Lee Baca

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Lee Baca
Lee Baca in 2011.jpg
Baca in 2011
Born (1942-05-27) May 27, 1942 (age 75)
East Los Angeles, California
Other names "Lee"
Police career
Department Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
Country United States
Years of service 1965–2014
Rank Sworn in as a deputy - 1965
Sergeant - 1970
Lieutenant - 1975
Captain - 1981
Commander - 1987
Chief Deputy - 1992
Sheriff - 1998

Leroy David "Lee" Baca (born May 27, 1942) is a convicted felon and former Sheriff of Los Angeles County, California.

Baca was elected Los Angeles County's 30th sheriff against his mentor Sherman Block, who had died in office days prior to the election but remained on the ballot. He was sworn in on December 7, 1998.

He was re-elected to a fourth term in 2010. He has been criticized for proposing a half-percent sales tax increase in 2004 to hire more deputy sheriffs, placing friends on the payroll, taking of gifts, and for releasing inmates from the Los Angeles County Jail.[1]

On January 7, 2014 Baca announced that he would retire at the end of January 2014 before the expiration of his term.[2][3]

Early life and career[edit]

Baca's mother was a seamstress born in Michoacán and then brought to the U.S. when she was a year old.[4] Lee Baca was born in East Los Angeles and graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School, located in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, in 1960 and later from East Los Angeles College. In 1964, Baca joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve.[5]

On August 23, 1965, Baca was sworn in as a deputy sheriff trainee of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Baca began his career in street patrol, custody, and recruitment and was a staff instructor at the Sheriff's Academy. In 1981, Baca became captain of the Norwalk, California sheriff station. On January 23, 1992, Sheriff Sherman Block promoted Baca to the rank of chief deputy.[5]

Baca received his bachelor's degree in 1971 from California State University, Los Angeles [6] and a Master of Public Administration in 1973 and a Doctorate of Public Administration in 1993 from the University of Southern California School of Policy, Planning, and Development.[7]

Policy positions[edit]

He opposed the California ban on shark finning.[8] and is a Republican who opposed California Proposition 8.[9] Baca supported Secure Communities, a program by the Department of Homeland Security in which the federal government collaborates with local law enforcement to detain and deport illegal immigrants.[4]

Early release of county jail inmates[edit]

On November 9, 2006, Baca and Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley issued a press release regarding their joint policy on early release, which requires all jail inmates to serve at least 25 percent of their sentence before becoming eligible for early release. In the press release, Baca said, "I also want to thank District Attorney Steve Cooley for his most valuable input on this matter. This new policy will move us forward to where one day all inmates will serve the entire time required." Also in the press release, Cooley said, "I commend Sheriff Baca for implementing this new policy". "This will assure that sentences imposed by the court will be carried out in a predictable and even-handed manner. The policy was also applauded by then Redondo Beach City Attorney Michael W. Webb, who said, "Defendants will no longer be able to routinely turn down offers that involve alternative sentences such as Cal Trans or other forms of community service."[10]


Inmate abuse[edit]

The ACLU has compiled an extensive report [11] documenting the virtually unprecedentedly high levels of prisoner abuse and concluding "The long-standing and pervasive culture of deputy hyper-violence in Los Angeles County jails — a culture apparently condoned at the highest levels — cries out for swift and thorough investigation and intervention by the federal government." The abuse includes rape of inmates by police officers.[12] In early 2012, the ACLU filed suit to prevent Baca from continuing in his position.[13]

External video
Former L.A. Sheriff’s Cmdr. Interviewed About Baca’s Failed Leadership Concerning Inmate Abuse Scandal, KTLA5, July 18, 2016

On February 10, 2016, Baca pled guilty to a single count of lying during a federal investigation into civil rights violations at the county jail.[14] The investigation into brutality and corruption by sheriff's deputies already resulted in convictions and guilty pleas by a number of lower-ranking officers, including a retired sheriff's captain.[14] Baca pleaded guilty to "lying twice about his involvement in hiding a jail inmate from FBI investigators" and to knowing that his subordinates had threatened an FBI special agent investigating Baca's department. Shortly after Lee Baca pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, the Attorney General decided to re-open and investigate another inmate abuse case involving Mitrice Richardson, a young African American woman who was released in middle of the night without any means of returning home safely, who was found months later deceased not far from Malibu Sheriff station .[15] On April 6, 2016, his former Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka was convicted on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges by a federal jury related to the same prison abuses.[16]

Below is a summary of the Lee Baca case from the U.S. Attorney's office:

On June 20, 2016, Baca's diagnosis of Alzheimer's was made available publicly in a court filing that was released by the U.S. attorney's office. This diagnosis could play into the case and cause sympathy if he ends up before a jury.[17][18] In July, a plea deal for ex-Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, was rejected in the case of false statements in connection with a federal investigation into county jails. The judge concluded that a sentence of no more than six months was too lenient. [19]

On August 1, Baca withdrew his guilty plea.[20] Baca was indicted on August 5 on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements.[21] On December 22, 2016, a mistrial was declared in Baca's case. The jury became "hopelessly deadlocked" with 11-1 in favor of acquittal.[22][23]

On May 12, 2017, former sheriff Lee Baca was sentenced to three years in federal prison for his role in a scheme to obstruct an FBI investigation of abuses in county jails;[24] he was convicted by a federal jury following a retrial on March 15, 2017.[25] He was due to report the central jail on July 25, 2017 to begin carrying out his three year sentence,[26] but a stay was granted the day prior pending an appeal.[27] Baca lost his second bid for an appeal on August 23, 2017.[28]

Special reserves program[edit]

In 1999, Baca established a special reserves program. According to the Los Angeles Times, the program was designed to cater to celebrities, executives, star athletes, and other "notable persons". Some members of the Sheriff's Department said they were worried that the program would be abused, particularly by those seeking a backdoor way of securing a concealed weapons permit in Los Angeles County.[29]

Within a month of Baca swearing in his first new celebrity reserve deputies, one of his recruits, Scott Zacky, had been suspended and relieved of duty for brandishing a firearm in a confrontation outside his Bel-Air home. The program would eventually be suspended.[29] Less than six months later, another member of the special reserves program was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of international money laundering. No well-known celebrities joined the program, and fewer than 20 little-known wealthy individuals actually participated. The program was "suspended" in November 2006.[30]

Mel Gibson[edit]

After the July 28, 2006 arrest of Mel Gibson for drunk driving, the Los Angeles Sheriff Department initially told the press that Mel Gibson was arrested without incident or special treatment. Subsequent to this, the original arrest report was leaked to the media, which included controversial statements by Gibson. Prior to his arrest, Gibson filmed a PSA for Baca's relief committee dressed in a sheriff's uniform.[31] Upon questioning by the Los Angeles Times about charges of celebrity favoritism, Baca denied that his department tried to cover up Gibson's behavior.[32][33]

At the time, the Times reported that a civilian oversight committee had decided to investigate whether Gibson had received favorable treatment because of his celebrity status or his longtime friendship with Baca.[34]

Paris Hilton[edit]

On June 3, 2007, celebrity Paris Hilton surrendered herself to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department to serve a 45-day sentence as ordered by Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer. The 45 day sentence could be reduced to as few as 23 days for good behavior. She was placed in the Lynwood facility and separated from the general population for her safety.

Around 2 a.m. on June 7, 2007, Baca's department released Hilton after serving only 79 hours of her sentence. She was allowed to return home and her sentence was converted to 40 days of house arrest, amid rumors of a medical condition, which later emerged to be psychological.[35]

The decision to convert her sentence was made by Baca without the consultation of either the presiding judge or the prosecuting city attorney. Further complicating the matter is the initial ruling in which the judge specifically said Hilton would not be allowed to use house arrest in lieu of jail. However, Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini did acknowledge this is normally the purview of the sheriff saying, "Early release decisions are the province of the sheriff every day due to jail overcrowding, but not always".[36]

The situation led the city attorney to file a petition suggesting that Baca should be held in contempt of court for his actions.[37] Though the judge chose not to pursue any action against Baca, he did reverse the decision and returned Hilton to jail while reaffirming the original sentence length. The offer of Hilton's attorney, Richard Hutton, to brief the judge in private chambers on her condition was declined. No written evidence was produced during that court session.[38]

Baca later described Hilton's medical condition as a deteriorating, life-threatening condition that left her speaking incoherently. Also, in testimony to LA County Supervisors, Baca stated that the department had called the judge prior to Hilton's release to seek the judge's assistance in obtaining from Paris Hilton's doctors what medications she was taking, so that County Jail doctors could administer the proper medications without dangerous side-effects to calm Hilton who had medical readings of great concern by jail physicians. Baca stated the judge tersely responded, "She's faking", and the judge abruptly hung up. This, according to Baca, left him little choice but to release Hilton with an ankle bracelet, considering she was a non-violent offender and her jail sentence for her infraction is unusual and excessive in LA County (usually "community service" sentence picking up trash along LA freeways) with his jails beyond capacity.[39]


Baca is known for working with the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization. He has been praised and also drawn criticism for his actions in relation to the organization.[40]

Personal life[edit]

Lee Baca has two grown children from his first marriage and has been married to Carol Chiang since 1999.[41] They are active in various community organizations, including the Los Angeles Chinese American Museum. They were given the Historymakers Award in 2004 for visionary actions.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Daunt, Tina (June 8, 2007). "Sheriff under fire, again, after ordering release of Paris Hilton". Boston Herald. Retrieved June 8, 2007. 
  2. ^ Blankstein, Andrew; Lloyd, Jonathan. "LA County Sheriff Baca to Retire at End of Month "on Own Terms"". NBC Los Angeles. 
  3. ^ "Downfall". Los Angeles Magazine. February 26, 2014. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Stoltze, Frank (April 3, 2012). "LA County Sheriff Lee Baca is an intellectual under fire". Brand & Martinez. Retrieved September 22, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Leroy D. Baca, sheriff". Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. 2005. Archived from the original on September 27, 2013. Retrieved September 22, 2012. 
  6. ^ Alumni List, Cal State website
  7. ^ "Leroy D. Baca". USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Retrieved September 22, 2012. 
  8. ^ Klein, Karin (September 28, 2011). "Shark fin ban: Yes, a distraction, Sheriff Baca". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Lee Baca: Republican Against 8". Republicans Against 8. October 24, 2008. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  10. ^ Sheriff, D.A. Announce New Jail Early Release Policy Archived June 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Liebowitz, Sarah; Eliasberg, Peter; Winter, Margaret; Lim, Esther (September 2011). "Cruel and Unusual Punishment: How a Savage Gang of Deputies Controls LA County Jails" (PDF). ACLU National Prison Project and the ACLU of Southern California. 
  12. ^ "ACLU | Victim of rape by deputy in LA Jails". ACLU of Southern California via YouTube. Jan 18, 2012. 
  13. ^ Gordon, Ashley (Jan 31, 2012). "Lawsuit Filed Against Sheriff Baca Over Inmate Abuse". NBCUniversal Media LLC. Retrieved August 6, 2016. 
  14. ^ a b "Ex-L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca pleads guilty in jail scandal" by Joel Rubin, Cindy Chang, and Harriet Ryan, The LA Times, Feb. 10, 2016.
  15. ^ "The California Attorney General’s Office Finally Agrees to Look Into the Mitrice Richardson Case - Los Angeles Magazine". Los Angeles Magazine. 2016-02-19. Retrieved 2016-12-11. 
  16. ^ Wick, Julia (April 6, 2016). "Ex-Undersheriff Tanaka Convicted On Conspiracy And Obstruction Charges". LAist. Gothamist LLC. Retrieved August 6, 2016. 
  17. ^ a b Romero, Dennis (5 August 2016). "Ex-L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca Hit With Scathing Federal Charges". LA Weekly. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  18. ^ Staff (June 20, 2016). "Former Sheriff Lee Baca Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s Disease, Court Filing Indicates". CBSLA.com. CBS Local Media. Retrieved August 6, 2016. 
  19. ^ Darsha, Philips (July 18, 2016). "Judge rejects plea deal for ex-LA sheriff Lee Baca in corruption case". ABC7.com. Retrieved July 18, 2016. 
  20. ^ Rubin, Joel (August 1, 2016). "Ex-L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca withdraws his guilty plea, clearing the way for a high-profile trial". latimes.com. Retrieved August 1, 2016. 
  21. ^ Chang, Cindy. "New federal charges accuse ex-Sheriff Lee Baca of obstructing justice, lying to authorities". latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-12-11. 
  22. ^ Melley, Brian. "Mistrial Declared in Trial of Ex-Los Angeles County Sheriff". ABC News. Associated Press. Retrieved 23 December 2016. 
  23. ^ "Fmr LA County sheriff guilty of corruption, faces 20yrs in federal prison". RT International. 15 March 2017. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  24. ^ http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-baca-sentenced-jail-sheriff-corruption-20170512-story.html
  25. ^ http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20170315/former-la-county-sheriff-lee-baca-found-guilty-in-corruption-trial
  26. ^ http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-baca-sentenced-jail-sheriff-corruption-20170512-story.html
  27. ^ http://www.scpr.org/news/2017/07/24/74071/former-la-county-sheriff-baca-s-prison-term-delaye/
  28. ^ http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20170823/ex-la-sheriff-baca-denied-a-second-bid-to-stay-out-of-prison-while-awaiting-appeal
  29. ^ a b Daunt, Tina (June 18, 1999). "Sheriff Offering a Badge and Gun to Celebrities". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 22, 2012. 
  30. ^ "L.A. Sheriff's Unit Suffers a 2nd Arrest". Los Angeles Times. December 2, 1999. Retrieved September 22, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Mel Gibson LA Sheriff PSA on YouTube". YouTube. July 31, 2006. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  32. ^ "Did Cops Cover Up Mel Gibson Tirade?". CBS News. February 11, 2009. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Gibson 'outburst' under spotlight". BBC News. July 31, 2006. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  34. ^ Weiner, Allison Hope (August 1, 2006). "Mel Gibson: The Speed of Scandal". The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  35. ^ "Sheriff Baca: "This Lady Has Severe Problems"". TMZ. June 8, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2007. 
  36. ^ "Hilton Won't Be in Court". ABC. June 8, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2007. 
  37. ^ "Judge Orders Paris Hilton Back To Jail". CBS. June 7, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2007. 
  38. ^ "Judge orders Paris Hilton back to jail". MSNBC. June 8, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2007. 
  39. ^ Fleeman, Mike (June 9, 2007). "Paris Hilton: I Won't Fight My Sentence". People. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  40. ^ Nelson, Jill (August 27, 2011). "CAIR's cops". World Magazine. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  41. ^ Domanick, Joe (March 11, 2001). "Lee Baca". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 22, 2012. 
  42. ^ "Past Historymakers Honorees" (PDF). Chinese American Museum. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Sherman Block
Los Angeles County Sheriff
1998 - 2014
Succeeded by
John Scott