Baca’s Motion to Recuse Federal Judge is Denied….& Tanaka’s Appeal Keeps Him Out of Prison (For Now)


On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright, II, denied the motion filed by attorneys for former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to recuse federal Judge Percy Anderson from presiding over Baca’s trial, which is due to begin on December 6.

Late last month, Baca’s legal team led by attorney Nathan Hochman, filed three dramatic pre-trial motions, one of which was to try to force the recusal of Judge Anderson, whom the defense argued could not be an objective jurist.

Hochman’s argument for recusing Anderson centered around statements that Anderson made when he rejected Baca’s plea deal. The defense argued that those statements indicated that “the Court predetermined that Mr. Baca is guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice,” even though, at the time, Hochman pointed out, the former sheriff had yet to be indicted on those charges.

Mr. Baca, if you’ll remember, pleaded guilty in February to one count of lying to federal officials. In return for his plea, he was to receive a sentence of between 0 and 6 months in prison.

Judge Anderson rejected the plea because of the low sentencing range, saying it trivialized the harm that Baca had done to the department and to the community at large.

“It’s one thing to lie to an AUSA,” Anderson told Baca. “It’s another thing entirely, as the evidence has shown, where the chief law enforcement officer of the County of Los Angeles is involved in a wide-ranging conspiracy to cover up abuse and corruption occurring in the Men’s Central Jail.”

Anderson was, of course, also the judge who presided over the trial of the six former department members who were previously convicted of obstruction of justice for allegedly getting in the way of the FBI’s investigation into abuse and corruption in the jails, plus the two different trials of former LASD deputy James Sexton, who was convicted of the same charges. Perhaps, most significantly, Anderson presided over the trial of Paul Tanaka, where the part that Lee Baca did or did not play in allegedly trying to derail a federal investigation repeatedly came up in testimony.

Baca and company argued that given the various statements Anderson made during the sentencing hearings, the judge should not remain. “Even if the Court were to offer that it could put these predeterminations aside,” wrote attorney Hochman, “the standard for recusal is whether the Court’s appearance of impartiality may be reasonably questioned, not whether the Court is actually biased against Mr. Baca.”

But in an 11-page ruling, Judge Wright disagreed.

“In order to prevail on a disqualification motion based on bias,” Wright wrote, “the defendant must provide facts which ‘must give fair support to the charge of a bent of mind that may prevent or impede impartiality of judgment.’ Judge Anderson’s remarks do not even approach the category of expressions of dissatisfaction or annoyance or anger directed at either the defendant or defense counsel which the Court has found permissible, much less an indication of a ‘bent of mind that may prevent or impede impartiality of judgment.'”

In the final analysis, Wright continued, “Baca has failed to offer facts which would lend supportfor the claim that disqualification of Judge Anderson is warranted in this matter.”

(Interestingly, Wright, who was appointed to the federal bench in 2007 by George W. Bush, served as a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department from 1969 to 1980, by which time he’d graduated from law school and was ready for his legal career.)

Wright’s denial of the motion to get rid of Anderson may or may not bode well for the other two significant motions that Baca’s team filed last month.

Specifically, defense attorney Hochman also filed a motion asking for Baca’s trial to be moved to another part of the state of California, claiming that, due to the “constant, inflammatory, and far-reaching media coverage surrounding this matter,a trial within the Central District of California, particularly within Los Angeles County, will violate Mr. Baca’s due process rights.”

And in another interesting move, Baca and company asked for lead government prosecutor Brandon Fox to be removed from the prosecution’s team, claiming that the defense needs to call Fox as a crucial witness.

On Monday, October 31, the not-recused Judge Percy Anderson will hear the motions to move the trial out of LA County, and to recuse prosecutor Fox.

So stay tuned.


Back in late September, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson ruled that the fact that Paul Tanaka, the former second in command of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, was appealing his conviction didn’t mean he could stay stay out of prison while he waited around to see what the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals would do.

Instead, Tanaka was ordered to report on October 7, either to the low-security federal prison camp in Englewood, Colorado, or to the U.S. Marshals office in downtown Los Angeles, to begin his five year sentence—appeal or no appeal.

But, Anderson’s ruling is only part of the dance between the courts and Mr. Tanaka’s attorneys, Dean Steward and Jerome Haig, who—following Anderson’s ruling—quickly filed their appeal with the Ninth, which automatically stopped the clock anyway when it came to their client’s report-for-prison day.

This means Tanaka can stay out of prison until the Ninth Circuit decides whether or not it will hear the former undersheriff’s appeal. The appeals court could say no, but that is unlikely.

Then, presuming the Ninth Circuit agrees to hear Tanaka’s appeal, the clock is further stopped until the hearing, and then until the ruling. If Tanaka loses his appeal before a three-judge panel at the Ninth, then he and his attorneys can still ask to appeal en banc, which means to the court as a whole, which again stops the clock….and so on.

The former undersheriff of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice pertaining to allegations that Tanaka personally directed and oversaw deliberate efforts to upend the FBI’s investigation into a culture of brutality and corruption inside the LA County jails, which began in 2010.

