LASD Sheriff Lee Baca

After Sentencing Negotiations Fall Apart, Baca Says He Wants to Go to Trial to Set the Record Straight


Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca returned to the court of U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, August 1, where his attorneys made one last ditch effort to save the plea deal that Baca agreed to in February, and that Judge Anderson dynamited two weeks before at the former sheriff’s first sentencing hearing, instead of sentencing Baca to six months in federal prison, and thus concluding his case.

Now at just after 1:30 p.m. after five hours of sidebars, out-of-court negotiations, and several lengthy recesses, Attorney Michael Zweiback, stood up, walked to the attorneys’ podium to address the court, Baca beside him, and announced the decision that had likely been in the cards since everyone assembled in the courtroom five hours earlier.

“Your honor,” Zweiback said “….unfortunately we have failed to reach any kind of resolution that could be acceptable to the court,” despite the fact that both parties “tried diligently.”

Therefore, “we request that our plea be withdrawn, and we be allowed to proceed to trial.”

Anderson asked Baca if he was in agreement. “Yes, your honor,” Baca replied. He appeared ready for this outcome.

The judge, who has a reputation for liking to move is calendar along at a brisk clip, announced that he was going to set a date for trial.

Voire dire—jury selection—would begin September 20, 2016, at 8:30 a.m., Anderson said, with the last pre-trial hearing scheduled for September 12, at 3 p.m. (Obviously Anderson planned ahead for this eventuality.)

Zweiback said he almost certainly intended to petition for more time, since the prosecution had given them “a terabyte worth of data…”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox countered saying that, the giant pile of data notwithstanding, this would be a fairly “straightforward” case, with multiple previous trials that have already laid out the issues.


Monday’s sentencing hearing came about because, two weeks ago, at the first sentencing hearing, on Monday July 18, Percy Anderson surprised court watchers by firmly rejecting Baca’s plea deal, which specified that when Anderson selected a sentence for Baca, he remain within the constraints of a 0 to 6 month term in federal prison.

Instead, Anderson informed the former sheriff, along with attorneys for the prosecution and the defense, that a six-month maximum sentence “would trivialize the seriousness of [Baca’s] offenses, his lack of respect for the law and the gross abuse of the public trust….”

Anderson’s rejection of the plea deal meant Baca had the choice of accepting whatever sentence Anderson decided to impose, which could go as high as five years, or working with the prosecution to come up with a new deal that both parties could live with, and that Anderson hopefully might accept.

Option three was that Baca and company could withdraw altogether from the plea deal, meaning that the former sheriff would take his chances in a full-scale, high profile trial. Of course, if Baca decided to go to trial, it was virtually guaranteed that the government would add some new charges on top of the single count of lying to federal officials, which had consituted the plea.

The new charges would almost certainly be obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Eight department members had already been convicted of those two charges, all with Anderson presiding at their trials, including the former under sheriff, Paul Tanaka, whom Anderson sentenced to five years in a federal prison.

(For more on the back story on the plea deal, and Anderson’s rejection of it, go here and here.)


After court adjourned on Monday afternoon, Lee Baca and his legal team, met with reporters on the steps of the federal courthouse, where the former sheriff addressed everyone briefly, and then read from a prepared statement.

“I want to first of all thank the thousands of people who I’ve come across since I retired,” Baca told those assembled, “people who have come to me on their own initiative to say how much I have done, and how much the sheriff’s department has done to make their communities safer,”

“Go to trial and die in jail!” hissed a heckler who suddenly turned up in the photo-journo mob, but who was quickly yanked out of the way,

“This is a very historic moment in my life, obviously,” Baca continued. Then he announced that he would read his statement, after which he would take no questions.

Baca’s prepared statement was as follows:

For the peace of my family, to avoid a lengthy and expensive trial, and to minimize the court drama associated with this case, several months ago I entered a guilty plea to the one charged filed against me.

“Be very clear—one charge!” Baca said with emphasis, breaking for a moment from the prepared script.

“I am withdrawing my guilty plea today and will seek a trial. I have made this decision due to the untruthful comments about my actions made by the Court, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, that are contradicted by the evidence in this case.

“While my future and my ability to defend myself depend on my Alzheimer’s disease I need to set the record straight about me and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on the misleading aspects of the Federal investigation..while I am capable of doing this.

“I want to thank my friends and family for encouraging me to stand up for what is right. My spirits are high and my love for all people is God’s gift to me…”

And with that, federal marshall’s escorted him to a friends vehicle that was waiting at the curb, and Baca was gone.


Once Baca had been ushered away, his attorneys, Michael Zweiback, and a new addition to the team, Nathan Hochman, said that due to Baca’s “catastrophic illeness,” and the uncertainty of Judge Anderson’s sentencing intentions, they had to choice but to go to trial.

