A federal judge on Monday rejected a plea agreement between U.S. prosecutors and former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who had pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in a federal corruption and civil rights probe.
U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson at a hearing in Los Angeles said the plea deal “understates the seriousness of the offense.”
Baca, who previously ran the nation’s largest jail system, faced a six-month prison sentence under the agreement in a case that has clouded his 15-year tenure as sheriff.
In February, the former sheriff pleaded guilty to a federal charge of making false statements to investigators in 2013 when he asserted he had no prior knowledge of efforts by his deputies to intimidate an FBI agent and thwart a criminal probe of his department.
Baca, 74, has been diagnosed as suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a pre-sentencing memorandum filed by the government, though his diminished cognitive impairment was described in the document as being mild.
Prosecutors cited Baca’s condition in their reasoning for seeking a penalty far less severe than the five-year maximum sentence he faced.
But Judge Anderson on Monday said the proposed six-month sentence “would not address the gross abuse of the public trust” that the case represented.
(Reporting by Katherine Davis-Young, writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Cynthia Osterman and Alan Crosby)