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obstruction of justice

After a mistrial late last year, a team of prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office decided to take another stab at convincing jurors that former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was, in fact, guilty of obstructing a federal investigation. The efforts of the public corruption prosecutors paid off, with a jury finding Lee Baca guilty of obstructing an FBI investigation into abuse of jail inmates and lying to cover up such offenses, The Los Angeles Times reports. Despite having early stage Alzheimer’s disease, it is likely that the former Sheriff will do some time in Federal prison.

The is a story that highlights one man’s long fall from grace, as is evident by the case of Lee Baca. During his decade and a half tenure as L.A. County Sheriff, Baca earned a reputation for having forward thinking ideas about criminal justice, according to the article. A reputation that proved to be inconsequential to a panel of jurors, after prosecutors showed that he was behind efforts to:

  • Prohibit FBI agents from speaking with an inmate who had acted as an informant.
  • Coercing potential witnesses in the federal inquiry.
  • Intimidated an FBI agent.

Baca’s defense attorney had attempted to convince jurors that it was Baca’s Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka and others below, who were behind the effort to obstruct the FBI, the article reports. Baca’s attorneys argued that his client was unaware of what was happening. Both Baca and Tanaka, as well as eight lower-level deputies have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Baca’s was found guilty of:

  • Obstruction of Justice (felony)
  • Conspiracy (felony)
  • Making False Statements to Federal Investigators

“This verdict sends a clear message that no one is above the law…. With a career in law enforcement, he knew right from wrong. And he made a decision that was to commit a crime … and when the time came, he lied — he lied to cover up his tracks.” — Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown

The former Sheriff plans to appeal the decision.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Orange County, California. Attorney Brower has over three decades of experience representing individuals charged with a range of crimes and in high-profile matters.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400. 

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