Los Angeles Sheriff Just Threatening Reporter With Helpful PowerPoint Intimidation Slide

Los Angeles Sheriff Just Threatening Reporter With Helpful PowerPoint Intimidation Slide

LA Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian broke the story last month that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department tried to cover up a repulsive incident where a deputy knelt on a handcuffed inmate’s head for three minutes. Sheriff’s Department officials assumed, perhaps correctly, that this would shine a “negative light” on the department.

Department officials were worried about the optics of the kneeling, “given its nature and its similarities to widely publicized George Floyd use of force,” a commander who was critical of the cover-up wrote in an internal force review.

Those officials decided not to pursue criminal charges against the inmate, who had punched the deputy in the face, to avoid drawing attention to the incident, according to the report by the commander, Allen Castellano.

This week, Tchekmedyian reported that Allen Castellano claims Sheriff Alex Villanueva played a key role in the coverup, contradicting the sheriff’s own account that he’d only learned about the incident months after it happened. According to Castellano, Villanueva, Undersheriff Tim Murakami, and Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon viewed a video of the incident just five days later. Villanueva allegedly said, “We do not need bad media at this time” and told the others he’d “handle the matter.”

Tchekmedyian personally became part of this story when Villanueva singled her out at a press conference Tuesday. He displayed a large slide with photos of Tchekmedyian, Eliezer Vera (who’s running against Villanueva to lead the sheriff’s department), and Inspector General Max Huntsman. Arrows connected the photos, implying a connection, and above the slide was the Watergate-famous question: “What did they know and when did they know it?"

It’s all very creepy and Tchekmedyian was at the press conference. It’s safe to assume she was terrified.

Villanueva proceeded as if he’d invited everyone to the press conference because someone there was a MURDERER!

From the Daily Beast:

“So these are the three individuals we want to know a lot about,” Villanueva said about the slide, implying that the Vera and Huntsman had access to the investigation materials, including a video of the incident, he said “landed” in Tchekmedyian’s hands. “These three people have some important questions to answer.”

“This is stolen property that was removed illegally from people who had some intent—criminal intent—and it’ll be subject to investigation,” Villanueva added.

It sure sounds like Villanueva is accusing Tchekmedyian of a crime, apparently aggravated journalism in the first degree. When asked directly if Tchekmedyian is under investigation, Villanueva said “the matter is under investigation… all parties to the act are party to the investigation.” This sounds like he’s investigating a reporter because she’d investigated claims that he’d allegedly obstructed justice and directed a coverup. He went topsy turvy on her.

Later during the press conference, which let’s all admit was insane, Villanueva further speculated that the Los Angeles Times is working “in concert and coordination” with his political opponent Vera, as well as Inspector General Huntsman’s office, as part of a conspiracy to take him down. Villanueva was pulling stuff out of his ass like this was some bizarre magic show.

He added: "I’m sure that’s a complicated part of the law, freedom of the press and all that.” Well, yeah, it’s the whole First Amendment. It’s not very complicated, though, to state that Villanueva’s not-so-veiled threats against a journalist cross every possible line.

Los Angeles Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida told the Daily Beast that “Villanueva’s attack on Alene Tchekmedyian’s First Amendment rights for doing newsworthy reporting on a video that showed a deputy kneeling on a handcuffed inmate’s head is outrageous.”

Merida reminded everyone that Villanueva’s obvious “attempt to criminalize news reporting goes against well-established constitutional law” and confirmed that the Times would "vigorously defend Tchekmedyian” against any bullshit Villanueva tries to pull.

Tuesday night, Villanueva tried to pretend the press conference we all saw didn’t happen. He tweeted:

Resulting from the incredible frenzy of misinformation being circulated, I must clarify at no time today did I state an LA Times reporter was a suspect in a criminal investigation. We have no interest in pursuing, nor are we pursuing, criminal charges against any reporters.

Villanueva’s tweet edited out the deranged slide with Tchekmedyian’s photo.

Villanueva’s scheduled to testify Friday about “gang-like groups of deputies" operating within his department. You might recall that Villanueva ran for sheriff as a progressive reformer but quickly shifted right once in office — even appearing on Fox News to dismiss the whole concept of police brutality. The motherfucker’s a cop in Los Angeles. Villanueva’s apparent face-hee turn might shock anyone who has faith in the integrity of law enforcement. If you’re one of them, please contact me about some exciting bridge opportunities in Brooklyn.

[CNN / LA Times / The Daily Beast]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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