A federal grand jury indicted former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca for conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstructing justice and lying to the FBI over corruption inside county jails.
In 2010, the FBI launched an investigation into civil rights abuses and corruption inside the jails. In February, Baca had agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of lying to the FBI about his knowledge that sheriff's officials approached and threatened to arrest an FBI agent in 2013.
Baca ended up withdrawing his guilty plea when a judge rejected a plea deal with a maximum six-month sentence. The judge called it “too lenient” and said that it did “not fairly measure this defendant's culpability.”
The 74-year-old was charged Friday in a three-count indictment. If convicted on all counts, Baca could face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.
He is expected to be arraigned at a later date, which has not been set yet.
Following news of the indictment, Baca's attorney, Nathan Hochman, said in a statement, “These new charges represent punishment by this United States Attorney's office for our client's decision to seek a trial. The United States Attorney's Office has already admitted in court the weakness of its obstruction case against Lee Baca. This trial will be vastly different than the others. We look forward to this process and believe that Mr. Baca will be vindicated after all of the evidence is finally presented.”
As a result of the FBI's investigation, 20 current or former member of the sheriff's department have been convicted on federal charges for helping to cover up corruption in the jails.