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LASD Lieutenant Sues Department Commander for Sexual Harassment & More

April 2nd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


Angela Walton, a lieutenant who is quite literally a poster girl for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department,
has filed what has the potential to be a messy sexual harassment lawsuit against Commander Joseph Fennell who, for the last couple of years, has been one of Sheriff Lee Baca’s cluster of rising stars charged with helping to reform the department’s troubled jails.

Walton, 44, is a bright, attractive supervisor who is featured on various department recruitment posters and billboards and who was one of the highest scoring females when she took the necessary exams to promote to the rank of lieutenent.

Fennell was one of the five supervisors handpicked in the fall of 2011 by Sheriff Lee Baca for his Commander Management Task Force, a sort of super group sent into the department’s scandal-plagued custody division to “effect positive change within the Los Angeles County jail system.”

The lawsuit comes just a few months after the news that a female deputy had filed charges of “sexual coercion” against three department higher ups, one a chief already retired, another a captain forced into a quick retirement, the third also a captain, is sidelined as he waits for the results of LASD’s internal investigation into the matter.

Now there is Walton’s complaint against Fennell, which alleges that, for the last four years, Fennell has “harassed, stalked, threatened and retaliated against” Walton, who was under his command.

The filing—which WitnessLA has obtained—states that Fennell, who was Walton’s supervisor during the four year period in question,” required sexual conduct as a condition of advancement” and engaged in a “lurid pattern of unwanted sexual conduct” toward Walton.

And, indeed, some lurid descriptions of agressive sexual overtures follow.

Walton’s attorney, Okorie Okorocha, stated categorically that Walton “declined every overture,” from Fennell. He also said that Walton will present cell-phone texts that support her charges, as well as the testimony by friends who witnessed some of the alleged incidents.

Fennell is reportedly gathering his own line up of friends and other support for his defense.

According to Okorocha, Walton became the most undone about the alleged unwanted and coercive attention when, two years ago, she was transferred by Fennell to work at Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic during a time when her father was dying of cancer and she had requested,, for this period, to stay closer to her home on the Westside of LA. Instead, Okorocha said, his client was punitively transferred for some “freeway therapy” because she again declined to cooperate sexually. “It was a critical time for her,” he said. “And she was really upset.” (Walton’s father has since died.)

The complaint further states that “Fennell repeatedly demanded sex” from Walton, and threatened her with loss of promotions if she ever disclosed his actions toward her, because Fennell’s wife “would wring his neck in his sleep” if she ever heard about the attentions he was paying to the attractive woman who worked for him.

Fennell, obviously, is married. Walton is not. (She is divorced.)

Following the filing of the lawsuit, the sheriff’s department has launched an internal affairs investigation, according to department spokesman Steve Whitmore. “It will get to the bottom of the allegations.”

Fennell, who declined to speak to WLA, said through Whitmore that he is “looking forward to the IA investigation that will show that the lawsuit is not grounded in fact.”

You can read the legal filing here: walton v. lasd


EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated with small factual corrections at 2 pm, April 2.


AND IN OTHER NEWS, SHOULD WE TAX BULLETS? A CALIFORNIA PHYSICIAN SAYS “YES.”

This Op Ed for the San Francisco Chronicle by Dr. Anthony Iton, senior vice president at the California Endowment, deserves a read—and some consideration.

Dr. Iton’s idea doesn’t try to take away anybody’s guns. His proposal simply treats gun violence like the public health problem it truly is.

Here’s a clip from the center of the essay, but read the whole thing (Then let’s talk about it):

…In too many communities, bullets leave a wide wake of shattered lives. Children grow up without fathers. Young men are put in wheelchairs. Kids are afraid to walk down to school or play in a park. A toxic stress pervades these neighborhoods. A recent Johns Hopkins report stated that deaths and injuries from guns resulted in at least $32 billion in medical costs and lost productivity.

