Baca Sentencing: Round 2 – Negotiations Fall Apart, Baca Is Going to Trial

UPDATE: When Lee Baca, his defense lawyers, and the prosecution team returned from recess at 1:30 p.m., Baca’s attorneys announced to Judge Percy Anderson that they would be withdrawing from the plea deal, and felt there was no choice but to go to trial. The trial for the former sheriff is now set to begin on September 20.

Details to follow.


When 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, his attorneys made one last effort to save the plea deal that Anderson dynamited two weeks before at a previous hearing. If Baca walks away from the deal, then he will assuredly be indicted by the government and proceed to trial.

The defense team’s Hail Mary was the notion of what is called a “settlement judge,” a kind of outside mediator within the federal system who can help parties save plea deals that have become stuck.

But after a cluster of sidebars with the judge and the prosecution, plus a half-hour recess, there was no resolution, and the settlement judge idea in particular was deemed a non starter. (It turned out that the prosecution has its own rules on the matter that preclude it from joining in such a strategy.)

“All sides are trying” added Zweiback. “But right now there’s a good likelihood that we’re going to trial.”

The other wild card in the mix, said the attorney, is the fact that “Mr. Baca’s disease has progressed.” (But we’ll get to all that in a minute.)

Finally, around 10 a.m., Judge Anderson agreed to one more recess asking all the players to return to court after lunch at 1:30 p.m.


Anderson too appeared to want a resolution, but he also reportedly reiterated in the sidebars the concerns that caused him to reject Baca’s plea deal in the first place two weeks ago. Unlike more conventional plea deals, this particular federal deal has built constraints that allow only for a sentence within the range of 0 to 6 months in federal prison. Thus the deal precluded the judge from handing down a prison term of more than six months.

Those following the Baca sentencing saga may remember that, at the previous sentencing hearing on Monday, July 18, Anderson’s tone was flinty as he informed the former sheriff, along with attorneys for the prosecution and the defense, that a six-month sentence “would trivialize the seriousness of [Baca’s] offenses, his lack of respect for the law and the gross abuse of the public trust….”

But Anderson did not say what sentence would be acceptable to him, leaving the defense and prosecution with a guessing game as they tried negotiate with each other to craft a new and mutually acceptable deal that, most crucially, Judge Anderson would also accept.

Were it not for the constraints of the plea deal, under federal sentencing guidelines Anderson could sentence the former sheriff to as much as 5 years in a federal prison. Thus if the defense knew for sure that Anderson was leaning toward, say somewhere between one year and 18 months, rather than between three and five years, perhaps he and his attorneys would keep the deal in place and go ahead with sentencing, rather than taking a chance on a trial. Yet, if Anderson believed only the upper ranges were appropriate, then the trial option becomes more attractive.

On Monday, August 1, however, the judge explained that he felt he couldn’t legally tip his hand and let the defense know what kind of sentence he felt was fair, because it would be deemed an interference in the plea-making process according to Rule 11, of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.


To remind you how everyone arrived at this quandary, here—again—is the backstory: 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.

If all efforts fail to find a resolution to the plea deal standoff, then a trial becomes the only option. And that will mean additional charges, according to Zweiback, who said that the prosecutors had indicated that they would definitely add a charge of obstruction of justice and likely conspiracy to obstruct justice, the same two charges of which former LA County undersheriff Paul Tanaka was convicted. Anderson also presided over that trial, and sentenced Tanaka to five years in a federal prison. (Tanaka’s conviction has been appealed to the Ninth Circuit, thus he remains out of prison at this time)

Zweiback, a former assistant U.S. attorney has been with his client through the lengthy plea process.

On Monday, however, in advance of a possible trial, he was joined by a new team member, attorney Nathan Hochman, who was the Assistant Attorney General for the US Department of Justice’s Tax Division, and also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Criminal Division of the Central District of California.


As mentioned above, Monday’s negotiations have been further complicated by the fact that, according to his attorneys, Baca’s health has worsened. Specifically, Zweiback said, the former sheriff’s Alzheimer’s has progressed. “He had early stage Alzheimer’s,” the attorney told reporters. Now it has progressed to “normalized dementia”

When asked if Baca understood all that was going on in Monday’s hearing, Zweiback was firm. “He very much understands the significance of what is going on and has been intimately involved in every phase of this process.

