Judge Orders Sheriff to Stop Searching Seized MTA Computers

The LASD raids on Villanueva’s enemies look even more buffoonish as legal professionals, like the D.A. and a Superior Court judge, weigh in

A Superior Court judge has weighed in on the first of several eyebrow-raising raids that  the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department conducted this week against outspoken opponents of its leader, Sheriff Alex Villanueva, ordering the department to cease its search of computers seized from the MTA’s Office of Inspector General, ABC7 reports. Attorneys for Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission member Patti Giggans, whose homes were also raided, are likely to request the same intervention.

On Wednesday, LASD investigators raided these and three other locations as part of what a warrant signed by Superior Court Judge Craig Richman described as an ongoing probe into the non-profit Peace Over Violence for alleged corruption. Peace Over Violence is run by Giggans, who is also a member of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and a close friend to Kuehl. Both Kuehl and Giggans have previously called for Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s resignation.

L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin was among those who made counter-accusations against Villanueva following the raids, pointing to the sheriff’s pattern of vindictive investigations of his perceived enemies.

“A corrupt sheriff with a track record of abusing his power and trying to silence and intimidate his critics is conducting a bogus, vindictive, politically motivated witch hunt against @SheilaKuehl, a public official of the highest integrity,” he tweeted.

Others expressed suspicion about how the investigation’s lead detective, a known ally of Judge Richman, got around a previous judge’s order restraining the Public Corruption Unit and—in another echo of high-profile events at Mar-a-Lago—ordering that a special master be assigned to review any seized items.

On Thursday, Judge William Ryan issued an emergency order curtailing the searches, asking why a previous judge’s ruling on this case was bypassed. L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon has already said that his office will not prosecute the case for which the putative evidence was seized.

Critics of Villanueva, including last month’s whistleblower in his own department, have pointed to his bullying, alleged lawlessness, abuse of authority, and cultivation of hard-right factions within the force as earning him the sobriquet, the “Donald Trump of L.A.”

Kuehl called out Villanueva on the day of the raids, tweeting, “As a County Supervisor, I’ve done everything I could to bring appropriate oversight and supervision to the LA County Sheriff’s Department, a dept that has become more and more uncontrolled and troubled under the current @LACoSheriff, Alex Villanueva.”

Giggans’ attorney, Austin Dove, claimed that Villanueva’s search was aimed at hindering any oversight of his department—including the seizure of the non-profit’s server, which stops all their communication. “These are Third World tactics,” Dove said outside Giggans’ home during the search. “Vladimir Putin would be impressed.”

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