LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva targets Alene Tchekmedyian over leaked video

The Los Angeles County sheriff insinuated {that a} native journalist was underneath legal investigation associated to her protection of a leaked tape that allegedly confirmed a deputy kneeling on a handcuffed inmate — a press release he later walked again amid criticism he’s attempting to muzzle the press.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva made the remarks at a press convention Tuesday when requested about Los Angeles Occasions reporter Alene Tchekmedyian, who reported on the incident final yr and in addition on the sheriff’s alleged cowl up as he seeks re-election.

Reporters on the briefing grilled Villanueva on whether or not Tchekmedyian — whose photograph was blown up and placed on show by the sheriff — was the topic of an investigation.

“The act is underneath investigation. All events to the act are topic to investigation,” he responded.

Hours later, the sheriff clarified in a series of tweets that regardless of “a frenzy of misinformation,” his company has “no real interest in pursuing, nor are we pursuing, legal fees in opposition to any reporters.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva takes questions during a news conference on April 26.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva takes questions throughout a information convention on April 26.

However his feedback kicked off a firestorm of shock from Los Angeles Occasions management and First Modification advocates.

The Occasions’ basic counsel despatched a letter to the sheriff protesting the investigation and the highest editor condemned Villanueva’s remarks, calling it an unlawful “try to 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,” Govt Editor Kevin Merida stated in a press release. “We’ll vigorously defend Tchekmedyian’s and the Los Angeles Occasions’ rights in any continuing or investigation introduced by authorities.”

Los Angeles Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian sitting in the first row at yesterday's news conference.
Los Angeles Occasions reporter Alene Tchekmedyian sitting within the first row at yesterday’s information convention.

The incident Tchekmedyian reported on concerned an altercation 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 homicide for kneeling on George Floyd’s neck.

The leaked video reveals Deputy Douglas Johnson directing homicide suspect 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.

Tchekmedyian, who covers the sheriff’s workplace for the 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 suffered minor accidents that required hospitalization.

Villanueva's comments kicked off a firestorm of outrage from Los Angeles Times leadership and First Amendment advocates.
Villanueva’s feedback kicked off a firestorm of shock from Los Angeles Occasions management and First Modification advocates.

Johnson was positioned on go away months later and is at the moment underneath investigation, Villanueva stated throughout Tuesday’s information convention. Thus far, no fees have been filed in opposition to the deputy.

Escalante has pleaded not responsible to 2 counts of resisting an officer. He has filed a federal lawsuit in opposition to members of the sheriff’s division, together with Villanueva, that alleges his civil rights had been violated.

On the press convention, Villanueva claimed leaked the video obtained by the Occasions was “stolen property that was eliminated illegally.”

Tchekmedyian covers the sheriff's office for the Times.
Tchekmedyian covers the sheriff’s workplace for the Occasions.

“She obtained the data after which she put it to her personal use,” he stated, referring to Tchekmedyian. “What she receives legally and places to her personal use and what she receives illegally and the LA Occasions makes use of it, I’m fairly positive that’s an enormous advanced space of regulation and freedom of the press and all that. Nonetheless, when it’s stolen materials, in some unspecified time in the future you must turn into a part of the story.”

Throughout his information convention, Villanueva confirmed pictures of the reporter, LA County Inspector Common Max Huntsman and ex-Sheriff’s Commander Eli Vera underneath the heading: “WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT?”

In an ungainly twist, Tchekmedyian was in attendance — and Villanueva ignored her questions.

Villaneuva ignored the reporter's questions during the press conference.
Villaneuva ignored the reporter’s questions through the press convention.

Villanueva went as far as to counsel that the Occasions was in cahoots along with his political opponents to thwart his re-election.

“Once you take this whole factor into context you notice that there’s lots of people working in live performance and coordination,” the sheriff stated. “That features the LA Occasions. That features those who clearly need to defeat me electorally. That features the [Board of Supervisors]-appointed inspector basic and the [Civilian] Oversight Fee. Lots of people working time beyond regulation and so they’re doing it as greatest they’ll, so there’ll be extra of this nonsense thrown at me till June 7, however it’s what it’s.”

Tchekmedyian had additionally reported on allegations that Villanueva tried to cowl up the kneeling incident, lodged by LA Sheriff’s Commander Allen Castellano.

Villanueva went as far as to counsel that the Occasions was in cahoots along with his political opponents.

On Monday, 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 power, 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 reelection and Castellano’s declare states the sheriff was attempting to keep away from dangerous publicity throughout his marketing campaign.

The sheriff instructed reporters Tuesday that he didn’t see the video till eight months after the incident, however Castellano wrote in his declare that Villanueva had seen it inside days.

Villanueva known as Castellano a “disgruntled worker” who made “false claims.” 

Searching for to place to mattress the swirling accusations that he’s attempting to silence the press, Villanueva tweeted Tuesday evening: “Ensuing from the unbelievable frenzy of misinformation being circulated, I need to make clear at no time immediately did I state an LA Occasions reporter was a suspect in a legal investigation. We’ve no real interest in pursuing, nor are we pursuing, legal fees in opposition to any reporters.

“We’ll conduct a radical investigation concerning the illegal disclosure of proof and documentation in an energetic legal case. The a number of energetic investigations stemming from this incident shall be shared and monitored by an outdoor regulation enforcement entity.

“What must be of curiosity is the actual fact the LA Occasions refuses to acknowledge their reporting, and the account of a disgruntled worker, had been totally debunked throughout immediately’s press convention.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis known as on the state lawyer basic to research Villanueva for a “sample of unconscionable and harmful actions just like the one immediately,” she stated, referring to the information convention.

“The newest assault on LA Occasions reporter Alene Tchekmedyian is one other harmful instance of Sheriff Villanueva attacking the media and the First Modification. That is in step with his previous harassment of different ladies, together with KPCC reporter Josie Huang in addition to myself and different county officers,” Solis stated in a press release.

The sheriff told reporters Tuesday that he did not see the video until eight months after the incident.
The sheriff instructed reporters Tuesday that he didn’t see the video till eight months after the incident.

“Displaying Alene’s photograph at immediately’s press convention and making her seem as if she dedicated a criminal offense is not only an assault on Alene however your entire journalistic group. What’s legal is the sheriff’s cover-up of deputies utilizing extreme power in opposition to an incarcerated individual, together with kneeling on his neck for 3 minutes. What’s not legal, nonetheless, is Alene and different journalists reporting on it.”

In Tchekmedyian’s authentic story, Vera, the ex-commander, stated Villanueva seen the video at an aide’s desk simply days after the incident. Vera is working in opposition to Villanueva and in addition was commander overseeing courtroom companies the place the incident occurred.

Huntsman is investigating the allegations Villanueva lied concerning the incident and issued a subpoena ordering Villanueva to both testify or flip over information.

With Publish wires

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