Sheriff Lee Baca The Trial of Lee Baca

No New Plea Deal Reached, Baca Almost Certain to Be Indicted and Go to Trial

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon


After two weeks of negotiation, reportedly no new plea deal has been reached between attorneys
for former sheriff Lee Baca, and government prosecutors.

This means, according to sources, that barring some legal miracle, in the near future the four-term former leader of the nation’s third largest law enforcement agency will face an indictment for charges that go beyond the one count of lying to federal officials that was the basis of Baca’s original plea deal.

Specifically, if indeed Baca’s plea deal vanishes,—as is expected to happen on Monday morning, August 1, in the courtroom of Federal district Court Judge Percy Anderson—the government is expected to indict Baca soon for obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, along with the single count of lying to the feds, that was the basis for Baca’s original deal.

Then some time next year or so, Baca will go to trial.

For those coming late to this drama: in February of this year, the former sheriff pleaded guilty to one count of lying to federal officials having to do with an FBI investigation into corruption and brutality by deputies inside the sheriff’s department-run LA County jail system—an investigation that, according to the government, Baca, his former undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, and others attempted to thwart.

Specifically, Baca admitted that he lied to the FBI and members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office during a round of questioning on April 12, 2013. At that time, among other denials by Baca, the former sheriff falsely claimed ignorance of the fact that, in 2011, two LASD sergeants were going to approach FBI special agent, Leah Marx, and threaten her with arrest, hoping to get information about the feds’ rapidly expanding investigation.

Once Baca pleaded guilty to the single felony count in February, all that remained was for the former sheriff to be sentenced by Judge Anderson, which was supposed to occur just under two weeks ago, on July 18th. There were, however two wild cards that affected the sentencing end of the deal.

One wild card was Baca’s newly disclosed diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer’s disease (a story that WLA broke in late May).

The other wild card was the fact that the plea deal agreed to by Baca was a special kind of legal arrangement in which the sentencing range was agreed to upfront, rather than leaving it to the whim of a judge, post deal. In Baca’s case, the sentencing range approved by both the defense and the prosecution was 0 to 6 months in a federal prison.

The prosecutors pushed for the upper end, meaning a six-month sentence.

At the same time, the defense tried to persuade Judge anderson that no prison time and probation only was the way to go given Baca’s past accomplishments, and his present declining health.

But Judge Anderson chose door number three and elected not to accept either the prosecutors’ suggestion or that of the defense. Instead a grim-faced Anderson said he was rejecting the plea deal altogether, and giving Baca a chance to withdraw his plea, and go back, legally speaking, to square one.

A six-month sentence for Lee Baca, said Anderson, “would trivialize the seriousness of his offenses, his lack of respect for the law and the gross abuse of the public trust….”

Anderson gave Baca and his team of attorneys, led by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Zweiback, until Monday, August 1, to decide what the once-powerful former sheriff wanted to do now that the judge had dynamited the plea deal.

His options were as follows: He could elect to accept whatever sentence the judge decided to impose, which could be as high as five years. Or, together with the prosecutors—Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brandon Fox, Lizabeth Rhodes and Eddie Jauregui—Baca and company could present a mutually-agreed-upon alternate deal that might be more to the judge’s liking.

Or Baca could simply withdraw his original plea, thus almost certainly triggering an indictment and a lengthy federal trial sometime next year.

It appears—barring the aforementioned miracle—everyone, however reluctantly, is about to go for option three.

More soon.


PHOTO NOTE: The above photo of the former sheriff was taken at the swearing in of Sheriff Jim McDonnell.

14 Comments

  • I am confused, Sheriff Baca is being investigated, by the FBI, and prosecuted by the US Attorney for hiding a criminal and lying to the FBI. The same FBI and US attorney investigated Hillary Clinton from hiding in her basement classified information. Later she allegedly destroyed the evidence, which Russia allegedly now has. Yet, they said she is innocent because she was not sophisticated enough to understand the word classified. Something does not up here…They want to put Baca in Federal prison, and Hillary in the White House… just wondering why…

  • Because Baca is not a Clinton, but he carries himself like one. Yet, he doesnt have the political weight or savvy his thought he once did.

    See you in court Leroy. I also heard he recently got a letter taking a precious award from him as well.

  • We’re going to see just how much of a rational decision-maker Dr. Baca is on Monday.

    He got a “Sweetheart Deal” from the U.S. Attorney on two different grounds: 1) His prison term was limited to five years. and, 2) He was only charged with Making a False Statement. He was not charged with Obstruction of Justice and Conspiracy.

    The deal is completely “Off” as the news reports have suggested. Judge Anderson only took away the first part of the “Sweetheart Deal” by refusing to accept the bargain. The judge is powerless to overturn the second part of the “Sweetheart Deal.” He cannot add charges not contained in an indictment or information.

