Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the California Attorney General’s office will ask a judge to order the Sheriff’s Department to destroy any remaining copies of items seized or obtained during its investigation into alleged political corruption involving an LA County Supervisor.
Villanueva claimed in a live streamed speech Wednesday that a motion filed by the Attorney General’s office in LA Superior Court demanding the destruction would be addressed at a hearing Thursday on Supervisor Sheila Kuehl‘s challenge to the legality of the warrant and the underlying investigation.
“We did not ask the LA County Sheriff’s Department, or anyone else, to destroy evidence,” a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office told NBC4.
“Our office is committed to taking every step necessary to ensure the preservation of all evidence necessary for a full and thorough investigation in this matter. It’s also worth noting that the search warrant materials are currently under court supervision. Beyond that, to protect its integrity, we’re unable to comment on an ongoing investigation,” the AG’s office said.
Villanueva said that destroying the items, including body worn video recordings, would be illegal, could be considered an obstruction of justice, and would impede his ability to defend against a possible future lawsuit over the investigation of Kuehl and repeated raids on her home and office.
“Corruption, unfortunately, does run deep in the state of California and particularly in Los Angeles,” Villanueva said during his presentation Wednesday.
“And I don’t want to think that’s the same issue at the state level,” he said, and suggested the court could order the evidence sealed but allow Villanueva to retain copies of the material even though his office is no longer investigating the case.
Copies of all of the LASD material, however, were ordered by an LA Superior Court judge in September to be turned-over to the California Department of Justice, so none of the material or potential evidence should have been lost or permanently destroyed.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in September that he directed LASD to, “cease its investigative activity and transmit all evidence to DOJ.”
Bonta said his office would take-over the case given the unique circumstances and clear conflict of interest that exists between the Sheriff’s Department and the Board of Supervisors.
“We are committed to a thorough, fair, and independent investigation that will help restore confidence for the people of our state,” Bonta said in a statement. “If there is wrongdoing by any party, we will bring it to light.”
Kuehl, Sheriff’s oversight commissioner Patti Giggans, and attorneys for the Metro Transit Agency’s office of inspector general filed motions to attempt to quash, or invalidate, the September 14, 2022 searches of their premises.
The Sheriff’s Department said the searches were part of a political corruption investigation into allegations that Kuehl helped Giggans, her longtime friend, win a now-defunct no-bid MTA contract.
Kuehl and Giggans have repeatedly denied any interference in the MTA contract award, which they’ve said was decided independently by MTA alone.
Both said they believe the Sheriff’s investigation and the searches, were, in reality, a thinly-veiled retaliation campaign in response to their efforts to oversee the Sheriff’s Department and Villanueva.
A hearing on the search warrant was set for Thursday.