Los Angeles County is asking a judge to once again order Sheriff Alex Villanueva to answer questions from the Office of Inspector General about alleged deputy secret societies within the department, claiming in new court papers that Villanueva refused to respond to critical inquiries when he appeared before the Office of Inspector General in a virtual closed session in April.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey on April 4 ordered Villanueva to answer questions from the OIG, but when he did so on April 22, his three attorneys “together hijacked the OIG’s examination with meritless objections, including lengthy speaking objections, that consumed about 46% of the OIG’s examination time,” the county’s court papers filed Thursday state.
“The OIG could not complete its examination because of the sheriff’s multiple refusals to answer, his attorneys’ obstreperous conduct and because the sheriff left, claiming he had other obligations,” the county’s court papers state.
In a hearing scheduled for Sept. 27, the county is asking the judge to “overrule the sheriff’s meritless objections, order the sheriff to answer the OIG’s questions and impose reasonable limits on his attorneys for the remainder of the OIG’s examination.” The county wants the judge to permit only one Villanueva attorney to object with non-speaking privilege objections.
An attorney for Villanueva did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the county’s motion. According to the county’s court papers, Villanueva refused during his testimony to answer important questions about an alleged deputy gang, the Banditos, whose members allegedly carried out “brutal deputy-on-deputy assaults” at a 2018 department party at Kennedy Hall in East Los Angeles
“Alleged deputy secret societies — or deputy gangs — have bedeviled the department for decades,” the county’s court papers state. Villanueva admitted during the OIG’s examination that the Banditos “ran roughshod over the previous captain” of the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s station where the Banditos worked and that the sheriff “needed to clean house” there, the county’s court papers state.
However, Villanueva has refused to testify about the Banditos’ alleged misconduct since he was elected in 2018 and has also declined to provide any information about 43 employees the sheriff states he transferred out of East Los Angles Station as part of “cleaning house,” the county’s court papers state. Instead, Villanueva “made merit less objections, citing qualified privileges and privacy rights and Fifth Amendment rights of suspected Banditos members,” according to the county’s court papers.
In a sworn declaration, Dara E. Williams, chief deputy to the inspector general, said the information that Villanueva allegedly did not provide “is highly pertinent to the OIG’s investigation into whether and how deputy gangs exist or operate in the Sheriff’s Department,” the group’s alleged role in the Kennedy Hall incident and whether they continue to hold sway in the LASD.