CA Attorney General Ruins LA Sheriff's Plan To 'Investigate' His Political Enemies
For the past few years, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has been diligently investigating his political enemies and critics, for varied and sundry crimes. In 2019, he investigated the county Office of Inspector General, which oversees his department, accusing them of "conspiracy, theft of government property, unauthorized computer access, theft of confidential files and burglary."
“It looks to me to be mostly intimidation,” LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said at the time. “I find it very strange that the sheriff feels it’s appropriate for him or his people to have a criminal investigation into the very people we have assigned to oversee them. We passed an ordinance giving [Inspector General] Max Huntsman the power to look at personnel files. He was doing it all along under former Sheriff Jim McDonnell.”
In 2021, the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission launched an investigation into Villanueva's "Civil Rights and Public Integrity Detail" unit, which was primarily tasked with investigating people Villanueva had some kind of beef with.
Since then, Villanueva has been hot on the trail of 81-year-old Kuehl and her friend Patti Giggans, an advocate for domestic violence victims and member of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission. Basically, the sheriff is accusing the two of some kind of corruption related to city contracts awarded to nonprofit Peace Over Violence. While this has been going on for over a year, it is still not entirely obvious what it is that Villanueva thinks he is investigating.
Last week, the Sheriff's Department raided Kuehl's home looking for evidence of her crimes.
Via LA Times:
A copy of the warrant showed that the search was tied to an ongoing probe into contracts awarded to Giggans’ nonprofit Peace Over Violence. Sheriff’s investigators also searched Giggans’ house, her nonprofit’s offices, offices at the L.A. County Hall of Administration and the headquarters of the county’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which awarded contracts to Giggans’ organization. The warrant to search Kuehl’s house authorized investigators to seize any documents or electronic files “related to the Peace Over Violence contract acquisition.”
The warrant said the focus is a series of contracts worth more than $800,000 that Metro awarded to the nonprofit between 2014 and 2020 to operate a hotline for reporting sexual harassment on public transit. The statement says that the hotline was a “complete failure” but that the contract was still extended without a competitive bid or analysis.
Among the items seized were Kuehl's cell phone, personal computer, and a bunch of tapes of the television series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, in which Kuehl once starred. It's not clear why they took those tapes. Perhaps they were concerned about the corrupting influence that beatnik Maynard G. Krebs may have had on Kuehl back when she was playing Zelda on Dobie Gillis.
In light of these "raids," California Attorney General Rob Bonta took control of the investigation on Tuesday, sidelining Villanueva's department entirely.
Via LA Times:
“Your department should cease its investigative activity and refrain from any actions in furtherance of these investigations, including public statements or court filings related to the investigations,” Bonta instructed.
Bonta’s letter was in response to one Villanueva sent him last week, in which Villanueva demanded Bonta open an inquiry into allegations that Kuehl and Giggans had been tipped off in advance of the impending searches.
In his letter, Bonta replied that while he would look into Villanueva’s claim, he was also taking over the department’s investigation into Giggans’ charity.
“In recent days, the public unfolding of an unprecedented investigation has raised serious questions for residents of Southern California and beyond,” Bonta said in a statement. “I recognize the deep uncertainty this has engendered and, given the unique circumstances, my team has committed to taking over this investigative process.”
The department has also been barred for the time being from examining the computers and phones seized from Kuehl's residence and Giggans' nonprofit. It is not clear if they are barred from watching the Dobie Gillis tapes, but it is worth noting that the entire series is free on a variety of platforms if they are so inclined — which also means that they really did not have to steal an 81-year-old woman's VHS collection after all.
With all of these interruptions, Villanueva may run out of time to go full Arya Stark on everyone who has ever wronged him or criticized him in any way, as he is headed towards a runoff election against Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna in November. Luna has a list of his priorities on his campaign website, none of which are "taking down everyone on Alex Villanueva's enemies list," so at least he's got that going for them.
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