A former sheriff assistant claims Sheriff Alex Villanueva lied about his involvement in the cover-up of a leaked deputy use-of-force video.

Robin Limon, who was an assistant sheriff at the time of the March 2021 incident says that Villanueva blamed her for the alleged cover-up. Her legal claim states that she, alongside Villanueva, watched the DVD video of a deputy kneeling on a cuffed inmate’s neck.

Villanueva had stated that he did not know of the incident until 8 months after it occurred, but the claim states that Villanueva said it “would look bad” if the video was made public.

“Villanueva demanded and forced Assistant Sheriff Limon to choose between two poisonous options: retire or be demoted four ranks, to lieutenant,” The claim reads. “The reasons for the Sheriff’s misconduct were twofold, to retaliate against the Complainant for being a whistleblower on several instances of illegal and other wrongful conduct and to further his cover up of an excessive use of force incident.”

Commander Allen Castellano was named as the first “whistleblower” for this incident, for which the claim says Villanueva retaliated as well.

“This just keeps getting worse,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said on Thursday. “It seems the Sheriff did see the video of his deputies kneeling on a handcuffed man’s neck soon after it happened, tried to cover it up, retaliated against his own employees, and intimidated a reporter who brought the truth to light.”

The video was originally shown and reported by the Los Angeles Times and in an April 26 press briefing, Villanueva said the theft and distribution of the video is currently under investigation.

Villanueva also described a timeline of the investigation from the point of the incident, up to present day.

The Sheriff said that everything that took place internally was “standard procedure” and at one point said, “it doesn’t sound much like a cover-up here.”

“We don’t have time for this internal, ‘Let me see if we can blow up the Sheriff’s somehow,’ nonsense,” Villanueva said during a press briefing related to the incident. “We have serious issues to handle out there… on top of that we have this circus that’s entirely orchestrated for political purposes, only.”

During the press conference, Villanueva singled out Los Angeles Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian, posting her photo in his presentation and later saying that “all parties to the act are subject to investigation.”

While members of the press attempted to ask questions, Villanueva addressed Tchekmedyian directly and said he would not be taking questions from her.

The singling out of Tchekmedyian was condemned by multiple journalism associations and unions, including 22 Southern California-based groups.

“Today, the Los Angeles County Sheriff suggested that Alene is a subject in a criminal investigation into a leaked video showing a deputy kneeling on an inmate’s head,” the Los Angeles Press Club said in a statement. “This escalation comes after a years-long history of the Sheriff harshly criticizing many local journalists just for doing their jobs, including Cerise Castle, Josie Huang, Maya Lau and others.”

LA Weekly