An LA Superior Court Judge Tuesday ordered the LA County Sheriff, the Undersheriff, and all Sheriff employees to temporarily cease searching any computers and hard drives seized during raids last week at the home and office of LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
Judge William C. Ryan also directed that examinations of material taken from the Metropolitan Transit Authority or its Office of Inspector General be stopped until a hearing Thursday, during which Judge Ryan says he plans to ask the Sheriff’s Department to answer a number of questions aimed at determining the validity of the warrant.
The Sheriff’s Department said last week the searches were conducted as part of an investigation into claims Kuehl caused a non-profit run by Kuehl’s long time friend Patti Giggans to be awarded a now-defunct, no-bid contract by MTA, allegedly because of Kuehl’s friendship. Giggans was appointed by Kuehl to the Civilian Oversight Commission that's supposed to monitor the Sheriff's Department.
Kuehl and Giggans have repeatedly denied any interference in the contract award, which they’ve said was decided independently by MTA alone. Both said they believe the Sheriff’s investigation was in reality a thinly-veiled retaliation campaign in response to their efforts to oversee the Sheriff’s Department.
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Kuehl filed a motion Monday to quash, or invalidate, the search warrant, claiming that it was obtained under suspicious circumstances that alleged a baseless complaint of wrongdoing. A lawyer for the MTA Office of Inspector General filed a similar motion to quash last week.
Both Kuehl and MTA have argued in a court papers that the September 14, 2022 searches took place less than a month after another LA Superior Court judge was in the process of restricting Sheriff’s access to material its investigators seized in nearly identical searches, that alleged similar wrongdoing, that it conducted on the same locations in March, 2021.
The new warrant was signed by Judge Craig Richman. On September 1, Judge Eleanor Hunter decided that material seized in the 2021 search needed to be filtered by a court-appointed Special Master, in order to protect attorney-client or other privileged material swept up in the search from reaching Sheriff’s investigators.
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“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 asked in the Tuesday court order.