Los Angeles sheriff appears to back down after signaling he was investigating reporter

Villanueva has repeatedly singled out LA Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian, who is just doing her job by covering his department. Tchekmedyian has published a series of stories about an incident in which a deputy kneeled on an inmate — including an article on Monday regarding an allegation that Villanueva was implicated in a cover-up.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Villanueva displayed and pointed to a photo of Tchekmedyian, plus one of his political rivals and the sheriff’s inspector general. Arrows implied a connection between all three. Villanueva referred to video of the incident that Tchekmedyian had obtained as “stolen property.” And he declared that he was investigating “all parties” involved in the matter. When repeatedly asked whether Tchekmedyian was specifically under investigation, Villanueva responded that “all parties to the act” were being probed.

But after widespread condemnation and a warning from the paper’s general counsel, Villanueva sort of walked back his remarks. “Resulting from the incredible frenzy of misinformation being circulated, I must clarify at no time today did I state an LA Times reporter was a suspect in a criminal investigation,” the LA County Sheriff’s Department tweeted Tuesday night. “We have no interest in pursuing, nor are we pursuing, criminal charges against any reporters.”

Notably, Villanueva appears to have set up a strawman here. There is a difference between being the subject of an investigation and a suspect in an investigation where criminal charges can be brought against the person. The former was reported by news organizations, not the latter. —CNN

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