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Chief deputy files federal civil rights lawsuit 

The chief deputy who Sheriff Pat Hedges secretly videotaped a year ago has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Hedges, Undersheriff Steve Bolts, the county, and other sheriff employees, alleging violations of state law and the U.S. Constitution. He's seeking unnamed damages and an accounting of how much public money was spent on alleged illegal actions.

Gary Hoving's lawsuit, filed Oct. 23 in Los Angeles, wasn't unexpected--it's the next step after filing a claim with the county on the matter.

In the papers, Hoving's attorney Michael Stone goes to pains to address claims Hedges made in an unsuccessful attempt to get the county to pay his legal fees, namely that the sheriff was conducting a "criminal investigation" when he videotaped Hoving, one of his top managers.

The meeting was between Hoving and Sgt. Jay Donovan, and Hedges recently said that he was investigating allegations by Donovan that narcotics deputies has mishandled seized drugs and money. Those allegations were not found to be true, Hedges has said.

The lawsuit quotes from a copy of the recorded meeting, noting a lack of references to any crime or suspicions of criminal behavior in the meeting.

"At no times did Donovan indicate in any way that there were criminal issues that needed to be looked into by management, nor did he request that an investigation be initiated into potentially criminal acts or omissions in the narcotics squad," Stone wrote in the suit.

Assistant County Counsel Rita Neal said she wasn't surprised by the filing but had no immediate comment on it. The county has 20 days to issue a formal answer.

Paul Coble, the attorney for Hedges and Bolts, said the lawsuit seems premature.

"Given that he knows the Attorney General is investigating whether or not the sheriff and undersheriff acted outside of the law," Coble said, "I would have thought Mr. Hoving would wait."

Hoving's lawsuit is only the most recent legal skirmish in an increasingly tangled situation.

Hedges lost in court last week on two matters related to the incident.

In an order issued Oct. 20, Superior Court Judge Roger Picquet rejected Hedges' simultaneous requests to force the county to pay his mounting legal fees and to prevent county employees from talking to the press about his conduct.

In the first matter, Picquet said nothing had changed from an earlier ruling that said Hedges could get county-paid lawyers only in very limited circumstances.

While the argument that he was conducting an investigation may help him in an ongoing criminal investigation into the matter by the state Attorney General's office, the judge wrote, it wasn't something that would change the earlier decision.

Separately, in seeking the so-called gag order, Coble had argued that talking about the investigation to the press violated a state law protecting police officers' records.

The judge disagreed.

"The fact is that some of the matters allegedly under public discussion, albeit perhaps potentially embarrassing or somewhat sensitive, are simply not 'confidential peace officer personnel records'" as defined in law, the judge wrote, adding that "a restraining order would thus be inappropriate."

In a footnote, Picquet added that "There is a certain 'disconnect' or irony in the fact that some of the information characterized by [Hedges] as confidential and personal, for which the [temporary restraining order] is sought to protect from public scrutiny and comment, appears to have been placed in the public forum by the Sheriff himself in an effort to respond to allegations of misconduct."

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