Deputy Juan Lopez of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office has filed a lawsuit against the county and the Sheriff's Office, alleging retaliation over his decision to run for sheriff (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) against sitting Sheriff Greg Munks in the March 2014 primary election.
Mr. Lopez, through his attorney, David W. Washington of Stockton, claims in an April 24 lawsuit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court that the county violated his First Amendment rights and his rights as a California law enforcement officer.
Mr. Lopez, who is 51, has been on administrative leave as a deputy since July 2014.
The complaint says the county deceptively sought and received search warrants without probable cause and concealed and discarded exculpatory evidence.
Asked to comment, Chief Deputy County Counsel David Silberman said: "The lawsuit doesn't make much sense. As far as we can tell, it doesn't have much merit. We don't, frankly, understand what he's alleging in his complaint."
Mr. Lopez was arrested in November 2014 and charged in connection with a plan to bring cellphones and drugs to Redwood City jail inmates, the District Attorney's Office said. He is not accused of bringing contraband into the jail, but of being complicit in allowing a cellphone to be brought into the jail. Mr. Lopez pleaded not guilty to the charges and has been out of custody.
In February 2015, the DA charged Mr. Lopez with violating election laws in his run for sheriff. Prosecutors allege he lied about his residence, embezzled from his campaign funds and, in a separate case, attempted to profit off of his Newark home by filing false documents. Mr. Lopez pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.
Mr. Lopez alleges that in searching his homes -- he also has a residence in Redwood City, he says -- investigators exceeded the scope of the search warrant and inappropriately targeted his friends and family.
The circumstances of his arrest, on nonviolent charges, by officers with their guns drawn and requiring him to get on his knees before being handcuffed "places a chilling effect on employees that are considering running for the Office of Sheriff and thereby violating the rights of all peace officers employed by the San Mateo County Sheriff' s Office," the lawsuit says.