Prosecutors plan to retry ex-Sheriff Lee Baca on corruption charges

and ABC7.com staff
Tuesday, January 10, 2017 05:56PM
Prosecutors announced they plan to retry former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca on corruption charges after his trial ended in a mistrial.


LOS ANGELES - Federal prosecutors announced on Tuesday they plan to retry former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca on corruption charges after his trial ended in a mistrial.

On Dec. 22, a jury deadlocked on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice against Baca. Jurors said the panel was split 11-1 in favor of acquittal.

"We look forward to the same type of result because we don't believe the government will meet its burden of proof in the upcoming trial," Baca's lawyer Nathan Hochman said on Tuesday.

If convicted on the three counts he was charged with, Baca could have faced up to a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.

MORE: Baca juror explains mistrial deliberations

The charges stem from an FBI investigation into the Los Angeles County jails.

Baca had initially agreed earlier in 2016 to plead guilty to one felony count of lying to the FBI about his knowledge that sheriff's officials approached and threatened to arrest an FBI agent in 2013.

He later withdrew the plea when the judge found the maximum six-month sentence to be too lenient.

MORE: FBI informant in Baca trial has "no regrets"

Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said he wants opening statements to be given on Feb. 21, but a date was not immediately set for the start of jury selection.

Anderson also said the re-trial would be on all three charges against Baca -- the obstruction and conspiracy counts, along with a charge of making false statements to federal investigators.

The false statements charge was not included in the first trial, with Anderson ruling previously that Baca would be tried separately on that count.

Former federal prosecutor and jail watchdog, Miriam Krinsky said merging the cases is a two-edged sword.

"The minute you let that count in you allow in a lot of sympathetic evidence around Lee Baca's Alzheimer's condition," Krinsky explained.

Prosecutors said they want Baca to remove his lapel pin during the new trial as they believe the sheriff's star may telegraph a message they don't want.

"We don't want a cloak of sympathy, of likability, of credibility to be spread over him," Krinsky stated.

Nine of Baca's subordinates have already been sentenced. Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka is scheduled to surrender next week.

Former deputy James Sexton, who testified against Baca, may be out of prison before Baca's second. Prosecutor Brandon Fox told the judge on Thursday he would file what's known as a "Rule 35" motion based on Sexton's cooperation in the case against Baca.

Anderson has the final say, but Sexton could be eligible for immediate release from custody.

Fox noted that although Sexton was supposed to serve his time at a minimum-security federal prison camp, he's instead been in solitary - a "secure housing unit" - because of his testimony against Baca. Anderson indicated he'd rule on that motion this week.
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