By: Manny Otiko, IVN
Los Angeles, CA — In a June Inland Valley News interview, former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department chief Eli Vera warned that Sheriff Alex Villanueva is notorious for going after his enemies. Vera was one of several candidates who contested against Villanueva in the sheriff’s race.
However, recent news seems to confirm Vera’s suspicions.
According to recent news reports, Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies recently arrested LA Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and her friend Patti Giggans on corruption charges.
Kuehl has been a frequent critic of Villanueva, and she claimed the arrest was an attempt to intimidate her. She appointed Giggans to the Civilian Oversight Commission that oversees the sheriff’s department.
In 2021, the commission released a scathing letter that called for further investigation of the Sheriff’s Department.
“The COC should request an independent investigation by an entity unaffected by the announced investigations, such as the Office of the California Attorney General or the U.S. Department of Justice,” said the letter.
The arrest of Kuehl and Giggans was so suspicious, LA District Attorney George Gascon refused to back it.
“The allegation was investigated by LASD and submitted for filing consideration in September 2021. We reviewed the case and determined that the state of the evidence at that time did not prove criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt. LASD indicated that they would continue to investigate,” according to a statement from Gascon’s office.
Villanueva is also facing a lawsuit from one of his former senior officers. LaJuana Haselrig is accusing the sheriff of a host of offenses such as “whistleblower retaliation, racial discrimination, failure to take all steps to prevent discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress,” etc.
She’s one of several officers currently suing Villanueva.
Haselrig claims she was punished after the release of a video showing an LA Sheriff’s deputy kneeling on the neck of an inmate named Enzo Escalante.
“However, Sheriff Villanueva obstructed justice and covered the (use-of-force) incident up and retaliated against the plaintiff and others for blowing the whistle on the illegal conduct,” according to the suit.
Haselrig is seeking $5 million in damages.
Villanueva also threatened to pursue charges against a Los Angeles Times reporter who reported on the leaked video.
“The sheriff has been nonstop in a campaign of intimidation against anyone responsible for oversight,” said Max Huntsman, LA County Inspector General, in a Daily Beast interview.
Villanueva faces off against former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna in a November runoff.
The Inland Valley News coverage of local news in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.