Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, center, leaves federal court, where prosecutors announced they will retry him on charges of obstructing an FBI investigation. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Joel Rubin
January 10, 2017

Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that they will retry former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca following a recent mistrial in which a jury nearly cleared him of obstructing an FBI investigation into the county’s jails.

The judge in the case also granted a request by the U.S. attorney’s office to allow prosecutors to include the charge of making false statements to federal authorities in the retrial. U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson previously split that charge from the obstruction and conspiracy charges Baca faced at trial last month.

During the two-week trial, prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office tried to convince jurors that Baca had played a central role in a scheme carried out by a group of subordinates to thwart an FBI investigation into abuses and corruption by sheriff’s deputies working as jailers. Baca’s lawyers countered he had been unaware of the ploy unfolding beneath him.

The panel deliberated for days, with all but one of the 12 jurors ultimately voting to acquit Baca. After the panel announced it was deadlocked, Anderson declared the mistrial.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney declined to comment on the decision to press ahead with another trial after the near acquittal. Baca’s attorney, Nathan Hochman, said, “The government will make its decisions based on whatever calculations it wants to make. Traditionally, many 11-to-1 cases haven’t been retried.”

The retrial is scheduled to begin Feb. 21.

Although it offered only a momentary reprieve for Baca, the verdict dealt a setback for U.S. Atty. Eileen M. Decker and the prosecutors from her office’s Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section that pursued the 74-year-old former sheriff.

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