header image

[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
58°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
April 12
1738 - Fr. Francisco Garcés born in Spain; came through SCV in 1776, found Tataviam fighting with Coastal Chumash, observed Santa Clara River flowing by night and dry by day despite the season being spring [story]
Garces statue


Sheriff Lee Baca

Jurors began deliberations Monday afternoon in the second obstruction trial of former Sheriff Lee Baca, whom prosecutors say conspired with his underlings to thwart an investigation into inmate abuse at two jails.

After U.S District Judge Percy Anderson had instructed them, the 12 members of the jury ended deliberations at around 3:30 p.m. Monday. They will return to court Tuesday to decide the fate of the retired 74-year-old lawman, whose attorney in closing arguments tried to persuade them the government lacked concrete evidence to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt.

“They’ve basically taken a bunch of evidence, like spaghetti, and thrown it against the wall,” attorney Nathan Hochman said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lizabeth Rhodes argued that phone records, documents and witness testimony from convicted deputies, including Mickey Manzo, Thomas Carey and Greg Thompson, showed Baca is guilty of obstructing a 2011 FBI investigation into Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers.

“He knew what was going to happen and when it was going to happen, because he ordered it,” Rhodes said.

A guilty verdict will cap a remarkable turnaround for the government, which has scored convictions against the other main players in the conspiracy but last year struggled to convince jurors in the first trial of Baca’s guilt. Just before Christmas, all but one juror voted to acquit.

After that setback, Judge Anderson ordered another trial on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Prosecutors added a count of making a false statement, a charge they first planned to try separately.

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. Deputy Gilbert Michel took a bribe to smuggle a cellphone to inmate Anthony Brown, which officials later found hidden in a Doritos bag among Brown’s belongings.

Prosecutors say Baca lied to them at an April 2013 meeting, denying knowledge of the conspiracy – including the threatened arrest of FBI Agent Leah Marx by Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau deputies Scott Craig and Maricela Long.

Dressed in a gray pinstriped suit, white shirt and a rose gold tie, Baca watched from his counsel’s table as Rhodes said Baca had orchestrated the scheme “like a chess match” by placing convicted Undersheriff Paul Tanaka in charge of obstructing the FBI.

Baca maintains he only wanted to get to the bottom of the FBI investigation and was forced to take precautionary measures after the cellphone entered the jail system. He says he also wanted to protect Brown, whose life would be in danger if other inmates realized he was an informant.

But Rhodes dismissed Baca’s concerns about the cellphone, which can be used to orchestrate drug deals or murders, as a “made-up story for trial.”

“This case is not about a cellphone and it’s not about Anthony Brown,” Rhodes said.

Meanwhile, Hochman told jurors his client never wanted to halt the FBI’s probe. Instead, he said Baca only wanted to work with an agency that had previously partnered with his department. The government had brought in evidence of jailhouse brutality to “poison” their view of Baca, he said.

Telephone and email records do little to show the sheriff’s involvement in the conspiracy, Hochman said.

“This isn’t chess. It’s not even checkers,” Hochman said, adding that Tanaka had the “agenda” to obstruct, not Baca.

“[Baca] welcomed the FBI and wanted to join the investigation, not thwart it,” the defense attorney said.

During rebuttal, prosecutor Brandon Fox accused Hochman of distorting facts, misleading jurors and making “stuff up.” He likened Baca to a king in a chess game, with his cronies acting as rooks, bishops and pawns.

“They do the dirty work for the king,” Fox said, holding up a chess piece to make his point.

Baca faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted of conspiring to obstruct an FBI investigation of jailhouse abuses and lying to prosecutors.

During the trial, Sheriff’s Capt. William “Tom” Carey said that Baca was present when officials made plans to hide Brown in the jail system by changing his name and booking number. He was also kept in the loop when Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau deputies Scott Craig and Maricela Long approached Marx outside her home and threatened her arrest – an interaction immortalized on department video and played to jurors Monday.

“He was OK with it,” Carey said. “He didn’t tell us not to do it. His advice to us was just not to put handcuffs on her.”

Baca told prosecutors at the April 2013 meeting that he did not know about the approach until after the fact. But Carey told the court that Baca “absolutely” knew about it.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