Gun violence is a public health problem. It wasn’t that long ago that we faced a similar public health problem with tobacco. A comprehensive approach that included tobacco taxes, clean air laws, telephone “quit” lines for smokers, media and restricting sales to minors, has driven smoking rates down and decreased emphysema and lung cancer deaths. By helping fund many important public health investments, tobacco now pays for some of the societal harms it has caused.

We must do the same with ammunition. It’s time that the sales of ammunition foot part of the bill for the havoc bullets wreak across our state. A recent Field poll confirms that a majority of Californians support imposing higher taxes on the sale of ammunition with the proceeds going to violence prevention programs.

The tax would work like the one on cigarettes. When someone buys rounds of ammunition, a tax would be added to their bill that would go to pay for youth development programs, including sports, arts and mentorship programs for at-risk youth. These are proven programs to prevent violence.
The tax would do two important things:

First, fewer bullets would be sold in distressed neighborhoods. Guns are relatively cheap to buy and there are a lot of them out there. But bullets are like gas for guns. The tax would help empty the tank.

Second, the tax would provide much-needed funding to address the root causes of violence. Violence flares when young people feel they don’t have options and lack control over their lives. Studies consistently show that violence can be reduced if young people have relationships with caring adults. opportunities to develop their talents, and constructive ways to get involved in their communities, the three core elements of youth development.

The ammunition tax would fund places like Youth Uprising in East Oakland. They get kids involved in music, art, sports and entrepreneurship. Over three quarters of young people surveyed there said they have long-term and educational career plans because of Youth Uprising. There are countless organizations like Youth Uprising throughout our state, many of them underfunded.

Posted in gender, LASD | 34 Comments »

34 Responses

  1. Bandwagon Says:

    Joseph:

    It is astonishing someone of your stature within the Department would be
    accussed of such “aberrant” behavior. As a Captain at the Personnel Bureau, it was within your area of responsibility to review and comment on
    such behavior. I’m quite sure the allegations will be proven groundless. Be
    careful during your Internal Affairs interview, by the time they are done, you
    will be the second gunman on the grassy knowl and know the location of
    Jimmy Hoffa’s body. Enjoy your early retirement!

  2. fx Says:

    Shouldn’t your headline read

    “Now Alleged victim of sexual harassement” ?

  3. Celeste Fremon Says:

    EDITOR’S NOTE:

    Dear FX,

    If I’d written that Walton was a victim of sexual harassment then, yes, it should say “alleged.” But I wrote that Lt. Walton was suing. And she is neither allegedly suing, nor is it an alleged lawsuit.

  4. Investigative Mind Says:

    WOW!!!!

  5. Bandwagon Says:

    I will be suprised if Commander Fennell suffers any “real” discipline if the
    allegations are proven to be true. He is a member of the “good old boys club” which takes care of their own. It is known as the “two tier” system of discipline. One tier for deputies, sergeants and lieutenants. The other tier for upper management. Please forgive my bad attitude, but after 30 years of service, nothing suprises me anymore.

  6. Celeste Fremon Says:

    EDITOR’S NOTE:

    FX, My total apologies. Of course, you meant the text on the photo (which I’d completely forgotten about although it was staring straight at me).

    Okay, fair question. In this case, the question mark stands in for the word “alleged.” There are all kinds of ways to do it. The main thing is not to state something as fact that hasn’t been proven as fact.

    Sorry for not better understanding you the first time.

  7. lmfao Says:

    It is ironic who Walton is standing next to in the recruitment photo. oh how things come full circle.

  8. Getting close Says:

    Mrs. T

  9. surviving the Titanic Says:

    It seems pretty petty and amatuerish to do the red line do
    the red line doodle on the poster. WE can read, we understand what a lawsuit is. Really unnecessary to resort to high school grafitti.I am disappointed.

  10. 10-29Henry Says:

    # 9

    “Argumentum Ad hominem”. Do some reading on it.

  11. Surviving the Titanic Says:

    ummmmmmmmmm..ok……….thanks

  12. FURTHER TO FOLLOW Says:

    Another classic case, when things dont go my way I sue and make crap up. Honestly like doctor laura says about boys in school, keep the girls away. I agree when opposite sexes work together u get claims like walton makes me ill

  13. Bandwagon Says:

    FTF:

    If you are privy to inside information regarding the allegations, lets hear them. Don’t leave us in suspense!

