"Signed by the judge who is a friend of the sheriff."
September 14, 2022 12:38 PM   Subscribe

"He's only targeting political enemies." LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, scandal-plagued chief of a department run by gangs, has been in a Trumpy, ongoing battle with everyone he identifies as political enemies: a local oversight committee, Black people, the County Board of Supervisors, anyone to his left. Today his deputies searched the homes of an elected County official and a member of the Sheriff's Civilian Oversight Commission.

"The warrants marked a dramatic escalation of the long-running Sheriff’s investigation" into a local non-profit run by a member of the oversight commission, and they were carried out by "a secretive public corruption unit" that appears to exist only for the purpose of bullying political enemies, and has never resulted in any charges or meaningful investigations. Kuehl said today that the judge who okayed the warrant is a friend of the Sheriff, and the LA Times article linked up top notes that the judge has a longstanding relationship with the investigator involved, and the two have a history of scratching one another's backs.
posted by kensington314 (19 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, this sounds like South Texas.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:42 PM on September 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

The LASD has been the lesser talked about shitshow and disgrace in this area with everyone focusing on the malfeasance of the LAPD, but they've been every bit just as awful and in ways stealthily worse than the LAPD. (Worse because they control the LA County Jails)

And Villanueva wins the award for vote I regret the most in my life. He ran on a reformers platform and I fell for the line big time. Can't wait to vote him out.
posted by drewbage1847 at 12:58 PM on September 14, 2022 [22 favorites]

The LASD has been far shittier than LAPD for decades. The only surprise is how much shittier it's gotten in recent years. It's unbelievable.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:42 PM on September 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

I think, if the US survives the next few decades, one lesson is that we made a mistake in entrusting single people with extraordinary powers.

There should never be a single judge involved in anything. Make it a 3 judge panel. Or hell a 7 or 15 judge panel. Randomly seleced to avoid good ole boy networks.

We saw that sort of abuse with the persecution of Donzger. We've seen it countless times in the past.

Letting a single person be the gateway to power is an open invitation to corruption and abuse. Letting a group who is always the same, or a group that's from the same area, be the gateway to power is also an invitation to abuse.

A random panel selected from widely separated regions is easy enough to assemble in this era of teleconferencing.

But we don't have that so we get situations like this where there's open corruption happening right in front of everyone, people are asking what can be done, and the answer apparently is "nothing".

There's apparently no higher power that is able (or willing) to step in and overturn the Sheriff's pet judge.

So we just watch it go on, like we did with Donziger. Clear, naked, indisputable, corruption and abuse of power and yet, somehow, no one ever seems to be able (or willing) to stop it.
posted by sotonohito at 2:58 PM on September 14, 2022 [22 favorites]

Don't see it in the links, but one of the things that's kicked off the hornet's nest is the LA County Board of Supervisors are looking to expand their powers to include being able to remove the Sheriff by vote. All in response to Villaneuva. Turned the noise up to 12 and that's ok.

it's funny - the Board of Supervisors aren't exactly nobodies. LA County is largely than almost every state. Those 5 people wield a metric shiton of power and economic control.

Oh and I forgot - the LASD also patrols the LA Metro - at least until Villaneuva follows through on his threat to pull the Sheriffs from the system if they're not given complete control over the system.

The sooner he's out, the sooner I'll feel better. I'd guess the system won't actually really change for the better, but almost anything's better than him.
posted by drewbage1847 at 3:09 PM on September 14, 2022 [8 favorites]

Abolish Sheriffs.
posted by Catblack at 3:26 PM on September 14, 2022 [12 favorites]

List of LASD deputy gangs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a list of gangs whose members are associated with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) (typically deputies). Press reports indicate the LASD has had a problem with gangs since at least the 1970s and now has around eighteen gangs.[1] The department has used the term "cliques" when discussing these groups.[2]

The 1992 Kolts Commission report said these were found “particularly at stations in areas heavily populated by minorities--the so-called ‘ghetto stations'--and deputies at those stations recruit persons similar in attitude to themselves.”[3] The first deputy gang acknowledged by the LASD was the "Little Devils" in a later-released internal memo in 1973. However, one or more deputy gangs are believed to have been involved in the death of Los Angeles Times reporter and law enforcement critic Ruben Salazar during the National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War on August 29, 1970.[4]

In July 2021, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters called for a United States Department of Justice investigation into allegations that a violent deputy gang known as the Executioners was running the Compton station of the LASD.[5]

19 gangs are listed.
posted by jamjam at 3:46 PM on September 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

posted by Gerald Bostock at 4:22 PM on September 14, 2022

Somewhere, David Simon is taking notes for his next TV series.
posted by AdamCSnider at 4:56 PM on September 14, 2022 [5 favorites]

LAPD had decades of federal invention and monitors to try to get the worst of the worst out. LaSD needs something more. I know defund the police is a crappy slogan, but I really think we need to statilize or nationalize police forces. With really standards and accountability.