    His maximum penalty on Monday is five years if he keeps his guilty plea. If he revokes it, as is his prerogative, then his maximum penalty goes much higher depending on the new charges, but certainly not less than five years.

    He’s had the opportunity to see each trial strategy offered by his subordinates, and he’s seen them all fail. He’s also got some very strong witness against him in Paul Tanaka and Tom Carey. He just doesn’t have a “Hole Card” to fall back on. His Alzheimer’s diagnosis isn’t going to help him with criminal liability, the conduct all preceded the disease. It may help him with the sentence, but no more than if he keeps his plea to the present charge.

    Dr. Baca has always been the antithesis of a rational decision-maker. There just isn’t anything to be gained by going to trial.

  • A brief story to break up dead air, and possibly make my pal Rosedog grin:

    Last weekend I went into my usual place for a haircut, Amaysin Hair, and there was a sign on the door that said ‘closed due to emergency. Sorry!’

    So I went rambling up Hwy 50 and wandered into a hair chain salon called Team Clips.

    The lady who cut my hair was about my age, and commented on my yellowing hair.

    She sold me on a product called So Silver.

    Damnit, I’m already fighting off women left and right, it will be so much more difficult when I become a silver fox…

  • If Leroy Baca goes on trial, can somebody ask him about the theft/Burglary of Internal Affairs Files ? Can we find out if he knows anything …
    Interested parties want to know.

  • 6: That has been my main contention all along. Why did the AUSAG make this deal and get nothing in return? We have all made deals over a career with crooks.Unless the AG doesn’t have a strong case? But, the AG does have a strong case. Maybe Comey can come in and say that Baca was just “Careless” and “Reckless” Baca is not a Clinton and never will be. But, Baca certainly acted like one.

    If Baca does go to trial will Stonich and Waldie testify?

  • 8: Not that’s not true! She admitted that on an interview yesterday with Chris Wallace. And FBI director Comey said the same to congress. Get the crook right! Add, that FBI is now has under investigation again for lying to congress! Just the facts mam!

  • #8, Mary Haven, perhaps you are the one in need of reading comprehension…….From Politico:

    To Clinton’s assertion that she never sent or received information marked classified on her private email, Comey pointed to the investigation’s findings to the contrary.

    “That’s not true. There were a small number of portion markings on I think three of the documents,” Comey said. (The State Department on Wednesday said that two of those documents were inadvertently marked.)

    On Clinton’s statement that she did not email classified material to anyone, Comey responded, “There was classified email.”

  • 9 and 10, I’m all for throwing the book at Hillary but you will have to show the same level of outrage over Bush Jr.’s 5 million deleted emails, and the 88 private email accounts his administration used with RNC servers. That would include the private email accounts of Rice and Powell during the run up to the Iraq War. Now you tell me, do you think they contained classified stuff?

    Is this selective outrage?

  • LATBG, Pointing to past bad behavior, does not exonerate a person CURRENTLY running for POTUS. Not only should she be held to account, but should be prosecuted! She has NO business running for public office. She could never pass a security clearance background check, given the circumstances. Did you see her on the Sunday shows?? Talk about brass balls!! She told out right lies about what Comey said about her, and her “inconsistencies” (LIES).

  • LATBG, I for one admire your consistency and appreciate the unwavering pendulum, contrarian critic you are. I mean this in the best spirit. Recall when I was fending off those pesky social justice warriors (from the Obama-Alinsky playbook) a few weeks back, you gave me a timely smack in bringing up Trump and his foibles. It was a fair criticism, because few can be more insufferable than an ideological hypocrite. But let’s point out that Adam Smith created the division of labor for a reason. If the arguments and evidence produced here in this discussion thread (or any thread) sustains the view that Clinton is “crooked” or corrupt, as you believe she may be, then can’t those arguments and associated evidence be referred to on their own merits without having to do the Bill O’Reilly bit – “to be fair we should point out that GW Bush (or Rice, Powell) also did x, y, and z”?

    Why can’t there be a division of labor, where a few fellas and gals work up a context-based indictment against HRC, you and some others work up one against DJT, and some others someone else? It doesn’t strike me as an essential component of fairness (or hypocrisy) in this context to enumerate all of the bad players in order to discuss a bad player (as Thanks a lot says) who is relevant now.

  • Brizz, I can appreciate the division of labor thing. Throwing down Adam Smith leads me to believe you have a formal education, and a good one at that. With Comey you have a political appointee from one party who has served two parties’ administrations. He has to perform an administrative function, but is his decision making without political influence? Slick Willie muddied the waters, and Woodrow Wilson rolls in his grave…

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