An appeals court upheld the conviction of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca on Monday, clearing the way for the once powerful but now ailing law enforcement figure to spend three years in prison for obstructing justice and lying to federal authorities. Baca, 76, will seek a new hearing.
An appeals court upheld the conviction of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca on Monday, clearing the way for the once powerful but now ailing law enforcement figure to spend three years in prison for obstructing justice and lying to federal authorities, the Los Angeles Times reports. Baca, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, was convicted of helping to orchestrate a scheme to interfere with an FBI investigation into abuses in county jails and later lied to prosecutors about his role. Attorneys for Baca, 76, argued that the verdict was tainted by rulings U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson made during the trial and should be reversed. They focused on Anderson’s decision to bar the jury from hearing testimony about Baca’s illness and about a conversation he had with an aide about the FBI’s investigation. Either piece of information, the defense team said, could have helped sway the jury in Baca’s favor.
A three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected those claims, finding that the trial was fair and the conviction legally sound. “We disagree completely with the skimpy analysis and erroneous conclusions” reached by the court, said Baca attorney Nathan Hochman. Baca is expected to remain out of prison at least until the appeals court decides whether to grant him a second hearing. During his 14 years heading one of the nation’s largest police agencies, Baca established himself as a prominent, if eccentric, voice in law enforcement who pushed progressive ideals on policing, but struggled to put thoughts into action and failed to keep many of the department’s deep-seated problems from worsening on his watch.