LOS ANGELES – Lawyers for Sheriff Alex Villanueva can depose an official they argue is familiar with the firing of a deputy who lost his job over domestic violence allegations, but she cannot be questioned about “bias, motive and/or political action” against the sheriff, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff issued the order during the latest hearing in the case involving former Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan, denying a motion by lawyers for Los Angeles County to quash a subpoena levied against longtime attorney Diana M. Teran.
Villanueva’s lawyers state in their court papers that Teran will have relevant testimony, despite arguments to the contrary by lawyers for Los Angeles County, who also maintained Teran was being harassed.
“As the constitutional policing advisor from November 2015 until November 2018, Ms. Teran was intimately involved with the deputy sheriff disciplinary matters, including the discipline of defendant Mandoyan,” Villanueva’s lawyers stated in their court papers. “Moreover, it is not harassment for someone to be deposed in a civil suit when that person knows relevant facts.”
Before Villanueva took office, Teran advised the sheriff’s department about the Mandoyan case, acknowledging that it was a “close call,” contrary to the county’s claim that it was clearly a case warranting termination, according to Villanueva’s attorneys.
Teran joined the county Public Defender’s Office in July as its law enforcement accountability adviser.
In his ruling, Beckloff said inquiries posed to Teran related to “bias, motive and/or political action against Sheriff Villanueva is not a proper avenue of questioning …”
Lawyer Mira Hashmall, on behalf of Los Angeles County, told the judge that Undersheriff Tim Murakami is heading up the investigation into Teran.
“Sheriff Villanueva has made his attacks on Teran very personal, and the attempt to depose her on matters wholly irrelevant to the issues in this case continues down that same path,” Hashmall stated in her court papers. “Teran has demonstrated in her declaration that she had no involvement in the attempted reinstatement, reinstatement, rehiring and/or settlement of pending litigation involving Caren Carl Mandoyan.”
Mandoyan, who worked on Villanueva’s campaign, was fired in 2016 following allegations of domestic violence, stalking and harassment of a woman he dated. According to an Office of Inspector General report released earlier this year, the sheriff’s department also found that Mandoyan lied to Internal Affairs investigators.
Villanueva’s decision to rehire Mandoyan late last year outraged members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, who filed a lawsuit seeking to nullify the action.
In August, Beckloff granted a preliminary injunction, ordering Mandoyan to give up all county property in his possession, including any Sheriff’s Department-issued uniforms, badges and weapons.
Mandoyan also was ordered to stop holding himself out as a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff. The preliminary injunction will remain in effect until the trial on April 24.
Villanueva has repeatedly defended bringing Mandoyan back to the department, questioning the allegations against the deputy and accusing the county’s Civil Service Commission of ignoring evidence that could have cleared Mandoyan of wrongdoing.
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