Malibu Sheriff’s Captain Relieved of Duty

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sheriff-carMALIBU — The captain of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Malibu/Lost Hills station has been relieved of duty after a deputy made allegations of sexual misconduct, an official said Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold said Capt. Joseph Stephen had decided to retire.

“Our initial understanding was he was going to retire,” Hellmold said. “Since that hasn’t gone through, he was relieved of duty pending the outcome of the probe.”

Stephen confirmed to The Times that he was one of the targets of the probe and had been questioned by investigators. He denied any wrongdoing.

Also being investigated are retired Chief Ronnie Williams and Capt. Anthony Ward, who was heading up the auto theft unit until he recently retired. Williams also denied any wrongdoing, and Ward could not be reached for comment.

The Sheriff’s Department is investigating the allegations made by a deputy who is the daughter of a top aide to Sheriff Lee Baca, according to several sources. The Times generally does not name potential victims of sex crimes.

The deputy’s allegations involve sexual coercion by officials who outranked her, said the sources, who asked for anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The deputy made the accusations after facing her own allegations of misconduct, sources said. Court records show she has a pending felony charge of vandalism and misdemeanor counts of battery. She has pleaded not guilty. She had been placed on leave without pay, according to a spokesman.

In his interview with The Times, Stephen called the deputy’s allegations “absolutely, unequivocally” untrue but declined to say if they had had a sexual relationship.

“I don’t want to get into that,” he said.

Stephen said he never directly supervised the deputy. He accused her of trying to deflect attention from her own legal troubles: “She’s trying to save her own skin. She’s trying to lash out and see what sticks.”

Williams, the retired chief, said that he never supervised the alleged victim either, and that although he is her “partial friend,” the relationship is platonic.

“She never was assigned to my division. How could I coerce her to do anything?” said Williams, who left the department four years ago.

— Robert Faturechi, LATimes

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