Former L.A. County sheriff Lee Baca to plead guilty in corruption case

LA County Sheriff Lee Baca on the day he announced his unexpected retirement on January 7, 2014.

LA County Sheriff Lee Baca on the day he announced his unexpected retirement on January 7, 2014.  (2013 Getty Images)

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca wants to move on from the cloud that has hung over his head and the law enforcement agency as a result of a federal corruption case that forced his resignation two years ago.

His attorney, Michael Zweibeck, said Wednesday he plans to plead guilty to lying to the investigators who were looking into allegations of beatings of inmates at the department.

U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker scheduled a news conference Wednesday afternoon to announce that Baca had agreed to plead guilty to a charge of lying to federal investigators during the civil rights probe.

Baca, who ran the department for more than 15 years, has said previously that he wasn't aware of abuses at the jail or efforts by underlings to stifle the FBI probe by hiding an inmate informant.

With his guilty plea, Baca would be the 18th former member of the department convicted in the case, according to U.S attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek.

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Baca avoided charges for years as prosecutors moved up the ranks to indict a number of officers and, eventually, his second-in-command.

“He definitely feels bad,” the Los Angeles Times quoted Zweibeck as saying, after a Wednesday morning arraignment on the charge. “He is ready for whatever outcome is deemed appropriate by the court. It’s time to put this behind him."

Zweibeck added that Baca “doesn’t want the men and women of the sheriff’s department to be under this cloud,” the Times said.

The sentencing guidelines for the charge are up to six months in prison or probation.

In May, when former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and another high-ranking member of the department were charged with obstructing justice, prosecutors declined to comment on whether Baca was under investigation.

Tanaka is facing trial, but his co-defendant, former Capt. Tom Carey, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify in related court proceedings. It's not clear if that included providing grand jury testimony against Baca.

Members of the department have been convicted of federal crimes, including beating inmates, obstructing justice, bribery and conspiracy. The convictions stem from a grand jury investigation that began in 2010 into allegations of abuse and corruption at the downtown Men's Central Jail.

Deputies tried to hide an FBI jail informant from his handlers for two weeks in 2011 by shifting him from cell to cell at various jails under different names and altering jail computer records. The FBI wanted the informant to testify to a grand jury.

Federal prosecutors say Baca took part in discussions to derail the investigation after they discovered an informant inmate was working with the FBI.

Baca told deputies to threaten an FBI agent with arrest and do everything short of handcuffing her.

Tanaka retired from the department in 2013 and ran unsuccessfully to replace his former boss, losing by a wide margin to Jim McDonnell.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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