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.