Judge denies ex-Sheriff Lee Baca’s request to stay free while appealing his conviction

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca outside the Los Angeles federal courthouse earlier this year after he was convicted of obstruction of justice and other charges. A judge denied his request to remain free on bond while he appeals his conviction.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A federal judge has denied ex-Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s request to remain free while he appeals his conviction on charges that he obstructed an investigation into abuses in the county jail system.

In a nine-page ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson found that Baca failed to raise any issues that would likely result in a new trial.

Baca — who was sentenced to three years in prison after he was convicted of making false statements to federal investigators, conspiracy and obstruction of justice — is scheduled to surrender to federal authorities and begin his prison sentence next week.

But his attorney, Nathan Hochman, said the date would be put on hold while the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals considers another request from Baca to remain free during his appeal.

“We respectfully and completely disagree with Judge Anderson’s denial of the bail pending appeal motion,” Hochman said in a statement. “The court found that Sheriff Baca neither poses a danger to the community nor a flight risk but improperly ruled that we had not raised substantially debatable, non-frivolous issues for appeal.”


Baca’s conviction in March ended a scandal that has roiled the Sheriff’s Department for years.

Baca was one of 10 people convicted in what prosecutors argued was a conspiracy to interfere with FBI agents as they worked to gather evidence for a grand jury investigation into allegations of abuse by deputies working in county jails run by the Sheriff’s Department. Several other deputies have been found guilty of civil rights violations for beating inmates and a visitor in the jails.

The case against Baca focused on six weeks in August and September of 2011 after the discovery by sheriff’s officials that FBI agents had bribed a deputy to smuggle a cellphone to their inmate informant, a convicted violent felon.

Hochman argued that Baca, 74, should be sentenced only to house arrest because he is suffering from “mild dementia.”

Times staff writer Joel Rubin contributed to this report.

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8:45 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Baca’s attorney, Nathan Hochman.

This article was originally published at 6 p.m.