Former L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca Guilty in Jail Scandal

Lee Baca (Alex Wong / Getty)
Alex Wong / Getty

On Wednesday, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca accepted a plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators.

Eileen Decker, U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, stated that the plea deal means Baca will not serve a prison sentence of more than six months, according to the Los Angeles Times. She added that Baca admitting guilt “demonstrates that the illegal behavior in the Sheriff’s Department went to the very top of this organization. More importantly, it illustrates that those who foster and then try to hide a corrupt culture will be held accountable.”

Baca had protested to federal authorities that he did not know that his underlings would visit an FBI investigator who was heading an investigation of Los Angeles jails. Baca had also claimed he did not know some of his subordinates had interceded when FBI agents interviewed an inmate working as a federal informant.

Both claims turned out to be false.

Michael Zweiback, Baca’s attorney, stated, “He definitely feels bad … He is ready for whatever outcome is deemed appropriate by the court … It’s time to put this behind him,” adding Baca “doesn’t want the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department to be under this cloud.”

Baca’s former right-hand man, Paul Tanaka, a Republican, will go on trial in March, accused of obstructing a federal investigation into brutality and corruption committed by sheriff’s deputies in the county jails.

The FBI investigation commenced in 2011 when the FBI used Anthony Brown, an inmate in the Men’s Central Jail, to glean evidence of abusive and corrupt deputies. Sheriff’s officials moved Brown to a different jail under a fake name. Baca had previously argued that Brown was moved to protect him from deputies.

KTLA reported that Baca lied in a 2013 interview regarding corruption and civil rights abuses at the Los Angeles County’s Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers Correctional Facility, according to Decker. She stated, “During this interview, Sheriff Baca lied. He lied when he stated that he did not know that members of the Sheriff’s Department had approached an FBI agent outside her home, and he lied when he stated he was unaware of efforts within the Sheriff’s Department to keep the FBI informant away from the FBI.”


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