A week after the home of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was searched in connection to a “public corruption investigation,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it would take over the probe.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. was asked to hand over its evidence to the Dept. of Justice and “cease” its investigation.
“In recent days, the public unfolding of an unprecedented investigation has raised serious questions for residents of Southern California and beyond,” Attorney General Bonta said. “I recognize the deep uncertainty this has engendered, and given the unique circumstances, my team has committed to taking over this investigative process. Make no mistake: We are committed to a thorough, fair, and independent investigation that will help restore confidence for the people of our state. If there is wrongdoing by any party, we will bring it to light.”
The Sheriff’s investigation was related to possible corruption in contracts awarded to a non-profit organization called Peace Over Violence.
On the morning of September 14, the Sheriff’s executed a search warrant into Kueh’s residence in Santa Monica, the home of Los Angeles County Civilian Oversight Commissioner Patricia “Patti” Giggans, L.A. County Hall of Administration, the Peace over Violence hadquarters and the Los Angeles Metro offices.
“Today, detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Public Corruption Unit served search warrants at multiple locations in connection with an ongoing public corruption investigation,” LASD said after executing the searches. “Those locations included the homes of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Los Angeles County Civilian Oversight Commissioner Patricia ‘Patti’ Giggans. Also searched were offices located at: Los Angeles County Hall of Administration, Peace Over Violence Headquarters, and LA Metro Headquarters. The investigation has been shared with a federal agency and they continue to monitor.”
Peace over violence confirmed that investigators took computers, servers, documents and Giggans’ car while conducting its searches.
“These actions are intended to disrupt Peace Over Violence and silence Patti Giggans and are due to the Sheriff’s ongoing personal political vendettas that have transpired publicly,” Peace Over Violence said in a statement. “Clearly, these bullying tactics are meant to intimidate anyone who has criticism of the Sheriff. Our government contracts have all been fairly granted and followed the rules and protocols of the awarding agency.”
After the searches, Kuehl put out a statement, also accusing the Sheriff’s Dept. of intimidation and suspected the search had nothing to do with the Metro contracts.
“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. “The basis of this search was questionable and will be investigated. This morning’s storming of my home by deputies with bulletproof vests & tactical gear was an effort to harass, intimidate & retaliate against a public figure who has been an outspoken critic of [Sheriff] Alex Villanueva.”
The attorney general’s letter, addressed to Undersheriff Timothy Murakami, reveals that the DOJ had asked for updates on the Sheriff’s investigation into Peace over Violence back on January 25.
The letter also states that Sheriff Villanueva contacted the DOJ, asking to investigate possible crimes related to Kuehl’s advanced knowledge of the search warrant, as she had stated in an interview with KTTV Los Angeles that she had been warned of a possible search.
In response to Villanueva’s concerns, an investigation will also be conducted on whether or not a crime was committed when Kuehl was given advanced notice of the search.
“DOJ will assume responsibility for any and all investigations of whether any individuals committed a crime by giving advance warning of the search warrants to Shiela Kuehl and Patricia Giggans,” Bonta said in the letter to the Sheriff’s Dept. “I believe that the handling of all these matters by DOJ will be in the public interest. Therefore, we will also assume all responsibility for the underlying investigation of the Peace Over Violence, Patricia Giggans, et al.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said the Sheriff’s investigation was brought to his attention in September of 2021, but after review, was deemed to not have sufficient evidence beyond reasonable doubt.
“The allegation was investigated by LASD and submitted for filing consideration in September 2021,” Gascón said. “We reviewed the case and determined that the state of the evidence at that time did not prove criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt. LASD indicated that they would continue to investigate. We have not had additional contact on the matter and were not consulted or aware of the search warrants that were served today. In this case, because we did not review the warrant beforehand, we do not intend to defend it if challenged in court.”
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