LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – An appeal by former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to overturn his conviction for obstructing an FBI investigation into a large-scale corruption scheme in the county jail system was rejected by a federal appeals panel Monday.
In May of 2017, Baca was sentenced to three years in federal prison for his conviction on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and making false statements. It was his second trial in the case, the first ending in a mistrial.
Baca suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. In their appeal before the 9th Circuit appellate panel, Baca’s attorneys argued that the trial judge had abused his discretion by barring jurors from hearing evidence of the former sheriff’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
But the appellate panel disagreed, finding that the trial court “did not abuse its discretion.” Federal prosecutors had argued that the defense could not prove Baca was suffering from Alzheimer’s when he committed his crimes.
The ruling does not automatically mean Baca will be going to prison. He could request a review by the full 9th Circuit or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Baca — who ran the nation’s largest sheriff’s department for more than 15 years — was first tried in December 2016 on obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice counts. But a mistrial was declared after jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquittal.
The charges stemmed from events in 2011 when a cell phone was discovered in the hands of an inmate/informant at the Men’s Central Jail. Sheriff’s deputies quickly tied the phone to the FBI, which had been conducting a secret probe of brutality against inmates.
At that point, sheriff’s officials closed ranks and began an attempt to halt the formerly covert investigation.
In addition to the 10 people convicted in connection with the Baca conspiracy case, 11 other now-former sheriff’s department members were also convicted of various crimes uncovered during the FBI investigation.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)