A federal jury was deadlocked today in the corruption trial of former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca. The judge in the case declared a mistrial.
Baca faced charges of obstructing a federal investigation, committing criminal conspiracy and lying to federal investigators.
As part of closing arguments Monday, a federal prosecutor said he “authorized and condoned” a department effort in 2011 to derail an FBI civil rights investigation into the county jail beatings. Baca could have walked with a six-month sentence, but U.S. District Court judge Percy Anderson earlier this year rejected the lenient plea deal, which would have had the retired sheriff copping only to lying to a federal agent. That set up a trial on all charges as Baca defiantly vowed to fight the case.
Baca's former No. 2 at the department, Paul Tanaka, was sentenced to five years behind bars for his role in the attempt to thwart the investigation. That allegedly included having deputies brazenly go to the home of an FBI agent and threaten to arrest her for her role in securing information from a county jail inmate.
The federal civil rights investigation has resulted in convictions for 21 former sheriff's employees. In one case two ex-deputies were recently convicted for beating an inmate after he allegedly expressed disrespect for a civilian employee at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility.
The victim, a schizophrenic, screamed and cried as he was punched, kicked in the genitals and doused with pepper spray, prosecutors said.
For more than a decade, Baca expressed surprise at allegations that his jails were places where deputies brutalized inmates with no repercussions. We called him the Teflon Sheriff because charges that his jailers were above the law just didn't seem to stick.