Sheriff Lee Baca The Trial of Lee Baca

Prosecutors Request Mental Competency Evaluation for Former Sheriff Lee Baca

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

After a hearing on Wednesday to set a start date for the federal criminal trial of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca
, government prosecutors filed a motion requesting a mental competency evaluation for the man who, for sixteen years, headed the nation’s largest sheriff’s department until his abrupt announcement of his retirement in January, 2014.

“Although the government believes defendant is competent to stand trial,” the prosecution team wrote, “certain statements by defendant, his attorneys, and his experts, if taken at face value, provide reasonable cause to believe that defendant may be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense.”

Their proposed motion, stated the prosecutors, will either “ensure that the defendant’s trial proceeds in the timely fashion if he is competent.” Otherwise, it will “save resources” if Baca is found not competent to stand trial.

This rather startling development came after an edgy discussion about the issue of Baca’s mental condition as it pertained to the upcoming trial. The three-way conversation took place in court earlier on Wednesday between the government’s attorneys, defense attorney Nathan Hochman, and U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson after Hochman told the court that the defense may assert what is known as a 12.2 defense, or “mental defect” defense.

In brief, a 12.2 defense is a strategy in which the defense presents “expert evidence of a mental disease or defect” that would have prevented a defendant from possessing the mental ability required to have committed the offenses of with which he or she is charged.

At some point in the discussion, Judge Anderson asked Hochman if this meant that those who suffer from Alzheimer’s “don’t know right from wrong?”

In answer to Anderson’s terse questioning, Hochman reportedly said that, no, he was not going for an insanity defense (which is one version of a 12.2 defense). Instead he might put forth another version of the 12.2 legal tactic, which is the aforementioned “mental defect” strategy.

In the request for the competency evaluation, prosecutors Brandon Fox, Lizabeth Rhodes and Eddie Jauregui noted that, during the hearing in February in which Baca pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to federal officials, when asked if he had “recently been treated for any form of mental illness or addiction?” or if he was “currently suffering from any mental condition that would prevent him from “understanding fully the charge against” him, “or the consequences of any guilty plea” he might enter to relating to that charge, Baca answered, “no,” to each question.

The the prosecutors went on to point out that, on Aug. 1, Baca’s attorneys stated that “medical records would show Baca’s mental deterioration had already begun in April 2013, when he made the allegedly false statements to federal prosecutors.”

In their motion, the prosecutors made clear that they believe that Mr. Baca is competent to go to trial.

But they want an official determination, one way or the other.

Interestingly, in Wednesday’s hearing to finally determine the trial date, defense attorney Hochman said that he might consider filing a motion for a change in venue explaining that he was not sure that an untainted jury pool could be found, given all the publicity about the matter.

In response, Judge Anderson pointed out that it that it likely did not help matters to have attorneys holding press conferences on the courthouse steps—or words to that effect. Anderson then asked both sides to refrain from trying this case in the press.

The trial of Lee Baca for charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and lying to federal officials is set to begin on December 6, 2016.

Here’s the actual motion for a competency evaluation if you want to take a look:


  • He could have a great case. Just have all the old and new EPC crew testify on his behalf. They all knew he was loosing his mind for years.

  • My suggestion is everyone take a deep breath for a moment. Looney Leroy’s attorneys are driving this train and they are going to do everything possible to help their client escape. That is what they get paid to do, anything less would be malpractice. Let’s assume Baca’s diagnosis is legitimate, which by all indications, it is. Then that is what they are going to hang their hat on. Is it bullshit? Of course it’s bullshit, good luck with that defense. Judge Anderson asked the million dollar question, “Did/does he not know right from wrong?” Of course he did, he lied to the FBI with malice. This defense strategy is absolutely no different that the failed Pandora’s Seven strategy that, “We were only following (illegal and serious illegal) orders. It never was going to work, it was a grasp at a straw inside a tornado. And how did that work out? They are all packing their bags for an all expenses paid trip to Club Fed. Looney Leroy is going to play that sympathy card like a boss. He will feign his lately space cadet facial expressions to the hilt. Expect him to come to court wearing his clothes backwards and if he takes the stand, it will be an award to be considered by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Thangs. But then there are those pesky recent speeches he gave of late where he proclaimed boldly, as reported by CH7, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts and I ain’t afraid of prison. I am, Maha Baca.” This will all play out in court with good odds of a conviction. “The Government calls its first prosecution witness, Inmate Paul Tanaka.” Good theater ahead folks, get your programs, get your seats and enjoy the show.

