Lee Baca, once the top elected law enforcement official in Los Angeles, will be re-tried on charges of obstructing a federal investigation into his county jail. The announcement by federal prosecutors follows a recent mistrial in which he was nearly acquitted by a jury deadlocked 11-1 in his favor.
As the Two-Way previously reported, the 74-year old former lawman has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He went to trial after withdrawing a guilty plea on charges that he lied to federal investigators about reports of corruption and prisoner abuse in his jail.
U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson will allow prosecutors to re-try Baca on the original charges of obstruction and conspiracy, as well as an additional charge of lying to investigators.
The news of the re-trial is the latest development in a saga dating back to 2013 when several of Baca’s officers were indicted on charges of taking bribes, abusing inmates, and then covering up their activities. Critics charged Baca’s sheriff’s department with operating in “a subculture of corruption.”
Prosecutors tried to convince the jury last month that Baca was the “heartbeat” of a conspiracy to cover up the jailhouse abuse and corruption, including the surveillance and intimidation of an FBI agent investigating the department.
But the jury was unconvinced, apparently believing Baca’s lawyers who argued that the former sheriff, who resigned in 2014, had no knowledge of what his officers were doing.
Thus far, nine people have been convicted or pleaded guilty in the corruption scandal.