Prosecution And Defense Rest Their Cases In Baca Retrial
After 10 days of testimony, both sides have rested their cases on Thursday in the retrial of ex-L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca. Baca has been accused of being involved in a conspiracy to thwart a 2011 FBI investigation into civil rights abuses in the County's jails. The original trial, which happened in December, dealt with allegations of obstruction of justice and conspiracy; it resulted in a mistrial after the jury reached an 11-1 deadlock favoring acquittal. For the retrial, the charges came with a separate allegation of making false statements to investigators in 2013.
According to the LA Times, the defense tried to have the accusation of making false statements tried separately, based on a psychiatrist's expected testimony that Baca was suffering from early stages of Alzheimer's at the time. The accusations were recombined after U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox urged U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson to join the three and argued for the removal of the psychiatrist's testimony, saying it was speculative and could have misled the jurors.
Included in the prosecution's new case was testimony from William "Tom" Carey, a former sheriff's official, who testified that Baca received frequent updates on the plans to obstruct the FBI and attended several crucial meetings on how to handle the situation. Baca himself did not testify in the retrial. Closing arguments will occur on Monday.
Baca's former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was convicted of obstruction and sentenced to five years in prison last year.
In an original plea deal between Baca and the prosecutors, Baca would have faced no more than six months in prison for pleading guilty. After Tanaka's sentencing in June of last year, Anderson deemed this too lenient and rejected the deal. After Anderson threw away the deal, Baca's attorney Michael Zweiback decided to go forward with a trial rather than risk an open-ended guilty plea at the hands of the judge.
If convicted, Baca could receive up to 20 years in prison.