Lee Baca, the former Los Angeles County sheriff who had pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about reports of corruption and prisoner abuse in his jail, changed his plea yesterday, NPR reports. He backed away from a deal calling for a six-month jail sentence, which a federal judge ruled too lenient. Baca, 74, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, was the top elected law enforcement official in Los Angeles beginning in 1998. Baca now faces trial.
Baca retired under pressure in 2014 amid “allegations of widespread abuse of inmates’ civil rights.” His staff was accused of assaulting unresisting inmates. Initially, Baca blamed the allegations on rogue officers. FBI agents found a deeply rooted culture of corruption in which sheriff’s deputies tried to thwart federal attempts to enlist a jailhouse informant. Deputies were accused of attempting to intimidate an FBI agent leading the investigation by confronting her at her home. Baca faced a maximum penalty of five years. After changing his plea, Baca said, “I made this decision due to untruthful comments about my actions made by the court and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that are contradicted by evidence in this case.”