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Sheriff Villanueva again disputes cover-up, retaliation claims

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Tuesday once again denied any role in an alleged cover-up of an incident involving a deputy using excessive force on an inmate last year.

No criminal investigation of the March 2021 incident was immediately ordered, indicating people involved attempted to cover it up by not reporting the assault up the chain of command, fearing bad publicity.

Villanueva said the allegations were orchestrated for political purposes as he heads into a reelection campaign.

During a news conference Tuesday, the sheriff also offered a timeline of events following the use of force incident, disputing claims that he and other top staff reviewed video of the assault just days after it happened.

The news conference comes after the sheriff’s commander who was critical of the aftermath of the use of force incident filed a claim against L.A. County accusing Villanueva of obstructing justice and retaliating against those who came forward, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Villanueva’s role in the alleged cover-up is now being investigated by the County’s Office of Inspector General.

Villanueva announced the Times is being investigated, saying reporters ran what he called “false” stories and published video of the incident that was unauthorized property belonging to the Sheriff’s Department.

He said the newspaper is working “in concert and coordination” with the inspector general’s office to derail his campaign.

“A lot of people working overtime and they’re doing it as best they can, so there will be more of this nonsense thrown at me until June 7,” Villanueva said.

In a response, Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida said the sheriff’s attack on reporter Alene Tchekmedyian is “outrageous.”

“His attempt to criminalize news reporting goes against well-established constitutional law,” Merida said in a statement. “We will viciously defend Tchekmedyian’s and the Los Angeles Times’ rights in any proceeding investigation drought on by authorities.”

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