  14. On the patch Says:

    My recommendation is for all to use restraint in passing judgement, on either side, until the facts are discovered, verified and reported. I have sat in judgement of such allegations, things are not always as they appear, but at times, they are exactly as alleged. I’ve seen folks circle the wagons in support of a Subject and engage in an all out war and character assassination campaign with slanderous remarks against a Complainant. After the facts come in, I find the Subject to be completely at fault and thus, the Complainant suffers twice. And then, I’ve sat in judgement where completely bogus and/or embellished complaints have been filed by employees who were looking to retaliate (only because they could work the system) or make a quick buck. In those cases, I have cleared the Subject and then went after the Complainant for making false allegations.

    Very few folks probably know the facts with the Walton case. I say, let IAB and others do their job and simply let the chips fall where they may. THEN we can all have a say based on facts, not emotions or misguided loyalties and wrong assumptions. Drop the patch.

  15. Bandwagon Says:

    The Patch:

    I generally agree with your view, but if a blogger makes statements that discredit an individual, ie FTF, then they have an obligation to support their opinions with facts. Otherwise keep their opinions to themselves. Although, I personally have issues with the Commander, I have no idea of his guilt or innocense. Also, you base your conclusions on the fact that IAB will conduct a full and thorough investigation devoid of politcs. It has been my experience that IAB investigations and politcs go hand in hand.

  16. I have faith again Says:

    The truth with prevail. If only the brave would come forward and tell what they know or witnessed, the nonsense would stop. IAB doesn’t always do right by complainants, because during certain types of investigations the cost or damage to the department’s image outweighs the risk of a cover-up. That’s when investigators are encouraged to omit or delete content to re-direct the investigation away from exposing the department to significant liability. When you expect an agency to police themselves, well then this result can happen. Policy violations of this nature need to be conducted by non-department investigators to avoid any influence by department exucutives. But I still have faith the truth will prevail in this case. There is a culture amongst some department executives that they can use their powers of influence to make women or men behave in a manner that they may not normally do, out of fear of not getting a promotion or special assignment or blackballing. If anyone doubts this, well that’s just plain being naive.

  17. On the patch Says:

    @Bandwagon, you are absolutely correct. If some coward is going to use character assassination tactics against Walton or anyone on ANY issue, then they better put up or shut up. If they are going to go onto this blog and make a negative statement, they should make their statement and back it up with facts. Not the normal coward’s7th grade sandbox rumor of, “I’ve heard,” without any basis for fact. “I heard” has a time and place, but on this forum, put up or shut up, so we are in complete agreement. As far as IAB is concerned, since Tanaka is out of the picture, I will give them the benefit of doing their job of fact finding. There are so many checks and balances that if IAB humbugs an investigation, those facts will clearly come out, and should. If someone can factually say, “The Commander is a dog because I personally saw him do XYZ to a female(s),” then that should be on the table. “Rumors” should stay in the locker room, where most stories start, often without foundation, just malice. Thank you for allowing me to clarify my thoughts.

  18. FURTHER TO FOLLOW Says:

    Bandwagon u have as many opinions as I do I have no idea what went on, but your thoughts on the follow through of the department is in line with me
    Btw what rank is tanakas wife now?

  19. Investigative Mind Says:

    # 14. I pray IAB/ICIB will do better now that Chief Abner reports directly to the Sheriff now. Lord knows many have tried before to come forward to report corruption, but politics usually prevails. Image of department out weighs the truth of crime/injustice.

  20. On the patch Says:

    If Baca has given her unilateral decision making authority, than I hope she uses it wisely. If she has to seek permission to initiate an investigation, either IAB or ICIB, then it is allows for corruption and abuse to flourish as it has for many years under Tanaka and Waldie’s control. If she has the integrity to hold a Chief accountable the same as she would a Deputy, the same standards for all, then perhaps there is hope. But if she cuts slack to Captains and above for their misconduct yet goes after the line personnel for the same misconduct, than nothing will change. It will be as if Tanaka was never finessed as folks are now calling it. Abner will not have to pull back the carpet very far to see all of the dirt that has been swept underneath it of late. Time will tell what has changed and what is simple window dressing.

