Former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca Found Guilty in Jail Corruption Case

A widespread corruption scandal that brought down numerous leaders of L.A. County’s Sheriff’s Department finally ensnared its former top cop Lee Baca Wednesday, with jurors finding him guilty of three felonies: obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and making false statements to federal investigators. The verdict is proof that no one is above the law, prosecutors said. It also means the 74-year-old ex-sheriff, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, will likely spend time in prison.

Prosecutors painted an ugly picture of collusion and manipulation inside the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department under Baca’s watch. In 2011, as the FBI was investigating allegations of corruption and abuse at L.A. County jails, Baca and his underlings devised a plan to throw investigators off their track. Baca was kept apprised of day-to-day obstruction tactics but kept himself at a distance, allowing others to handle the “dirty work.” Prosecutors compared him to a chess king, manipulating pawns to carry out his most shameful deeds. Ten members of the department have since been convicted or pleaded guilty as part of the conspiracy, including Baca’s former right hand man, Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

“We felt at times he was trying to protect his empire, if you will — what he worked so hard to attain,” said the jury’s foreman. “He rightfully got defensive.”

Baca remained stoic after jurors handed down their decision.

“I disagree with the verdict,” he told reporters outside the courthouse Wednesday. “My mentality is always optimistic. I look forward to winning on appeal.”

This was the second trial for Baca. Last year, a jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquittal. He now faces up to 20 years behind bars.

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