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Sheriff Baca meets with feds over FBI jails investigation

September 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
An undercover sting by the FBI into the Los Angeles County jail system has uncovered alleged misconduct.

Sources close to the investigation say a sheriff's deputy took a bribe to smuggle a cellphone to an inmate. Eyewitness News talked exclusively with L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca after Baca's meeting with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Baca has confirmed that the feds are conducting undercover investigations into his jails but says those federal agencies, mainly the FBI, are breaking laws. So he spent an hour and a half talking with the U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte and the special agent in charge of the local FBI office, trying to iron out what has become a very testy relationship.

"The phone is the FBI's phone. There's no doubt about that. And the FBI is not denying it," said Baca. "The fact that the phone came in is against the law. I think that's something somebody else has to account for besides me."

The Los Angeles Times has reported that federal investigators are conducting undercover probes into allegations of guards beating inmates and committing other crimes.

Neither the U.S. Attorney's Office nor the FBI would talk with Eyewitness News about any jailhouse investigations, but Baca said he would welcome them, as long as they're conducted legally.

"There are certain rights that have to be maintained and certain laws that have to be obeyed, and deputies have rights as well. It's not as though we can just run roughshod with any investigation," said Baca.

While Baca may be upset with the way the feds are conducting their probes, he also tried to sound conciliatory, saying the sheriff's office will continue a close working relationship with federal agencies.

"We're on task forces regarding homeland security, regarding gangs, regarding counter-terrorism, and so we have a lot of work to do besides this," said Baca.

Baca says he is conducting his own investigation into the jail system and promises to release his findings once that investigation is complete.


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