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Former L.A. county sheriff renews plea talks in corruption investigation

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Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca renewed negotiations with federal prosecutors on Monday as he considered withdrawing a guilty plea to a charge related to a probe of inmate abuse at the county’s jail system that clouded the final years of his tenure.

The closed-door talks came during a three-hour recess called by a federal judge during proceedings that began as a sentencing hearing for Baca, 74, who was chief custodian of the nation’s largest county jail system.

Baca is considering whether to withdraw the guilty plea made earlier this year to a charge of lying to federal investigators and instead face trial after a judge ruled two weeks ago that a six-month prison term recommended by prosecutors as part of their deal with the former sheriff was too lenient.

U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said in his surprise ruling July 18 that a six-month sentence would minimize the seriousness of the offense, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Baca’s lawyer, Michael Zweiback, told reporters outside the court on Monday that defense attorneys and prosecutors were “discussing alternatives” that presumably would include a sentence tough enough to satisfy the judge but not too harsh to spoil the plea deal.

Baca served as the top elected law enforcement official in Los Angeles for 15 years before retiring in January 2014 amid a federal investigation of inmate abuse and other wrongdoing, including cover-up attempts, at two downtown Los Angeles lockups.

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He pleaded guilty in February to a federal charge of making false statements to investigators when he asserted in 2013 that he had no prior knowledge of efforts by his deputies to harass a Federal Bureau of Investigations agent and thwart a criminal probe of his department.

Specifically, Baca admitted that he actually was aware that his deputies planned to intimidate the agent and that he had directed them to “do everything but put handcuffs” on her, according to his plea agreement.

Prosecutors cited Baca’s recent diagnosis as suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in their reasoning for a lenient sentence, though they said his cognitive impairment was mild and had nothing to do with his lying to investigators.

Baca’s plea made him the 18th current or former member of the sheriff’s department convicted of criminal charges arising from the probe of misconduct inside the Los Angeles County jail system, the nation’s largest with an inmate population of about 18,000.

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His former second-in-command was sentenced to five years in prison in June after being found guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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2020 Election

New report targets 15 House Democrats who ‘deserve’ progressive primary challengers

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As progressive candidates continue to announce their intentions to oust corporate Democrats, a new report names 15 House Democrats to unseat in primary challenges.

Published Monday by the left-leaning group RootsAction, the new report is entitled Bad Blues: Some of the House Democrats Who Deserve to Be 'Primaried.'

The list, the report notes, "is by no means exhaustive—only illustrative."

"There may well be a Democratic member of Congress near you not included here who serves corporate interests more than majority interests, or has simply grown tired or complacent in the never-ending struggles for social, racial, and economic justice as well as environmental sanity and peace," the report notes. "Perhaps you live in a district where voters are ready to be inspired by a progressive primary candidate because the Democrat in Congress is not up to the job."

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‘A true public health emergency’: 70+ medical groups sound alarm on climate crisis

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Groups lay out action agenda to advance climate solutions and strengthen resiliency

Scores of medical groups on Monday called the climate crisis "a health emergency" and laid out what they framed as a blueprint for the public and private sector to take swift action.

The agenda is signed by over 70 groups, including the American Medical Association, American Heart Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the National Association of Social Workers.

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Citing CIA’s dark history, librarians protest agency’s recruiting at their conference

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"Everything they stand for is a violation of the values of librarianship, so we protested."

A group of librarians demanded the American Library Association abide by its values on Friday as they staged a protest of the CIA's presence and recruitment at the professional organization's annual conference.

At the convention, which is taking place June 20-25 in Washington, D.C., the CIA is among the hundreds of exhibitors.

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