Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was found guilty Wednesday of obstructing a federal investigation into allegations of abuse in the county jail system and then lying to investigators to cover up his interference.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the jury reached their verdict on the second day of deliberations, and Baca, who is 74 and suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, is facing the likelihood of time in federal prison.
As previously reported on The Root, in December, Baca’s first trial ended in a mistrial as jurors were split 11-1 in favor of an acquittal, so Wednesday’s conviction is a victory for the U.S. attorneys who decided to retry Baca.
The Times reports that Baca showed no emotion as the verdicts were read.
“I disagree with this verdict,” Baca told reporters afterward. “My mentality is always optimistic. I look forward to winning on appeal.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown said, “This verdict sends a clear message that no one is above the law. ... With a career in law enforcement, he knew right from wrong. And he made a decision that was to commit a crime ... and when the time came, he lied—he lied to cover up his tracks.”
From the Times:
To get to Baca, prosecutors methodically worked their way up the ranks of a group of sheriff’s officials who were accused of conceiving and carrying out a scheme to impede the FBI jail inquiry. In all, 10 people—from low-level deputies to Baca and his former second in command—have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Several other deputies have been found guilty of civil rights violations for beating inmates and a visitor in the jails.
Prosecutors argued that Baca was part of a conspiracy, hatched in the summer of 2011, to obstruct attempts by the FBI to investigate allegations of corruption and abuse by deputies in his jails.
Although Baca delegated day-to-day handling of the obstruction plot to his trusted undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, he helped direct it and was kept apprised of developments from his place at the top of the command chain, prosecutors led by Assistant U.S. Atty. Brandon Fox told jurors. The scheme, prosecutors argued, included efforts to keep FBI agents away from an inmate who had been working for them as an informant, manipulating potential witnesses in the federal inquiry and intimidating an FBI agent.
In his closing words to the jury before they began deliberations, Fox compared Baca to a cowardly chess king who remained safely back while dispatching pawns and other underlings to do his dirty work.
Because he is a nonviolent felon, Baca will remain free until his sentencing hearing. That hearing date will be set next week.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.