Ex-sheriff opts for trial in corruption case
LOS ANGELES — Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca withdrew his guilty plea Monday to lying about efforts to thwart an FBI investigation into abuses at the jails he ran, saying he wants to "set the record straight" at trial before he declines from Alzheimer's disease.
The decision came after negotiations to reach a new sentencing deal collapsed because there was no certainty what kind of term Baca would face after a judge rejected a plea deal as too lenient because it called for no more than six months behind bars.
Defense lawyers said they offered to have Baca serve a year, but they believed the judge wanted a sentence of several years and that was too much given the 74-year-old's prognosis and his desire to emerge from incarceration without having lost too much mental capacity.
"We have a very, very small window of time that we believe Mr. Baca's life will be normal," attorney Michael Zweiback told reporters. "There's a good likelihood that he'll be suffering very dramatically from the disease at issue. So if there was a possibility that he was going to go beyond his good years in prison, then he should go out and fight."