Allegations of corruption levied against a Los Angeles County Supervisor by the Sheriff’s Department has gotten the attention of California’s Attorney General, who will now be taking over the investigation after days of criticism regarding how search warrants were issued and whether or not the investigation was politically motivated.
In a letter from Attorney General Rob Bonta to Los Angeles County Undersheriff Tim Murakami, Bonta said his office, which has supervisorial authority over the Sheriff’s Department, would be taking over the investigation and ordered the Sheriff’s Department to stop any active or ongoing investigative activity.
The decision comes after days of scrutiny about how the investigation has been handled and whether or not there was sufficient evidence to allow for warrants to be served at the homes of County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and her associate Patricia Giggans.
Bonta’s letter states that Sheriff Alex Villanueva had reached out to the California Department of Justice and requested that it investigate whether or not a crime was committed when Kuehl and Giggans were apparently tipped off about the impending searches.
Villanueva apparently hoped that the California DOJ would get involved in the investigation and possibly file charges against the tipster.
Ultimately, Bonta and the DOJ agreed to look into whether or not a crime was committed by whomever tipped off Kuehl and Giggans, but with an added caveat: the DOJ would assume control over the entire investigation, including the accusations of corruption that led to the initial warrants.
Bonta explained that it was in the public’s best interest for the DOJ to take over the investigation in its entirety.
The allegations of corruption made by the Sheriff’s Department center around the nonprofit organization Peace Over Violence, which is run by Giggans.
The Sheriff’s Department has accused Giggans and Peace Over Violence of being awarded several contracts pushed by Kuehl and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Kuehl has called the investigation political theater, alleging that Villanueva is using his department to quash the voice of one of his ardent critics.
Both Kuehl and Giggans are members of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and outspoken critics of Villanueva.
Villanueva had said that he recused himself from the investigation, instead leaving Murakami in charge of the controversial inquiry.
However, the sheriff has commented about the case in the media and in interviews. He also accused Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman of tipping off Kuehl and Gibbans the night before the warrant was served. That suspicion led to Villanueva contacting Bonta, and ultimately his department losing investigative control of the case.
Huntsman has denied any involvement.
The search of Kuehl’s and Giggans’ homes has garnered intense scrutiny by other heavy hitters in Los Angeles County politics.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin called the investigation a “witch hunt” and accused Villanueva of abusing his power.
District Attorney George Gascón said his office won’t defend the search warrants, as they declined to pursue a case when the LASD presented it one year ago.
In a release issued Tuesday evening, Bonta vowed to conduct a thorough and fair investigation into the accusations made by the Sheriff’s Department.
“In recent days, the public unfolding of an unprecedented investigation has raised serious questions for residents of Southern California and beyond. I recognize the deep uncertainty this has engendered and, given the unique circumstances, my team has committed to taking over this investigative process,” Bonta said. “If there is wrongdoing by any party, we will bring it to light.”