LAPD investigates leak that sparked council racism scandal
The Los Angeles Police Department’s Major Crimes Division has opened an investigation into the leaked conversation that led to the City Hall racism scandal to determine if the conversation was recorded illegally, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday.
“The department has initiated a criminal investigation into an allegation of eavesdropping relative to the (Los Angeles County Federation of Labor) meeting involving then-Council person Nury Martinez, Council member Gil Cedillo and Council member Kevin de León and the Fed President, Mr. (Ron) Herrera,” Moore said Tuesday during a media availability.
“Our Major Crimes Division is conducting that, and we will bring our results to the appropriate prosecuting agency upon completion of that investigation.”
The investigation was begun at the request of “individuals that were present at that meeting.” Moore was asked, “So, Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo, the president of the LA Fed and Kevin de León came to the LAPD and asked for an investigation into it?” Moore replied, “Yes.”
“They approached the department on Friday, this past Friday, and requested that we conduct an investigation into the illegal recording of their private conversation,” Moore said. “The department immediately dispatched detectives to conduct recorded interviews of the individuals and our investigation will continue as to the facts and circumstances of how the meeting occurred and information from the victims of why they believe the recording was unlawful and also understanding from them the assertion that it was not with their permission.”
Late Tuesday, a spokesperson for de León said the council member did not request an investigation.
It remains unknown who recorded the year-old, racism-filled conversation that took place at the offices of the LA County Federation of Labor, and who leaked it some two weeks ago — triggering a series of events that led Martinez to step down as City Council president and then quit the council altogether, and de León and Cedillo to face relentless calls for them to resign as well.
The calls have come from virtually all their council colleagues, Mayor Eric Garcetti and as high up as President Joe Biden.
Herrera stepped down as president of the LA County Federation of Labor shortly after the leaked conversation became public and the City Hall racism scandal set in motion.
City News Service was not immediately able to confirm who filed a report that prompted the LAPD probe.
Earlier this month, in an email sent to some of its union affiliates and first obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the federation said there was “a serious security and privacy breach” at its offices. The federation also noted that the “illegal recordings” were posted online, but the organization was “successful at getting the posts removed and the unidentified user suspended.”
The email stated that the federation is investigating the source of the leak and will “make sure these crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
California is a “two-party consent” state, meaning that all parties — not necessarily just two — participating in a conversation must give their approval for the conversation to be recorded. Violators could face both civil and criminal penalties.
De León has resisted calls for him to step down, while a spokesman for Cedillo has repeatedly said the councilman is “at a place of reflection” — though Cedillo only has a few weeks left on the council after losing his reelection bid.
Martinez and de León both made racially charged remarks during the conversation that started the racism scandal, as the group was discussing the politically sensitive process of redrawing council district boundaries.
The conversation first appeared on Reddit before being removed from the social news aggregation, content rating and discussion website.
Among other comments in the recorded conversation, Martinez belittled Councilman Mike Bonin, who is white and has a Black son, and criticized the child for his behavior at a Martin Luther King Day parade — saying Bonin’s son was misbehaving on a float, which might have tipped over if she and the other women on the float didn’t step in to “parent this kid.”
“They’re raising him like a little white kid,” Martinez said. “I was like, ‘This kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back.'”
Martinez also called the child “ese changuito,” Spanish for “that little monkey.”
De León also criticized Bonin, saying “Mike Bonin won’t f—ing ever say peep about Latinos. He’ll never say a f—ing word about us.”
De León also compared Bonin’s handling of his son at the MLK Parade to “when Nury brings her little yard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag.”
“Su negrito, like on the side,” Martinez added, using a Spanish term for a Black person that’s considered demeaning by many.
Updated Oct. 25, 2022, 10:15 p.m.