LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is likely headed to prison after the U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to hear his appeal requesting to overturn his 2017 conviction for his role in obstructing an FBI investigation into a large-scale corruption scheme in the county jail system.
The 77-year-old Baca, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, ran the nation’s largest sheriff’s department for more than 15 years.
“The Supreme Court missed an opportunity to right the significant legal wrongs that occurred in Sheriff Baca’s case,” Nathan Hochman, an attorney for Baca, told CBS2 in a statement Monday.
In March 2017, Baca was convicted on federal charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and making false statements. It was his second trial after his first ended in a mistrial.
In May of 2017, Baca was sentenced to three years in federal prison. In October of that year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Baca could stay out of jail while appealing his conviction.
Last February, a 9th Circuit appellate panel in Pasadena rejected Baca’s appeal to have his conviction overturned, which eventually kicked the case up to the Supreme Court.
The case will now return to the 9th Circuit Court, which will then hand the case back to U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson, who is expected to schedule a date for Baca to turn himself in to begin his sentence.
The charges stemmed from events in 2011, when a cell phone was discovered in the hands of an inmate/informant at the L.A. 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 by concealing the inmate-turned-informant from federal prosecutors, who had issued a summons for his grand jury appearance, prosecutors said.
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.
Baca was elected sheriff in 1998 and re-elected three times. He was poised to run again in 2014, but federal indictments unsealed in December 2013, related to excessive force in the jails and obstruction of that investigation, led him to retire the following month.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)