California Bar Association Tuesday General Rob Bonta took lead from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in a controversial criminal investigation into county superintendent Sheila Kuhl and others, saying it was in the “public interest” to sideline the department. said it would.
Bonta’s unusual decision to strip the Sheriff’s Department of its own investigation raises questions about the sheriff’s handling of the investigation and how Sheriff Alex Villanueva is using it to attack political opponents This was amid allegations from Kuhl and others that
In another setback for the agency, also on Tuesday, a Superior Court judge temporarily blocked sheriff’s investigators from searching computers and other devices seized from Kuhl and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last week.
The action brings a sudden halt to the Sheriff’s Department’s efforts to investigate a series of contracts Metro has awarded to domestic violence nonprofits. The investigation, which has been ongoing for more than a year, began last Wednesday when sheriff’s deputies conducted an early morning raid at the home of Kuehl and nonprofit head Patti Giggans, as well as Metro’s headquarters and other locations. was published explosively in county office.
Sheriff’s investigators helped Gigans’ friend Kuhl focus the contract on Gigans’ nonprofit, according to court records filed to obtain a search warrant to carry out the search. I doubt it.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Deputy Sheriff Tim Murakami, Bonta informed the sheriff’s department that his office had taken the lead in the investigation.
“Your department should cease investigative activities and refrain from taking any action in furtherance of these investigations, including public statements and court submissions related to the investigation,” Bonta instructed.
Bonta’s letter was a response to one Villanueva sent him last week, in which Villanueva requested that Bonta open an investigation into allegations that Kuhl and Giganz had been tipped off ahead of the impending search. .
In the letter, Bonta said that while investigating Villanueva’s allegations, he was also continuing the agency’s investigation into Gigans’ philanthropic activities.
He ordered Murakami to “ask department staff to send all evidence, investigative reports, and information to the two investigators in Bonta’s office.”
“The recent public rollout of an unprecedented investigation raises serious questions for residents of Southern California and beyond,” Bonta said in a statement. Acknowledging and given the unique circumstances, my team has pledged to continue this investigation process.”
It’s unclear at this time how Bonta’s move will affect Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William Ryan’s ruling.
On Thursday, Ryan issued an order temporarily barring investigators from investigating computers seized from Metro’s inspector general. We have extended the ban to all devices stolen from those devices.
The judge fell short of granting a request from Kuehl and Metro’s attorneys that sheriff’s investigators found an invalid search warrant and ordered the sheriff’s department to return the seized property. did. The validity of the warrant will be determined after hearings with the Sheriff’s Department attorneys and the attorneys involved in the investigation, he wrote.
In urging Ryan to revoke the warrant entirely, Kuhl’s attorney likened the raid on the supervisor’s home to “a straight scene from ‘LA Confidential.'”
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has launched a politically motivated retaliation against the home and office of Los Angeles County Superintendent Sheila J. Kuhl, one of Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s most fierce and vocal critics. We conducted an early morning search of the house,” attorney Cheryl said. O’Connor wrote in court filings:
Kuehl’s attorneys have appointed a special master to scrutinize the material and seek to segregate privileged communications.
“The court is considering appointing a special master to temporarily delay sheriff’s access to seized computers and devices.” It seems,” Ryan wrote.
Sheriff officials allowed investigators to log overtime hours over the weekend to screen electronic equipment seized last week before Kuehl and Metro attorneys filed their challenge to the warrant on Monday. , a law enforcement source told The Times.
Ryan held a hearing on Thursday to discuss the appeal of the warrant and whether his decision to block the sheriff’s investigator should stand alone. In a series of questions, he asked why investigators retained key details about the case from the judge who issued the warrant used in last week’s raid.
Its judge, Craig Richman, has a decades-long relationship with Mark Lillianfeld, a key investigator in the Sheriff’s Department of Public Corruption. Lilienfeld’s involvement in last week’s warrant is unknown.
The evidence investigators presented to Richman showed that Metro gave more than $800,000 to nonprofits between 2014 and 2020 to operate a hotline for reporting sexual harassment on public transit. The hotline was a “complete failure”, according to the statement, but the contract was extended without competitive bidding or analysis.
Kuhl and Gigans, also members of the Sheriff’s Citizens Oversight Committee, clashed violently with Villanueva and called for his resignation. Gigans’ home and non-profit office were also searched. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
Kuehl last week called the allegations “totally hoaxed” and said he “knew nothing about the deal,” and Metro’s board of directors, which includes five county supervisors, voted on whether to approve it. said he didn’t.
Villanueva said she withdrew from the investigation to avoid a conflict of interest. However, he recently spoke about the investigation in his interview in News and used it as fodder for his social media account for the sheriff’s re-election campaign, declaring: ”
He also posted a photo of Jennifer Lowe, a former Metro employee, claiming he was targeted for retaliation by his superiors after he allegedly misbehaved against Metro. Lowe reached a settlement in the lawsuit she filed against Metro.
Villanueva said on social media, “Meet Jennifer Loew, mother of three,” in reference to Loew’s interview with Fox 11 alleging the nonprofit’s contract with Metro was improper. His courageous actions helped bring this issue the attention it deserves.”
In a statement sheriff investigators submitted to the judge last week when seeking a search warrant, they said the whistleblower, whose name has been redacted, was named by Metro chief executive Philip Washington. He said he told officials the deal was pushed “for survival.” Say hello to Kuhl.
The statement also detailed campaign donations Kuehl received from people associated with Gigans and the nonprofit, stating that “donations can be considered paid in exchange for the award of future hotline contracts.” ” he claims.