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Sheriff's department investigating why deputy handcuffed a court spokeswoman

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has launched an internal affairs investigation into why a deputy acting as a bailiff detained and handcuffed a Superior Court spokeswoman today inside a downtown courtroom, officials said.

Vania Stuelp, a deputy public information officer, was handcuffed after she refused to leave the area usually occupied by attorneys and would not follow the deputy’s directions, said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department. Stuelp was not arrested, Whitmore said.

Court was not in session at the time.

An inquiry is underway and is being supervised by the county’s Office of Independent Review. "It will answer questions such as why was she handcuffed in the first place," Whitmore said.

Court officials declined to comment on the matter.

The incident occurred shortly before 9 a.m. when Stuelp became concerned that a French television crew was violating court regulations that prohibit filming in certain areas of the court, Whitmore said.

Stuelp informed the crew they could not film in the courtroom and requested that they turn over the footage.

"She walked into the well area," Whitmore said.

A deputy district attorney objected to her presence, but Stuelp insisted she had the right to be there, he said. The prosecutor asked the deputy to deal with the issue.

The deputy then tried to remove everyone from the court to the hallway to resolve the matter, Whitmore said.

But Stuelp repeatedly refused to leave. The deputy then "put his hand on her arm to escort her out," Whitmore said.

At that point, she was "detained, handcuffed and sat down in the court," Whitmore said.

A sheriff's sergeant arrived and recognized her as the court spokesperson and directed that she be released, Whitmore said.

Later, Stuelp sought medical treatment, according to two different sources.

The incident occurred before an arraignment hearing for an attorney indicted for witness tampering. The attorney represents a key suspect in the high-profile 'bling ring' celebrity burglary case but was indicted in connection with another case.

-- Richard Winton

Comments () | Archives (10)

badge heavy idiot should be fired-----!!!

As an attorney I have dealt with this spokesperson and she is always quiet and unobtrusive. She acts as a liaison between the courts, attorneys, and the media so as not to interfere with the judicial process. She wears an I.D. badge that identifies her as a court employee. That is how I knew it was her. I've read her prominently displayed badge. This was probably a misunderstanding combined with a bad day


Medical treatment from handcuffs? Puh-leeeze! OK, how long until this Vanilla Stuelp woman sues the county for millions in pain & suffering? Bet on it.

Just another ordinary court day at the LA County courthouse with the notorious LA County Sheriff deputy! Lol! Please note, LA County deputies have a horrible reputation of roughing up suspects and innocent by-standers! They are rogue deputies in tan and olive green uniforms. They remind me of the wild wild west sheriff.

cant be mad at him for trying to keep the courtroom safe. she shouldve been more cooperative

The bailiffs usually are the ones that have to worry about security of their courtroom and are very territorial- but they are supposed to be. I don't know what the "spokesperson" did to identify herself or fail to do, but she should have known that she was not top dog in calling the shots in that courtroom.

Moving out would have been a prudent decision for her to have made, but somebody thinks they are "excused" and this is the kind of thing that results. As an attorney, I see "the well" in the courtroom differently than others, and you don't enter that area without permission during sessions. When no one's on the bench it's usually different, but not here, it seem.

Ultimately, security of the courtroom is paramount and protection of the judge and personnel has to be maintained above all else. There have been shootings in the court houses and courtrooms in the past so before things ever get that far, you know the deputies will nip things in the bud. Overzealous? Well, you can't have everything.

There could be more to this, but here, like on the streets, you can't debate the issue- just follow instructions and make your beef later. Saves lots of wear and tear all around.

"Later, Stuelp sought medical treatment, according to two different sources." Medical treatment for being handcuffed?Do I smell a lawsuit coming? Ca-ching!

Fired for what, doing what the deputy DA asked him to do? His job is to keep order in the courtroom and Stuelp should have asked the deputy to remove the film crew instead of refusing to obey orders from a court officer. I agree with the other poseter, medical help for handcuffs? Workers comp here she comes along with a lawsuit to sue a broke county government.

Back in 1970, when the student demonstrations up in the UCSB student town of Isla Vista started getting more animated it was the L.A. County sheriffs who got completely out of control and started attacking everyone in sight based on numerous eyewitness accounts.


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