  • “Way back, many decades ago, I had to take Psychology 1A to meet General Education requirements for my Baccalaureate. I well remember what my instructor said about Psychology:

    it is an elevated form of Voodoo.

  • Baca’s attorneys stated that “medical records would show Baca’s mental deterioration had already begun in April of 2013, when he allegedly made the false statements to federal prosecutors”.

    There it is. If Baca’s own attorneys are to be believed, Leroy had already been diagnosed with a “mental defect” while the Pandora’s Box clusterfuck was going on. In a nutshell, Baca’s defense is: “My mental defect should preclude me from being found guilty, but I was still sharp enough to remain in place as sheriff”.
    Well well, so Moonbeam refused to step down knowing full well he was suffering from a serious mental defect? What does that say about Leroy as a man? It takes a very SPECIAL kind of asshole to be aware that he isn’t squared away mentally, but still remain in a position as critical as LA County Sheriff. Is it even possible to be more pathetic, shameless and arrogant than that?
    If I was the prosecutor, my last statements in my closing argument would be:
    “He wants us to believe that while still being the LA County Sheriff, he was too impaired mentally to be held accountable for a crime. His actions tell us different. He didn’t retire immediately after his diagnosis of this so called “mental defect”. Now when it’s convenient for him to try and stay out of prison, he wants to use it as a defense. His decision to remain in office proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Leroy Baca himself did not believe that the impairment was serious enough to preclude him from being the LA County Sheriff”.

  • @ CIA Spade: You nailed it. Even geographically speaking, center stage is only a stone’s throw away from Hollywood.

    I have to be perfectly honest….next to the Holy Bible, the content and comments of Witness LA are eye openers and a constant read.

  • Everyday is a day closer to retirement. I remember taking abnormal Psych for my BS, this falls into that category, starting with brass buttons Mcdonnell

  • It’s a fitting end for a man who famously claimed that child molestation should be treated as a medical condition, not a criminal problem. Just check out his dissertation, courtesy of the taxpayers and USC.

    On the other hand, there is fertile ground developing in a lawsuit against the department and Tanaka, something about forcing a subordinate to falsify background information to hire someone who was ineligible. This is where McDonnell should pay attention, but probably won’t until the mainstream media jams him on it. The captains who ordered the falsification of records are now commanders, Judy Gerhart and Kevin Hebert. Oh my. Add to the mix Commander Fennell, who was front and center as the director of Personnel during the bulk of the exam cheating scandals.

    Hey McDonnell, I think it’s time you use the same standard you used to relieve so many line personnel of duty because of integrity or performance issues. It’s time to relieve all three of these commanders of duty and seek special counsel from outside the department to investigate these matters in depth. And yes, we’re only scratching the surface.

    What’s it going to be, fresh eyes?

  • @11 LATBG: I take it that you’re basically stating a revamp with a top tier tear-down, all the way to the studs. That’s one of the biggest obstacles for an outsider coming into a damaged Law Enforcement Agency. Bob Olmsted would have been a great scout/guide for Fresh Eyes. It’s still not too late. Too bad that PPOA and ALADS doesn’t have any input. The line deputies deserve better.

  • @LATBG, BINGO, my friend. This lawsuit will absolutely expose the inner workings of the Tanaka Crime Family (TCF, not to be confused with his subset of OGCF) and how they have reportedly manipulated test scores for sergeant and lieutenant test examinations. This very well known, Pay for Play scheme has been widely reported by WLA and exposed in previous depositions, with names being named.

    Of great interest in this lawsuit are the names of Judy Gerhardt and Kevin Hebert, previous captains at Personnel, where Don Vito Correlone’ himself, Paul Tanaka controlled promotions and assignments via his puppets, Hebert and Gerhardt. This lawsuit and subsequent depositions and hopefully, courtroom testimony, will lay it ALL out. Yes, fertile ground is an understatement to say the least. This lawsuit alleges what we have suspected and know for years, dirty background investigations being cleaned up, standards lowered for Friends of Paul, walking the neighborhood for O’l Paul’s campaign, adjusting those test scores so Paul’s friends and donors get that bump while his enemies get screwed, “Oh, too bad, your just .0005 of a point off, better luck next time.”

