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

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

The reporter, Alene Tchekmedyian, revealed 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 towards whistle-blowers.

Ms. Tchekmedyian additionally revealed safety video footage of a police deputy handcuffing the inmate, who had punched him within the face. Once 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 mentioned he was investigating “all parties” concerned within the leaked video, which he mentioned was “stolen property that was removed illegally.” He stood subsequent to massive photographs of Ms. Tchekmedyian and two different folks.

“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 mentioned. “However, when it’s stolen material, at some point you actually become part of the story.”

Kevin Merida, the manager editor of The Los Angeles Times, mentioned in a press release that “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.”

“His attempt to criminalize news reporting goes against well-established constitutional law,” Mr. Merida continued. “We will vigorously defend Tchekmedyian’s and The Los Angeles Times’s rights in any proceeding or investigation brought by authorities.”

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

“Publishing newsworthy information about an alleged law enforcement cover-up that sought to block an investigation into the use of excessive force is constitutionally protected activity, and is clearly in the public interest,” Ms. Townsend mentioned. “We condemn the department’s actions in the strongest terms, and urge it to immediately drop this purported investigation.”

Ms. Tchekmedyian, who covers the Sheriff’s Department, broke the story on March 25 that Los Angeles County officers didn’t cost the inmate as a result of, the article mentioned, they have been frightened the deputy’s motion would generate damaging publicity for its resemblance to the homicide of George Floyd, a Black man who died in May 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.

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

“We will not be the only party investigating this,” Sheriff Villanueva mentioned. “There will be other agencies who will also be thoroughly investigating this and monitoring what we are doing. And it will be handed over to the appropriate prosecutorial agencies so they make a determination.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department mentioned in an electronic mail on Tuesday that it was “unable to comment any further due to several active ongoing investigations, pending litigation, including a criminal investigation.”

“What we can say is Sheriff Alex Villanueva is committed to transparency and accountability,” the division mentioned.

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