Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has Alzheimer’s disease, but he will still spend time in prison for lying over the maltreatment of inmates to federal investigators, the Los Angeles Times is reporting.
In a court filing on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox said the rumors were true about the former sheriff’s condition after the disease was diagnosed and verified by an expert.
Fox asked U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson to sentence Baca to six months in prison, saying it is “appropriate after taking into account all sides… including his crime, his current health and his likely prognosis.” Baca is penciled for sentencing next month.
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The six-month prison term that has been suggested emanated from a deal struck by Baca’s legal team in February. Under the plea agreement, Baca pleaded guilty to not telling the truth when he was questioned by Fox and other officials in 2013. The former sheriff had denied having any knowledge of the ill-treatment of inmates and corruption in the L.A. County jail system.
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Baca admitted that he was not aware of corruption practices under his watch and initially denied that he was not aware that deputies were planning to intimidate an FBI agent spearheading an investigation. But records show Baca was aware of what his subordinates planned to do, telling them before they headed out to the agent’s house “to do everything but put cuffs on her.” He later changed his story, and prosecutors agreed not to press more serious charges and told him they would propose a sentence of six months to the judge.
If Judge Anderson refuses the deal, he is required to tell Baca before pronouncing a new sentence. Baca then has a choice of accepting the judge’s new sentence or withdrawing his guilty plea and taking his chances at trial.
Fox said the former sheriff’s cognitive impairments were “slight” but added that there was no evidence that his Alzheimer condition caused him to lie to federal investigators since the interview took place 12 months prior to when he was first diagnosed by a doctor.
The doctor has advised the office of the U.S. attorney that Baca’s condition would not worsen in coming months. This is what has prompted Fox to suggest a six-month prison term, adding that it was crucial that Baca spend time behind bars as a deterrent to others who felt they could use their position of power to commit crimes.
“Instead of upholding the law, defendant Baca committed a crime by lying to the federal government. Baca’s actions showed that he believed he was above the law.”
The U.S. attorney cited a bold speech made by Baca at a reception, where he said, “I’ll stand on my record proudly, anywhere, whether it’s in the free world or in jail.”
Fox interpreted the comments to mean he deemed himself above the law.
Baca’s attorney, Michael Zweiback, is asking for leniency, saying that his client failed the office he was elected to serve, but that he should be given a suspended sentence, adding that his condition required “consistent monitoring” and therapy that would help slow down the development of the disease.
Baca was in charge of the L.A. County department for 15 years. He resigned in 2014 amid an FBI investigation of gross misconduct by deputies in the county’s jail system. Over a dozen deputies have been convicted since investigations started five years ago. During his reign, county inmates were severely beaten and sexually humiliated. Deputies went on to intimidate an FBI investigator looking into the case and hid a jailhouse informant under an alias so that federal authorities could not reach him.
Do you think Lee Baca should go to jail despite his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease?
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