Written by The Business Journal Staff
(AP) — Once the top lawman in Los Angeles County, former Sheriff Lee Baca could be sentenced Monday to prison time for his role in a corruption scandal that ensnared nearly two dozen members of his staff.
Baca signed a plea agreement in February that said he ordered deputies to intimidate an FBI agent investigating his department and “do everything but put handcuffs on her.”
Baca later lied to federal prosecutors and the FBI, saying he wasn’t privy to discussions about trying to derail the investigation into beatings by guards at the jail.
Baca led the nation’s largest sheriff’s department for 15 years. Popular and media-savvy, he suddenly announced his retirement as his department came under increasing scrutiny in 2014.
His sentencing for lying to federal authorities will bring an end to the investigation of the county jail system that Baca supervised. The probe uncovered inmate beatings and led to charges of obstruction of justice, bribery and conspiracy against personnel.
Baca could face up to six months in prison — far less than the five years his second-in-command was given last month.
Baca’s attorney is arguing that any time behind bars is too much for the 74-year-old, who has early stage Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s wrong to incarcerate someone in this condition at any stage,” attorney Mike Zweiback said last month. “What he does now in terms of taking care of his health is extremely critical in terms of the future progression of this disease.”
Prosecutors are asking for the maximum sentence, saying his “lies show that corruption went all the way to the top of the sheriff’s department,” and that instead of acting as a leader when his subordinates were being indicted, he distanced himself from them.
Regarding his Alzheimer’s disease, prosecutors argued in court documents that it didn’t have any effect on his decision to lie to the government. His diagnosis was revealed less than a month before the sentencing.
Baca used his platform as sheriff to travel the world touting progressive policing policies.
He consistently dodged questions about any connection to the corruption, even as other former underlings pleaded guilty or were convicted.
Twenty-one members of the Sheriff’s Department have been convicted of federal crimes stemming from a grand jury investigation that began in 2010 amid allegations of abuse and corruption at the downtown Men’s Central Jail.