Former LA County sheriff sentenced to 3 years in prison

May 14, 2017

Lee Baca

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who was convicted of overseeing a scheme designed to obstruct a federal investigation into corruption and civil rights abuses at county jail facilities, was sentenced last week to 36 months in federal prison. Baca, 74, was also found guilty of lying to federal investigators.

United States District Judge Percy Anderson, who presided over a series of trials that led to the conviction of 10 former members of the sheriff’s department involved in the scheme to obstruct justice, said Baca “knew what he was doing was wrong, and he had no problem using his office to further his own agenda.”

Judge Anderson ordered Baca to begin serving his sentence by July 25. In addition to the prison term, the judge ordered Baca to pay a $7,500 fine.

“Blind obedience to a corrupt culture has serious consequences,” Judge Anderson said.

In March, a federal jury convicted Baca on three felony counts: conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and making false statement to federal investigators. The evidence presented at trial showed that Baca was the top figure in the conspiracy, which also involved his right-hand man and deputies who implemented orders from the sheriff.

“As Sheriff, Mr. Baca should have held himself accountable. He should have corrected the actions of others, rather than shift blame and obstruct a federal investigation,” said Deirdre Fike, the assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles field office. “I’m proud of the team of agents and prosecutors who persevered throughout this lengthy and challenging investigation, and grateful to the victims and witnesses who came forward.”

In August 2011, after LASD officials discovered a cell phone in an inmate’s cell at the Men’s Central Jail, linked the phone to the FBI’s Civil Rights Squad and learned that the inmate was an FBI informant. The cell phone had been smuggled into the jail by a corrupt deputy who took bribes.

The FBI had developed the informant as part of an investigation into the county jail system, which for years had been the subject of allegations of inmate abuse and subsequent cover-ups. The evidence presented at trial showed that the sheriff wanted to avoid federal scrutiny of his troubled jails.

As part of the scheme to obstruct justice, Baca ordered a criminal investigation of the FBI agents conducting the investigation, and he directed his underlings to conceal the informant from federal investigators. Over the course of approximately six weeks, members of the conspiracy then took a series of steps that successfully hid the informant from federal authorities, engaged in witness tampering in an effort to prevent information from being shared with federal authorities, and threatened to arrest the lead FBI agent on the case.

When Baca watched a recording of his deputies confronting the FBI agent, he reacted by stating “it was the best laugh he had in some time,” prosecutors noted in their sentencing memorandum filed with the court.

While Baca put his right-hand man, then-undersheriff Paul Tanaka, in charge of the scheme, Baca participated in dozens of meetings and phone calls with members of the conspiracy and directed his deputies to approach the FBI agent. Baca participated in the scheme after being warned by a top deputy that the actions would amount to obstruction of justice.

The case against Baca is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is one in a series of cases resulting from the investigation into county jail facilities in downtown Los Angeles that has resulted in 21 convictions.

Baca was the tenth member of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department convicted in the obstruction scheme. Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who was also found guilty by a federal jury, was sentenced last year to five years in federal prison. At today’s sentencing hearing, Judge Anderson said Baca would have received a sentence as long as Tanaka’s, except for his medical condition and the former sheriff’s lengthy history of public service.

Eleven other former deputies have been convicted of federal charges, mostly related to unprovoked beatings of inmates and subsequent cover-ups.

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Officer Tatro,

Using your real name on any internet sight such as CCN’s doesn’t take courage,nope! It takes bein’ somewhat of an idiot IMHO… Besides, giving my name out so someone with your career history and its resources can “run it” would be just idiotic.

For every LEO such as yourself there’s hundreds that are despicable as hell; breaking the laws they’re supposed to uphold and enforce and for fun, sport and amusement those types also make up their own (laws) as they see fit.

What?! Do you want extra credit for doing your job? I, and most others, expect you to turn in any criminal but especially those who have badges.

L.A.RamsFan, Enough.

Edit:”Because he’s a cop, right? ” No, Don’t know him, never met him.

Everyone, Enough personal attacks, enough around and around.

After all, it’s not like you guys will agree on anything and circular bitching/attacking about LA’s problems will not get solved here.

LARamsfan (afraid to use your real name) perhaps you should google my name to see how many times I called out police corruption in my own dept. Perhaps you should check on how I sued my own dept. for an illegal ticket quota, perhaps you should read the article I wrote on CCN about unlawful targeting of homeless. So yes I crossed the “thin blue line” because like Most cops we do the right thing even when it’s bad for our careers. Perhaps LARamsfan try knowing what you write about before you troll people with a fake name.

Samlouis fake name seems I hit your nerve with my accurate projections.

“Blind obedience to a corrupt culture has serious consequences,” Judge Anderson said.

IF ONLY. I’d sure like to see this taken to heart in SLO, that’s for sure. Hell, all of California, it seems.