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Top Sheriff's Official Resigns After Being Accused Of Sexually Coercing A Female Deputy

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A probe has been launched to investigation whether a female deputy was the victim of sexual misconduct by three top officials in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. One of the accused officials will resign from his position, it was announced today.The female deputy is the daughter of a top aide to the sheriff. The targets of the investigation by the department include Capt. Joseph Stephen of the Malibu station, retired Chief Ronnie Williams and recently-retired Capt. Anthony Ward, according to anonymous sources speaking to the Los Angeles Times.

Stephen has resigned from his position, but he denies any wrongdoing, The Times reports. He said that he never supervised the deputy in question. He wouldn't answer questions from the Times about whether the pair had a sexual relationship.

The deputy claims she was sexually coerced by men who outranked her. She made the accusations after facing her own allegations of misconduct, including a felony charge of vandalism and misdemeanor counts of battery. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges and is currently on leave without pay.

Stephen claims the female deputy made the accusations to try to save herself, "She's trying to save her own skin. She's trying to lash out and see what sticks."

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Williams, who retired four years ago, said he considered the female deputy a "partial" and "platonic" friend. He denies the charges: "She never was assigned to my division. How could I coerce her to do anything?"

Ward could not be reached for comment by the Times, but Witness LA says that he retired "suddenly" on December 31. The investigation is in its preliminary stages, but the blog said the details that have been confirmed above may only scratch the surface: "Indeed, everything we are hearing suggests that this story is deeper and wider than what has been confirmed thus far."

Sheriff Lee Baca vowed in a statement to the Times to get to the bottom of the allegations: "I take this very seriously, and I will find out what did or did not happen."