Seven of the other former department members who were also convicted of obstruction of justice charges filed appeals with the Ninth Circuit and, after hearings early this summer, lost their appeal. Six of the seven have requested to be heard en banc. The seventh, former deputy James Sexton elected not to continue to try to avoid prison. Instead, he left the en banc appeal behind, and arranged to turn himself in on August 31, to begin his 18-month sentence. He will try a U.S. Supreme Court appeal when he gets out.

Former LASD Captain Tom Carey, was originally charged with the same obstruction charges but, in a deal made with the government, pleaded guilty to lying on the witness stand during the 2014 trial of James Sexton, and is due to be sentenced in January.


The retaliation case involving former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy Ban Nguyen, who is suing the sheriff’s department along with former undersheriff Paul Tanaka and others, is due to begin trial on October 19.

UPDATE: We just learned today, that the trial has now been moved to January.

In early 2015, Nguyen filed a civil lawsuit alleging that he was retaliated against when he refused to falsify paperwork for certain unsuitable job candidates favored by department higher ups, particularly those candidates supported by former undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

The retaliation got worse, Nguyen alleges, when he was asked to raise money for Tanaka’s 2013 campaign to become LA County Sheriff, and he refused, explaining that he didn’t favor Mr. Tanaka for that post.

After being what he describes as forced into retirement, Nguyen decided to sue the former undersheriff, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, for alleged violations of his civil rights along with violations of the state labor code and more. Nguyen also names in his lawsuit two LASD captains, and two department sergeants. (Kevin Hebert and Judy Gerhardt, are the captains named, although both have since been promoted to commander.)

Many of issues outlined in Nguyen’s civil complaint suggest that this trial will be an intriguing one.

More as we know it.


  • C: I have a dear friend who was forced to leave Viet-Nam with what was left of his family because of the so called “liberators” as you put it. When the Communist took over, everyone’s property was gone and no one could pray. Everything was for the state. One night the family had gone to sleep when the “liberators” came and took all the boys except one. Mom had hidden one boy on top of the roof. The family’s story of escape was so harrowing and horrific its hard to imagine how they survived. Why was it that so many millions weren’t happy when they got liberated?

    The horror stories and atrocities of the “liberators” have long been documented as truth. That boy has been my dear friend for many years and lives in OC. My friend never saw his brothers again. He cries uncontrollably about the loss of his family. I was wondering could you ask the “liberators” what happened? He has tried for nearly fifty years.

    What happened when we left Viet-Nam? Was there any murders, torture, rapes and what the “liberators” call re-education of the population?

    And last please recall, from documented history (not revisionist) the two presidents who put us in the war. John F. Kennedy and Lydon B. Johnson. Two huge liberals and always remember that liberals love wars!

  • I have to say one of the more fascinating things about the Baca case is seeing when, or if, he actually takes that star of his lapel. Sentencing? That would really be detestable if he is sitting there being excoriated by Judge Anderson (and he will be) while wearing the star.


    Dear Questions,

    I don’t have any illusions about what happened in Vietnam after the fall of Saigon.

    (Where did I write “liberators?” Oh, right. I know. It was when I wrote about Ban Nguyen’s bio and mentioned the fall of Saigon, or “liberation,” “depending upon your perspective.” That wasn’t an indication of my own POV. I was merely being respectful to both sides.)

    In any case, I am deeply and personally familiar with horror stories like those you mention. In addition to spending time as reporter in the refugee camps in Thailand during the height of the Vietnamese boat people crisis in the late 1970s, I have close friends and family, and extended family who went through it. I need no convincing.

    And, yes, I know which 2 presidents got us into the war, and which president kept us there. I believe that war, in many ways, destroyed Lyndon Johnson.

    One place I would respectfully disagree is in reducing things to “liberal” and “conservative.” I don’t believe that gets us anywhere. I prefer people—as I imagine you do— who have affection for facts, logic and common sense. In my experience, those folks, while fewer in number than we would like, can be found all over the political spectrum, even if they disagree on how to get to a particular outcome.

    Anyway, thank you for your heartfelt and thoughtful comment. My heart aches for your friend. Those wounds are never healed. And there are too many like him.

    Have a good weekend.


  • C: Thank you for the response. True that we can varying views of discourse but we don’t get to to have our own set of facts. Always remember that humans must earn respect. These were the same kind of liberators that invaded Poland and murdered over a million of the Polish population.

    It’s all good
    Take Care

  • Celeste,

    Thank you for the update of the case and your explanation of the criminal process. The helps all the readers understand where things are.

    Sexton is serving his term in Alabama and I think he is doing the best thing for him. I applaud his acceptance of events and desire to move forward.

  • Tanaka can delay the inevitable. Each brief, each appeal, each delay is just that. A delay of the inevitable. And for Baca, I think you have outsmarted yourself, which is of no surprise. The inevitable will too, catch up with you. Oh happy days. Too bad you are not going to be joined by a few more who currently sit on EPC, they were your crime partners. All in time Paul, all in time. Just watch that bank account dwindle with your delays.

