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The Los Angeles Times has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, alleging that the Sheriff’s Department has repeatedly refused to turn over public records about deputies involved in misconduct or shootings.

The landmark Senate Bill 1421 undid decades of secrecy 18 months ago by opening up previously confidential records about law enforcement officers involved in shootings or other serious uses of force, as well as those who committed sexual assaults or acts of dishonesty.

And yet, the lawsuit says, L.A. County “continues to withhold records” on hundreds of deputies.

“The county and the Sheriff’s Department are just continually refusing to provide access to these important records,” said Kelly Aviles, an attorney representing The Times. “We’ve gotten almost nothing in the 18 months since we’ve filed those requests.”

The Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A county spokeswoman, however, said in a statement that L.A. County is “committed to fulfilling its responsibilities” under the California Public Records Act.

“Every department — including the Sheriff’s Department — is expected to live up to the transparency that the law requires and the public has a right to expect,” the statement said. “Beyond that, the county does not comment on pending litigation and will not address the specific allegations in this lawsuit.”

The day that SB 1421 went into effect, The Times submitted various requests for information to the Sheriff’s Department.

According to the lawsuit, the Sheriff’s Department improperly denied most of them, saying they were too broad or otherwise exempt. It agreed to produce SB 1421 records only for deputies The Times could identify by name.

But even for the 325 deputies that The Times did identify by name, the county has produced “almost no records,” the lawsuit says.

The department has produced files “for just two deputies and responded that approximately 17 other deputies had no disclosable letters of discipline,” the lawsuit says. “Information about the other more than 300 officers specifically identified by The Times remains undisclosed.”

A number of other requests, including some filed by the reporter of this story, have been ignored or improperly denied, according to the lawsuit.

In October, The Times requested information about promotions within the department, in-custody jail deaths and Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s daily schedule. No records have been produced, the lawsuit says.

Several months later, the paper requested the daily time sheets of every Sheriff’s Department employee assigned to the department’s Lost Hills station on Jan. 26, the day Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash. That request was denied.

The Times also requested communications that reference the taking or sharing of photos from the crash site by Sheriff’s Department employees, after reporting that the agency tried to keep a lid on allegations that deputies shared graphic photos from the scene. No records have been produced.

L.A. County’s chief law enforcement watchdog, the Office of Inspector General, also sought documents — through a subpoena — related to allegations that Villanueva directed the coverup. The Sheriff’s Department did not comply.

It’s not the first time The Times has accused the Sheriff’s Department of Public Records Act violations.

In 2016, The Times contested exorbitant fees the department tried to charge the paper for emails containing certain racist terms sent, received or forwarded by members of the agency’s command staff.

Two years later, the paper accused officials of refusing to release information about the status of homicide investigations, mundane information such as email addresses for Sheriff’s Department employees and records involving prosecutors and others in the district attorney’s office who have been disciplined for sexual harassment or misconduct.

Just before he took office, Villanueva was quoted in L.A. Taco as saying he would settle one of the cases.

“I think the press has a right to know, and acting on behalf of the public and disseminating information to the public. That’s part of transparency. We have nothing to hide. It’s the public’s information. It doesn’t belong to the department. It belongs to the taxpayers,” he was quoted as saying.

Both lawsuits remain pending.

The Times also intervened last year in cases brought by the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, which sought unsuccessfully to keep records related to discipline and serious uses of force before 2019 confidential.

California Alene Tchekmedyian

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Alene Tchekmedyian covers the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. She previously wrote about the county’s criminal courts and breaking news throughout California. Before joining The Times in 2016, she reported on crime and policing for the Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader. She grew up in Huntington Beach and graduated from UCLA.

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Vanessa Guillén was so brutally dismembered and burned that investigators COULDN’T use dental records to identify her

VANESSA's Guillén's body was so horrifically bludgeoned, dismembered, and burned that investigators couldn't use dental records to identify the murdered soldier.

