LA county sheriff investigates LA Times reporter over leaked video of deputy kneeling on inmate’s head

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva stirred up a hornet’s nest Tuesday when he announced an investigation into a Los Angeles Times reporter who last month had exposed a cover-up at his department.

In a report published on March 25th, Times journalist Alene Tchekmedyian claimed the department had “attempted to cover up an incident in which a deputy knelt on the head of a handcuffed inmate for three minutes because they feared the ‘negative light’ it could shed on the department.”

The report included surveillance footage showing a rowdy inmate punching an officer, then being tackled to the ground and held in place — partly by a knee to the neck — for several minutes.

Watch the footage below:

Fast-forward a month to Tuesday, April 26th, when Villanueva held a press conference during which he accused Tchekmedyian of having received the illegally obtained surveillance footage from two of his political rivals.

“Detailing an ongoing criminal probe of the leak, Villanueva displayed a poster with large photographs of Tchekmedyian, his political rival Eli Vera and sheriff’s Inspector General Max Huntsman with arrows pointing from the two men to the reporter,” according to the Times.

“Villanueva exhibited a list of possible felonies under investigation, including conspiracy, burglary and unauthorized use of a database. When pressed by reporters on whether he was investigating Tchekmedyian specifically, the sheriff replied, ‘All parties to the act are subjects of the investigation.'”

Listen:

His words triggered an outpouring of searing criticism.

“His attempt to criminalize news reporting goes against well-established constitutional law. We will vigorously defend Tchekmedyian’s and the Los Angeles Times’ rights in any proceeding or investigation brought by authorities,” The Times executive editor Kevin Merida said in a statement.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis meanwhile released a public statement asking California Attorney General Rob Bonta to “investigate his pattern of unconscionable and dangerous actions like the one today.”

“Sadly, Sheriff Villanueva has a habit of attacking, maligning, and threatening those who oversee or report on his misconduct,” she said.

But the criticism wound up extending way beyond just Los Angeles County, with everybody from far-left commentator Keith Olbermann to author Thomas Peele and many others chiming in.

Look:

Note that many of these same parties were quick to defend the authorities when pro-life activists David Daleiden and Susan Merritt were persecuted years ago for releasing undercover surveillance footage of the happenings at Planned Parenthood.

In fairness to the Times, they defended the pair. In an op-ed published in 2017, the paper’s editorial board slammed then-California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for charging Daleiden and Merritt with 15 felony counts.

“It’s disturbingly aggressive for Becerra to apply this criminal statute to people who were trying to influence a contested issue of public policy, regardless of how sound or popular that policy may be. Planned Parenthood and biomedical company StemExpress, which was also featured in the videos, have another remedy for the harm that was done to them: They can sue Daleiden and Merritt for damages. The state doesn’t need to threaten the pair with prison time,” the Times’ board wrote.

It appears that, to their credit, the Times has legs to stand on vis-a-vis this issue. That said, Villanueva eventually responded to the current backlash by slightly backing off.

“Resulting from the incredible frenzy of misinformation being circulated, I must clarify at no time today did I state an LA Times reporter was a suspect in a criminal investigation. We have no interest in pursuing, nor are we pursuing, criminal charges against any reporters,” he tweeted late Tuesday.

But, he continued, the overall investigation is still on.

Look:

The tweets have since been ratioed.

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