  21. Investigative Mind Says:

    #20. You are absolutely correct regarding Chief Abner seeking permission to start IA/ICIB investigations. Time will only tell.

  22. Pot Calling The Kettle Black Says:

    I would sure like somebody to ask Baca just what he means by “finessed” when he alludes the situation with Tanaka.

    My guess is that Baca realized, several years after the fact, that he was the one who had been “finessed” for the last few years. Tanaka was the one running the dept.and that most people in the dept. viewed Tanaka as the one who was calling the shots. All the while Baca having no clue what was going on with his own troops.
    So now to soothe his own ego and not seem like an idiot to the troops, or to the media, for it taking him several years to figure out what was going on, he has to claim that he was able to “finesse” Tanaka into retirement.

    LMAO.

    Baca was the one who was finessed. For a long time.

  23. Cognistator Says:

    #22: I always thought that the Undersheriff was an “AT Will” position, which means that termination can occur any time the Sheriff wishes, no explanation required. Everybody else in the Chain-of-Command is Civil Service, which means hearings, etc., must happen before termination can occur.

    Did that change & when–do you know?

  24. GAG ORDER Says:

    Just an observation. I have monitored many topics and have noticed a stricking correlation of the number of posts, negative and positive and the number since the Department admonished everyone regarding e-mail posts, social websites.

    In my humble opinion, it appears the big talkers (like Region 2 past and present) have become a little scared and paranoid, they might be found out. Seriously people, it takes more than that from the Department to disuade all of you from friendly engagement. Let’s take it up a notch like old times.

  25. Pot Calling The Kettle Black Says:

    #23,
    I guess the Undersheriff position is an “at will” position. Otherwise, how could Baca eliminate the position? This makes his claim of “finessing” Tanaka even more laughable. What is it that requires “finesse” about telling a guy that he needs to retire because his position is being eliminated? For that matter, what finesse is necessary when you have the ultimate authority whether or not one keeps their job? Maybe Baca believes if he didn’t use the words “You’re fired” that’s finesse lol.
    “Finesse” would be to have Tanaka retire, but remain loyal to him. Ask the insiders that know Tanaka if he was happy to pull the plug. If they tell you he was, then I would say Baca finessed him. If Tanaka isn’t happy about it (which my money says he isn’t) then there is nothing about it that remotely could be considered as finessed.
    Remember, Whitmore reported that it was Tanaka’s decision to retire. Then we find out that’s a crock of bull, that Baca ordered Tanaka to retire. Finesse? LMAO. Once again, Baca’s mouthpiece, who takes his talking points directly from Baca looks either stupid, uninformed, or dishonest.

    Maybe that’s what Baca considers handling things with “finesse”.
    In my book it’s incredibly idiotic to tell Whitmore to spew that crap, knowing full well the truth will come out later.

    The way the situation is completely laughable and Baca looks like a numbskull. Yet he wants to make he believes he’s slick enough to “finesse” Tanaka?

    The guys a joke. Always has been.

  26. I know Jack Says:

    Chiefs and above are “at will” employees which means the can be released from their rank and demoted to Commander without cause. Tanaka was finessed which means his ass was handed to him.

    Baca is pulling out all the stops to show he is In charge. Pathetic. I’m just waiting for the Feds to finish.

  27. GAG ORDER Says:

    More good news from the LASD homefront. wo veteran century deps charged with conspiracy and false police report. Very sad when good knowledge of probable cause would avert this kind of pathetic behavior. Very sad

  28. I know Jack Says:

    Hey Gag, I wonder if these two Century reps listened to Tanaka’s “Gray Zone” pep talk. You know, the one where he told the supervisors to take a powder while he talked to the fellas? And afterwards, rolled up the captain while he was on vacation. Guess the fellas didn’t like the fact the captain was trying to keep them from doing stupid things. Tanaka’s got no finess.

