A judge has ordered the Los Angles County Sheriff’s Department to “cease searching any and all computers seized” from the Metro Inspector General’s office.
On Wednesday, Deputies searched the Office of the Inspector General as part of a public corruption investigation that involves L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
“I think what he’s saying is the Sheriff’s Department needs to pause part of the investigation,” said Loyola Law Professor Jessica Levinson.
The order from Judge William Ryan applies solely to computers Sheriff’s investigators took from the Office of the Inspector General. It does not cover materials seized from the homes and offices of Kuehl and Patti Giggans, executive director of Peace Over Violence. Giggans is also a member of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and a close friend of Kuehl’s.
“I am gratified that Judge Ryan acted quickly to halt the search of computers seized at Metro’s offices, and am hopeful that, if and when the warrant on my home is reviewed, a judge will recognize how equally baseless it is.”
Ryan has scheduled a hearing for next week, demanding answers from the department. The Sheriff and deputies will need to justify how and why the warrant was secured as well as why key details were kept from Judge Craig Richman, who signed the warrant.
“For Sheila Kuehl, there are two things that could be true,” said Levinson. “It could be that she is being politically targeted. And it could also be based on the affidavit, there is at least probable cause to search her home.”
The probe was focused on a contract awarded by Metro to the Peace Over Violence organization for the operation of a sexual-harassment hotline, according to Kuehl. As a member of the Board of Supervisors, Kuehl sits on Metro’s Board of Directors.
Kuehl has repeatedly clashed with Sheriff Alex Villanueva and criticized the department for its “wrongful death and excessive force lawsuits which have to be paid for with taxpayer money.”
“Today’s early morning search of my home was a thuggish attempt to intimidate and silence not just me, but many other public servants who are working hard to rebuild the trust between law enforcement and the communities it is supposed to serve,” Kuehl said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
The Sheriff’s Department says it cannot comment during an active investigation. Attorneys for both Kuehl and Giggans did not say if they were going to take legal action.