L.A. Sheriff Targets L.A. Times Reporter in Wild Rant About Leak Probe

L.A. Sheriff Targets L.A. Times Reporter in Wild Rant About Leak Probe

Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva hinted Tuesday that a local reporter who has extensively covered allegations he directed a cover-up of an excessive force incident might be under criminal investigation.

According to Los Angeles Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian, Villanueva allegedly launched a cover-up after learning a deputy kneeled on a cuffed inmate’s head for three minutes in March 2021. On Monday, Tchekmedyian reported that a legal claim had been filed against Villanueva, alleging that the sheriff had obstructed justice and retaliated against those who tried to expose him.

But in a Tuesday press conference to address “false claims made in a recent lawsuit filed by a disgruntled employee,” Villanueva again denied those allegations before offering a timeline of events following the use of force incident—which, according to Tchekmedyian’s reporting, the sheriff and a lieutenant learned about just five days after it occurred. Villanueva then showed a slide including a press photo of Tchekmedyian, who was present at the press conference, alongside Eliezer Vera, a chief in the Sheriff’s Department who is running against Villanueva to lead it, and Max Huntsman, its Inspector General—who were both involved at one point in the investigation into the alleged cover-up.

“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.

Later, when asked whether Tchekmedyian is under investigation, Villanueva clarified that “the matter is under investigation…all parties to the act are party to the investigation.” At another point in the press conference, however, Villanueva argued that the Los Angeles Times is working “in concert and coordination” with the inspector general’s office and his political component to derail his ongoing campaign.

“I’m sure that’s a complicated part of the law, freedom of the press and all that,” he added. “A lot of people are working overtime and they’re doing it as best they can, so there will be more of this nonsense thrown at me until June 7.”

In a statement to The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida said 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.”

“His attempt to criminalize news reporting goes against well-established constitutional law,” Merida added. “We will vigorously defend Tchekmedyian’s and the Los Angeles Times’ rights in any proceeding or investigation brought…

Read Full Story At: The Daily Beast.

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