Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, the corrupt law enforcement chief who was fond of giving himself awards, campaigning against marijuana legalization, encouraging prison rape, wrongfully imprisoning people, locking up nonviolent people who possessed drugs, and horribly mistreating inmates, lost his court appeal for obstructing justice and lying to federal authorities. He could spend several years in prison.
Attorneys for Baca, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, appealed the verdict, arguing it had been tainted by rulings U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson had made during the trial and so should be reversed. Among several alleged errors, they focused on Anderson's decision to bar the jury from hearing testimony about Baca's illness and about a conversation he had with an aide about the FBI's investigation. Either piece of information, the defense team said, could have helped sway the jury in Baca's favor.
But the three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected those claims, finding the trial was fair and the conviction legally sound.
Calling the case prosecutors had mounted "fair and thorough," U.S. Atty. Nick Hanna said in a statement the ruling "confirms the principle that no one is above the law."
"Instead of cooperating with a federal investigation that ultimately was concerned about improving conditions in the county jails, Mr. Baca chose to obstruct and then lie to federal authorities," Hanna said.