Lee Baca is a piece of work. The former LA County Sheriff -- tied with Arizona's Joe Arpaio for worse in the nation -- presided over a series of scandals, none so grotesque as the ring of corrupt deputies whose abuse and misconduct in the county jails were capped off by an attempt to intimidate an FBI agent who was investigating them, and a breathtaking act of criminality in which an FBI informant was moved to a new jail under a fake name, surrounded by a round-the-clock detail of 13 deputies who prevented him from speaking with the FBI.
Ever since the corruption story was broken by the LA Times, (now-ex-)Sheriff Baca has thrown his deputies and lieutenants under the bus, insisting that he knew nothing about the violent abuse, the thefts, and the obstruction of justice.
Finally, Baca has admitted that he lied to the FBI, that he knew about it all along, and that he was in charge of the whole thing. He's pleaded guilty in a deal that gets him no more than six months in prison.
His lawyer said he did it for his deputies, not wanting them "under a cloud." The fact that many of those deputies were under indictment, facing long prison sentences, and likely to roll on him surely had nothing to do with it.
According to his lawyer, he was motivated by sincere remorse: "He definitely feels bad. He feels bad about a lot of things."
In an unusual move, sheriff's officials responded by moving the convicted bank robber to a different jail under a fake name and preventing FBI agents from talking to him.
They assigned at least 13 deputies to watch him around the clock. And when the operation was over, the deputies received an internal email thanking them for helping "without asking too many questions and prying into the investigation at hand."
Baca has said Brown was moved not to hide him from the FBI, but to protect him from deputies.
Baca’s false statements occurred on April 12, 2013, during an interview with officials from the FBI and U.S. attorney's office, the plea agreement said.
Ex-L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca pleads guilty in jail scandal
[Joel Rubin, Cindy Chang and Harriet Ryan/LA Times]
(Image: Lee Baca, J Rosenfeld, CC-BY)