LA Sheriff Announces Investigation Of Journalist Who Exposed Jail Brutality, Insists Everyone Is Wrong About What He Said

from the sheriff-insists-it-takes-two-to-lie,-one-to-lie-and-one-to-listen dept

When law enforcement officials get caught saying something extremely troublesome at press conferences, the first page of the police playbook is to accuse everyone reporting/retweeting the news of misinterpreting the statements made and/or spreading misinformation. It’s the “my account was hacked” of the Thin Blue Line — a claim no one believes but one that police officials insist is the actual truth.

Enter Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva. At a recent press conference, he presented this image (via Twitter user @maryangelafitz):

Titled “WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT?,” the presentation included photos of three people. The first two (from left to right) are Eliezer Vera (one of Villanueva’s political rivals) and Max Huntsman, the Inspector General for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

The person on the far right is LA Times journalist Alene Tchekmedyian. Tchekmedyian had recently published two articles detailing excessive force deployment by LASD officers staffing the jail.

The first, published March 25, 2022, was titled “LA sheriff’s deputy knelt on an inmate’s head for three minutes. Officials tried to cover it up.” The post contains a recording from LA County Jail cameras. And it looks more like a deputy kneeling on someone’s neck, hence the consternation expressed in documents obtained by the LA Times.

Here’s what Tchekmedyian reported.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials attempted to cover up an incident in which a deputy knelt on the head of a handcuffed inmate for three minutes because they feared the “negative light” it could shed on the department, according to internal records reviewed by The Times.

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 coverup wrote in an internal force review.

They were right to be concerned. George Floyd’s murder was a nationwide flashpoint. They were wrong to cover it up, and that’s what Tchekmedyian prevented the Sheriff’s Department from doing.

The incident happened in March 2021. Nothing happened at the time. The Sheriff’s Department claimed it had not been made aware of this incident until October 2021, five months after it happened. Eli Vera, one of the “mugshots” on Sheriff Villanueva’s press conference poster board, said the Sheriff had actually viewed the recording within “days” of the incident. Inspector General Max Huntsman (also on the Sheriff’s press conference poster board) expressed his consternation at the Sheriff’s Department’s refusal to press charges against the inmate, given that the justification for this action was predicated on alleged criminal resistance.

The fact that they didn’t raises a red flag to the possibility … that the motivation was preventing bad press as alleged.

Tchekmedyian wrote a follow-up article containing more allegations about a Sheriff’s Department cover-up of this excessive force use. It was published April 25, 2022. A legal claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — alleged Sheriff Alex Villanueva was directly involved in the cover-up. The claim says Villanueva saw this footage five days after it happened, but told fellow department officials “We do not need bad media at this time” and took it upon himself to ensure the recording would not be made public.

Sheriff Villanueva failed. Both articles contained the recording, along with several damning statements. Some of those came from Inspector General Max Huntsman, who was investigating the incident and department’s response.

The county’s inspector general, who oversees the Sheriff’s Department, is probing whether Villanueva lied about what he knew and when. And Lt. Jim Braden told The Times that he contacted the FBI to report that he believes the handling of the incident violated department procedures and may have amounted to criminal obstruction of justice or conspiracy.

When pressed for comment following this report, Sheriff Villanueva promised revenge in the form of a press conference.

The Sheriff’s Department announced Monday that Villanueva would hold a news conference Tuesday regarding “false claims” made in a recent lawsuit by a “disgruntled employee.”

Here’s what the Sheriff said at this press conference — one that featured a photo of the LA Times journalist and was recorded by several journalists and broadcast across the web:

With Tchekmedyian looking on from the audience, Villanueva displayed a poster with large photographs of her and two of his longtime foes, political rival Eli Vera and sheriff’s Inspector General Max Huntsman. Arrows pointed from Vera to Huntsman to Tchekmedyian, implying the two men had been involved in providing the video to the reporter. Villanueva also exhibited a list of possible felonies under investigation, including conspiracy, burglary and unauthorized use of a database.“This is stolen property that was removed illegally from people who had some intent — criminal intent — and it’ll be subject to investigation,” Villanueva said. When pressed whether he was investigating the journalist specifically, the sheriff said, “All parties to the act are subjects of the investigation.”

