Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, once a towering, respected figure in policing, was sentenced to three years in federal prison for his role in a scheme to obstruct an FBI investigation of abuses in county jails. The action on Friday marked an end to a corruption scandal that has roiled the Sheriff’s Department for several years, the Los Angeles Times reports. U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson sentenced Baca, 74, who is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Anderson, who last year threw out a plea deal that would have sent Baca to prison for no more than six months, unleashed a scathing rebuke of the man who ran one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies for 15 years.
Excoriating Baca’s refusal to accept responsibility for having condoned the obstruction ploy carried out by subordinates, the judge portrayed him as a man driven by his desire to protect his own reputation and maintain control over the Sheriff’s Department. “Your actions embarrass the thousands of men and women [in the department] who put their lives on the line every day,” Anderson told Baca. “They were a gross abuse of the trust the public placed in you.” The prison term, Anderson added, should serve as a deterrent to other public servants. He said, “No person, no matter how powerful, no matter his or her title, is above the law.” Baca was ordered to surrender by July 25. Baca’s second in command, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, is serving a 5-year term.