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Sat, Apr

Baca’s Punishment Should Match the Level of Responsibility 

LOS ANGELES

GUEST COMMENTARY—(George Hofstetter’s column was written prior to former Sheriff Baca’s Monday appearance before Judge Percy Anderson … and proved to be prophetic. Judge Anderson threw out Baca’s plea deal saying that six months in jail was not enough.)  The medical diagnosis that former Sheriff Lee Baca is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease is unfortunate, and we sympathize with him and his family. 

Some may claim justice was achieved when Mr. Baca pleaded guilty  in February to lying to FBI agents and federal prosecutors investigating inmate abuse at the Men's Central Jail. However, the reality is that his maximum sentence under the plea is a slap on the wrist and he may serve no time at all when he is formally sentenced by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson on July 18. 

What should not be forgotten is that while Mr. Baca admitted his guilt, he also worked out a plea deal to avoid testifying under oath in any proceeding regarding his actions. As I have said before, ALADS does not celebrate the fact that the person the voters of Los Angeles County elected to lead our department has now been convicted of a federal crime. This conviction is a bitter lesson the current department leadership must absorb and overcome. 

While Mr. Baca's sentence will be the topic of the day, our focus and concern are for the deputy sheriffs who became mired in Baca's scandals. We remain disappointed by the sentences that were handed down to deputies in the past year for crimes relating to the Mr. Baca's jail scandal. These deputies and their families have already been punished, far more harshly than Mr. Baca. We believe the sentences handed down in those cases should have at least been proportional to the sentence Mr. Baca is facing.     

Justice requires that those who directed criminal conduct should not be the least punished. Mr. Baca's plea deal calls for a maximum of six months, which pales in comparison to the 18 to 41-month prison terms lower level personal are facing.  

Judge Anderson still must approve Mr. Baca's plea agreement and ALADS hopes federal prosecutors will revisit all of the sentencing that was handed out to the deputies who were following the directions given to them by Mr. Baca's leadership. 

Rank-and-file deputies are determined by our daily actions on the job, to show the public that the crimes committed by former department executives reflect only upon those executives and their leadership failures. We are not going to let the sins of former managers define our deputies, as that would not be an accurate representation of the honesty, hard work and integrity ALADS members and their co-workers exemplify every day. 

As we wait to hear Judge Anderson's decision in Mr. Baca's sentencing, we are confident the department's current leadership will ensure the failures of their predecessors will not define how we go forward from here.

 

(George Hofstetter is President of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. ALADS is the collective bargaining agent and represents more than 8,200 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County.  George can be contacted at [email protected].) Photo: AP. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams

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