…OR SHERIFF VILLANUEVA RESIGNS UNDER WEIGHT OF CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS. EITHER WAY, IT’S ‘GAME OVER’ FOR VILLANUEVA. IT’S TIME TO LOOK AT THE REMAINING CHOICES FOR THE JUNE PRIMARY
We told you about Sheriff Villanueva’s coverup involving a deputy who was caught on video kneeling on the head of an inmate. The sheriff has vehemently denied a coverup and was it not for the whistle being blown by his own commander, he might have gotten away with it. But it has now been revealed by The Current Report that the FBI has launched an investigation into the coverup. The good part for the FBI is, that there’s not much to investigate. The bad part is… well there is no bad part unless you are Sheriff Villanueva or anyone “above the rank of Division Chief”.
If the words of Commander Castellano are true as alleged in his own department document (and there is no evidence to the contrary) the FBI has a simple job ahead of them; interview former Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon and former Chief LaJuana Haselrig who have no incentive to lie now that Villanueva left them both with the hot potato.
THE WITNESS LIST
Our sources have told us that several employees from multiple assignments have a growing fear of the Feds asking for an interview. With the imprisonment of Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka still a recent memory, some are terrified of being witnesses while others are actually hoping to be interviewed. They all saw Baca and Tanaka along with a dozen sworn deputies of all ranks go to federal prison behind the jail abuse scandal and because of that, nobody is willing to stick their neck out for Villanueva. And with the rabid penchant for retaliation from Villanueva, it is surely a lose-lose situation for anyone harboring knowledge.
There is a big difference between getting caught up in an indictment and asking for it. The guy who asks to be indicted is the one who is always sticking his finger in the eye of authority. He is the one who intentionally brings attention to himself through acts of defiance, law-breaking, and incessant rants about how the authoritarian world is against him.
Now as he approaches his fourth year in office, Villanueva seeks reelection with an FBI investigation into the coverup of inmate abuse, an FBI investigation into rogue deputy cliques, a State DOJ investigation into a variety of matters, a court order to testify about so-called criminal “deputy gangs” and in each case, he has flipped the bird to any attempt of legitimate oversight. But none of that is his fault; just ask him.
But wait, there’s more. Villanueva’s campaign has trolled local bloggers, allegedly committed acts of doxing and his “secret police” have opened dead-end criminal investigations on anyone who dares to demand accountability.
Villanueva has disobeyed lawfully issued subpoenas to testify about corruption inside his department. He was caught trying to have his own helicopter landing pad built next to his house without a permit using tax-payer funds. He has been accused of fixing promotional exams to favor his friends. His wife Vivian and the sheriff’s department are defending a lawsuit that alleges Vivian intimidated an academy staff drill instructor. There are credible allegations that he is fast-tracking concealed gun permits to political supporters and he allegedly directed the falsification of training records to cover for at least one deputy on his staff after she was involved in a fatal on-duty collision.
In fact, the sheriff’s department is so rife with corruption at the direction of Villanueva, that the FBI could point blindly to a name on the department’s 8th-floor roster and be surprised at what that employee would testify to.
And now, the sheriff has launched an intimidating criminal probe into the whistleblower who leaked the video of his deputy kneeling on an inmate’s head. Interesting though that the sheriff likened the leaked video to the “theft of investigative material”. He didn’t seem bothered about ordering the destruction of the Kobe Bryant crash scene photos, did he.
…OR THE PUBLIC CAN FIRE VILLANUEVA
If the public doesn’t fire Villanueva at the voting booth, he will be led out in handcuffs. If he isn’t arrested while in office, he will resign and face charges later (sound familiar Paul Tanaka?). The Board of Supervisors will then appoint an interim sheriff and a new sheriff will be elected on the next go around who hasn’t a clue about the LASD (sound familiar Jim McDonnell?). Is this something we should go through again? How about we start looking at the current set of challengers for the June primary and rally behind the best choice?
So far the only serious contenders are:
- LASD Commander Eli Vera
- Retired Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna
- Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Cecil Rhambo
We won’t get too far into the weeds, but the remaining candidates, Eric Strong, Britta Steinbrenner, and Matt Rodrigues haven’t been able to attract the public’s attention.