  29. Pot Calling The Kettle Black Says:

    While Baca was busy building alliances with Muslims, travelling the world spreading his message of tolerance and progressiveness, meeting with his campaign donors, etc. Paul Tanaka took over the department.
    And how long did it take for Baca to figure it out?
    He couldn’t figure it out with Cruz’ statement “Lee Baca is my sheriff, but I work for Paul Tanaka”?
    He couldn’t figure it out when Cavanaugh was neutered and Tanaka was calling the shots in Cavanaugh’s division too?
    He couldn’t figure it out when it became common knowledge that Tanaka was having troops only meetings at MCJ?

    Baca’s sole defense has been “I didn’t know”.

    Well, I submit to you there’s only three plausible explanations for Baca not knowing what Tanaka was doing.

    1. He didn’t care about the day to day operations of the department.

    2. He was in denial, because if he had to stay in the shop, deal with the problems and concentrate on the day to day operations of the department, his world travels spreading his message would come to a screeching halt.

    3. He’s blind to reality and is living in a fantasy world he has created in his mind.

    Whatever the reason, Lee Baca has failed to do his job. It’s his job to know what’s going on in the day to day operations of the department.
    But he didn’t know. Why? Because Tanaka saw what was important to Baca. Tanaka let Baca go off and do his thing around the world, while Tanaka took over the department in the minds of the troops, the brass (how else could Cavanaugh be neutered by a fellow Assistant Sheriff?) and the media. Methodically and with a lazer sharp focus, Tanaka took control of the department and strategically put his people in place to make sure the dept. would be run the way he wanted it.

    And Baca didn’t even know it.
    Baca was the one who was “finessed”. To the point that now he looks like a fool.

    Finally, Baca wakes up and comes to the party.
    And boy oh boy is he pissed!!!!!!

    He eliminates the Undersheriff position. If that’s not a subconscious admission that the Undersheriff undermined him I don’t know what is.

    WELCOME TO THE PARTY SHERIFF. THE JOKES IS ON YOU.

    Hey pal, you shoulda done your job and it wouldn’t have come to this.
    Are you paying attention now? Staying in the shop a little more often?

    HILARIOUS.

  30. I know Jack Says:

    @Pot, you are spot on. All three situations is how we arrived to where we are today. From day one, Baca built strong alliances with Gray “Gumby” Davis and the entire progressive political machine in Sacramento. He was hoping fo a possible Lieutenant Governor’s position as the Davis/Baca ticket. When Arnold came in, that dream vaporized. So Leroy became Ali Baca with his progressive agenda of bringing peace to the Middle East with his words of Scientology. All the while Myron, Stonich and Waldie ran the shop as Tanaka methodically built his empire.

    Baca knew exactly what was going on. How many Chiefs have to walk into Baca’s office and tell him point blank of Tanaka’s evilness and then quit right on the spot before Leroy paid attention? Three that I know of. Leroy didn’t care what Tanaka did, until three things happened. 1. Witness LA/Times. 2. Jail Commission and Editorials. 3. FBI investigation into civil rights violations and shall we say, some other issues.

    Baca finessed Tanaka with a fifty pound anchor and tossed him overboard. Now he is trying to save his own job by, for once, play Sheriff. Too late.

  31. Pot Calling The Kettle Black Says:

    Now he’ll talk his mumbo jumbo New Age whiz bang bs that the media just loves and they will fall in love with him all over again. It’s already starting. They’ll forget how he hasn’t done his job. They will back him simply because he’s “so warm and personable and progressive”.
    Nevermind that he’s been an absentee sheriff and all the scandals and absolutely insane policies he’s instituted that make the LASD the butt of jokes among southern CA law enforcement.
    He’ll “finesse” the media into backing him all over again.
    Wait and see.

  32. Gary Battle Says:

    Why was Joe Stephens relieved of duty for the same conduct but Joey Fennell who is the department poster boy for sexual harassment still getting promotions the whole time?

  33. Dr. Ronda Says:

    @Gary Battle – that is a great question.

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