Attorneys for Los Angeles County want a judge to release the therapy records of a deputy who sued the county alleging her career has been derailed because a recruit the plaintiff found to be physically unfit brought about a backlash from former Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s wife.
In court papers filed Wednesday, June 7, in Los Angeles Superior Court, the county lawyers maintain that because Deputy Lina Pimentel seeks emotional distress damages, the defense is entitled to view the records of the counselor she saw for stress allegedly related to her work and the issues involving her lawsuit. In December, Pimentel’s attorney objected to a subpoena request for all the records sought, citing privacy issues and a lack of relevance, the county attorneys state in their court papers.
“It is expected at trial (that) plaintiff will urge the jury to award to her substantial emotional distress damages,” the county attorneys state in their court papers. “Plaintiff may even claim the county exacerbated old emotional injuries of which are unknown because the County does not have these records.”
In her suit filed in January 2022, Pimentel says she was hired in January 2007, served as a patrol deputy and in August 2019, and was given a highly regarded recruit training officer job at the Sheriff’s Academy. She later took part in the decision to dismiss recruit Natalie Garcia, a close, personal friend of Vivian Villanueva, the spouse of the ex-sheriff and a retired LASD sergeant, the suit states.
“Vivian Villanueva was acting as a supervisor during all relevant periods of time … and had an office at plaintiff’s worksite,” the suit alleges.
Garcia, a longtime LASD custody assistant, was making her second attempt to complete the academy, but Pimentel, Garcia’s drill instructor, determined that she was physically unable to complete the course, the suit states. “Garcia falsely claimed to plaintiff’s superiors that plaintiff had forced her to do additional physical training requirements in violation of her medical restrictions,” the suit alleges.
In retaliation for plaintiff dismissing her friend as unqualified, Vivian Villanueva “reported” to the academy and called the plaintiff two obscene names reserved for females, the lawsuit alleges. Vivian Villanueva also warned others to keep Pimentel away from her because, “I will go off on that (epithet),” the suit states. “This gross example of nepotism, abuse of office and workplace harassment has been ratified by current Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who allows his wife to call female deputies names … in the workplace,” the suit states.
Pimentel’s career progression “has now been effectively terminated” because of Vivian Villanueva’s personal attacks on her, according to the suit, which further alleges the sheriff’ spouse is “misusing her husband’s position as the apex employee of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to do illegal favors for her friends and punish those who do not do favors for her friends.”
Garcia, upset because she was unable to meet the minimum physical standards for a deputy, filed a complaint against Pimentel because the plaintiff had told her, “The sheriff is not here to save you,” the suit states.
“Plaintiff expressed this to Garcia because (Pimentel) believed that Garcia would seek to abuse her influence with Sheriff Alex Villanueva, by and through his spouse Vivian Villanueva,” the suit states.
Last July, Judge Terry Green dismissed Vivian Villanueva as a defendant in the case. Contrary to what Pimentel alleges in her lawsuit, Vivian Villanueva does not have an office at any county building, has not supervised or reprimanded any county employees and does not have a county vehicle, lawyers for the sheriff’s spouse stated in their court papers filed ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.
“(Pimentel) appears to have added these knowingly false allegations to publicly embarrass Sheriff Villanueva,” Vivian Villanueva’s lawyers stated in their court papers. Lawyers for the county were similarly critical of Pimentel’s claims against their client.
“The allegations in plaintiff’s complaint are boilerplate, illusory and conclusory,” county attorneys stated in their court papers. “Yet, none of these is supported by any facts in the complaint, other than plaintiff’s misperception of the reality caused by the strong dislike she has towards her co-workers.”