Jury Selection To Begin In Baca Corruption Trial

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Jury selection will begin Monday in the corruption trial of Los Angeles County’s former sheriff, who is facing federal obstruction of justice charges that could bring as much as 20 years in prison.

According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Lee Baca, 74, is accused of conspiring to commit and committing obstruction of justice from August to September 2011.

Baca is also accused of making five false statements to the federal government in April 2013.

Prosecutors contend he lied to the FBI about his knowledge of department efforts to subvert a federal probe into corruption and inmate abuse in the jail system.

The charges focus on a period of time when sheriff’s deputies based at the Men’s Central Jail stumbled upon the FBI’s secret probe of alleged civil rights abuses and unjustified beatings of inmates within jail cells.

A pool of 150 residents of the district will be screened in downtown Los Angeles.

A second jury will be selected at a later date to hear testimony on the charges of making false statements to the government.

Opening statements could begin on Tuesday.

The trial was split into two parts Friday, when U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson ruled that an expert on dementia can testify about Baca’s mental state, but only as it relates to charges of making false statements, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

Health officials say Baca is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, however, Anderson ruled that his mental state was not relevant to the conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges.

Baca, who ran the nation’s largest sheriff’s department for 16 years, claims he knew nothing of the plan to impede the jails probe, and that his former second-in-command Paul Tanaka was in charge of the operation.

He retired in 2014 at the height of the federal probe.

To date, about 10 ex-Sheriff’s officials, including Tanaka, have been convicted or pleaded guilty in connection with the case.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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