A former Los Angeles County deputy sheriff is suing Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his department for what she claims was a demotion from his position in retaliation for complaining about a deputy kneeling on an inmate’s head in March .
Robin Limon, who served on the general staff just below Villanueva, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday. Limon alleges retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation and violations of the Public Safety Officer’s Bill of Rights. She is claiming at least $3 million in damages.
“The facts and evidence do not support plaintiff’s assertions, and the case will be vigorously defended in court,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement to The Times on Thursday.
Limon’s lawsuit claims Villanueva retaliated against her and other department whistleblowers for revealing her cover-up of an incident involving Deputy Douglas Johnson kneeling on the head of handcuffed inmate Enzo Escalante at the courthouse. San Fernando Court in March 2021.
Limon alleges she was falsely accused by the sheriff of covering up the incident and was forced into early retirement from the department on March 29.
“Villanueva’s legacy as sheriff will be remembered as much for his incompetence as his corruption,” the lawsuit states. “It will take years for any future sheriff to clean up the mess.”
According to the suit, Villanueva spared Johnson from discipline if he promised to destroy footage of the incident, which was recorded on security cameras at the courthouse and obtained by The Times in late March.
Johnson is also currently involved in a separate lawsuit for a lawsuit filed by the widow of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant, for allegedly circulating photos of the helicopter crash that killed Bryant and eight others, including their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in January 2020.
Limon’s lawsuit says Villanueva was trying to avoid “poor media coverage” of the department and worried about potential public scrutiny for failing to hold Johnson and other deputies accountable.
Limon also claims the sheriff blocked a criminal investigation into the incident with Escalante at the courthouse and lied about his knowledge of what happened by claiming he didn’t see the video until months later, in order to “adapting to a false timeline”.
“Whistleblowers are meant to be protected by state and federal law and are meant to be free from retaliation,” Limon’s lawsuit states. “However, whistleblowers are not safe in LASD and are not protected by the county.”
Los Angeles Times