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Baca trial: The defense calls a single witness

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca (center) and his attorney Nathan Hochman (right) outside federal court in Los Angeles after a judge declared a mistrial in the obstruction of justice case against Baca. He's now being retried.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC
Baca (center) and his attorney Nathan Hochman (right) outside a federal court in Los Angeles after a judge declared a mistrial in the obstruction of justice case against him. He's now being retried.

The defense called a single witness Thursday in the federal corruption trial of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca before coming to rest. 

Michael Gennaco, the head of the Office of Independent Review, the former watchdog of the sheriff's department, testified following a parade of prosecution witnesses that spanned nine days. 

Baca is accused of blocking the FBI's 2011 investigation into brutality claims at L.A. county jails and lying to federal agents.

Gennaco was at Baca’s side during a 2011 meeting with federal prosecutors, called after Baca discovered the FBI's investigation was underway.

He testified Baca was "communicative and cordial" with federal officials.

Baca's defense attorney, Nathan Hochman, has said his client wanted to work alongside federal officials when he learned of their investigation, and that any attempts to block the FBI's investigation were done by other deputies who kept their actions secret from Baca.

This is Baca's second trial after the first trial ended in a hung jury. This time, prosecutors successfully asked the judge to limit Baca's character witnesses. 

Baca himself did not take the stand. 

Hochman asked Gennaco about his relationship with the sheriff. Gennaco said he met at least weekly with Baca and characterized the oversight as "vibrant."

The picture of Baca's openness stood in direct contrast to the one painted by prosecutors, who characterized him as angry about federal interference and vindictive. 

Prosecutors' final witness was Andre Birotte, who was a U.S. attorney at the time of the scandal. During a different meeting with Baca, Birotte testified, the sheriff asked for federal investigators to "withdraw" their requests for information from his department.

At one point, Birotte said Baca got upset and said, "I'm the goddamn sheriff. These are my goddamn jails." 

Birotte later testified that Baca asked him "You wanna gun up in here?" which Birotte characterized as a question of going head-to-head with the feds.

Closing statements are expected Monday morning after which deliberations will begin.