LOS ANGELES – Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was sentenced to three years in prison Friday for disrupting an FBI probe that was investigating abuses at the jails he oversaw.
Baca, 74, was sentenced after he was convicted in March of obstructing justice, lying to federal authorities and conspiring to obstruct justice, reported Fox News.
Baca was ordered to turn himself in on July 25 to begin serving his sentence.
The former sheriff, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last year, advanced his position from guarding inmates to running the nation’s largest jail system and biggest sheriff’s department.
U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson showed Baca some mercy. He said he would have sentenced Baca to five years in prison if it were not for his years of service and the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
“As awful as Alzheimer’s disease is, it’s not a criminal penalty,” Anderson said. “Alzheimer’s disease is not a get-out-of-jail card.”
Defense attorney Nathan Hochman urged the judge to spare Baca of any prison time because of the disease. He also argued that Baca’s more than 48-year law enforcement career shouldn’t be tainted by the former sheriff’s misdeeds over a six-week period in 2011 and four false answers to 400 questions during a voluntary interview with authorities in 2013.
The FBI investigation leading to the indictment was the result of inmate abuse and the cover up of such abuse.
Baca follows former neighboring Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona to prison. Carona, who was once dubbed “America’s Sheriff” by CNN’s Larry King, was convicted in 2009 as part of a federal corruption investigation that rocked Orange County. He was convicted of trying to persuade a former top aide to lie for him during a federal investigation of corruption in the Sheriff’s Department. He served 52 months of a 66-month sentence for felony witness tampering before being released in 2015.