The Retrial of Lee Baca The Trial of Lee Baca

Former Sheriff Lee Baca Sentenced to 36 Months in Federal Prison

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

Leroy Baca is sentenced.

“Alzheimer’s disease is not a get out of jail card,” said U.S. District Court Justice Percy Anderson shortly before he announced he had chosen to sentence former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to 36 months in federal prison, with a year of supervised release.

If not for Baca’s “cognitive impairment,” said Anderson, and if not for his career in public service, “you would have received the same sentence as Mr. Tanaka.”

Baca was “at least as culpable as Tanaka,” Anderson continued. “His actions” would not have occurred “without you.”

Baca knew what he was doing, and had no problem using his power in the obstructive way he did, said the judge.

“A custodial sentence”—meaning prison—“is an important step in restoring the public’s confidence in our criminal justice system.”

Such a sentence, according to the judge, was also a “necessary deterrent to our public officials, to law enforcement and to the public.”

And so it was that Judge Anderson told the former sheriff, elected five times by large margins, that he would be going to prison for three years.

Baca reacts to the sentence

After the news of the 36 months was pronounced, at the defense table, the former sheriff looked physically sick for the first 90 seconds or so, but whatever was going on internally, on the surface, he appeared to recover his emotional balance quickly.

Baca is to surrender to the U.S. Marshals on July 25.

Baca’s attorney, Nathan Hochman, filed a request for Baca to be out on bail pending his appeal to the 9th Circuit. Anderson denied the request Friday morning before the sentencing hearing began, but he did so on technical grounds, and told Hochman he could resubmit the request.

The sentence was for the convictions in mid-March of this year for obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and lying to federal officials. It was the second time Baca was tried for the obstruction charges. In December of last year, his first trial resulted in a hung jury with eleven jurors voting to acquit.

In trial two, however, the eight-man four-woman jury sent a note to Judge Anderson after deliberating for approximately fourteen hours.

The jury foreperson told reporters after the verdict that although he and fellow jurors were convinced that Baca had committed crimes, they didn’t find the former sheriff unsympathetic personally. “We felt he was trying to protect his empire,” the foreperson said of Baca’s motives, “the one he worked so hard to attain.”

On the other hand, he said the panel was clear on what they perceived as Baca’s responsibility for the illegal actions of those under his command. “The leader runs the ship. He made the choice to be there.”

For sentencing day, as usual the former sheriff was dressed impeccably. He wore a highly-tailored blue suit, the color of dark denim, a white shirt, and a blue and gold striped tie with a silk handkerchief carefully arranged in his left breast pocket.

Both of Baca’s parents struggled with impoverished circumstances, but according to the former sheriff, his father always somehow managed to be a snappy dresser, and his son too came to find pleasure in nice clothing.

On Friday, as was usual, he fastened a small decorative pin to his left lapel. The judge had forbidden Baca to wear his small sheriff’s star at the last trial. So Friday he wore his Marine Corps pin to the hearing where he would find out whether or not he was going to prison. He was in the Marine reserves as a younger man, and he really liked the pin, with its tiny Marine Corp flag crossed with an equally tiny Old Glory.

“But I’m putting the star on as soon as I get downstairs,” Baca said after the sentencing.

Really? I blurted.

“Hell, yeah!” said Lee Baca.

And so he did.

More shortly.

26 Comments

  • My sincerest gratitude to the AUSA, to members of the LA FBI field office, and to Judge Anderson, for most (not all) of their work on the legion of cases concerning Baca and Tanaka, et al. Ordinarily federalism in law enforcement is an important principle to support. When local law enforcement corruption at the highest levels of the organization is given free reign – in some cases, even sanctioned – by people across other county and state institutions, then obviously members of federal law enforcement must help set things right.

    But there are at least two kinds of corruption, and federal law enforcement cannot spare its scarce resources to help the LASD with the second kind. The second kind of corruption working throughout the LASD for the last several years in some ways is more insidious than the blatant, out in the open self-dealing, profane, knuckle-dragging, gun-upping, moral pandering, pay-to-play corruption under the Baca regime. The Baca regime was an imperious gun-slinging crowd. That’s a very bad form of corruption, but immediately correctable. The McDonnell regime is, in my view, much more dangerous to the long-term health of LASD as an organization. The tentacles of Baca’s cancer could have been quickly removed through skilled surgery (e.g., as LATBG had advocated). The truth commission could have been part of that operation, a particular kind of administrative investigation as I advocated could have achieved that surgery. Were that to have happened, the LASD right now would likely be on the upswing as a law enforcement organization, an exciting, pace-setting sheriff agency realizing its best traditions and moving forward in a new age. (LAPD, for all of their issues over the decades, had surgery forced upon them and they lost some important parts of their identity, some they didn’t want to lose, and arguably gained some others, some they didn’t want to gain.)