    Hebert will lie right to your face hike clutching The Good Book. But Judy, she will fold like a cheap suit. Unethical for self serving purposes, oh yes. Paul promoted her for a purpose and she performed as ordered. But stupid, she ain’t. Perjury is a crime, be it in a civil trial/deposition or criminal trial. Judy is not stupid enough to perjur herself for Paul, who is already heading to Federal Prison. As uncomfortable as it will be, Judy will give up the ghost and insiders have told be she is very nervous, with good reason, about this case. It explains why she has gained fifty pounds (more) in the last year. This lawsuit has been chugging her way like a brake less speeding freight train. Her hoping for a quite settlement floated away. And now the media is sniffing around on this case, there is a award winning story in the making.

    And another twist, Sheriff McD is looking at the most embarrassing chapter in his term in office, the exposure of this lawsuit to the public of how Tanaka rewarded and retaliated which appropriately he can say, “This was before I was elected to clean things up.” However, the exposure that he promoted these two principals after the fact will clearly show how clueless he really is, how misguided he has been by his EPC and that “reform,” was just a lofty campaign throwaway promise. But being the politician O’l Fresh Eyes is, he will throw those involved under the bus in a Boston Second and proclaim accountability and reform to all. This is a story to watch. Oh by the way Judy, heads-up, someone outside of LASD is watching this case, depositions/testimony very, very closely. Don’t make the same mistake the Pandora’s Seven made.

  • I got my new brass snaps yesterday for my sam browne. All is right with the world. I don’t know why no one thought of this sooner. LASD really did need fresh eyes.

  • WARNING: If ALADS assigns you lawyer Mitchell Seth Kander #92750…..good luck. This guy will not give a shit about you. Just a pay check for him. You will be better off going pro-per.

  • Judy Gerhardt is THE MOST incompetent supervisor I’ve seen wear tan and green. She is 3-4 ranks above what she’s qualified for. All she does at Transit Bureau is troll around the building bothering EVERYONE. There is an open Group Text at TPD with many employees warning each other that she’s coming. Everyone tries hiding.

  • Does anyone know of any attorney firms involved in any suits relating to the promotional pay to play. The biggest one that stands out in my memory is the 2010 lieutenants test, with the amazing 100 plus Band I, picked straight outta Tanaka’s LASD/Gardena Pay to Play CRIME. Everyone that didn’t Pay to Play in Band II should have a good case for not being provided a fair and level playing ground for promotional opportunity.

  • Does anyone have a good info as to where anyone could conveniently exchange the silver snaps for golden ones? The people running this department are worse than the previous regime. Anyone trying to become a deputy on this department run in the opposite direction, with a good luck, you may end up in federal prison if you join. I would not advise anyone to join any law enforcement agency, but definitely, not LASO. There are now many deputies with higher ranks, who were not too good street cops, and now are getting even with the real street cops. (East Patrol Chief) There are many Lieutenants, Captains, Commanders and Chiefs appealing to the desires of their boss, and are screwing the little deputies whose crime is doing the lord’s work. This sell outs are doing it in hopes of pleasing McD to get an extra bar or star, what a shame. This sell outs should retire and make room for new minds, in hopes they are more honest. This department is in a desperate need of real leadership, integrity, honor, and respect, somethings McD obviously does not possess.

  • rabbit says: The only concern the sheriff seems to have is his fetish for uniforms and decorations because we all know that those items are real moral boosters.

  • I hear you Mary H. Has anyone seen him with his sam browne on lately? The new approved Ted Blocker SW400, 4″ drop swivel holster has to be all his idea. Straight outta the LAPD gear locker. Good luck chasing anyone with that thing slapping all over the place.

    Any truth to him trying to give the MTA contract back to LAPD? I hear their officers are telling deputies that its a done deal. They can’t even handle the Rams games, but they can take on the MTA contract? Probably just line rumors???

  • Beaten Down…that’s the tip of the iceberg. You have the 2003 lieutenant test scandal, followed by the 2005 whopper where everyone who flunked the 2003 test magically aced the next one. Consider the 2008 and 2010 tests also bogus, with executives literally handing out the test questions in advance after personnel stored the exam on the intranet for their “perusal.” Same thing happened with the sergeant’s exams during this same time period.

