LA Sheriff’s Deputies Search Home Of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, As Well As LA Metro And Others
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies served multiple search warrants Wednesday as part of an investigation into possible corruption involving a contract between L.A. Metro and a local nonprofit.
Deputies searched County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s house, the home of Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission member Patti Giggans, L.A. Metro headquarters, Kuehl's office at the L.A. County Hall of Administration, and Peace Over Violence, the nonprofit that contracted with Metro.
The Sheriff's Department is investigating a contract between L.A. Metro and Peace Over Violence. Giggans is the group's executive director; Kuehl appointed Giggans to the oversight panel, and as a supervisor is a member of the Metro Board.
What The Search Warrant Says
The search warrant presented to Kuehl said there is "probable cause to believe" that property in her home "was used as the means of committing a felony" and/or "tends to show that a felony has been committed or that a particular person has committed a felony."
The Sheriff's Department said it couldn't comment because the investigation is ongoing, but it posted on its website the affidavit it filed when it asked L.A. County Superior Court Judge Craig Richman to approve the search warrant.
It says various crimes may have been committed, including bribery of a county supervisor, bribery of a public officer, fraudulent claim to a county officer, theft of public funds, and conspiracy to request or take a bribe.
The department had previously searched the offices of Metro and Peace Over Violence early last year.
The search warrant served to Kuehl Wednesday said investigators wanted to inspect any and all electronic records "related to the Peace Over Violence contract acquisition." They also searched for any communications between Peace Over Violence and L.A. Metro since 2014.
In a statement issued later Wednesday, the office of L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón said the Sheriff's Department submitted its investigation into this matter to the DA "for filing consideration in September 2021. We reviewed the case and determined that the state of the evidence at that time did not prove criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt."
The statement added: "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.”
Kuehl told reporters “very many sheriff’s deputies” were “swarming” outside her Santa Monica home when she opened her door at 7 a.m. She said the search warrant was signed “by a judge who is a friend of the sheriff’s.”
The supervisor, who is one of numerous county officials who have clashed with Sheriff Alex Villanueva, called the raid "pure harassment," adding, “this strikes me as being part of a … bogus, non-investigation. There is no investigation going on that would support this warrant.”
Metro contracted with Peace Over Violence several years ago to run a sexual harassment hotline.
Kuehl said the investigation was sparked by “a disgruntled employee at Metro who was let go, who became obsessed” with Metro’s contract with Peace Over Violence. The former employee “claimed I had something to do with the contract, which is completely false,” Kuehl said. “It didn’t even come to the [Metro] board, it was so small.”
She said the Metro CEO has authority to approve smaller contracts without taking them to the board.
“I knew nothing about the contract … until I was invited to a press conference to announce the contract,” Kuehl said.
She issued a statement later in the day claiming the basis for the search was "questionable and will be investigated."
What Other Targets Are Saying
Giggans called the search of her home and of Peace Over Violence’s office “another bullying tactic … because I am a commissioner on the Civilian Oversight Commission and we have been holding hearings on deputy gangs.”
She said the search warrant explained that deputies would be looking for any communication regarding Metro’s contract with Peace Over Violence, while noting that the department already searched the nonprofit’s offices looking for the same information early last year.
Giggans said the 10 deputies who searched her home took “a few pieces of paper,” her computer, and her car, “which was not part of the search warrant. So that is very, very concerning.”
In March of last year, Giggans’s attorney Austin Dove told LAist that Sheriff’s officials wrote a letter stating they didn’t believe Giggans committed a crime, although he declined to share the letter.
"I think this was a form of retaliation for Ms. Giggans publicly criticizing the sheriff in her capacity as a person on the Sheriff's oversight commission," Dove said. Giggans was particularly critical of Villanueva when she and the other eight members of the panel voted to call for his resignation.
Why This Is Unusual
It’s unusual for the Sheriff’s Department to investigate other county agencies. That would typically be handled by the District Attorney’s office through its Public Integrity Division.
The sheriff told us last year the investigation of Giggans was prompted by a news story on Fox11 News and that he recused himself from making any decisions about the case. "All the decisions are being made through [Undersheriff Tim Murakami's] office," he said.
When we pressed him at the time about the potential ethical conflict of having his department investigate a member of the oversight commission, Villanueva justified the inquiry by saying the oversight panel is "advisory only."
On Wednesday, Kuehl said regardless of Villanueva's claim that he recused himself from the case, he "has to know" what's happening with the searches. "He either is approving it happening or his department’s so out of control he can’t stop it from happening," she said.
"Until this sheriff, all public corruption investigations in the county were done through the District Attorney’s office," said County Inspector General Max Huntsman, who has also clashed repeatedly with Villanueva and is himself the subject of a Sheriff's Department criminal investigation.
"Lawyers experienced in the field would supervise all investigations, so that we could ensure they were done ethically and properly," he said. "Sheriff Villanueva’s creating of a small unit that is outside his ordinary chain of command under the direct control of his undersheriff and which goes after his political enemies — that’s unique in Los Angeles history."
Villanueva also said last year that his investigators consulted with DA George Gascón’s office about the Giggans investigation. At the time, a Gascón spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny that the sheriff had consulted with the DA’s office on the matter.
The DA's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday's searches.
This is a developing story that will be updated.