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lee baca

If you live in Southern California, you are likely aware that both Los Angeles (L.A.) and Orange County(O.C.) have been having some trouble, specifically in their jailhouses. In the O.C., both prosecutors and local sheriff’s deputies have been allegedly misusing jailhouse informants. In L.A., the former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was on trial for obstructing an FBI investigation into allegations that the sheriff’s deputies were abusing jail inmates.

Jurors in the Baca case were unable to reach a verdict (11-1 in favor of acquittal) last month which lead to a mistrial, The Los Angeles Times reports. Baca, who ran the Sheriff’s department for 15 years, is not out of deep water yet. It was announced he will be retried on charges of conspiracy, obstruction and making false statements to federal investigators.

With so many jurors in favor of acquitting the former sheriff, it may seem strange to push forward with a retrial that could have the same result. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to make a statement about the choice to retry Lee Baca, according to the article. However, Baca’s attorney, said:

“The government will make its decisions based on whatever calculations it wants to make. Traditionally, many 11-to-1 cases haven’t been retried.” 

The jury hanging was likely the result of a lack of evidence. Not many of the witnesses for the prosecution had previous interactions with Baca at the time the allegations were made, the article reports. Eleven of the 12 jurors found the case against Lee Baca to be “weak and circumstantial.”

However, previous trials of deputies, including former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, led to nine convictions or guilty pleas. The likelihood that the ex-sheriff had no role in the effort derail the FBI’s investigation, is probably low.

“The U.S. attorney’s approach to the high-level public officials has always been to go after them hard,” said Ken Julian, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted former Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona on corruption charges. “So on that level, it is not a surprise they are taking another shot at him.”

If you have experienced a mistrial and are looking for an experienced criminal defense attorney, please contact Attorney Ronald Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400. 

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