Southern California

Ex Sheriff Exec Wins Access to Deputies' Secret Files

A judge in Los Angeles said Friday a former Sheriff's Department executive, who's suing Sheriff Jim McDonnell for defamation, should be allowed to access the secret personnel files of three Sheriff's employees.

The court granted a so-called "Pitchess" motion, which means the judge will now look through the files to determine if any of the three employees had previously been punished or investigated for misconduct — such as defamation, false light, intrusion into private affairs, public disclosure of private facts, violation(s) of privacy rights, dishonesty, and lack of candor.

The retired executive, who sued as John Doe, has been identified by several officials familiar with the case as Todd Rogers, who said he was forced out of the Department by McDonnell.

The Pitchess ruling was issued as the state legislature considers a partial roll back of California's unique police officer privacy laws, and the Los Angeles Times published a series of articles illustrating how that secrecy has impacted the court system, making it difficult or impossible for persons on trial to learn if officers called to testify had a history of dishonesty.

Rogers sued LA County in June, 2017 and accused McDonnell of orchestrating a smear campaign, during which members of the news media received information about an incident at Rogers' home in Lakewood a year earlier.

"This rumor was part of a malicious, coordinated effort to harm John Doe, Jane Doe and their family ... [that] was encouraged and condoned by Sheriff McDonnell who was angry that John Doe 'blew the whistle' on McDonnell's illegal bribes of candidates running for sheriff," according to a court filing.

McDonnell, "strongly," denied the allegations in Rogers' 2017 lawsuit, according to a spokesperson. According to the lawsuit, Rogers claimed he was promised a promotion if he agreed to withdraw as a candidate from the 2014 primary election for Sheriff. Rogers said he reported the alleged incident to the LA County District Attorney's Office.

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