And now it’ll be former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s turn to tell why he’s innocent of corruption charges as the prosecution is expected to rest its case Monday in the federal corruption retrial.
Prosecutors said Friday they would probably wrap up their presentation of evidence at the end of the day. Baca’s defense attorney is expected to call his first witness Tuesday.
Last week, former sheriff’s Capt. Tom Carey, who is awaiting sentencing for lying under oath in a related trial, spent several days on the stand responding to questions about Baca’s alleged involvement in a conspiracy to hide a county jail inmate-turned-informant who was working for the FBI to expose alleged brutality against detainees in Men’s Central Jail in 2011.
Prosecutors hoped to use Carey’s testimony to show that Baca was at the very top of a complex scheme to keep Men’s Central Jail inmate Anthony Brown from giving evidence to a federal grand jury.
Baca, 74, is being tried in downtown Los Angeles on counts of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements to the FBI. The retired lawman faced trial in December on the first two counts and prosecutors planned a second trial on the lying count. But a mistrial was declared after jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquitting the former sheriff.
U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson agreed to combine all three counts in the retrial, which began Feb. 22 with jury selection.
The charges partly stem from a 2011 incident in which two sheriff’s investigators confronted an FBI agent involved in the jail probe in the driveway leading into her apartment and falsely told her they were in the process of obtaining a warrant for her arrest. Baca denies having advance knowledge of the illegal attempt to intimidate the agent.
Carey testified that he heard Baca give advice to deputies before they confronted the agent. The defense says it was really Baca’s top deputy, Paul Tanaka, who ran the conspiracy. Attorney Nathan Hochman said his client was a victim of the now-imprisoned ex-undersheriff and his hidden agenda to retaliate against the FBI.
Trying to block the FBI “was not on Sheriff Baca’s agenda,” the defense attorney told the jury in his opening statement. He added that his client had a longstanding policy of being “open and direct” with the FBI, whom he considered to be “brothers in arms.”
Carey and eight other former deputies were convicted in the case.
Baca’s second trial differs from the first. In a pretrial ruling, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson barred Hochman from putting on evidence of “prior good works” related to Baca’s more than 15 years as leader of the sheriff’s department, ruling that such evidence does not directly pertain to the charges for which he is being tried.
The judge also banned Baca from wearing a small sheriff’s star he wore on his lapel on each day of the first trial.
Current jurors will not be allowed to hear medical testimony that Baca has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for years. Anderson called such proposed testimony a “waste of time.”
Baca’s attorneys contend the ex-sheriff is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and suffered some cognitive impairment as long as six years ago.
—City News Service