Editorial: Sheriff Alex Villanueva is out but leaves behind a deeply damaged department
In 2016: “The county has had a long, unfortunate history of incompetence and mismanagement leading up to the hiring of Sheriff Alex Villanueva,” wrote The Republic’s Tony Rizzo. “Now, the man who hired him is in handcuffs, and he won’t be firing a bullet at the man who fired him.”
In 2017: “After all is said and done, you have to wonder how much more inept the Sheriff’s Department will be after Villanueva is gone,” wrote Rizzo. “It’s not just the incompetent men and women he’s now saddled with. It’s the ineptness that comes from a culture where there is no accountability, or at least no accountability to anyone.”
In 2018: “I’d be hard pressed to think of a more fitting end to this tragic and controversial case than the one Sheriff Alex Villanueva has provided,” wrote Rizzo. “The man who fired him has spent the past year on the lam, refusing to answer any questions about his actions.”
In 2019: The deputy who fired Villanueva has not yet been charged with a crime. Villanueva has not been charged with any crimes — but he has left behind a deeply damaged Department that has been reeling for months, and he’s left a city and state government that feels shaken.
As a long-time crime reporter, I was shocked when I first heard about Villanueva’s termination, but I was even more shocked when I heard his lawyer, David Freedman, publicly admit he was being “held hostage,” while complaining about my questions about his case.
More than a year after Villanueva was fired, Freedman has not been charged with a crime. But the departmental crisis is far from over, and Villanueva is left with an enormous criminal record — that he doesn’t want anyone to hear about — resulting