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On Tuesday he alarmed press freedom advocates by lashing out at a press convention and indicating {that a} Los Angeles Occasions reporter was below legal investigation. Later within the day, he tried to stroll again his alarming feedback, but it surely’s necessary to grasp the background, together with Villanueva’s extremely controversial habits and his assaults towards the media.

Villanueva has repeatedly singled out LA Occasions reporter Alene Tchekmedyian, who’s simply doing her job by masking his division. Tchekmedyian has printed a collection of tales about an incident through which a deputy kneeled on an inmate — together with an article on Monday concerning an allegation that Villanueva was implicated in a cover-up.

At Tuesday’s press convention, Villanueva displayed and pointed to a photograph of Tchekmedyian, plus one in every of his political rivals and the sheriff’s inspector common. Arrows implied a connection between all three. Villanueva referred to video of the incident that Tchekmedyian had obtained as “stolen property.” And he declared that he was investigating “all events” concerned within the matter. When repeatedly requested whether or not Tchekmedyian was particularly below investigation, Villanueva responded that “all events to the act” have been being probed.

However after widespread condemnation and a warning from the paper’s common counsel, Villanueva form of walked again his remarks. “Ensuing from the unimaginable frenzy of misinformation being circulated, I have to make clear at no time right this moment did I state an LA Occasions reporter was a suspect in a legal investigation,” the LA County Sheriff’s Division tweeted Tuesday night. “We’ve got no real interest in pursuing, nor are we pursuing, legal prices towards any reporters.”

Notably, Villanueva seems to have arrange a straw man right here. There’s a distinction between being the topic of an investigation and a suspect in an investigation the place legal prices may be introduced towards the particular person. The previous was reported by information organizations, not the latter…

“An abuse of your official place”

Hours earlier than the division’s tweet, LA Occasions common counsel Jeff Glasser wrote the sheriff a scathing observe. Glasser described Villanueva’s remarks as a “thinly veiled try to intimidate” to intimidate Tchekmedyian “for reporting unflattering (however completely correct) details about the conduct of people in your division and allegations of a cover-up by you and different officers.”

Glasser mentioned it was “an abuse of your official place that dangers subjecting you and the county to authorized legal responsibility.” He demanded that the division “protect all paperwork associated to any ‘investigation’ of Ms. Tchekmedyian or some other LA Occasions worker on this matter.” You can read the full letter here…

A historical past of going after the press

That is removed from the primary time that Villanueva has made the press a goal, as LA Magazine’s Ian Spiegelman wrote earlier this month. He has objected to Tchekmedyian earlier than. The LA Occasions recalled an incident final 12 months through which the sheriff’s division refused to speak along with her. “The division steered it will reply questions from ‘some other’ Occasions reporter,” the story mentioned. “The Occasions declined to assign a brand new reporter to the story.”

Widespread denunciation

>> LA Occasions exec editor Kevin Merida mentioned Villanueva’s “try to criminalize information reporting goes towards well-established constitutional regulation…”

>> Robert Garcia, the mayor of Lengthy Seashore Metropolis, which is in LA County, said it was “a transparent assault on the free press and extremely harmful” and known as on different elected officers to “denounce this habits and stand as much as these actions by the Sheriff…”

>> The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press described Villanueva’s transfer as “past the pale” and a violation of the First Modification, condemning it within the “strongest phrases…”


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