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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fallout of scandal for Sheriff Lee Baca is unclear

LA TimesOnly hours after FBI agents swept up 18 deputies and supervisors in a jail abuse and corruption case, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was being lauded at a $1,500-a-head downtown campaign fundraiser co-hosted by a former governor and a former L.A. city attorney.

The contrasting images Monday — Baca somberly telling a crowded news conference it was a "sad day" for the agency he's led for 15 years and later celebrating his chances of winning a fifth term — captured both the increased vulnerability and time-tested resiliency of the county's top lawman at the threshold of another run for office.

Baca, 71, has faced a drumbeat of investigations and a blue-ribbon commission report attacking his management of the nation's largest sheriff's department. But analysts say the sheriff's political baggage grew heavier with Monday's charges against current and former members of his department for allegedly abusing jail inmates and obstructing justice. The U.S. attorney pointedly declared that the problems had become "institutionalized" at the agency.

"There is no coronation in his future," said veteran Democratic political consultant Darry Sragow.

Baca may well recover. He remains in effect the police chief in dozens of communities his department patrols and can point to sharp drops in serious crime. And, as Monday's fundraiser demonstrated, he's still a draw in the political establishment. In the end, campaign strategists say, the election may hinge on how much voters care about alleged mistreatment of jail inmates. continue reading...

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