    What McDonnell had done coming in, basically, is lull the organization to sleep; almost putting into a coma, anesthetizing it. From the outside, to people who don’t know what to look for, it looks like he is doing a fair job. But coming in he chose to reject most of what was known about the patient, the LASD as an organization, including the kind of cancer (certain personnel), and where that cancer had metastasized. It is as if McDonnell is running his own experiment on the LASD, intentionally keeping it sickly, unhealthy, lacking vigor. If Wambaugh were writing another novel, McDonnell would be LAPD’s man inside the LASD to keep it low and in check (no offense to Beck’s people). We all know what he hasn’t done, and what has instead been a keen object of his attention: snaps, buckles, Ike jackets, uniformity. Well, a lot of digital ink can be used to analyze ol’ Bright Eyes (or Fresh Eyes) and the allegedly fresh approach. But the important thing to bear in mind is that he believes his own legitimacy as a leader – a slow, plodding, risk-hesitant manager – is wrapped up in his ‘kings-X’ decree that the patient has no more cancer—the Fed’s did their surgery. As far as he is concerned, there is no cancer above Lt. level. Its mostly deputies and sergeants. Talk to some of the Long Beach guys who worked with him there, particularly after a couple of beers, and they observed the same.

    I welcome LATBG’s announcement that there’ll soon be a candidate to challenge Mr. McDonnell for LA County Sheriff. I will be volunteering. McDonnell is beatable.

  • Hey Claus, you gonna drop your Daddy Baca a roll of quarters. You were part of this madness and didn’t even get touched. SMH

  • Baca, Tanaka, La Berge, Johnson, they are all corrupt. Whether it’s playing, “hide the inmate” or “sweep the investigation under the rug so we can promote our guy”. Fresh eyes should OPEN his eyes. Nothing has changed except the brass belt buckles and the worker bees know it……

  • @ Briz, The most important part of LAPD’s past identity (to themselves) was painting minorities with a broad brush as they saw fit. Failure to respond to the 1992 Flash Point was the beginning of the end. LAPD’S identity only changed with reforms and demographics which had no choice but to absorb the change of dynamics in The City of Angels. Finally.

  • Maybe Baca can wear a star on the chest of his orange jump suit. He can hold EPC meetings with the other jail birds and lecture them on living to be a hundred, the decriminalization of incest, and all those cool trendy progressive ideas that liberals just can’t seem to get enough of. Heck Baca won’t even realize he’s in prison, he’s still the worlds sheriff! I almost feel sorry for the other inmates. P.S. anyone else think Ms. Baca doesn’t really look all that despondent about this whole thing? To me, she always has that “well, whatta gonna do?” look on her face, while lee’s lower lip is dragging on the ground.

    • Don’t be an ass and leave his wife out of it, Maj. Kong. Her only position has been to stand at his side. The major criminal in this BS case were the FBI, DOJ, and Judge Anderson who was the ring leader in this circus. All the trash talkers who didn’t get their lips firmly attached to Baca or his surrogates backsides are the ones most proud of this day. We have 20 plus Deputies in jail behind this case, a case that could have been settle very easily with the proper approach. Regardless, no one deserved to go to prison. Anyone who says they did is an a-hole. U whine like mules when your conduct as a deputy is questioned by anyone yet applaud an over zealous, cop hating federal administration, who would love to see u all dead by street animals or in jail on trumped up charges. You make me want to puke. Punks.

  • ALADS…..Slow your horses with your press release on Baca. ALADS played a major role while cherry picking of which deputies would get legal representation. Two of your current board members backed Ex ALADS Pres. Floyd Hayhurst, who in turn was backing Tanaka. It is best that ALADS shut up on this one. ALADS along with others got away easy.

