The year 2014 had some tough stretches for Deputy Juan Lopez of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, according to his lawsuit filed recently in federal court.
The suit, filed Aug. 19, is built around a central theme: He contested Sheriff Greg Munks' run for re-election in the spring of 2014, and Mr. Munks orchestrated a campaign of retribution.
Mr. Lopez, an official write-in candidate, received about 1 percent of the vote and Mr. Munks was re-elected, but trouble came for Mr. Lopez in the following months.
As a deputy working in the San Mateo County jail, he was arrested in November 2014 on conspiracy charges in connection with the alleged smuggling of a cellphone and the drug oxycontin into the jail. He is scheduled to be in court on Sept. 16 for a preliminary hearing, and has been out of custody since his arrest.
In April 2015, Mr. Lopez sued the county and the Sheriff's Office in Superior Court, alleging retaliation over his decision to run for sheriff. He claimed that the county violated his First Amendment rights and his rights as a California law enforcement officer.
In that same month, Mr. Lopez was charged with election-related felonies, including allegations of conspiracy, forgery, fraud, perjury and embezzlement; the charges allege the he misrepresented his town of residence as Redwood City in order to obtain a loan, signed documents that claimed he was a resident of San Mateo County when he was not, and used campaign funds for personal purposes unrelated to his run for office.
In an echo of his Superior Court lawsuit, his federal complaint alleges a conspiracy to deprive him of his rights by employees in the Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney's Office and the Elections Office. He seeks $10.3 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages.
Other defendants are Los Angeles County, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the city of Torrance, California, Sheriff's Office Detective Andy Armando, and Jordan Boyd and William Massey, inspectors with the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.
Mr. Lopez is represented in his federal lawsuit by attorney David Washington of Stockton.
Among Mr. Lopez's allegations:
■ Elections Office employees foiled his efforts to become a registered candidate. (Mr. Lopez failed to file the necessary documents on time, and ran against Mr. Munks as a write-in candidate, meaning that Mr. Lopez's name was not on the ballot.) "The clerks acted as if it was funny," Mr. Lopez says of his efforts to register as a candidate. "They were laughing out loud."
■ Inspectors with the District Attorney's Office and the DMV conspired to have his driver's license taken away over a traffic citation in Southern California, apparently issued to someone with the same name. An inspector working for District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe at one point read Mr. Lopez his Miranda rights against self-incrimination, then proceeded to "verbally assault" him "in an attempt to coerce him to waive his rights," Mr. Lopez says.
■ Inspectors broke into Mr. Lopez's Newark home, battered down a bedroom door and damaged door frames despite Mr. Lopez having given them his house keys.
■ Officers and an inspector harassed his fiancee and her children during a search of her Redwood City home on the grounds of an election fraud investigation. Officers isolated his fiancee from the children in her care that day, and questioned them aggressively without her being present.
■ Fremont police and a San Mateo County DA's Office inspector arrested Mr. Lopez at gunpoint as if he were dangerous on charges of conspiracy for allegedly bringing a cellphone and drugs into the San Mateo County jail.
"It seems that Mr. Lopez is trying to resurrect the same frivolous claims he has made in the past," said attorney David Silberman of the San Mateo County Counsel's Office.
"The idea that the Elections Office should have violated the rules and accepted his elections paperwork and that it chose not to do so because of some sort of conspiracy to favor the sheriff is preposterous. And it is telling that he fails to allege a single fact supporting it."
A preliminary hearing on the lawsuit is set for Nov. 17 in San Francisco before Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte.