A Dec. 6 trial date has been scheduled for former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who faces charges of conspiring to obstruct a federal probe of deputies.
Baca pleaded not guilty to federal counts of conspiring to obstruct justice, obstructing justice and lying to the federal government, stemming from his alleged response in 2011 to a covert FBI investigation into corruption and brutality by guards at Men’s Central Jail.
At his Aug. 12 arraignment, the 74-year-old ex-lawman told U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson that he had “cloudiness” in his brain due to Alzheimer’s disease, but was mentally capable of entering a plea. City News Service reported this week that an attorney for Baca may use a medical impairment defense. The trial is expected to take about two weeks in the new Downtown Los Angeles federal courthouse.
The judge told both sides to meet and hammer out an acceptable trial date among themselves.
Defense attorney Nathan Hochman said that a key issue will be whether Baca was suffering any “cognitive impairment” as a result of Alzheimer’s at the time of the charged offenses.
He also said that if the court finds Baca’s condition is worsening, a mental competency hearing could be set to determine if the retired sheriff is able to assist in his own defense.
Baca previously backed out of a plea deal on the lying count, which had been reached with federal prosecutors earlier this year and called for Baca to serve no more than six months in prison.
Judge Anderson rejected the agreement as too lenient, prompting Baca to withdraw his plea instead of being sentenced to as much as five years behind bars.
Although Baca admitted in court to lying to investigators, that and other previous admissions cannot be used against him in the current case.
If convicted of all charges in the updated indictment, Baca could face up to 20 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.