A Los Angeles County sheriff’s lieutenant was charged Wednesday with domestic assault and false imprisonment for an incident involving his wife in Beverly Hills a year ago.
Prosecutors charged Lt. Howard Fuchs with both counts after he declined to press charges in January because the alleged victim would not cooperate, according to a criminal complaint and internal district attorney memo reviewed by The Times.
In a statement Thursday, the LA County District Attorney’s Office cited video footage of the incident captured by security cameras and said the decision to press charges was made after “senior officials reviewed footage previously unviewed and have determined that we should press charges based on the totality of the evidence.”
Fuchs did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Thursday.
The charges stem from a September 2021 evening, when Fuchs had a “heated argument” with his wife and grabbed her as she tried to leave, according to a Beverly Hills police report reviewed by The Times. They had gone to dinner earlier and both had been drinking alcohol, according to the report. Fuchs had a gun with him.
A witness called the police because he saw the couple arguing. The witness also heard the woman tell Fuchs to leave her alone. The witness said he saw Fuchs aggressively grabbing his wife “everywhere,” according to the report. When asked to elaborate, the witness told police to watch video from security cameras in the area.
Video reviewed by officers shows Fuchs “aggressively grabbing” his wife within 10 minutes, according to the report.
The wife told police at the time that she did not believe Fuchs was trying to hurt her and that he had done nothing wrong. She had no visible injuries, according to the report.
Fuchs was a key member of the sheriff’s department narcotics team. After Fuchs was arrested and relieved of duty, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva pressured his command staff to bring him back to work, according to a lawsuit filed by Robin Limon, a former sheriff. deputy who is suing the department for retaliation.
Limon said in a legal filing that when it was suggested that Fuchs should return to work, she argued that the department should wait until criminal and administrative investigations into the lieutenant are complete, according to the legal filing.
Villanueva dismissed his concerns, saying his wife, who is involved in the department’s internal issues, “spoke to the employee’s wife and it was now ‘a big nothing,'” according to the filing. A few months later, the sheriff ordered Limon to bring Fuchs back, according to the filing.
Asked in an interview about the alleged swap in May, the sheriff’s wife, Vivian Villanueva, did not directly say whether she had discussed the incident with the lieutenant’s wife.
She said, “I know the woman.” …I had a private discussion with my husband that I don’t want to talk about. As far as I know, the whole legal process has gone through. I played no role in any criminal or administrative investigation.
The lieutenant’s wife told The Times that she did not discuss the incident with Vivian Villanueva. She said she had a verbal argument with her husband, who never hit or hurt her in any way, and that he “should never have been stopped”.
The two couples seem to have a friendship outside of work. Months before the lieutenant was arrested, his wife gave the Villanuevas a dog tag for their new dog, Simon, which read “Deputy Simon,” according to a photo of the gift on Villanueva’s Instagram.
Los Angeles Times