Warrants to search homes of Sheila Kuehl and others were duly obtained from LASD, Judge Rules

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A judge has ruled that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department duly obtained search warrants to search the home of County Commissioner Sheila Kuehl and other locations that are the subject of a political corruption investigation, but he has ordered the agency to stop all in the searches to hand over the confiscated items to the California Attorney General’s Office, which is handling the investigation.

Attorneys for the Sheriff’s Department assured Superior Court Judge William Ryan Thursday that the materials would be turned over to state investigators within two weeks.

During a hearing in downtown Los Angeles, Ryan denied requests by attorneys for Kuehl, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the nonprofit group Peace Over Violence to return the confiscated devices. The attorneys argued that the lack of equipment — including computers and hard drives — hampered their clients’ ability to do their jobs.

While Ryan did not order the items returned, he maintained an earlier order that prohibited the Sheriff’s Department from searching the equipment before it was turned over to the Attorney General’s office. Ryan also pointed out that the court will likely need to appoint a special master to review the confiscated items to identify “privileged” material.

The Attorney General’s Office announced on Tuesday that it would take over the investigation being conducted by the Sheriff’s Department’s Public Corruption Division. Some critics have attacked the unit for targeting political opponents of Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has denied the allegation.

The probe into Kuehl — a vocal critic of Villanueva — focuses on allegations that she helped steer a series of Metro contracts without an offer to nonprofit organization Peace Over Violence, owned by Patti Giggans, a longtime close friend von Kuehl.

Kuehl has denied any involvement in awarding contracts to operate a hotline for sexual harassment of passengers and transit workers, saying she was unaware of it and did not vote on it as a member of Metro’s board of directors. Contracts totaled more than $800,000.

Sheriff’s investigators served search warrants on Kuehl’s and Giggans’ homes last week. They also searched their offices, along with offices at Metro and the Metro Office of Inspector General.

Villanueva has insisted he withdraw from the investigation but has openly defended it. He went on local television hours after the raids to defend the origins of the investigation, which he said arose out of a valid allegation of criminal misconduct.

He also wrote a letter to the Attorney General asking them to investigate comments by Kuehl that suggested County Inspector General Max Huntsman and the County Counsel’s Office rigged the investigation by alerting Kuehl to the upcoming search of her home drew attention. That letter prompted Attorney General Rob Bonta to announce on Tuesday that his office would investigate the allegation — and take over the sheriff’s entire investigation into Kuehl, Metro and Peace Over Violence.

Villanueva said Wednesday his office had asked the attorney general’s office to participate in the investigation back in February. The sheriff also sent a letter to the board of directors on Wednesday, requesting that Huntsman — with whom he has repeatedly clashed over Huntsman’s requests for department records — be removed from his position as inspector general because he is now the target of at least two Investigations by the Attorney General.

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https://abc7.com/sheila-kuehl-lasd-investigation-warrant/12255730/ Warrants to search homes of Sheila Kuehl and others were duly obtained from LASD, Judge Rules

Laura Coffey

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