First Legal Challenge Filed to LA County Sheriff's Department Raids

A judge has ordered the LA County Sheriff’s Department to return some computers and appear next week to explain how and why it carried out searches

Door of LASD patrol car
Eric Leonard

An LA Superior Court judge has ordered the LA County Sheriff’s Department to stop its searches and return computers seized during a search of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Inspector General offices earlier this week, in the first legal challenge to raids that also targeted the homes of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Sheriff’s oversight commissioner Patti Giggans.

The order, signed Thursday by Judge William Ryan, also demands the Sheriff’s Department appear in court next week to answer some key questions raised by this week’s warrant, including why the Sheriff’s Department sought out a new judge after a previous search warrant for the same material was issued and executed in March 2021.

The LA County Sheriff's Department served search warrants Wednesday at multiple locations including the home of LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. The Sheriff's Department says this is part of an ongoing public corruption investigation. NBC4's Angie Crouch reported from Santa Monica where deputies wrapped up their search.

At the time the new searches were conducted on Wednesday, another judge, Eleanor Hunter, had already ordered Sept. 1 that a special master be appointed in order to separate any attorney-client privilege material contained in the material LASD deputies took from the MTA OIG’s office during the search in 2021.

“Why, after Judge Hunter was going to require a Special Master, did the Sheriff immediately seek a warrant from a different judge, and who made that decision,” Judge Ryan wrote in the Thursday order requiring answers from LASD.

Judge Ryan also directed lawyers to be ready to answer questions about who, exactly, at LASD wrote and swore-to the affidavit claiming there was probable cause for the search warrant, why and by whom the new judge, Craig Richman, was selected by LASD, and why the warrant application made no mention of the 2021 search warrant or the ongoing litigation about access to MTA OIG material.

Judge Ryan’s order only pertains to the LASD search of the MTA Office of Inspector General, but the issues raised in the order would be similar to objections to the validity of the search warrant that could be brought by Kuehl and Giggans, who have both said publicly they believed the searches were without merit and likely an intimidation tactic.

The order was issued after a lawyer for the MTA OIG filed an emergency request to quash the search warrant. A hearing was set for Sept. 22.

On Friday, the LA County Sheriff’s Department, using its official public information channel, sent a message that the office of County Counsel, which typically represents County departments, agencies, and officials in legal matters, had “terminated” its representation of the Sheriff’s Department.

“This is exactly the type of obstruction, interference, and political shenanigans which Sheriff Alex Villanueva fights against daily,” the statement said, and added that the Sheriff’s Department now had no ability to retain legal representation for next week’s hearing.

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