Los Angeles Sheriff, Accused of Cowl-Up, Opens Investigation Into Reporter

The Los Angeles County sheriff stated on Tuesday that he was investigating a reporter at The Los Angeles Occasions who had reported allegations that he was concerned in covering up a case of inmate abuse, an announcement that drew accusations that he was violating the reporter’s First Modification rights.

The reporter, Alene Tchekmedyian, printed an article on Monday detailing a authorized declare filed by an officer who accused Sheriff Alex Villanueva of blocking an investigation into the alleged abuse and retaliating in opposition to whistle-blowers.

Ms. Tchekmedyian additionally printed safety video footage of a police deputy handcuffing the inmate, who had punched him within the face. As soon as the inmate was on the ground, the officer saved his knee on the inmate’s head for 3 minutes.

At a information convention on Tuesday, the sheriff stated he was investigating “all events” concerned within the leaked video, which he stated was “stolen property that was eliminated illegally.” He stood subsequent to massive photographs of Ms. Tchekmedyian and two different individuals.

“What she receives illegally and The L.A. Occasions makes use of it, I’m fairly positive that’s an enormous, complicated space of regulation and freedom of the press and all that,” Sheriff Villanueva stated. “Nevertheless, when it’s stolen materials, in some unspecified time in the future you truly change into a part of the story.”

Kevin Merida, the manager editor of The Los Angeles Occasions, stated in an announcement that “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.”

“His try to criminalize information reporting goes in opposition to well-established constitutional regulation,” Mr. Merida continued. “We’ll vigorously defend Tchekmedyian’s and The Los Angeles Occasions’s rights in any continuing or investigation introduced by authorities.”

Katie Townsend, the deputy government director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, stated the investigation of a journalist due to her reporting violated the First Modification.

“Publishing newsworthy details about an alleged regulation enforcement cover-up that sought to dam an investigation into the usage of extreme drive is constitutionally protected exercise, and is clearly within the public curiosity,” Ms. Townsend stated. “We condemn the division’s actions within the strongest phrases, and urge it to right away drop this purported investigation.”

Ms. Tchekmedyian, who covers the Sheriff’s Division, broke the story on March 25 that Los Angeles County officers didn’t cost the inmate as a result of, the article stated, they had been apprehensive the deputy’s motion would generate adverse publicity for its resemblance to the homicide of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Might 2020 in police custody after an officer knelt on his neck.

Ms. Tchekmedyian’s article on Monday implicated Sheriff Villanueva because the one directing the cover-up.

On the information convention on Tuesday, Sheriff Villanueva denied the cover-up claims and stated he was investigating the leak of the video.

“We won’t be the one social gathering investigating this,” Sheriff Villanueva stated. “There might be different companies who will even be totally investigating this and monitoring what we’re doing. And will probably be handed over to the suitable prosecutorial companies so that they make a dedication.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Division stated in an e-mail on Tuesday that it was “unable to remark any additional on account of a number of lively ongoing investigations, pending litigation, together with a legal investigation.”

“What we are able to say is Sheriff Alex Villanueva is dedicated to transparency and accountability,” the division stated.