Sheriff Villanueva again refuses to testify before civilian panel investigating deputy gangs

City News Service
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is again refusing to testify before an oversight commission that is probing the existence of deputy gangs in his department.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva continues to clash with a civilian panel that is probing the presence of alleged deputy gangs within his agency.

On Monday, Villanueva refused once again to testify before the county's Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission. He had initially said he would appear, but then changed his mind over the weekend, saying he would only testify if the panel met certain conditions - which board members described as unreasonable.

Villanueva's demands included the presence of a neutral hearing officer, the ability to cross-examine witnesses and deliver an opening statement, and a preview of all exhibits.

Commissioners at the meeting rebuffed the sheriff's requests and seemed resigned to the reality that he will never voluntarily testify during the panel's probe

Both Villanueva and his undersheriff, Timothy Murakami, will be held in contempt of court if they don't appear at the next hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for August, according to Commissioner Robert Bonner.

"These requests are out of line,'' Bonner said. "They're not appropriate. And we should make clear we're not going to accede to these requests."

The commission plans to submit a written rejection to Villanueva's proposed protocols.

Commissioner Lael Rubin said the sheriff's letter detailing his reasons for not testifying was in line with his previous "absurd requests" when faced with subpoenas.

"This is a repeat of his outrageous behavior," Rubin said. "And it's clear that he never intends to appear before this commission."

Villanueva said earlier he was prepared to testify before the commission Monday, but "was deeply disappointed to learn the commission is unwilling to allow very basic and reasonable elements of a legitimate oversight meeting designed to understand the truth. It makes neutral observers question whether the commission's real agenda is to learn the facts, or to put on a show."

Bert Deixler, counsel for the commission, said a representative for Villanueva informed him Friday that the sheriff would be available to testify between 9 and 11 a.m. Monday.

But by Sunday, Villanueva had changed his mind.

The sheriff, who has repeatedly accused the county Board of Supervisors and Inspector General Max Huntsman of pursuing personal political biases in clashes over the alleged deputy gangs and other issues, expressed concern in his letter to the commission about "demonstrably false statements having already been accepted by the commission."

LA County Board of Supervisors looking for proposal that could give them power to remove sheriff

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has also clashed with Villanueva. On Tuesday, the board voted to place a measure on the November ballot that would give the board the authority to remove an elected sheriff for just cause.

The board approved the proposal on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger dissenting.

If approved, the measure would let the Board of Supervisors remove a sheriff if four out of five members vote in favor, based on a violation of duties or other misconduct.