After years of resisting subpoenas to testify underneath oath about deputy gangs, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has reversed course and agreed to seem in entrance of the Civilian Oversight Fee.
His lawyer notified the fee of the choice in a December letter stating that Villanueva “may be very prepared to testify” in January and that he’ll “reply any query you’ve got underneath oath.”
The change of coronary heart comes days after a county decide scheduled a listening to to determine whether or not to order the previous sheriff, who’s operating for county supervisor in opposition to incumbent Janice Hahn, to adjust to the fee’s subpoenas.
Villanueva didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. However his lawyer, Linda Savitt, confirmed in an e-mail to The Instances final week that her shopper plans to comply with by and seem in entrance of the fee subsequent month.
“He’s going to testify underneath oath,” she wrote. “He’s a non-public citizen now.”
Regardless of Savitt’s assurances, Sean Kennedy — who chairs the oversight fee — expressed some skepticism, stating that the previous sheriff “mentioned he was going to seem as soon as earlier than after which introduced on Twitter that he wasn’t going to.”
Earlier this yr, the fee’s particular counsel issued a 70-page report condemning the “most cancers” of violent deputy gangs and urging Sheriff Robert Luna to create a stronger coverage banning the secretive teams.
The report’s findings and suggestions relied closely on testimony from a sequence of seven public hearings, a lot of which concerned witnesses testifying underneath oath. Regardless of being subpoenaed, Villanueva and former Undersheriff Tim Murakami each refused to testify on the hearings.
The authorized wrangling started in 2020, after the Board of Supervisors granted the fee subpoena energy, which voters then affirmed by approving Measure R. A couple of months later, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a legislation granting subpoena energy to oversight our bodies statewide.
That very same yr, the fee issued a subpoena directing the sheriff to testify about his response to COVID-19 contained in the jails. Villanueva questioned the legality of the subpoena, which he referred to as a “public shaming endeavor.” The dispute ended up in courtroom, however Villanueva averted a contempt listening to by agreeing to reply the fee’s questions voluntarily.
Afterward, oversight officers issued extra subpoenas, and Villanueva resisted them, leading to a number of courtroom instances.
In a type of instances, Los Angeles Superior Courtroom Decide Elaine Lu scheduled a contempt listening to for late final yr, however referred to as it off after Villanueva’s attorneys requested the next courtroom to step in.
The previous sheriff’s authorized counsel argued that the 2020 laws Newsom signed described a two-step course of and that the decide first wanted to subject an order directing Villanueva to adjust to the subpoena. Provided that he ignored that would he be present in contempt, his lawyer mentioned.
In September, an appeals courtroom agreed. This month, attorneys for the county launched into the two-step course of by asking for a listening to so a decide may determine whether or not to order Villanueva and Murakami to adjust to the subpoenas.
Lower than two weeks later, Villanueva’s lawyer despatched the oversight fee’s Kennedy a letter in regards to the former sheriff’s willingness to testify in January. Not like Villanueva, Murakami has not given any indication of a newfound willingness to talk to the fee, Kennedy informed The Instances.
Beforehand, the previous undersheriff has cited a medical situation as his cause for refusing to testify. His lawyer didn’t reply to The Instances’ request for remark.