  • Whoa big John. I’m no fan of the Feds. The fact that they have unlimited power to railroad anyone they want whenever they want is most disturbing. The lower level guys have my sympathy ( whatever that’s worth) . However, the bums at the top who ought to know better, well that’s a different story. That includes Ms. Baca

  • Mr Stites, if that is really you. Wow. Just wow. At any time during Pandora’s Box any deputy with a working moral and ethical compass could have stepped up and said “hey, this is kind of a bad idea.” Like driving to confront an off-duty FBI Agent at her own house. A serious violation of the playground rules. Seriously? How do you defend something like that? As an exemplary deputy, you can’t. But an exemplary deputy would never put themselves in that position. As a Tanaka sycophant, it’s easy. You sell your soul at the door for that choice spot or next promotion. Baca, Little T, and the others got off light in my book. Our swamp needs drained but McBuckles and institutional racism (BPOA anyone?) will do nothing for that. So very sad for the dept and the hard working line people being second-guessed by an amateur hack “Constitutional Policing Advisor” and overworked beyond all labor standards (truckers and pilots have rest requirements) with forced overtime yet still held to the impossible perfect standard. Somehow, they still get the job done with less. With honor. With courage. Bless our deputies who wear the untarnished star.

    • You can’t cry institutional racism when you see a promotion by someone with ties to BPOA. You need facts, not ill feelings. If anything, those few promotions to Blacks would be institutional tokenism. If you know anything about BPOA, you would know that it is basically a social club.

      • 10-22, social club my ass. Perhaps it was at some point, but it became the focal point of networking between black executives and candidates for promotion to sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. It was the place were “supplemental study material,” in the words of Chief Williams and his commander, were passed on to members only, and it turns out it was compromised testing material. Yes, there is a reason certain people couldn’t pass a written exam to save their life and turned around and aced it the next time. There is also a reason test scores were altered and people were elevated from band 4 to band 2 and promoted, and not because of their compelling appeal.

        The BPOA is what greased the skids for Johnson to become a chief’s aide in a division he didn’t even work, over all the sergeants in the division that actually knew their job. It was the same BPOA that greased the skids for that lieutenant to become chief aide again for another black executive (shocking, I know), who then decided not to investigate his pursuit that apparently wasn’t that big of a deal. The Times got ahold of it, and it became front page fodder.

        Unfortunately, the BPOA is another sad chapter in the nepotism, tokenism, and corruption of the Baca, Scott, and now McDonnell regimes.

        • Naturally the facts that you point out are valid, but the “supplemental study material” was not limited (nor did they begin with) to those associated with BPOA. Not defending BPOA but corruption in promotional testing within LASD is nothing new. The names are legion.

  • Maybe baca won’t even know he is in prison. Just tell him he is staying on campus at USC. He won’t know the difference

  • Hey Stites, you were president of a very powerful union?!?! And you did what exactly to help out this train wreck be fore it happened ?? Nothing!!!

    Now you’re the typical retired Blow Hard who’s only change on here is using your real name.

    Call Claus and get a beer. You can both tell each other what “punks” the current LASD workers are. It’s obvious you both didn’t plan your post retirement activities well since you both have so much time to blog. You’re Fucking pathetic!!

  • Look here Stites – If that really is you – your comments perfectly exemplify what was wrong with the “leadership” of the LASD and why it spiraled into the abyss, in absolute corruption. What did you ever do to combat this??? Oh, right…you went along to get along.

  • Thank you Mr. Brown for having the courage to help the FBI do the undercover investigation. Thank you FBI and Judge Anderson for your professionalism in handling this difficult case.

  • Curious as to how many responders on this thread actually spoke up or called out any the “usual suspects” when all of this BS was going on?

    How many of you said “NO” to any of those who were convicted or even those who were guilty but got away.

  • There is an individual on the LASD Past/Present Facebook who is banging the bongo drums of sympathy for Baca, Tanaka (perhaps his hero), and the others who are now in Federal prison behind Pandora’s Box while demonizing the FBI. First it started out as just an opinion, his to make, but now it is a full press against anyone who disagrees with him. He is playing the “Shame on you” for celebrating the last bowing pin to fall, Baca. Maybe if this guy was not rolling cigars for little paul and slapping him on the back telling the little man what a great guy he was and looked around to see how LASD was being led by an unethical tyrant, he wouldn’t be playing those bongos. I don’t feel sorry for any of those clowns, they went into this operation with their eyes wide open, expecting personal rewards. I feel sorry for a once great organization that was corrupted and disgraced by Baca, Tanaka and all the coin holders and cigar rollers. Pedal you crap elsewhere, many of us have had a bag full already but now we are dancing in the streets.

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