0 Comments

You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment


SCV NewsBreak
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Friday, Apr 9, 2021
Parks Commissioners Asked to Advise on Pioneer Oil Refinery’s Future
The city of Santa Clarita Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission recently met to receive an update from city staff about the status of the Pioneer Oil Refinery in Newhall.
Friday, Apr 9, 2021
Judge Halts Centennial Development Project in Tejon Ranch
A judge’s ruling this week dealt a setback to the Tejon Ranch Co.’s proposed 19,000-unit Centennial development project in the upper northwest corner of Los Angeles County.
Friday, Apr 9, 2021
Friday COVID-19 Roundup: 27,432 Total SCV Cases; County Nears 5 Million Administered Doses
Los Angeles County Public Health on Friday confirmed 48 new deaths and 752 new cases of COVID-19 countywide, with 27,432 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1738 - Fr. Francisco Garcés born in Spain; came through SCV in 1776, found Tataviam fighting with Coastal Chumash, observed Santa Clara River flowing by night and dry by day despite the season being spring [story]
Garces statue
1987 - Ramona Chapel and Red Schoolhouse relocated to Heritage Junction [story]
Red Schoolhouse
1835 - Outlaw and Rocks/Park/High School namesake Tiburcio Vasquez born in Monterey, Calif. [story]
Tiburcio Vasquez
Nearly 100 people gathered in front of the highly anticipated Laemmle 7 in Newhall to officially open the theater to the Santa Clarita Valley community.
Laemmle Officially Opens in Old Town Newhall
The city of Santa Clarita Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission recently met to receive an update from city staff about the status of the Pioneer Oil Refinery in Newhall.
Parks Commissioners Asked to Advise on Pioneer Oil Refinery’s Future
A judge’s ruling this week dealt a setback to the Tejon Ranch Co.’s proposed 19,000-unit Centennial development project in the upper northwest corner of Los Angeles County.
Judge Halts Centennial Development Project in Tejon Ranch
The California Community College Athletic Trainers Association has named longtime athletic trainer, and current College of the Canyons associate athletic director, Chad Peters its 2021 Athletic Trainer of the Year.
Chad Peters Named CCCATA 2021 Athletic Trainer of the Year
Los Angeles County Public Health on Friday confirmed 48 new deaths and 752 new cases of COVID-19 countywide, with 27,432 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Friday COVID-19 Roundup: 27,432 Total SCV Cases; County Nears 5 Million Administered Doses
The Santa Clarita City Council Legislative Committee briefly met Thursday morning to recommend that the City Council oppose four pieces of state legislation that would expand the state’s land-use authority.
Council Committee Recommends Opposition to State Land-Use Bills
In an effort to provide kids across the Santa Clarita Valley with a safe place to play and learn over spring break while parents are working, the Boys & Girls Club of SCV holds an annual camp.
Boys & Girls Club Holds Spring Break Camp
In recognition of public safety dispatchers' services, the California Highway Patrol joins other law enforcement agencies to recognize National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week on April 11-17, 2021.
CHP to Honor Public Safety Dispatchers During National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week
Officials in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will be hosting a virtual community discussion on child abuse prevention April 20.
L.A. County Sheriffs to Host Child Abuse Prevention Seminar
1937 - Pioneer aviator E.B. Christopher and passenger killed in crash of light plane on Ridge Route near Gorman [story]
wreckage
CBRE announced the sale of a state-of-the-art 24,164 square-foot industrial facility to Tera McHugh and John McHugh, owners of Versatile Systems, Inc.
Valencia Industrial Building Sold to Versatile Systems
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying public health restrictions in place for large events and community gatherings, as well as past participation numbers, the city of Santa Clarita has evaluated several components of the annual Santa Clarita Marathon and is making a necessary change to the event.
City Postpones 2021 Marathon, Event Permanently Moved to February
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Thursday 52 new deaths and 710 new cases of COVID-19, with 27,417 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Thursday COVID-19 Roundup: L.A. County Hospitalizations Remain Under 600; SCV Cases Total 27,417
Because of the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, some pet owners may have delayed purchasing their annual pet licenses and are now subject to late penalty fees.
Animal Care & Control Temporarily Waives Pet Licensing Fees
College of the Canyons will welcome José Rivera, award-winning playwright and the first Puerto Rican screenwriter to be nominated for an Oscar, to the School of Visual & Performing Arts’ Virtual Industry Insight Series on Monday, April 12.
COC Virtual Industry Insight Series Welcomes Oscar-Nominated Screenwriter José Rivera
Santa Clarita Artists Association (SCAA) will spotlight contemporary artist Alex Schaeffer in a virtual oil demo on Monday, April 19, from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
April 19: Virtual Oil Demo by Artist Alex Schaeffer
Spectrum Commercial Real Estate advisors Yair Haimoff, SIOR, Randy Cude, and Matt Sreden represented the seller in the sale of a 23,817-square-foot professional office building in a prime Valencia location.
Avenue Kearny Building Sells for $6 Million
Following stakeholder planning meetings over the course of a year and a public survey period in January, the city of Santa Clarita’s 2021 Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) draft update enters the next phase in the approval and adoption process.
Residents Can Now Review Santa Clarita’s 2021 Hazard Mitigation Draft Plan
Cassie Gratton knows how to open a Laemmle theater. The general manager of the Newhall Laemmle, which will open its doors with a ribbon-cutting this Friday, also helped to open Laemmle’s Glendale and Claremont locations.
After Several Delays, Laemmle Newhall Opens Friday
The California Department of Transportation announced that new High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV, or carpool) lanes are open to motorists on Northbound and Southbound Interstate 5 between the Ventura Freeway (State Route 134) interchange in Los Angeles and Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank.
CalTrans Announces Opening of New I-5 Carpool Lanes
%d bloggers like this: