Ex-LA County Sheriff Lee Baca Convicted
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was found guilty March 15 on obstructing a federal investigation into corruption within county jails and lying to cover up the interference as reported by the Los Angeles Times. The verdict, that jurors reached on their second day of deliberations, leaves a tarnishing mark on Baca’s reputation in his 15 years as a sheriff that was seen as having progressive ideas on criminal justice issues.
The conviction was considered a victory for the prosecutors as they had to retry Baca since their late last year attempt ended in a mistrial. The prosecutors had worked up to get to Baca, who is accused of being the leader behind blocking the FBI’s investigation, by first starting with 10 deputies below Baca and his former second in command who have all pleaded or been found guilty for their part in the crime. There were also some deputies who were found guilty of violating the civil rights of inmates and visitors of the jail. Baca, now 74 and suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, can possibly face time in federal prison for his actions.
Part of Baca’s job was to oversee the jails, where there were allegations of inmates being beaten by deputies, it was even reported sometimes inmates were beaten when they had handcuffs on without any reason for it. The FBI started investigating the abuse claims, but their investigation was stopped in 2011 when it was discovered they had given a cellphone to informant in the jail by bribing a deputy. Prosecutors said this action angered Baca as he saw it as an attack on his territory and that his anger would fuel his efforts to to subvert the FBI’s investigation.
Other actions that prosecutors argued as proof that Baca had obstructed the FBI’s investigation included that the inmate that had been the FBI’s informant was moved to another jail under a different name and had his real name, Anthony Brown, erased from the jail computer systems. Prosecutors also accused Baca of having send deputies to an FBI agent’s house to attempt to intimidate her.
Federal officials considered the decision a success and that it showed that there was no one above the law. Despite the decision Baca was reported as showing no emotion when he found out the verdict and in an article by the Los Angeles Times it was reported on the courthouse steps after the verdict he said, “my mentality is always optimistic. I look forward to winning on appeal.”