LOS ANGELES—After resigning in 2014, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was found guilty on Wednesday, March 15, in his retrial on corruption charges.
Baca has been charged with obstruction and lying to federal officials about the obstruction of a 2011 FBI investigation into guards who smuggled contraband into county jails and violently mistreated inmates.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lizabeth Rhodes said on Monday in closing arguments at the second trial, “when defendant Baca learned the FBI and a federal grand jury was investigating, he obstructed and when he learned the FBI has turned its focus on him, he lied.”
Baca’s defense attorney Nathan Hochman told jurors they heard “no evidence Sheriff Baca gave orders to obstruct the FBI.”
“I am a faith-based person. My mentality is always optimistic,” Baca said to reporters outside of the courthouse. “I look forward to winning on appeal.”
The 74-year-old, who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, was found guilty on all three charges. Jurors reached a verdict on their second full day of deliberations, which comprised of eight men and four women.
A plea deal with prosecutors called for a sentence no greater than 6 months, but was rejected by a judge who claimed that the deal was too lenient. Baca withdrew his guilty plea and prosecutors later added two additional charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Baca was tried in December 2016 on two counts of obstruction. Prosecutors planned a second trial on the lying count. A mistrial was declared as jurors deadlocked 11-1 in an acquittal. U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson combined all three counts in the retrial, which began on February 22, 2017.
The two-week trial included more than a dozen witnesses; most who were called on by the prosecution. Lee Baca could face up to 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not yet been determined.