Jury Selection Begins In Former Sheriff Lee Baca's Retrial
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca'scorruption trial ended in a mistrial after jurors "hopelessly deadlocked" on their verdict in December 2016. Federal prosecutors announced plans to retry the county's former top cop last month, and now Baca's second trial is set to begin. All but one of the 12 jurors voted to acquit Baca in his original trial, where he was facing charges of conspiring to obstruct a 2011 FBI investigation into possible abuses at the jail system he oversaw.
City News Service reports that jury selection (the initial stage of any trial) for Baca's second go-round began at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Baca will face the same charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice at his retrial, as well as a third felony count of lying to federal officials. According to the Daily News, the charges for the third count stem from allegations that Baca lied to the FBI in April 2013 about his knowledge of whether members of his department had indeed tried to subvert the federal investigation. Baca was originally slated to face the false statement charges in a separate trial, but U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson rejoined the three charges for the retrial at the urging of Assistant U.S. Atty. Brandon Fox, according to the L.A. Times.
Baca, who has been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's disease, has continually maintained that he had no idea what was happening within the department.
The L.A. Timesreports that the retrial is expected to more or less mirror the first trial, "with the government relying on testimony from some of the subordinates involved in the obstruction conspiracy, other witnesses as well as phone and email records to make its case that Baca helped concoct and carry out the plan to obstruct the FBI probe."
Baca had originally agreed to a plea deal where he would serve a six-month sentence, but a judge struck down that deal as too lenient in July 2016. The retrial is expected to last approximately two weeks, according to City News Service.
Note: An earlier version of this story misstated the expected length of the trial: it is two, not six weeks.