Eric Strong claims to be a fighter of LASD evil but when he had the chance as a lieutenant to address all sorts of malfeasance, he did nothing. But now we are supposed to believe he’s a born-again superhero. He has no administrative experience that applies to running a mega-organization and nobody needs a politician that plays the divisive race card in his campaign speeches.
Britta Steinbrenner is a nice person, but… OK, let’s leave it there. She’s a nice person but she couldn’t lead a Brownie troop to an ice cream stand.
Matt Rodriguez, while he has some good ideas and was a captain of the department was never in a position higher than middle management. A captain is not a member of the Executive Planning Committee nor is a captain able to pull any levers that determine the global position of the department.
What about Rhambo, Vera, and Luna? Well, let’s talk about Cecil Rhambo. If you like Rhambo, it’s because he speaks the very divisive anti-law enforcement rhetoric that he never uttered before the surgical separation from his conjoined twin, Paul Tanaka. Rhambo was missing in action or was involved in every scandal produced by the LASD since he was a division chief. From alleged deputy gangs under his command to inmate abuses to hundreds of deputy-involved shootings, Rhambo never acted to address alleged patterns of misconduct back then like he says he will do now if elected sheriff. He has zero credibility and is likely an unindicted co-conspirator turned federal witness in the jail abuse scandal. Next…
Eli Vera is a witness to where the bodies are buried but only because Villanueva did not recognize in time Vera’s high moral character. Vera’s career path before and post-Villanueva gave him access to the highest levels of department experience in management. It wasn’t until Vera spoke truth to power that he was excommunicated from the Villanueva circle of trust. We see that as a plus since anyone who disagrees with Villanueva does so at their own risk.
Yes-men willing to compromise their values get promoted. But department executives who disagree with Villanueva are patted on the head and left to atrophy at the lowest rank possible, never again elevated high enough to know the secrets of the 8th floor. Knowing how Villanueva hates anyone critical of him, we see Vera as a candidate who is who he says he is; someone who spoke out against corruption and suffered retaliation like so many others at the hands of Villanueva.
Vera is not someone with a reputation for changing his stripes. To the contrary, his career boasts many incidents of standing up for others simply because it was the right thing to do.
Last there is retired Long Beach PD Chief Robert Luna with his very “Rhambo-Tanaka like” record while in charge of that department. Here are just a few things to that end:
The Long Beach city attorney’s office reported that the city had spent more than $31 million since 2014 to settle 61 excessive force and wrongful death lawsuits against the LBPD. Sound familiar Rhambo/Tanaka?
The City of Long Beach paid a historic 9 million dollar award to the family of Sinuon Pream, a mentally ill 37-year-old woman shot by Long Beach officers in a manner the jury stated: “shocked the conscience”.
That mind-numbing award would have likely never occurred had it not been for Luna’s internal policies for documenting police shootings that sound more like the guidelines for a coverup. You better sit down when you read what’s next and ask yourself, is THIS the guy the public can trust? Is this the guy who can rebuild the credibility of the LASD?
Here it is. When a Long Beach police officer shoots someone, their department has a reporting system that defies logic. Rather than homicide investigators conducting recorded interviews with officers as is advised by the District Attorney, officers file statements which are then reviewed by homicide investigators who may instruct officers on revisions (wait, “revisions?”). The original drafts of these statements are not made available. Say that again, the original statement the officer made is not made available and it goes straight into the burn bag. It is far more than a conflict of interest when you have the same homicide detective conducting the investigation, also telling the subject of his investigation what to say.
In fact, Chief Luna’s policy seems designed to sanitize the officer’s statement. Naturally, Chief Luna has denied any coaching on the part of his homicide investigators. But why would he say anything different about his own policy?
Chief Luna’s policy on documenting police-involved shootings is wide open for corruption and sounds more like the way a mafia lawyer coaches the mafia boss before he testifies. Whether or not the system is corrupt is not the point. The point is, that the public will never believe the system is fair and that hurts not just the LASD but the entire profession. Two thumbs down on Luna.
IN THE END
The clear choice for sheriff is Eli Vera. The only logical choice is Vera. Villanueva will never recover from his scandals and is likely headed for the Big House. Each candidate has their respective website so take a serious look. More to follow…