Rural county sherif are certianly bad, like sending deputies 500 miles to take a girls pet goat to the slaughterhouse.

And there is the Rich Suburban San Mateo sheriffs who flew to Indiana because a wealthy friend didn’t get his replica Batmobile fast enough .
posted by CostcoCultist at 7:49 PM on September 14, 2022 [5 favorites]

Here in Santa Clara County, CA, the sheriff Laurie Smith was indicted for corruption in 2021, and will be going to trial later this year. She intends to serve as sheriff through the trial.

The corruption issue was that she was selling concealed carry permits for $1,500 campaign contributions. I know it is true because I had it explained to me by a Santa Clara County firearms dealer, in case I wanted to get a concealed permit. Which is kinda wild, because I didn't want one, and wasn't trying to get one. But the scam was apparently so well known, that local gun stores knew exactly how much you had to send her. At the time I thought the gun store guy was full of shit, but nope, it all hit the papers a year or so later.

This is, in fact, the second time Smith has been busted for selling concealed carry permits. Her first go-around was a lawsuit in 2011.

Anyway, if she loses the corruption trial later this year, she will be forced to resign as sheriff. That's it.
posted by ryanrs at 10:34 PM on September 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

There should never be a single judge involved in anything. Make it a 3 judge panel. Or hell a 7 or 15 judge panel. Randomly seleced to avoid good ole boy networks.
If I were to propose a functionally-identical scheme involving a digital algorithmic system, I would rightly be accused of "attempting a technological solution to a social problem." You are trying to specify a procedure that cannot be subverted by the people who execute it, and that is always a losing proposition.

Accountability, in the form of consequences for malfeasance (in the form of penalties that are actually applied, be they not even very severe(1)) is the only solution.

It is truly astonishing, how much our system depends on good-faith adherance to norms by the people involved. There are all sorts of behaviors "required by law" of public officials, where it turns out there is no penalty for ignoring the requirement. Or where the penalty just doesn't get imposed because the people who are supposed to impose it don't care.

And don't even get me started on laws that do specify penalties that should constrain the owner class, but don't get enforced because the offices that hold the remit are too under-resourced. The fact that Trump was never prosecuted for anything he did before 2015 because he was too small to mess with. Stealing a few hundred million $$ is not big enough to involve our white-collar crime fighters. Think about that. Adding more judges to the panels is not going to make either of these problems go away.

(1) It is a truism in reality-based analysis of criminal justice, that even a relatively nugatory penalty that is reliably imposed is effective, while the threat of the most draconian punishments is utterly ineffective, if the chance of their actually being inflicted is not high enough.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 6:49 AM on September 15, 2022 [6 favorites]

Somewhere, David Simon is taking notes for his next TV series.

Or James Ellroy, for his next novel.
posted by barrett caulk at 7:54 AM on September 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

On one hand, a lot of the massive social corruption problems that we have come from the snowball effect of tax cuts and financialization; we've simply got too many very rich people and they can easily afford to essentially buy the government. This has obviously always been a problem but it has worsened as inequality has grown. So that means it is very difficult to reject the prison system because it is so profitable and it's similarly difficult to scale back on police armament - like, within living memory riot cops frequently just had...batons, and I know because I remember having them used on me. Not that it was a big thrill then or that you couldn't get seriously hurt, but the spectacle of ordinary humans going up against heavily armored, heavily armed cops with de facto tanks and munitions is completely normal and it's because it is enormously profitable to sell armaments to the cops or to the feds to reroute to the cops and the corrupt businesses and investors who already have lots of money can pressure the state to spend more this way.

On the other, we have another serious problem because we have effectively built far right paramilitaries and it gets worse every year. Erstwhile poster The Whelk always used to remark that the mayor of NYC couldn't do a thing about the cops because he plausibly feared for the safety of his family, and I think that's broadly true in a lot of places. I often wonder about Minneapolis, because the police here are so extremely out of control (and incompetent!
With an anomalously low rate of murder investigation clearance! Minneapolis is a great place to kill someone if you're at all clever because the cops won't bother to investigate). It's true that we have an unusually shit mayor, but the entire city government is so supine that I have to wonder if they aren't just scared.

And of course, what is going to happen if there is, eg, a national strike? Or if the GOP gets in at the national level, who do you think is going to enforce whatever totalitarian nightmare new laws we get? The same cops we've been turning into a de facto army for the past couple of decades.

