Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is dealing with calls to resign after he stated the Los Angeles Times journalist who reported on allegations he was concerned in protecting up the case of an abused inmate was below prison investigation.
Alene Tchekmedyian, who usually covers the sheriff’s division, printed an article on Monday detailing a authorized declare filed by a sheriff’s commander that accused Villanueva of obstructing justice and retaliating in opposition to whistleblowers.
The report included surveillance footage of the March 2021 incident, and stated the deputy had knelt on a handcuffed inmate’s head for greater than three minutes.
At a information convention on Tuesday, Villanueva stated the video was “stolen property that was removed illegally.” He displayed giant photographs of Tchekmedyian, LA County Inspector General Max Huntsman and former Sheriff’s Commander Eli Vera below the heading: “WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT?”
Asked by reporters if he was investigating Tchekmedyian particularly, Villanueva stated that “all parties to the act are subjects of the investigation.”
The sheriff’s feedback prompted fast criticism from the newspaper’s management and First Amendment advocates.
“Sheriff Alex 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,” the paper’s govt editor Kevin Merida stated in an announcement.
“His attempt to criminalize news reporting goes against well-established constitutional law. We will vigorously defend Tchekmedyian’s and the Los Angeles Times‘ rights in any proceeding or investigation brought by authorities.”
Hours later, Villanueva—who’s up for reelection—clarified his remarks in response to what he known as an “incredible frenzy of misinformation being circulated.”
He wrote in a tweet: “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.”
But critics of Villanueva’s actions are calling for him to resign or be eliminated.
Author and investigative reporter Thomas Peele tweeted: “This is an incredibly brazen attack on the free press. All journalists must stand behind @AleneTchek and the right to report on government abuse. @LACoSheriff Villanueva is unfit for public office. He must resign or supervisors must push him out.”
“Villanueva has proved himself again and again to be an anti-democracy militarist politician posing as a peace officer,” commentator Keith Olbermann tweeted.
“He needs to be removed immediately, and criminally prosecuted. The @LASDHQ has been totally corrupted by this one rogue cop. He has to go.”
Art Acevedo, the previous police chief of Miami, tweeted that Villanueva’s actions have been “something right out of an authoritarian strongman playbook. Angelinos deserve better.”
L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis pledged to ask California Attorney General Rob Bonta to research Villanueva’s “pattern of unconscionable and dangerous actions.”
“Sadly, Sheriff Villanueva has a habit of attacking, maligning, and threatening those who oversee or report on his misconduct,” Solis stated.
Villanueva has been contacted for remark.