LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of lying to federal investigators during a jail corruption investigation.
The charge is related to statements Baca made to federal investigators who were conducting a corruption and civil rights investigation into the county jails, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“The case illustrates that those who foster and then try to hide corrupt culture will be prosecuted,” U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said during a news conference announcing the plea agreement. “It is a sad day when a leader of a law agency fails to hold his own. No one is above the law.”
According to Decker, the plea deal calls for the former sheriff to spend a maximum of six months in prison.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles made the announcement on its official Twitter page.
“Former Sheriff Lee Baca deserves punishment for the charge he pled guilty to today,” said George Hofstetter, President of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. “The plea agreement sends a strong message that no one is above the law. There must be zero tolerance for this type of failed leadership.
“This by no means undermines the dedication and hard work of the more than 9,000 deputy sheriffs who put their lives on the line protecting L.A. County residents,” Hofstetter added. “With this admission of guilt, the environment that created this type of corruption is out of the department and we begin a new day of restoring confidence and trust.”
Baca retired amid the probe that found civil rights abuses by deputies and a cover up that led to charges against his second-in-command and nearly two dozen others.
Baca, who ran the department for more than 15 years, has said previously that he wasn’t aware of abuses at the jail or efforts by underlings to stifle the FBI probe by hiding an inmate informant.
With his guilty plea, Baca would be the 18th former member of the department convicted in the case, according to U.S attorney’s spokesman Thom Mrozek.
Baca avoided charges for years as prosecutors moved up the ranks to indict a number of officers and, eventually, his second-in-command.
In May, when former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and another high-ranking member of the department were charged with obstructing justice, prosecutors declined to comment on whether Baca was under investigation.
Tanaka is facing trial, but his co-defendant, former Capt. Tom Carey, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify in related court proceedings. It’s not clear if that included providing grand jury testimony against Baca.
Members of the department have been convicted of federal crimes, including beating inmates, obstructing justice, bribery and conspiracy. The convictions stem from a grand jury investigation that began in 2010 into allegations of abuse and corruption at the downtown Men’s Central Jail.
Deputies tried to hide an FBI jail informant from his handlers for two weeks in 2011 by shifting him from cell to cell at various jails under different names and altering jail computer records. The FBI wanted the informant to testify to a grand jury.
Tanaka retired from the department in 2013 and ran unsuccessfully to replace his former boss, losing by a wide margin to Jim McDonnell.
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