On Tuesday, he alarmed press freedom advocates by criticizing him at a news conference and noting that a Los Angeles Times reporter is under a criminal investigation. Later in the day he tried to retract his teasing comments, but it is important to understand the background, including Villanueva’s highly controversial behavior and his attacks on the media.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Villanueva showed and referred to the photo of Chekmedian, as well as one of his political rivals and the chief inspector general of the police. The arrows imply a connection between the three. Villanueva referred to a video of the incident obtained by Chekmedian as “stolen property”. He announced that he was investigating “all parties” involved in the matter. When repeatedly asked whether Chekmedian was specifically under investigation, Villanueva replied that “all parties to this business” are under investigation.
Notably, Villanueva appears to have put a straw man here. There is a difference between being investigated and suspected of being investigated as criminal charges can be brought against the person. The first was reported by news agencies, not the last …
“Abuse of your official position”
Hours before the department tweeted, Los Angeles Times General Counsel Jeff Glaser wrote to the mayor a scathing note. Glaser described Villanueva’s comments as “a disguised attempt to intimidate ‘Chekmedian’ into giving him indifferent (but perfectly accurate) information about the behavior of individuals in your circle and allegations of a cover-up by you and other officials.
Press chase history
>> Los Angeles Times editor-in-chief Kevin Merida said Villanueva’s attempt “to criminalize news reporting goes against well-established constitutional law…”
>> The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press called Villanueva’s move “beyond the pale” and a violation of the First Amendment, and condemned it “in the strongest terms…”