L.A. sheriff accused of jail coverup investigates reporter who exposed it | CBC News

The Los Angeles County sheriff on Tuesday disputed allegations he orchestrated a coverup of an altercation by which a deputy knelt on a handcuffed inmate’s head and mentioned a Los Angeles Occasions reporter who used leaked paperwork and video to first report on the case is a part of his legal investigation.

The paper’s prime editor condemned Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s motion, calling it an unlawful “try and criminalize information reporting.”

“Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s assault on Alene Tchekmedyian’s First Modification rights for doing newsworthy reporting on a video that confirmed a deputy kneeling on a handcuffed inmate’s head is outrageous,” government editor Kevin Merida mentioned in a press release.

“We are going to vigorously defend Tchekmedyian’s and the Los Angeles Occasions’ rights in any continuing or investigation introduced by authorities.”

The altercation with the inmate occurred in a county courthouse on March 10, 2021 — two days after jury choice started for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the previous Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murder for urgent his knee in opposition to George Floyd’s neck for as much as 9 1/2 minutes.

The video reveals Deputy Douglas Johnson directing inmate Enzo Escalante to maneuver up in opposition to a wall within the courthouse. Escalante swings at Johnson and punches him repeatedly within the face. Three different deputies assist Johnson wrestle Escalante to the bottom and handcuff him.

No costs in opposition to jail deputy

The L.A. Occasions reported that Johnson had his knee on Escalante’s head for greater than three minutes, even after the inmate had been handcuffed, positioned face down and didn’t seem like resisting. Escalante — who was awaiting trial on homicide and different costs — was taken to the hospital for remedy of minor accidents.

Johnson was faraway from responsibility months later and is below legal investigation, Villanueva mentioned throughout Tuesday’s information convention. No costs have been filed in opposition to the deputy.

Villanueva mentioned Tuesday that the video obtained by the Los Angeles Occasions was ‘stolen property that was eliminated illegally.’ (Damian Dovarganes/The Related Press)

Escalante has pleaded not responsible to 2 counts of resisting an officer. He’s being represented by the general public defender’s workplace, which didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. Escalante has filed a federal lawsuit in opposition to members of the sheriff’s division, together with Villanueva, that alleges his civil rights have been violated.

On Monday, Commander Allen Castellano filed a authorized declare, a precursor to a lawsuit, that accused Villanueva of first blocking and stalling the investigation into Johnson’s use of pressure, after which working to cowl up the incident and retaliating in opposition to whistleblowers.

Villanueva, who oversees the nation’s largest sheriff’s division, is up for re-election, and Castellano’s declare states the sheriff was in search of to keep away from dangerous publicity throughout his marketing campaign.

The sheriff on Tuesday mentioned he didn’t see the video till eight months after the altercation, however Castellano wrote in his declare that Villanueva had considered it inside days.

Sheriff says video was ‘stolen property’

Villanueva referred to as Castellano a “disgruntled worker” who made “false claims.” The sheriff additionally mentioned the video obtained by the Occasions was “stolen property that was eliminated illegally” and “all events” to the act are topic to his investigation of the leak.

“She obtained the knowledge after which she put it to her personal use,” he mentioned, referring to Tchekmedyian. “What she receives legally and places to her personal use and what she receives illegally and the L.A. Occasions makes use of it, I am fairly certain that is an enormous advanced space of regulation and freedom of the press and all that. Nonetheless, when it is stolen materials, in some unspecified time in the future, it’s a must to develop into a part of the story.”

Throughout his information convention, Villanueva displayed pictures of Tchekmedyian, L.A. County inspector normal Max Huntsman and former sheriff’s commander Eli Vera below the heading: What did they know and when did they comprehend it?

Villanueva displayed pictures of Tchekmedyian and others he’s investigating in relation to the reporting of the alleged coverup. (Damian Dovarganes/The Related Press)

In Tchekmedyian’s unique story, Vera mentioned Villanueva considered the video at an aide’s desk inside days of the altercation. Vera is operating in opposition to Villanueva and in addition was the commander overseeing courtroom providers on the county courthouse the place the altercation occurred. Huntsman is investigating the allegations Villanueva lied in regards to the altercation and issued a subpoena ordering Villanueva to both testify or flip over data.

Tchekmedyian, who recurrently covers the sheriff’s division, attended the information convention, and Villanueva ignored her questions.

The sheriff has beforehand focused different reporters for his or her work, together with when his deputies arrested a KPCC public radio reporter in 2020 whereas she was filming an arrest throughout a protest.

David Loy, authorized director of the California-based First Modification Coalition, mentioned Villanueva’s probe into Tchekmedyian was an assault on press freedoms.

“The press has an absolute proper to report on and publish data of public concern, even when that tape is in any other case confidential and leaked to them,” Loy mentioned. “That is bedrock First Modification regulation.”

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