“What my client wants is a degree of certainty.” said Zweiback. “He wants this very much to be over. He wants it to be over for his family. And he wants it to be over for the members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, especially—and for himself, to be able to move on.’

But to agree to a situation “where he has no idea what he’s walking into, said Zweiback, “he has no alternative but to fight for his life and go to trial.

Thus far, however, the certainty all parties appear to seek has been elusive.


  • Baca wants the Sheriff Department to “move on”. Really? They have moved, (not necessarily on) but by “marking time”.

  • “Normalized Dementia” “I want it to be over for the members of LASD” “He has no alternative but to fight for his life” Ok, I just spit half a cup of coffee on my monitor, thats the third monitor I have ruined since the Baca and Tanaka prosecution!

  • I sure feel sorry for anybody that has Alzheimers.( Its a terrible disease)

    We shall see what happens this afternoon.

  • Well I guess Mr. Baca can feel the pain of not knowing what could happen to an employee’s career. Walking on egg shells throughout your career, never knowing when the hammer is going to fall. Having no direction, lacking leadership and sinking the entire ship. Lives were ruined because of Mr. Baca’s lack of leadership. He handed over the department to PT and sunk the ship. End this nightmare and take your punishment. What ever the sentence may be, it is not enough time.

    When asked if Baca understood all that was going on in Monday’s hearing, Zweiback was firm. (“He very much understands the significance of what is going on and has been intimately involved in every phase of this process.)
    “What my client wants is a degree of (certainty).” said Zweiback. “He wants this very much to be over. He wants it to be over for his family. And he wants it to be over for the members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, especially—and for himself, to be able to move on.’
    But to agree to a situation “where he has no idea what he’s (walking into), said Zweiback, “he has no alternative but to fight for his life and go to trial.

  • @5 Maxwell, I thought Baca said he wasn’t afraid of doing jail time? He could admit to his “one” crime and take what the judge thinks if fair. That will allow you Baca to “move on”. Waldie and Stonich will testify as character witnesses, what’s the big deal?

  • @5 Maxwell, I thought Baca said he wasn’t afraid of doing jail time? He could admit to his “one” crime and take what the judge thinks if fair. That will allow Baca to “move on”. Waldie and Stonich will testify as character witnesses, what’s the big deal?

  • Donald Trump doesn’t know when to “Shut the *uck up”. While not a fan of Hillary and the Benghazi spectacle which undermined the death of our Veterans and Americans that were killed. Donald cut his own polical throat by making the “stupid ass” remarks, about the death of the Army Captain. Trump wouldn’t last one day in basis training in the U.S. Army or the Corps. Cops for Trumps? Yeah right!

  • @#11-And you are being baited by the left wrong establishment media who wants you to care more about Donald Trump’s response to a planned emotional attack by a grieving patent, than about the fact that Hillary’s poor decision making directly lead to the creation of ISIS.

  • @13. Save your rhetoric for someone who doesn’t know any better. Very weak deflection to switch reels. You’re just as toxic as Trump or anyone else making a big mouth “ASS” of themselves.

  • 14: You are sadly mistaken. Trump never said one bad thing about Captain Khan. But Hillary denied lying (what a surprise) to Pat Smith, the SEAL, murdered in Libya. How’s the Bergdahl trial going? Add, that Mr. Khan is now tied to the Clinton Cash Foundation, trafficking and terrorism. We are ALL being played! The fix is in! Bernie was right!

  • #13: After numberous hearings on Benghazi, millions of dollars spent, I watched all of the 11 hours of the final hearing, there was nothing new,nothing the republicans could prove. It is past time that some COPS stop supporting Mr. Trump, he does not support anyone but himself, first and last. I’ve been a student of history all of my life, and when he announced his candidacy, I immediately recognized him for whom he is. We have seen his kind before, in Italy and Germany and sometimes here in the US. He is an dangerous, ignorant, fascist who does not have the temperment or the competency to be prsident of the United States. Hillary Clinton is by no means a perfect candidate. However, she has the temperment, competency, knowledge and experience to hold the highest office in the land. I judge people by how they act and what they say, that is the only basis I have for judging anyone for a political office. I ask you, how do you judge people? Mr. Trump apparently missed his civics class at Wharton because most of what he blusters, he cannot accomplish without the approval of congress. All he says is “I, I, I will do this.” We don’t need dictators. He is an embarrassment to our country.

