Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was ordered by a federal judge to turn himself in on July 25 to begin serving a three-year prison term for his part in a plot to block an FBI probe into the county’s jail system.
“Your actions embarrass the thousands of men and women who put their lives on the line every day,” US District Judge Percy Anderson said to Baca. “They were a gross abuse of the trust the public placed in you.”
Baca, who is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, was found guilty in March in a second federal trial after prosecutors charged him with obstructing a 2011 FBI investigation and making a false statement to FBI agents.
The judge blocked testimony about his physical condition during his trials.
After serving his time, Baca must do a year under supervised release. According to the LA Times, his attorney has requested he be assigned to a camp in Oregon or in Taft, California.
During that investigation, deputies, working under Baca’s orders, hid an inmate serving as an informer by booking him under a false name and then lying to federal agents about his whereabouts. Deputies, also on Baca’s orders, threatened a female agent investigating the case.
Baca, 74, became a prominent national figure in law enforcement circles during his 15 years atop the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He resigned in 2014, shortly after the inmate abuse scandal exploded, which led to an ACLU investigation that grew into a county-appointed panel that included retired federal judges.
Twenty-one deputies were ultimately indicted for their part in the abuse. Undersheriff Paul Tanaka — Baca’s second in command — claimed that Baca led the efforts to cover up the investigation. Tanaka was later sentenced to five years in prison.
Former sheriff’s Deputy James Sexton — who served four months in prison for his part in the scandal — testified that he was just following Baca’s orders during efforts to hide an FBI informant who was given a cell phone while in jail.