    Back in the 1990’s it was unheard of to have hundreds of people in Band 1 in a multi-subject, comprehensive examination process. In 2000, too many dumbasses couldn’t pass the written test, so they simply did away with it – voila! 150 person Band 1, and the gravy train started rolling. When Tanaka took over he simply put it on hyper-drive.

    Apparently it was too much to ask of our executives, both past and present, to allow the candidates to determine who got promoted by order of merit. Now you know why there are so many clueless sergeants, lieutenants, captains, commanders, chiefs, and even an assistant sheriff who didn’t know how to purchase a car the legal way.

    But hey, at least they look pretty with their brass buttons!

  • #25. Thanks for the info.

    However, been down that path…..

    Golberg actually typed out the “I can’t help you” as he spoke with me…. Of course after debiting my credit card $400….

    I found him to be a greasy money grubbing puke! I walked in with a box of stuff, that he NEVER even entertained discussing. He’s a POS!

    His parting comment was, “you seem like a smart guy, why don’t you just play the game.” He might as well represent Tanaka.

  • I died on the sergeant’s list four times in band 2 from 2003 thru 2010. I spoke to my Commander in custody after the 2010 test and he was straight forward with me. He told me that when he would go to the sergeant break up meeting. He was given a list of pre-selected candidates from the Tanaka regime and those were to be his picks. He was told to sit there and not say a thing.

  • Beaten Down, Goldberg and Gage are not pro bono attorneys pursuing social justice. They are very effective lawyers who get paid top dollar to kick the departments ass, and they have been very successful at it – more so than any other firm around. Virtually all big name firms charge a consultation fee to sit down and review your case.

    If Goldberg told you you don’t have a case, you paid for piece of mind. A crapppy attorney will take your money and bleed you dry chasing a winless case. I can only recommend you keep good records, as circumstances always change over time. Down the road you may have a case. Although it may unnerve some that Goldberg represented Tanakites, they’ve also represented just about anyone with a good beef against the department.

    Someone once observed, when challenging a big institution, first they will laugh at you, the they will ignore you, then they will get mad at you, and then you will win…

  • #30, the Commander you speak of was telling you the TRUTH. If anyone on the department thinks that Tanaka did not hand pick the list, they are very naive to the “system.”

  • @19, she does that because of her incompetence and huge insecurities. She knows she is WAY over her head and she also knows what she really did, to get that star. And deep down inside, she knows that we all know. So to mask it all, she floats around with a smile and mindless conversations so she can attempt to convince herself that she is loved by all. Have no doubt that she tells the Chief and anyone else that will listen, “I am always talking to my people, I’m out there among the masses. They are all very happy, highly motivated and love what the Sheriff is doing. And I’m spreading the word about all the good things we are doing for the troops.” All that so she can get patted on the head to hear, “Good job, Judy. I’ll make sure the Sheriff knows what you’re doing.” Judy did everything Paul told her to do, that will soon come out. And Paul’s EPC sold her promotion to McD as the best and most deserving captain to get the promotion and O’l Fresh Eyes said, “Well, if you say so.” And Paul’s EPC reported back to the little man, “Mission Accomplished,” as they have so many times over the last couple of years.

  • @30 – peacemaker, as a former Commander who sat in those meetings to pick new promotions, I can never remember any outside influence from the Sheriff’s office UNTIL Baca became Sheriff. Yes, there were “favorites” being pushed by various Divisions, but they had to negotiate with the other divisions who all had their own people they wanted to be promoted. Everyone wanted their own people promoted, it was only natural. But at the first Lt’s promotional meeting we had, we were presented with a list of names of people Baca wanted promoted. Fortunately, at that point in his tenure, his “people” had not replaced the “old guard” and he got none of his picks. Things changed after that, but I don’t think it approached the level that Tanaka later seems to have taken it.

  • @34 You are talking about a different beast 15 to 20 years ago. But in my personal experience over the course of 4 tests 2003 thru 2011, I learned valuable lessons about the corruption on the department. If you had supervision that didn’t support you, you were screwed. You were told to go meet with commanders and chiefs so they could match a face to a name. Like the 390 chiefs gave a shit about meeting me. I even asked one chief who had about 40 years on, why he was still working. His reply was “are you kidding me, be home dealing with the wife, or having this kids bow at my feet” what a pompous ass. Reminds me of a certain chief in custody now. I worked for some of these commanders before and was hoping one would tell me the truth. One finally called me into his office and told me the truth. I respect him for standing on his morals. Yes he went to his break ups and was given a list. He tried to put some of his people forward but was shut down. I can see why so many people get frustrated by doing the job with integrity and watch all the others promote. The only I can say is that I am proud to look at myself in the mirror, knowing I have my soul intact.

