Corruption lies and scandal is no stranger to the L.A.P.D. Retired Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca will plead guilty in a downtown courtroom Wednesday to making false statements, marking a dramatic turn in the ongoing federal investigation into corruption in the Sheriff’s Department.
According to a charging document filed by federal prosecutors on Wednesday morning, Baca lied twice about his involvement in hiding an inmate from FBI agents who were investigating brutality and corruption by sheriff’s deputies in the county jails.
Baca also lied when he said he was unaware that his subordinates planned to approach an FBI special agent at her home, the document said.
Baca’s attorney, Michael Zweibeck, said his client has agreed to plead guilty to a single count as part of a deal with prosecutors under which he will spend no more than six months in prison and possibly no time at all.
The U.S. attorney’s office has agreed not pursue other charges against the former sheriff, and a federal judge must sign off on the deal, Zweibeck said.
Baca appeared in court Wednesday morning for an arraignment on the felony charge. Wearing a brown suit with a sheriff’s star on the lapel, Baca said little at the hearing other than to answer questions from the judge.
“You know what the government is claiming you did in this case?” U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Walsh asked.
“Yes,” Baca responded.
After the hearing, Baca referred media queries to his attorney.
“He definitely feels bad,” Zweibeck said about his client. Asked what Baca specifically feels badly about, the attorney said: “He feels bad about a lot of things.”
Zweibeck said that federal sentencing guidelines specify up to six months in prison for making a false statement, but that Baca could also be sentenced to probation and not serve any time behind bars.
“He is ready for whatever outcome is deemed appropriate by the court,” Zweibeck said.
Zweibeck said negotiations with prosecutors began in earnest five days ago, when it became clear that they were prepared to charge Baca.
“It’s time to put this behind him,” Zweibeck said. Baca “doesn’t want the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department to be under this cloud.”
Baca is expected to appear in another courtroom Wednesday afternoon to enter his plea.
Baca, who ran the department for more than 15 years, retired in 2014 amid an FBI probe into misconduct and abuse by deputies in the county’s jail system. So far, more than a dozen former sheriff’s officials have been convicted as a result of the wide-ranging investigation, which began more than five years ago.
No surprise here since the L.A.P.D. has a very long history of corruption and scandal which usually gets swept under the rug. As usual they get a slap on the wrist, and go back to there merry lives to enjoy their hefty pensions. Justice is rarely properly served when law enforcement is involved.
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