Lee Baca was ‘heartbeat’ of county jail conspiracy, the federal prosecutor says as trial opens.
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was the “heartbeat” of a criminal conspiracy to block a federal investigation into abuse and corruption in the Sheriff’s Department run jails; a federal prosecutor told jurors Wednesday in the opening of Baca’s obstruction of justice trial.
Attorneys clashed in their portrayals of just how much the ex-sheriff knew and participated in the scheme that took place over six weeks in the summer of 2011, for which Baca’s second-in-command and eight other sheriff’s officials have already been convicted of related charges.
“Mr. Baca was the leader of this conspiracy; he was the driving force,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Brandon Fox told jurors.
Former Los Angeles County “Corrupt” Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was sentenced to five years in federal prison for his role in a wide-ranging conspiracy to derail a federal investigation into jail misconduct.
Baca’s lawyer told jurors that his client was unfairly being painted with the same brush as subordinates who went beyond the then sheriff’s orders and ventured into criminal conduct. It was then-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who had “his own agenda” and was directly overseeing the deputies who carried out the obstruction, attorney Nathan Hochman said.