  • @34 peacemaker, it WAS a different beast. That was my point. The system wasn’t perfect before – it could never be with that many great candidates for so few postions – but it was not corrupted until Baca and his minions took over. Sadly, Tanaka took it to another level.

  • Long Gone, I will politely disagree with you. The system has always been corrupted by political patronage, just look at Exhibit A: Barbara Perston, Block’s daughter. A captain with 14 years on? Think any executive had the guts to tell the boss “no?” There is no such thing as a perfect system, but Jesus Christ, what is the aversion to creating standards AND PUTTING THEM IN WRITING? Facts are inconvenient to the corrupt.

    As the game was played then, just as now, if you are not “in the car” you always lacked something that was important that the other dude had. And if you had it, well that’s not everything. It’s just a game, and you are right, Tanaka took it to a whole new level – but it was still the same game.

    In the real world there are testing processes, experience that is relevant to the position being sought, and yes, education. These are easily measurable things that allows one to compare candidates. Banding systems give executives the fig leaf to hide behind to pretend the Wolak brothers were the most qualified at the time they got the nod – just one example from two different administrations.

    The department remains firmly divided between the haves and the have-nots, same as it has the last forty years.

  • @37LATBG, I cannot disagree with you. I was speaking from my experiences and was not around for Barbara Perston’s promotion – no doubt you are right because I remember what later happened to Pat Holland when he tried to give her an evaluation he felt she deserved. Besides Perston, doubtless, there were others but that is life. But MY experience was that each Division and the Executive Offices would attend the meetings with their own lists of who they wanted promoted and the battle went from there, each Division/E.O. having a vote. There were deals struck – I’ll vote for your guy/gal, if you vote for mine and that sort thing. No outside interference and I can’t imagine someone saying “The Sheriff wants so and so.”

    I am not naive enough to say if the Executive Office suggested the Sheriff’s daughter, that she might get special consideration, but their “normal” list was not given carte blanche.

    I don’t know why the banding system was put in place. One assumes it was to give the Department more say in who was being promoted – which is probably good and bad. Good in theory because the Department gets to promote the “best of the best”. I say in theory because it is impossible to say who is the “best of the best”. Is a hardworking Sgt at Lancaster better than a hardworking Sgt at Narco? Unless you have worked with and observed both, you are just guessing. And that’s only part of the bad. Banding just invites executive skullduggery of the type I wrote about earlier. And then there is the real bad in what Tanaka did by completely circumventing the system and making all the decisions himself.

    I’ve experienced promotions myself as part of the old numbered system and as part of the banding system. I’ve also participated as one of the few who decided the fate of others in the banding system. By far I prefer the numbered system. Let me take the test, give me a number and I’ll take my chances. No negotiations by some unknown Commanders behind closed doors. And I don’t want to be the Commander in that meeting when I realize that I can only get two Sergeants promoted to Lieutenant and I have to pick between six who are great candidates from my Division – all who have been rated by their Captains as their top Sergeants. Imagine having to dash the hopes and dreams of four great Sergeants because the numbers didn’t work out and I didn’t pick them. That sucks.

    But to address your bottom line; their will always be “haves and have-nots” when it comes to promotions. What is key is whether the process is fair or not. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the banding process is not the best one available to achieve that.

  • @ #38 – Banding was implemented in the early 70’s because of Affirmative Action. By having a bunch of people in a Band, the minority that was not represented enough at the next level up could be selected before others that may have scored higher and been more qualified. Some Department Head’s went so far as to announce ahead of the testing that any (name the minority or gender) that get’s into the highest band will be promoted 1st. This County policy did not set well with the majority of employees. Political Correctness started many years ago!

  • Hadtoadd, perhaps the original intent of banding was affirmative action, but given the fact the department’s brass looks awful white in comparison to the line swine, I’d say it’s more like reverse affirmative action. Now everyone is treated the same, no matter how marginal the qualifications, so the brass can pick their favorite ass kisser or boot licker. Look no further than the poster children being promoted today to the rank of lieutenant and captain.

Leave a Comment