© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mistrial Declared In Corruption Case Against Ex-LA Sheriff Lee Baca

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca leaves federal court in Los Angeles on Monday.
Nick Ut

The judge has declared a mistrial in the corruption trial against former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

The jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked after three days of deliberations, according to The Associated Press. It is now up to prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office about whether to retry Baca.

Baca had initially pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about corruption and prisoner abuse in the county jail he oversaw, but this summer he changed his mind and rejected a plea deal.

As The Two-Way has reported:

"Baca, 74, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, was the top elected law enforcement official in Los Angeles beginning in 1998. By withdrawing his plea, Baca chose to face trial. ...

"Baca retired under pressure in 2014 amid allegations of widespread abuse of inmates' civil rights. For example, Baca's jail staff was accused of assaulting unresisting inmates. Initially, Baca blamed the allegations on rogue officers. 'There is no institutional problem within the sheriff's department when it comes to correcting itself,' he said.

"But FBI agents found a deeply rooted culture of corruption in which sheriff's deputies actively attempted to thwart federal attempts to enlist a jailhouse informant."

The Los Angeles Times reported that prosecutors argued during the trial "that Baca resented the FBI's efforts to investigate his jails and believed sheriff's officials should, as he said in a TV news interview, 'police ourselves.' "

The Times described the closing arguments in the case earlier this week:

"Assistant U.S. Atty. Brandon Fox said Baca turned a blind eye and merely 'gave lip service' to repeated warnings about violence and corruption in his jails. ... Baca's mindset, Fox said, was to 'forget about the abused inmates, forget about the dirty deputies. Mr. Baca wanted to ensure that no outside law enforcement agency was going to police his jails.' ...

"Baca's attorneys maintained that although he was upset with federal officials for keeping him in the dark about their operation, his motivation was not to impede the federal investigation. ... Baca did not know what was going on, the defense argued."

Baca stepped down as sheriff in 2014, citing the "negative perception" his bid for re-election would bring to the sheriff's office.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rebecca Hersher is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.