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What You Need To Know Today: ‘Unusual’ LA County Sheriff's Raid, Tips To Navigate Pregnancy, Growing Kale in Compton

Sheila Kuekl in a short-sleeved button-down shirt is surrounded by media
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl tells reporters she answered the door at her home at 7 a.m. to a "swarm" of sheriff's deputies.
(Frank Stoltze
/
LAist)
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Thursday, September 15. 

Today in How to LA: LA County Sheriff 's deputies search homes of supervisor and a civilian oversight panel member, a new series to help you navigate pregnancy, a farm in Compton that does so much more than grow veggies for the community 

At 7 a.m. Wednesday, while Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was asleep, she heard pounding on the door.

She answered to find a swarm of Sheriff’s deputies at her home. She was being served a search warrant — it said the deputies were looking for evidence regarding possible corruption involving a contract between L.A. Metro and a local nonprofit called Peace Over Violence. Sheriff’s investigators told the judge who issued the warrant that one of the crimes that may have been committed was “bribery of a county supervisor.”

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My colleague Frank Stoltze tweeted out the details of how it unfolded. 

Kuehl wasn’t the only target. Deputies also searched the home of Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission member Patti Giggans, L.A. Metro headquarters and the offices of Peace Over Violence.

So I’m sure you’re wondering: why does all of this matter? Well, first of all, it is highly unusual for the Sheriff’s Department to conduct a criminal investigation into other county agencies or officials. Normally, the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division would handle a case like this.

Second, voting starts next month in L.A. County, and Alex Villanueva, the controversial head of the largest Sheriff’s Department in the country, is on the ballot. Villanueva is an elected official who runs the largest jail system in the country. He has opposed oversight and intimidated reporters.

Villanueva has been in a running political battle with Kuehl and the rest of the Board of Supervisors for years over his resistance to oversight. Giggans and the other eight members of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission have called for his resignation over that and other issues.

So why is the Sheriff’s Department running a criminal investigation into a member of the Board of Supervisors, which controls its budget? And why is the department running a criminal investigation into a member of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission? To understand - read Frank Stoltze’s story here.

With the case with Keuhl, Giggans, and the other search warrants, Villanueva has told LAist reporters that he’s recused himself and that Undersheriff Tim Murakami is leading the investigation. But does that necessarily mean that his hands are clean and that there’s no conflict of interest?

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Here’s something interesting. Frank has pressed him before about this:

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."
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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.

With all of this unfolding yesterday, it dawned on us that today is Democracy Day. To honor that and the election that's JUST around the corner, here’s a statement on our commitment and duty to you as journalists with our electoral coverage.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

The News You Need After You Stop Hitting Snooze

  • LAist just launched a new series focused on pregnancy, birth, and new parent life  — informed by your questions and experiences. Today, learn about how to advocate for yourself during pregnancy. We talked to experts about how to feel confident and prepared to raise concerns, ask questions — and more importantly, get answers — about your care.
  • The death of a teenager at Bernstein High School in Hollywood has again put the spotlight on fentanyl-related overdoses with young people. Experts weigh in on how to protect yourself and teens from the powerful, synthetic opioid. 
  • Here are a couple of theories why Monkeypox may occur more frequently in people who have HIV, with one of the top theories having to do with close social/sexual networks. If you want more information about the virus in L.A., check out the local county health guidance here.
  • A bill in front of Gov. Gavin Newsom aims to leave rap lyrics at being just that – rap lyrics. Under the bill, if prosecutors want to use rap lyrics as music or evidence, they would be required to hold a pretrial apart from the jury to prove how the lyrics are relevant to the case.
  • Yvon Chouinard, founder of the billion-dollar apparel company, Patagonia, has decided to transfer his family’s ownership to a trust that will use the profits to combat global climate change. (New York Times)
  • California launched a lawsuit against Amazon as they have barred their third-party vendors from offering more competitive pricing on other sites. (Los Angeles Times)
  • New York and California are looking to keep diet pill sales out of the hands of minors. A new bill will curb sales so that anybody under the age of 18 will not be able to access them online or instore without a prescription. 

Special thanks to our intern Olive Bieni for curating our news stories!

Wait! One More Thing...A Farm Straight Outta Compton

A man in tan gardening overalls stands in front of greenery at a farm in Compton, California.
Richard Garcia is the farmer and co-founder of ALMA Backyard Farms in Compton. Its mission is to serve the community in that city, so organizers set up a Sunday market to bring affordable fresh produce, products and a summer camp for young children.
(Brian De Los Santos
/
LAist )

Okay, y’all. I am so excited to share today’s podcast because it is all about FOOD in my favorite city: Compton. Next time I go out there to visit my family members, I definitely have to check out ALMA Backyard Farms to get some fresh produce. My homeboy (and podcast host) Brian De Los Santos beat me to the punch. One morning, he traveled out there to talk to folks who are growing kale (and so much else) in Compton.

ALMA means a lot of things to a lot of people. Not only does it have a farm stand bursting with ripe tomatoes, bright yellow squash and baby eggplants, ALMA mentors formerly incarcerated people about urban agriculture and how to grow food.

This farm, founded by Richard Garcia and Erika Cuellar, used to be on an abandoned field on the property of a Catholic School. But now it’s full of fruits, veggies and…community! They also have summer school camps where kids can learn about the process of growing plants. 

Garcia made this analogy that really stuck in my head: “Bananas like to grow in community. So if you plant a single banana, it doesn’t do well. That’s because it needs other bananas around.”

It’s no wonder this farm is called ALMA. It has so much heart and soul. Listen the podcast here to feel it, too.

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