  • 15: Mary: Since the thread also involves Baca and prerequisites for leadership (it is not difficult to find that Leroy is among the worst leaders in 21st century American law enforcement), it is a little surprising that you are carrying a torch for someone whose own legitimacy is arguably far, far below that of a post-1972 Richard Nixon’s. Specifically, you wrote, “Hillary Clinton…has the temperment, competency, knowledge and experience to hold the highest office in the land.” These are not the only criteria, nor are they even the most important criteria for president (I realize you were using them to shiv Trump). The idea of legitimacy in law enforcement leadership, at the local level, is similar to the legitimacy of national political figures. Lawrence Sherman is the big guru in discussing law enforcement legitimacy. Legitimacy is the reservoir of trust that a public has for a leader (or a LE agency). Little to no trust equals little to no legitimacy. Sherman ties legitimacy to the concept of transparency, which is the sunshine rule of conducting business in the open as much as the free society can permit. My question for you is, given the criteria of legitimacy, trust, and transparency, would you still maintain the view that HRC is, say, a better Democratic selection than Bernie Sanders? (Let’s leave DJT aside for a moment. Assume in your reply that I will not be voting for DJT.) And what will you do when Assange publishes the next HRC/DNC data dump? Is that likely to increase or decrease HRC’s legitimacy?

  • “However, she has the temperament, competency, knowledge and experience to hold the highest office in the land” Ha Ha Ha Ha bawaaaha!!! LOLOLOLOLL ha ha ha You’re way too HILARIOUS!!! Let’s ask Monica, Jennifer and the Mom’s from Benghazi? Careless and Reckless and investigated again by the FBI. Oh plaaaseee!
    TELL YOU WHAT! I’ll retract all my statements and give Hillary the total allowable,under the law, if you can answer just one question. Who called off the rescue and why? Celeste knows who I am and there’s no problem with payment! You got 48 hours!

  • 15:

    I watched none of the hearings on Benghazi–not one second–but I do know this: the U.S.M.C. runs U.S. Embassy/Consulate security, and it would not allow outer security defenses to be handled by a rag-tag Libyan militia. State Department overruled the Marines on that one.

    The Defense Secretary stated that he ordered a rescue operation for the four people who were killed, but the Defense Department refused, and President Obama didn’t order an investigation as to why.


    The Marines would not refuse such an order.

    A dead fish can be smelled in all of this, and shame on you for not catching the smell.

  • Seems the ordering of and references to the posts was a little disjointed. Anyway, while Mary Haven is figuring out the two challenges before her (Questions has literally and admirably put his money where his prose is), LA County Taxpayer has declared that saying “it all” involves asserting that DJT “is an embarrassment to our country.”

    That seems a far cry from saying it all. Is it worth noting that LA County Taxpayer appears to be entirely untroubled by HRC’s conduct and performance as Secretary of State, particularly in the Middle East (e.g., Libya, Syria, Iraq), a performance that has given rise to mass, un-assimilated Muslim immigration throughout Europe, produced the rise if ISIS, and triggered widespread instability, death and destruction? (Am I lifting LATBG’s modus operandi? LATBG–GWBush gets no pass here, understood?) And what about the troubling activities of the Clinton Foundation? So, there is embarrassment, and there is embarrassment. Globalists and so-called progressives like HRC are too often given a pass by mass media for being embarrassing in a different way. Elites and mandarins tend to circle the wagons around such people as HRC. The DNC did this very thing for Clinton. Globalism has a powerful draw for multi-national corporations and state actors. Government failure – as public choice theory tells us – is everywhere (market failure too, but for another time). There may be no finer contemporary examples of that failure than Barack and Hillary at the national level, and the LA C Board of Supervisors and former Sheriff Baca at the local level. But for a Baca, it is unlikely there would have been a Tanaka (et al., et cetera).