  • How ironic Baca’s appeal is being denied using the same language his own corrupt machine used to deny the rights of his own employees during his reign of terror. May their attorneys leave them broke when all is said and done, a fitting end.

    Questions, you should be thankful for two wars in particular that “liberals” have to take ownership of. That would be the Revolutionary War for starters – conservative thought at the time branded them as traitors for rebelling against king and country. The other one was WWII, fought by “gasp” a liberal administration! Both wars involved existential threats, separated by centuries. I’m not going to sugarcoat presidential performance in wars, however. Johnson laid an egg in Vietnam, Nixon carpet bombed a jungle in the wrong country, and Bush Jr. literally invaded the wrong country at a horrible price we will be paying for decades to come.

    In sum, I agree with Celeste. It doesn’t matter the political inclinations of who sits in the White House, it’s the reason for the war and its proper execution that counts.

  • Mighty class act from Brian Moriguchi (President of PPOA) to allow EX ALADS PRESIDENT(P.T.coinholder) F.H. to post ads in the Star News. Even though the ad is self serving, describing himself as retired ALADS president (actually retired as secretary on ALADS Board). I witnessed F.H. demean and denouce Brian and PPOA Board of Directors. Thankfully he and P.T. are HISTORY in the “Law Enforcement” Arena….. prime examples of ” What not to do”.

  • Speaking of Justice and Bullshit concerning LASD, I’m surprised at Ron Hernandez concurrring with ALADS spending. Wasn’t it YOUR format Ron, to be the “Change Agent” for ALADS? Obviously you’re a part of ALADS Bully Team. I guess you’re OK spending an exuberant amount of membership’s money to ruin Deputy Armando Macias. Even with the ALADS Board of Directors hating him,is it really necessary to spend that amount of money from pockets that are not your own? Disgusting!

  • First off, thank you to many of you who understand what truly goes on at ALADS, and alerting me when I get sniped. @Are You Serious? Do your homework. There are maybe three or four people who don’t get it, and continue to chime in with BS facts. Two are Macias and Nance, and the other two are most likely their blind followers who actual believed they were the Board, back then. How well do you know Armando Macias? Ask around at his UOA’s, I think he ruined himself long before I even knew who he was! Lol!

  • Jack Dawson…As you can see and already know, the game at ALADS stays the same. Only the names change.

  • Class act Ron. I haven’t seen anything good from you. How about an audit of alads spending and your your spending account. Keep it real.

  • @ Huh. If you only knew.

    @ 16. You see how the money issue is always skirted around. Pointing at two individuals (@ #12) still does not address ALADS spending. Appears as though the old saying goes…..”If you can’t beat them, join them.” Keeping it real means that in lieu of undocumented and slanderous opinions, it’s better to say “No Comment.”

  • Commander and Chief, you want to keep it real, then do just that. Don’t come on this blog and act like your in the know. I’ve never seen you in a Board meeting witnessing me make suggestions, in the interest of members, and routinely get voted down by the majority Board. And, clearly you don’t come to Unit Rep meetings or you would know the majority Board considers me “Organizational Poison” or “a trouble maker like Macias” (yes Sean and George really gave me those labels. Lol). I don’t write articles because they get Censored and I refuse to write only what they’ll allow. You haven’t seen anything good from me? Everything takes a resolution of the Board and I don’t have the votes. So quit complaining, and come and help….or just continue to hide behind a screen name and hope people actually believe you! Do you not see the irony in you telling me to keep it real while I’m the one using my real name and you, well!

  • Now some of the backdrop of ALADS comes to life.

    Ironic how Ron Hernandez has a mouth load of remarks about Macias as those in power (at Alads) likens Hernandez to Macias. The pot calling the kettle black…..Damn.

    The only stability of and at ALADS are the dues and the potent concoction fed to the ALADS Board of Directors by Dick Shinee.

  • @Whaddaya Know, not quite sure what your saying, but I will say the members need to get involved and make their priorities known. What should be, is not obvious (or a priority) to everyone on the Board. It is the members who own this association not the Directors, and the members need to take it back! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, ballots for ALADS Board of Director’s go out Oct 28 and must be returned by Nov 14th. Update your info ASAP, and if you don’t get a ballot call ALADS or send me an email.

  • Ron Hernandez, I worked with you at FPK many years ago. Those who worked with you there know your character. No need to reply to Bullsh*t lies and accusations. Remember it’s about Baca and Tanaka.

  • “Retired In Idaho” Thank you. One of the many lessons I learned at FPK was to stick up for what’s right, call them on their BS, and when called for, show them what’s right. Enjoy retirement. I plan to go out doing all three! And, you’re right replying to the hacks is useless.

  • Yeah Ron…..Have you called your fellow Board members on their B.S.(ALADS President, V.P. and Treasurer) Have you called Dick Shinee on his B.S.? Until you call them on their B.S., you’re pissing in the wind.

    You have nothing to lose. Maybe you can get some help on this next election. It will be real interesting. The comment from Coeur d’Alene is ok but that doesn’t help you on the Alads Board.

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