Ex-LA Sheriff Facing More Federal Charges

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — A federal grand jury on Friday indicted former Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca on charges of obstructing an FBI investigation into abuses at two county jails.
     Baca, 74, was also charged with conspiring to obstruct justice and lying to the federal government, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney Office in Los Angeles said in a statement.
     The three-count superseding indictment comes after Baca on Monday withdrew a guilty plea of lying to federal investigators, a decision that set the stage for a jury trial later this year.
     If convicted, Baca faces a maximum term of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge, a maximum sentence of 10 years for obstruction of justice, and up to five years in prison on the false statement charge.
     Baca, who says he is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, told reporters on Monday that he had entered his plea earlier this year to “avoid a lengthy and expensive trial and to minimize the court drama” associated with the case.
     “I have made this decision due to the untruthful comments about my actions made by the court and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that are contradicted by the evidence in this case,” Baca said of his decision to withdraw the plea and thus open up the possibility of a far harsher punishment.
     U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson pulled the rug out from under Baca last month when he refused to accept the government’s recommendation of six months in jail for lying to investigators.
     Anderson said that the sentence would not have accounted for Baca’s culpability in a scheme that involved the destruction of records, cover-ups, interference with a grand jury investigation, tampering with witnesses, and the threatening of an FBI agent.
     Baca had the option of accepting a less lenient sentence from the court or withdrawing his plea, which he did on Monday.
     In April, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was convicted as the ringleader of a conspiracy to hide informant Anthony Brown within the jail system after the discovery of an FBI phone in his cell. Tanaka was sentenced to five years in June.
     On Thursday, seven of Baca and Tanaka’s underlings lost the appeal of their convictions for their part in the obstruction case.
     In February, prosecutors said that Baca, who entered his plea agreement in February, “knowingly and willfully” made false statements to investigators during an interview in April 2013.
     After jailers discovered the phone and concluded that Brown was cooperating with the FBI, Baca ordered Brown isolated from the rest of the jail population, prosecutors said.
     In August 2011, Baca asked Tanaka to investigate how the phone had ended up with the inmate.
     The following month, Baca allegedly instructed officials to “do everything but put handcuffs” on FBI agent Leah Marx, who was investigating the case.
     Anderson set a trial date for Sept. 20, 2016. Baca will likely seek a continuance.

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