Former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca Likely Headed to Prison After Being Denied New Appeal

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Ex-Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is seen outside the L.A. federal courthouse after he was convicted of obstruction of justice and other charges. A judge denied Baca's request to be free on bond while he appeals his conviction. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Ex-Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is seen outside the L.A. federal courthouse after he was convicted of obstruction of justice and other charges. A judge denied Baca’s request to be free on bond while he appeals his conviction. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

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A federal appeals court on Friday left in place former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca corruption conviction and three-year prison sentence.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected Baca’s request to reconsider an earlier ruling upholding his conviction. The court in February ruled that Baca received a fair trial.

Baca, 76, stepped down as sheriff in 2014 amid an FBI investigation launched three years earlier into abuses at the nation’s largest jail system. A jury convicted him in 2017 of obstructing the investigation and lying to prosecutors. His lawyer Benjamin Coleman unsuccessfully argued on appeal that the jury should have been told of Baca’s Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis in 2016.

Coleman wanted to argue that the disease could have had an effect on Baca’s dealings with investigators and prosecutors in 2013. But the trial judge said that testimony would be speculative and confuse the jury, and the appeals court agreed.

Baca’s prison sentence has been on hold while he appealed. The appeals court didn’t say Friday in its three-sentence ruling if a trial court judge should now order Baca to report to prison. Baca’s only chance now to avoid prison is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court accepts roughly 5 percent of the cases petitioning it for review.

Baca’s lawyer didn’t respond to email and phone inquiries Friday.

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