My point isn't "oh in the past the cops were all Officer Friendly" - you don't get that from an institution that started out hunting enslaved people. It's that police powers have expanded so much in the past couple of decades as a result of snowballing inequality that there has been a qualitative change in police behavior and it is very hard to see how to stop it.

On a third hand, is it a problem with Americans or a problem with humans or a problem with colonizer/colonized societies or what that a lot of on the ground policing is clearly just hurting people for fun? I mean, it's not even a direct "we serve the interests of the powerful so fuck you peon ha ha ha" stuff or even "we are an unaccountable gang and we destroy our enemies" stuff, it's people who obviously seek out the vulnerable to hurt because they like hurting people and want to do it more. You could almost forgive people who really just wanted to sit around and eat donuts all day, because who wouldn't? It's the "this person is obviously harmless but we can pretend to be threatened as an excuse to terrorize them for an hour and then shoot them to death" and "no effort is too much if we can take a girl's pet goat to be killed" - that's real psychopath stuff right there.

The solution is to stop giving them the opportunity, but it's disturbing that there are so many of them.
posted by Frowner at 8:10 AM on September 15, 2022 [6 favorites]

Abolition is the only way forward.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:45 AM on September 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'll concede that there's a bit of technocratic thinking in my proposal. But, that said, I don't really think it's technocratic magical thinking. It's just a way to broaden the pool of people involved and therefore (hopefully) have more people there to do the actual enforcement.

But that's a side issue.

The part where the LASD is a deeply racist, abusive, violent, gang ridden, abomination of a law enforcement agency that more or less embodies every single bad thing about American law enforcement in one single package? Where the LASD, somehow, has actually made the LAPD, once the byword for police brutality, look good by comparison?

I'm with ob1quixote. Abolition is the only answer.

And that won't happen soon.

But... I do have some hope that maybe the abuses are so awful that it'll force them to actually shut down the entire LASD, fire everyone, and start over from scratch. Probably not, but that's what it's going to take. Some things are so broken you can't fix them.
posted by sotonohito at 3:59 PM on September 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

LA Times: Sheriff ordered to halt search of some computers linked to Supervisor Kuehl investigation
(might need incognito window to bypass paywall)
A Superior Court judge late Thursday ordered Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials to stop searching certain computers seized as part of sprawling raids tied to an investigation into county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a domestic violence nonprofit.

The order from Judge William Ryan applies solely to computers sheriff’s investigators took from Metro’s Office of Inspector General, whose attorney filed papers Thursday asking the judge to toss the search warrant used to seize the equipment.

The attorney argued that the warrant served this week was illegal. He said it failed to comply with a ruling made by a different judge regarding “an identical warrant” served last year in the same case, which has generated criticism that Sheriff Alex Villanueva is targeting his critics.

“The LASD thus flagrantly ignored a ruling by another Los Angeles Superior Court judge and took matters into its own hands by obtaining the second warrant while intentionally omitting from its affidavit” the judge’s ruling, Harvinder Anand said in the filing.

A sheriff’s spokesperson complained in a statement that the county was not providing a lawyer to respond to the challenge on behalf of the Sheriff’s Department.
posted by ryanrs at 10:58 AM on September 17, 2022

LA Times: How a dispute over dog droppings put a celebrated homicide detective and a judge under scrutiny

Mark Lillienfeld is a lead investigator in Sheriff Villanueva's secretive public corruption team. This is why he took the warrant to Judge Richman after the other judge refused.
posted by ryanrs at 11:12 AM on September 17, 2022

LA Times: L.A. sheriff stripped of control of Kuehl investigation by attorney general

12ft.io no paywall
Bonta informed the Sheriff’s Department that his office had assumed control of the investigation in a letter sent Tuesday to Undersheriff Tim Murakami.

“Your department should cease its investigative activity and refrain from any actions in furtherance of these investigations, including public statements or court filings related to the investigations,” Bonta instructed.

Bonta’s letter was in response to one Villanueva sent him last week, in which Villanueva demanded Bonta open an inquiry into allegations that Kuehl and Giggans had been tipped off in advance of the impending searches.

In his letter, Bonta replied that while he would look into Villanueva’s claim, he was also taking over the department’s investigation into Giggans’ charity.

He ordered Murakami to “please have your department staff transmit all evidence, investigative reports, and information to” two agents in Bonta’s office.

“In recent days, the public unfolding of an unprecedented investigation has raised serious questions for residents of Southern California and beyond,” Bonta said in a statement. “I recognize the deep uncertainty this has engendered and, given the unique circumstances, my team has committed to taking over this investigative process.”
posted by ryanrs at 12:46 PM on September 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

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