Zweiback also said their team didn’t believe the government could prove their case and, when asked if the trial wasn’t a big risk for the defense, Zweiback said that the prosecution has “the biggest risk” with its case. “They now have the burden of proof.”

Hochman when further. “I think the prosecution would like this to be an open and shut case,” he said. “But I think the prosecution is going to be a bit surprised.”

Zweiback and Hochman said that Baca’s illness will definitely come into the trial. For one thing they said, they have evidence that “the arc of the disease started” while Baca was still the sheriff.

When asked whether Baca’s health had impeded his ability to function as sheriff during the time in which the alleged obstruction occurred, Zweiback said, “Well, he was certainly delegating more responsibility in those days….”

And so the drama continues.


  • He still has the nerve to wear a LASD star on the lapel of his suit. What a despicable, arrogant asshole.

  • Sheriff Baca is actually a high-level government informant, originally recruited as a young deputy when J.Edgar Hoover’s FBI was building assets in the East Los Angeles area in response to the Chicano Moratorium anti-war movement.

    It is Sheriff Baca’s contention that any and all charges for which he is being prosecuted can be correctly categorized as O.I.A.’s (Otherwise Illegal Activities) expressly sanctioned by the U.S.D.O.J. or relied upon in belief under Sheriff Baca’s normative Alzheimers syndrome to have been sanctioned by U.S.D.O.J.

    Sheriff Baca is grateful for the opportunity to have played an essential role in so many successful prosecutions brought against those who so easily and willingly obeyed, followed and carried out illegal orders issued by their superior.

    Sheriff Baca also believes that the former career Federal prosecutors sent to serve as his defense attorneys are further proof that his own prosecution is part of the government’s strategy to take down one final really, really big fish.

    Although he admits not being cognizant of who the government has targeted through the set-up which his prosecution must be a part of, Sheriff Baca nonetheless continues to offer his complete cooperation as long as it required, and in what has always been his unselfish spirit of commitment to serve justice and his loving devotion to community and all mankind.

  • I wonder if Tanaka, Carey and others will testify against him or for him ?

    In any case, what a lousy way to live life. Getting Alzheimer’s disease and having to remember details….I feel sorry for Mr. Baca

  • “Stand up for what is right” – Really?!?! Where were you “Sheriff” Baca when you allowed so many honorable employees to be destroyed, in your name. You encouraged and fostered a high level of retaliatory acts that rivaled organized crime. Baca, you knew exactly what you were doing then, and you know it now.

  • Baca recently has shown signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s . I can remember as early as 1971 him being called sgt moonbeam. I guess it’s a long onset period for the disease. Baca has so seriously damaged the LASD that it will take many years under the best leadership to restore. I do hope that he does a long time in prison. He is not capable of accepting responsibility or blame and never was.

  • One charge is one to charge too many for the author of the Core Values.

    As a leader,…. courage to stand…. fight wrongs….

    The record is pretty clear that you had no fear except to be accountable or testify in the trials of those who fell before you.

    See you in court.

  • What is with Baca wearing the sheriff’s star on his jacket. Hey baca, you ruined the reputation of the department by playing politician all over the place and letting stupid PT drive the department into the ground. Good job Leroy. You admitted to committing a felony, I have an issue with you wearing the sheriff’s star. It is reserved for those of us on the right side of the fence. Reminds me of the movie Full Metal Jacket when Joker was confronted by a superior officer who asked him, “solder, explain to me why you have a peace symbol on your jacket and born to kill on your helmet”.

    Re #3, my quess those two will testify against him. I am truly sorry that Baca suffers from Alzheimer’s but his lost his mind years ago while PT did his take over. They can both rot.

    Enjoy the trial.

  • I wonder how long it will be before one of the Convicted criminal deputies decide to try to cut a deal and testify against their old bosses for some sort of benefit.
    I would think there is something going on behind the scenes relating to that.

  • Once again it’s all about him. A trial will cost the taxpayers more money that a straight sentence. The deals he turned down would have been economic and fair. But why would he now care about those issues. It’s always been about him.

  • Wait a minute. Stop the presses! What happened to “I’m not afraid to go to jail”? What was his Zen Master quote exactly?—something like: “I believe if you know how to suffer properly, you don’t suffer at all”.
    Do you mean to tell me Leroy was just talking shit during that speech? Say it isn’t so!
    I hope all his ass kissing, leg humping yes men are proud of themselves. Those pathetic sonofabitches are the reason why Moonbeam thinks he can talk that gobblygook bullshit and be thought of as some kind of New Age Zen Master shaman. He’s too stupid to know they were lying to him for their own benefit.
    The truth is Leroy has been a wreck since day one. They know it. They chose to tell him how fucking brilliant he was instead of telling him to pump the brakes on his stupid shit. They chose to sell their souls for profit, plain and simple.
    Where was Jimmy Hellmold nodding his head at Baca’s every word during this latest press conference? Where was Waldie telling everybody that “Lee is in the Avante Garde” of modern law enforcement?

