A federal jury began deliberating Monday in the retrial of former LosAngelesCounty Sheriff Lee Baca, who faces up to 20years in prison if found guilty of obstructing justice and giving false statements related to a federal inmate abuse investigation.
After briefly deliberating Monday, jurors were set to resume Tuesday to determine whether Baca, now 74 and in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, helped obstruct a 2011 FBI investigation into guards who savagely beat inmates in his jails and lying about trying to obstruct the probe.
A guilty verdict will cap a remarkable turnaround for the government, which has scored convictions against the other main players in the conspiracy but previous year struggled to convince jurors in the first trial of Baca's guilt.
Baca told prosecutors at the April 2013 meeting that he did not know about the approach until after the fact. "It's all their fault", Fox told jurors of Baca's alleged mindset.
The jury, made up of eight men and four women with four others serving as alternates, is expected to begin deliberations at 8 a.m.in downtown Los Angeles immediately after closing arguments. He has pleaded not guilty.
In December, jurors deadlocked and a mistrial was declared.
The alleged lies occurred in a 2013 interview with federal prosecutors. "There is no dispute that certain acts took place. The question is why did they take place and what was in Lee Baca's mind?" The prosecution even showed a chess piece, the king.
Baca is accused of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and false statements.
The government says Baca interfered with a federal investigation in the summer of 2011, when the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department discovered the FBI was running a covert operation in the jails. Prosecutors made a decision to try the former sheriff again but this time added the charge of giving false statements during an interview with federal investigators. "Yes", Baca replied. "I wasn't aware of any of the investigative particulars". Prosecutors reminded jurors of witness testimony that Baca was briefed ahead of time and allegedly told his investigators, "Just don't put handcuffs on her". And how did Baca react when he saw video of the sergeants threatening to arrest Special Agent Marx? "Baca laughed", Fox told jurors, "because they did exactly what he wanted them to do".
During rebuttal, prosecutor Brandon Fox accused Hochman of distorting facts, misleading jurors and making "stuff up". "That's how a criminal acts".
His defense attorney Nathan Hochman basically said the same thing after a day of trying to convince the jury that his client did nothing wrong, and there is plenty of proof of reasonable doubt. Inmate-turned-FBI informant Anthony Brown initially claimed that multiple deputies were smuggling contraband into the jails - not just cellphones, but drugs.
Fox, for example, took the chess reference from the testimony of former Lt. Greg Thompson, who told jurors about an exchange in which he apologized to Baca after Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were allowed into the jail to interview the informant. He said Baca believed the inmate was being moved and having his name changed in the computer for safety reasons. "Paul Tanaka had a different agenda". Baca's second in command took advantage of the trust the sheriff placed in him and directed the others in the group while keeping Baca in the dark. Hochman referred to the prosecution's evidence as, "spaghetti thrown against the wall to see what sticks".