Judge Declares Mistrial In Ex-Sheriff Lee Baca's Corruption Trial, Jurors 'Hopelessly Deadlocked'
On Thursday, with jurors "hopelessly deadlocked" after more than 20 hours of deliberations, a judge declared a mistrial in ex-Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca's corruption trial, according to City News Service. Baca, who was being tried in federal court on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy, faces up to fifteen years in prison if convicted on both counts. He is still facing another trial on a charge of lying to federal investigators, which would carry a maximum sentence of five years. The six-man, six-woman jury had been deliberating since Monday afternoon. According to the L.A. Times, the mistrial offers "a temporary reprieve for Baca," as prosecutors must now decide whether to retry Baca.
Prosecutors had rested their case in the corruption trial of L.A. County's former top cop on Monday, telling jurors that Baca had "authorized and condoned" plans to obstruct an FBI investigation into abuse inside the jail system.
Prosecution must now decide whether to retry Baca on conspiracy and obstruction charges. Baca faces separate trial on lying to Feds.— Joel Rubin (@joelrubin) December 22, 2016
Baca's attorneys maintained that he wasn't aware of what was going on, and that all the responsibility fell on former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who was sentenced to five years in prison in June.
Baca, who resigned from his position in 2014 amid a federal investigation that had begun the year before, had originally struck up a plea deal on the obstruction charges. The terms of the deal, which were finalized in February of this year, stated that Baca would serve no more than six months in federal prison. The Baca Saga became far more complicated in July, when a federal judge rejected that plea deal as being too lenient, saying that the six-month sentence "would trivialize the seriousness of the offenses," according to the L.A. Times.
Baca, who had announced in June that he had the early stages Alzheimer's disease, was left with two choices. He could accept whatever sentence Judge Percy Anderson, who had previously meted out harsh sentences to others involved in the jail abuse scandal, thought was acceptable, or stand trial for his role in the coverup. On August 1, two weeks after the judge's shocking decision, Baca decided to take his chances before jury.
Update [4 p.m.]:
Ron Hernandez, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying that:
The fact that the jury could not reach a decision in this case does not absolve the failure in leadership of those in the department at the time of these crimes. However, rather than scrutinize management's practices and styles which contributed to this scandal and make positive changes, the department's current response to date has been to target rank-and-file deputies. A mere accusation of misconduct is now immediately followed by the second-guessing of deputies, and when discipline is imposed it is overly severe.
Hernandez went on to say that that "Today's hardworking deputies should not be judged (or pre-judged) based on the past actions of others just as our current sheriff and executive staff would not want to have those evaluating their actions automatically assume they are continuing the misdeeds of Baca and Tanaka," and that they were "not going to let the sins of former managers define our deputies."
When asked how he felt about the day's mistrial decision, Baca said that he felt "great."