Former Sheriff Leroy Baca likely to face trial; no new plea deal reached

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Eyewitness News has learned that former Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca and prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office have been unable to reach a new plea deal. (KABC)

Eyewitness News has learned that former Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca and prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office have been unable to reach a new plea deal on charges that Baca lied to federal investigators about his knowledge of a 2011 conspiracy to hide an inmate-turned-FBI informant and threaten an FBI agent.

After more than a week of negotiations, both sides reached an impasse Friday, according to Baca criminal defense attorney Michael Zweiback.

Baca is due back in federal court Monday morning. The 74-year-old former sheriff will have to decide by then if he'll withdraw his guilty plea and prepare for trial -- or agree to be sentenced by right then and there by Judge Percy Anderson.

If Baca decides to stand on his previous plea, Anderson will no longer be bound by the zero-to-six month deal and could sentence Baca up to the statutory maximum of five years in federal prison.

At a hearing on July 18, Anderson rejected the plea deal, calling it "too lenient" and stating that it did "not fairly measure this defendant's culpability."

In February, Baca agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of lying to the FBI about his knowledge of the scheme that became unofficially known as "Operation Pandora's Box."

Specifically, Baca admitted to lying to FBI agents and federal prosecutors in an April 2013 interview obtained by Eyewitness News.

In that interview, Baca falsely stated that he did not know LASD officials were going to approach FBI Agent Leah Marx and threaten her with arrest.

Baca admitted in his plea agreement that he was aware his deputies were going to contact the agent and that he told them to "do everything but put handcuffs" on her.

If Baca withdraws his plea, he is likely to face indictment, possibly on more serious charges than he's facing now. Baca, who led the Sheriff's Department for 15 years, recently disclosed that he is in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease.

Prosecutors have stated that Baca's illness factored into their earlier decision to not seek more than six months in prison. At a hearing on August 18, Zweiback characterized Baca's as "progressive and degenerative."

Nine other former LASD officials have either been convicted or pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme, including Baca's former second-in-command Paul Tanaka, who was sentenced to five years in federal prison last month.

You can read a transcript of the hearing on July 18 here.

Got a tip? Email ABC7 Investigative Producer Lisa.Bartley@abc.com
Related Topics:
newslee bacacrimecorruptionabc7 investigationslos angeles county sheriff's departmentLos Angeles
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