LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is threatening an LA Times reporter with prosecution for publishing a video of brutality in the jails that he manages.
He has since claimed that he was, “Misquoted,” (He was not) but this sort of behavior resembles that of a gangster, which is particularly ironic given that the reporter he is threatening revealed that the LA Sheriff’s office is infested with criminal gangs.
This guy has is abusing his power almost as abusively as Joe Arpio did in Arizona, and his behavior makes it clear that he is not just tolerating abuse of civil rights, he is a co-conspirator:
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Tuesday that his department was targeting a Times journalist in a criminal leak investigation for her reporting on a departmental cover-up, but after a barrage of criticism from politicians, the newspaper and press freedom groups, he backed off his announcement and denied that he considered the reporter a suspect.
The sheriff lashed out at Times staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian during a morning news conference in which he suggested two longtime foes leaked her a surveillance video showing a deputy kneeling on the head of a handcuffed inmate.
Detailing an ongoing criminal probe of the leak, Villanueva displayed a poster with large photographs of Tchekmedyian, his political rival Eli Vera and sheriff’s Inspector General Max Huntsman with arrows pointing from the two men to the reporter.
“The three individuals that we want to know a lot about,” Villanueva said. “These three people have some important questions to answer.”
This is a clear and unequivocal threat that he will use his official powers to harass and threaten his critics.
If the California AG and the US DoJ are not investigating this guy right now, they are not doing their jobs.
Villanueva exhibited a list of possible felonies under investigation, including conspiracy, burglary and unauthorized use of a database. When pressed by reporters on whether he was investigating Tchekmedyian specifically, the sheriff replied, “All parties to the act are subjects of the investigation.”
The Times published a report last month that described how Sheriff’s Department officials worked to cover up the March 2021 incident because they feared it would paint the department in a “negative light.” The Times report was accompanied by surveillance video from a lockup area of the San Fernando Courthouse that captured the deputy kneeling on the inmate’s head for three minutes after handcuffing him.
An L.A. County sheriff’s commander filed a lawsuit accusing Sheriff Alex Villanueva of obstructing justice and retaliating against those who blew the whistle.
Earlier this week, the newspaper and other outlets reported on a legal claim in which a department commander alleged that Villanueva participated in the cover-up, telling underlings, “We do not need bad media at this time.”
I get that politicians are loath to oppose law enforcement, but this sort of behavior is more than just bad, it is corrosive to society.