  • Reminds me of when Kobe Bryant was busted cheating on his wife, his deflection was “Shaq did it too”. The current discussion, including the analytical analog by the self proclaimed Ike’s (I know everything) re:Trumps rants, is no different. Both HRC & Dump Trump, have serious issues. Trump, the latest of the two is currently in the hot seat.Hands down,the worst Presidential nominee ever.

  • Just realized I made an empirical claim earlier (#17) that needed backing up. Too much Milagro Silver. Sorry Mary Haven. “[HRC] own legitimacy is arguably far, far below that of a post-1972 Richard Nixon’s.” Public trust in Nixon was at 53 percent in 1972. By 1974, public trust in Nixon fell about 17 percentage points to 36 percent (Pew Research Center: Regarding Clinton, a CNN poll reported in the Washington Post on July 25, 2016, showed that 65 percent of those polled believed that HRC “isn’t honest or trustworthy.” Whereas 30 percent of those polled – a relatively high number, proving the existence of a 30-percent rule where a third of people will believe in something that may be entirely irrational – believed that HRC was honest and trustworthy. A CBS poll covering the same period of time found that 67 percent of people believed that HRC is dishonest. Now, these two polls preceded Clinton’s own DNC convention. Nevertheless, Nixon held a second-presidential term public trust rating of 36 percent in 1974, which remains higher than Hillary Rodham Clinton’s public trust rating of 30 percent in the summer of 2016, before the general election. The 2016 presidential race may simply be a really nasty survivor’s contest, with low public trust all around and maybe a very low turnout or vote-shifting to third parties. If HRC is elected, she has very little room for error with an overwhelming majority of the public that appears to already distrust her. Where all this leaves LE policy is unclear. Until September 20….

  • Folks: This was probably already adduced, but my response #20 was intended for #16 (Mary Haven) & not #15.


  • Well, it seems I opened a big can of worms and a few people got riled up. As I said before, Clinton is by no means a perfect candidate, our choices a slim. However, I would sleep better at night if I knew she had the football rather that other individual who seems not to have impulse control amongst other psychological problems. Let me remind some of you that pie in the sky Bernie Sanders is a socialist! He tells the truth, but his policies are impractical and would be economically disasterous for our country. I too have worked for the department, for 35 years and I am retired. I believe that mostly men comment on this blog. Knowing cops reputation with the ladies, when will you guys stop blaming the wife for her husbands infidelities, namely Monica. Hate is an ugly word, and while it is not stated, it is implied by the gossip, rumors and innuendos.

  • Brizz, I’m trying to follow your argument, but it appears you’re cherry-picking what suits your argument at the time. I really doubt the Nixon polls from 1974 can compare to the polls done this year on Hillary or Trump, for that matter. Notwithstanding that, I really don’t recall the DNC vowing on the first day Nixon got into office that their number one goal was to see him fail and make him a one term president. Sorry to burst your bubble, but McConnell’s special party with the GOP leadership on January 20, 2009, set the stage for everything that followed, and tainted any measure of Obama’s relative success or failure. That was the first time in our nation’s history that one branch of government, the legislative, vowed to defeat the executive branch of government run by the other party.

    Hillary has made some bad moves in her public life, no doubt. Unfortunately for the rabid nut jobs, the right wing narrative doesn’t quite match the facts on the ground, even when pointed out by their own party’s congressional investigations. The latest one I heard, from Trump’s own mouth, is that Hillary is going to rig the general elections and steal it from him. Nothing like wobbling the foundation of our democratic heritage, and undermining public confidence in our instutitions, all for a few votes, eh?

    As I’ve noted before, corporate America has too much sway in our democracy, and Citizens United was the last nail in the coffin. Trump talks a big game, but wants to double down and not seek to overturn the ruling. I guess he likes big money in politics after all.

  • Hillary Clinton inviting Mike Brown’s mother to speak at the DNC is all the proof I need of how she feels about law enforcement. If you are voting for a woman that glorifies and martyrs a man who attempted to murder a police officer, then you are unworthy of carrying a badge.

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