Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who has been embroiled in a scandal involving reports of prisoner abuse and an alleged conspiracy to cover it up, has pleaded guilty to making false statements, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
The single count against him relates to statements made regarding a federal investigation into corruption and violence at LA County jails. Baca has confessed to lying multiple times when he said he did not know about the actions of those within his department. He was still serving as sheriff at the time.
The FBI has spent years investigating the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department over allegations of widespread abuse of inmates' civil rights.
Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, once Baca's second in command, was indicted last year. He is accused of orchestrating a cover-up and has pleaded not guilty.
Tanaka's indictment raised questions among observers as to whether Baca would be charged.
H. Dean Steward, one of Tanaka's defense attorneys, said that he plans to call Baca as a witness when Tanaka goes to trial in March.
"We had planned to call Sheriff Baca as a witness, and that continues to be our plan," Steward and his co-counsel said in a joint statement. "His guilty plea changes nothing for our defense."
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs said Baca deserves punishment.
"The plea agreement sends a strong message that no one is above the law. There must be zero tolerance for this type of failed leadership. This by no means undermines the dedication and hard work of the more than 9,000 deputy sheriffs who put their lives on the line protecting L.A. County residents," the group said in a statement.