Sheriff Villanueva also said this:

At a news conference on Tuesday, the sheriff said he was investigating “all parties” involved in the leaked video, which he said was “stolen property that was removed illegally.” He stood next to large photos of Ms. Tchekmedyian and two other people.

“What she receives illegally and the L.A. Times uses it, I’m pretty sure that’s a huge complex area of law and freedom of the press and all that,” Sheriff Villanueva said. “However, when it’s stolen material, at some point you actually become part of the story.”

Extremely righteous (and rightful) backlash ensued. Sheriff Villanueva, deservedly stung (repeatedly) for his blatant attack on a journalist who had exposed the wrongdoing of his officers, decided he didn’t deserve to be stung.

In his defense, he offered up blatant bullshit. In a series of tweets, Sheriff Villanueva claimed all the things he said (and multiple witnesses viewed/recorded) weren’t actually said. Here’s a link to the LASD Sheriff’s Twitter thread, which I will quote in its entirety lest he be so severely “misunderstood” again.

It comes in three parts. Here’s the first layer of lies:

(1/3) 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.

Uh huh. So what did you mean by “All parties are subjects of the investigation?” And what did you mean by “What she receives illegally and the L.A. Times uses it?” Both of those statements — which you made during a press conference many people witnessed — indicate a willingness, if not statement of intent, to investigate a journalist and the paper she writes for. Only the most disingenuous of people (that’s you, Sheriff) would claim the things they said are not the things they said when such said things have been documented and recorded by multiple individuals.

The thread continues:

(2/3) We will conduct a thorough investigation regarding the unlawful disclosure of evidence and documentation in an active criminal case.  The multiple active investigations stemming from this incident will be shared and monitored by an outside law enforcement entity.

Well, if you absolutely have to be involved (and I don’t think you do, Mr. Villanueva), limit your investigation to Department employees. If you feel you need to stray beyond these line, DON’T. Nothing good can come of it. And given the alleged cover-up, maybe you should just (1) shut the fuck up, and (2) get out of the way.

Defensive Bullshit the Third, Keeper of the Community Ill Will and Lord of Contradictory Courtroom Testimony:

(3/3) What should be of interest is the fact the LA Times refuses to acknowledge their reporting, and the account of a disgruntled employee, were thoroughly debunked during today’s press conference.

That’s a weird way to spell “irrefutably confirmed,” Alex.

Riddle me this, Sheriff: If the LA Times journalist was never considered part of the investigation, why did you decide to add her face to your press conference presentation? Follow-up (and I guess this is more of a statement than a question…): if you think the public is stupid enough to buy into your lazy, hapless retcon of your own press conference, you’re too stupid to be entrusted with the immense amount of power (never mind the license to kill) your office affords you. Hopefully, Los Angeles residents will resoundingly vote this brain stem operator out of office this June, because no one deserves to be subjected to the involuntary synapse firings of this brain stem operator ever again.

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Comments on “LA Sheriff Announces Investigation Of Journalist Who Exposed Jail Brutality, Insists Everyone Is Wrong About What He Said”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Traditionally, when someone cites a lawsuit from 5 decades ago, what the lawsuit is about is more important than who was suing who. Doubly so when a quick google would give you a blurb from wikipedia calling it a landmark Supreme Court decision

NYT vs USA (1971) is the pentagon papers case. The pentagon papers case established the NYT had the first amendment right to publish leaked classified documents, so long as they committed no crime to obtain them.

This article is about the claim of an investigation into a journalist who published leaked material that the government didn’t like and where the government does not even claim she committed a crime.

I think there might just be some presidential value in the NYT v US case applicable to the situation.

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