LA County ex-Sheriff Lee Baca reports to prison for corruption
Written by Craig Richardson on February 6, 2020
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca reported to prison to begin serving his three-year sentence for corruption, according to federal records.
Baca was sentenced to three years in prison for disrupting an FBI probe that was investigating abuses at the jails he oversaw. He was convicted of obstructing justice, lying to federal authorities and conspiring to obstruct justice.
Baca, 77, who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, had been free on bail since appealing his conviction three years ago. Last month, the Supreme Court declined his final appeal and Baca was ordered to begin serving his term.
Baca was behind bars at the Federal Correctional Institution La Tuna, near El Paso, Texas, according to a federal Bureau of Prisons online database.
Baca originally guarded inmates before running the nation’s largest jail system and biggest sheriff’s department. He resigned in 2014 amid the scandal.
U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson said in 2017 he would have sentenced Baca to five years in prison if it were not for his years of service and the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Agents had been secretly looking into allegations of bribery and inmate beatings by jail guards in 2011, when Baca and his top lieutenants learned that an inmate was acting as an FBI informant.
Baca and his lieutenants attempted to carry out an elaborate scheme to hide the informant in the jail system by booking him under false names and moving him to different locations, according to the conviction. They also tried to intimidate an FBI agent by threatening to arrest her.
Twenty members of the department have been convicted for their involvement in the crimes, including Baca’s chief deputy Paul Tanaka, who was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.
Baca’s lawyers filed a new motion to vacate the conviction on Wednesday.
Defense attorney Nathan Hochman urged the judge in 2017 to spare Baca of any prison time because his Alzheimer’s disease will get worse over time and he would not receive the proper medical care needed in jail, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Hochman also argued that Baca’s more than 48-year law enforcement career shouldn’t be tainted by the former sheriff’s misdeeds over a six-week period in 2011 and four false answers to 400 questions during a voluntary interview with authorities in 2013.
When he was a sheriff, Baca traveled around the world often to speak about his approach to law enforcement. He denied any involvement in the scandal but admitted he had fallen out of touch with what was going on in his department.
Baca’s reputation as a respected law enforcement official who promoted progressive ideas such as education and rehabilitation was tarnished from the crimes.