  • As a side note, does anyone know if Paul Tanaka was granted an extension on his surrender date? The last published reports showed a surrender date of August 1st, but the Federal BOP Inmate Locator currently shows that he is not in custody.

    @10, Oh Well,
    There was no shortage of folks who tried to tell the emperor about his wardrobe. The problem is they wound up leaving (or being squeezed out of) the department. John Scott, Bob Osborne and Sandi Hutchens all earned places on that list along with countless others.

    The department is strong and will continue to produce a lot of proven leaders, but we also recruit from the human race and there will always be an endless supply of folks who fall short of the mark.


    Rick D., now that Tanaka has appealed to the 9th Circuit, if they agree to hear the appeal then he stays out. So Anderson has, I believe, consented to let Tanaka put off reporting until the situation with the 9th has been clarified.


  • Baca, just go away, we are so over you and so tired of you. You can’t even read a prepared statement without you thinking you’re the a Sheriff again getting all into your inner-being theatrics. Just go away, you embarrassed us enough already, you’ve allowed Tanaka to destroy LASD, we don’t care about you setting the record straight, we know your record. Just go away, and take your commander doorman with you.

  • Quasi Moto, put down the crack pipe. No ones buying whatever you’re selling.

    Rick D, I fail to see how the department is strong if McDonnell failed to weed out corrupt executives, managers, and supervisors from the Baca/Tanaka years. He also retained the rigged system that continues to produce corrupt and incompetent executives, managers, and supervisors to this very day.

    I’d love to hear who you consider to be a “proven” leader in our department.

  • Not one mention of Judge Anderson being under pressure and tremendous blowback if he sentenced Baca to only six months. Trust and believe, that is the ONLY reason he rejected the proposed sentence, so late in the game. Arrogance and Asshole’s is what opened Pandora’s Box, with a “bitch slap” and a “boot to the ass” which closed it. It also exposed a “Boys Club” ran by a midget and a psycho.

  • Not one mention of Judge Anderson being under pressure and tremendous blowback if he sentenced Baca to only six months. Trust and believe, that is the ONLY reason he rejected the proposed sentence, so late in the game. Arrogance and Asshole’s is what opened Pandora’s Box, with a “bitch slap” and a “boot to the ass” which closed it. It also exposed a “Boys Club” ran by a midget and a psycho

  • @14,


    I never maintained that McDonnell was actively weeding out the “Fedayeen” members of his management team. I’ve actually recognized just the opposite, that McDonnell has to rely on some of the “Fedayeen” because that’s where a lot of the corporate expertise is to run the department. He’s got something of a Hobson’s choice to make.

    The department is strong because there are many more honest and ethical members than there are knuckleheads. The problem is that a lot of unethical folks, and knuckleheads, were advanced during the Tanaka/Baca regime (I gave Tanaka first billing for a reason) and they gained that corporate control.

    Please note that the misdeeds came to light and action was taken to correct the situation. I may have come too late in the game, but it came, and it’s working.

    It certainly is true that we still have too many undeserving folks serving in very senior positions. I want to be careful not to suggest otherwise.

    But to give you a clear answer to your question “who would I consider to be a proven leader in our department”, here is my short list: Bob Olmstead, Neal Tyler, John Scott, Sandi Hutchens, Mike Grossman and Tom Spencer. If you look at the list, you’ll see one member who was quite close to Tanaka. That fact alone doesn’t knock him off the list. I never saw him compromise integrity to serve Paul. You’ll also note that a lot of folks on the list left the department before their time (guess why?)

  • Rick D, I’ll give you Olmsted and Hutchens, that’s about it. Olmsted for his efforts within and outside the organization, Hutchens for leaving with her integrity intact and then demonstrating how it’s done with her current job in OC. Both Tyler and Scott did nothing that I’m aware of to oppose the dynamic duo, and when they came back they played the exact same game that brought down Baca and Tanaka. It’s called political patronage, which leaves the fate of the organization at the mercy of whoever consolidates power at the time through the ruthless “survivor of the ass kisser” reality game.

    As far as I know, Grossman and Spencer cashed in and moved on, looking the other way while being rewarded handsomely. I could be wrong, maybe you can share what sacrifices they made during Baca/Tanaka’s heyday, or what was their success during this tumultuous period in the department’s history.

  • 17: I know everyone on your short list and well. But, I don’t have the time but as for Hutchens let’s try the back shooting of an infant being held in her mother’s arms. This during a New Years call. Now the shooting was so bad that she and he partner were going to be prosecuted. And behold who did Hutchens wed? YUP! Her partner! This was in the Times many years ago. Add, does she have a tat?

    As far as knocking, you know who, off the list you have no idea how badly he sold his soul!


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