Guillén's body was unearthed in a shallow grave 20 miles east of Fort Hood, Texas, last Tuesday and her family's lawyer said cops had to use DNA from bone and hair samples instead.

Her brutalized remains were found in a shallow Texas grave 3 Vanessa Guillén went missing from Fort Hood in April Fellow soldier Robinson killed himself last week when cops tried to contact him about the murderCredit: Instagram Aguilar allegedly helped him to dismember and hide Guillén's bodyCredit: Bell County Jail

Attorney Natalie Khawam told The Associated Press that army officials told Guillén's grieving family about the positive identification in the company of a priest after she vanished on April 22 from a parking lot.

Federal and military investigators said she was killed and dismembered by fellow soldier Aaron David Robinson, 20, who killed himself last week.

What we know about Vanessa Guillén's murder:

  • Guillén's body is positively identified, family say
  • Her family say she was harassed by another soldier
  • The suspect linked to her disappearance killed himself
  • Robinson's girlfriend allegedly helped hide Guillén's remains
  • An air force colonel suggested Guillén deserved to be harassed

A local civilian called Cecily Aguilar, 22, booked and charged with helping Robinson to mutilate and get rid of Guillén's remains.

Her relatives believe Robinson was sexually harassing Guillen and have demanded a congressional investigation into the horrific situation.

Horrific details about Guillén's death emerged last week, as human remains were found encased in concrete near the Fort Hood base where the young soldier was stationed.

The family attorney, Natalie Kwaham, said in an interview that authorities told her Guillén was bludgeoned to death with a hammer, chopped up into pieces and later encased in concrete.

It was later confirmed that the suspected soldier, US Army Specialist Robinson, killed himself after authorities attempted to make contact with him.

3 The slain soldier's remains were found last week 3 Two suspects were named in Guillén's death

The civilian suspect Aguilar was reportedly dating Robinson and is believed to be involved with helping to dismember and dispose of Guillén's body.

Aguilar is charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence, the US Attorney's Office of the Western District of Texas announced on Thursday.

Aguilar confessed to being involved with attempting to dismember and hide Guillén's body, according to a detailed affidavit obtained by Crime Online.

Robinson reportedly told her that he had beaten a female soldier with a hammer, and she agreed to meet up with him that evening and help hack the victim's body apart, according to the confession.

They then buried Guillén is three separate shallow graves.

Her body was hacked apart and buried Guillén's family believe fellow soldier Robinson was sexually harassing her

Aguilar now faces up to 20 years in prison with a maximum $250,000 fine.

She will remain in custody as she awaits her initial court hearing, which is expected to take place early next week.

According to Guillén's family, she was harassed and followed into the shower by the soldier who killed himself after her remains were found.

Guillén's family attorney, Khawam said the 20-year-old told her family she was being sexually harassed by her superior on the Army base.

Khawam said Guillén didn’t feel comfortable reporting the harassment, as she didn’t feel safe, KHOU reported.

She recalled one apparent incident during which Guillén “was taking a shower and [her superior] walked in on her and sat down.”

"She was creeped out — as one would be."

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On Saturday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner paid a visit to a mural in Taqueria Del Sol in south Houston on the Fourth of July, placed a lily among the piles of flowers in front of the mural, and spoke about the need to honor Guillen's service.

"On this Fourth of July, as we commemorate our country's freedom and founding ideals, we also honor Vanessa's service in the United States military," Turner said, according to ABC 13.

"The City of Houston stands in solidarity with the Guillen family in their grief and in their search for justice."

Guillén's body was found in a shallow grave in TexasCredit: Facebook Cops believe Robinson mutilated her bodyCredit: Facebook A female Air Force Lt. Col was slammed for suggesting Guillen deserved to be sexually harassed because it's 'the price of admission' for women in the army Soldier Vanessa Guillen was ‘bludgeoned to death with hammer in armory, chopped up with machete and encased in concrete’


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