en evidencia las “buenas obras anteriores” relacionadas con Baca durante más de 15 años como líder del departamento del sheriff, declarando que tales pruebas no están en directa relación con los cargos por los que está siendo juzgado.

El juez también prohibió a Baca el usar una pequeña estrella de sheriff que llevaba en su solapa cada día de la primera prueba.

Anderson también negó una moción de la defensa para testimonio de que Baca ha estado sufriendo de la enfermedad de Alzheimer durante años. El juez calificó ese testimonio propuesto una “pérdida de tiempo”.

Los abogados de Baca sostienen que el ex-sheriff está en las primeras etapas de Alzheimer y empezó a sufrir algún deterioro cognitivo hace seis años.

Si es condenado por todos los cargos, Baca se enfrentaría a más de 20 años en prisión, según los fiscales.

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.

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