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Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Captain Under Investigation Following Claims of Sexual Misconduct by Deputy

Retired Chief Ronnie Williams and retired Capt. Anthony Ward are also being investigated, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

The captain of the sheriff's Malibu-Lost Hills station is under investigation for allegedly sexually harassing a subordinate, but the official strongly denied the allegations.

The Los Angeles Times reported on its website today that Capt. Joseph Stephen Jr. will resign in the midst of the investigation into claims by a female deputy who is on leave, without pay, because of unrelated felony vandalism and misdemeanor battery charges.

The newspaper's web site reported that Stephen resigned, but the department's spokesman disputed that in an interview with City News Service.

On Friday, Stephen told The Times that the woman's allegations were "absolutely, unequivocally" untrue, but declined to say if he had a sexual relationship with the deputy. "I don't want to get into that," The Times quoted him as saying.

Stephen also told the newspaper he never directly supervised the female deputy, whose name was not published, The Times said. "She's trying to save her own skin." Stephen was quoted as saying to The Times. "She's trying to lash out and see what sticks.

Adding to the situation is that the female deputy who made the claim is the daughter of a top aide to Sheriff Lee Baca, The Times reported. Citing common journalism ethics policies that protect those who allege sexual harassment, The Times did not print her name.

The newspaper reported on its web site later today that Stephen had decided to quit.

But the sheriff's spokesman refuted that. "That was an inaccurate report," Steve Whitmore, spokesman for sheriff Lee Baca, told City News Service at midday.

"That's one of his options. He has not decided what to do," Whitmore told CNS. "He is still a captain of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department."

Stephen did confirm to The Times on Friday that he was one of the targets of the probe and had been questioned by investigators Friday. He denied any wrongdoing.

The deputy female reportedly alleges that she was coerced into sexual relationships by Stephen, retired Chief Ronnie Williams and recently-retired Capt. Anthony Ward. The Sheriff's Department is investigating the deputy's allegations, and Stephan and Williams vigorously contest the claims.

Ward could not be reached by the newspaper.

Stephen comes from a family of officers, most notably his father, Joseph Stephen Sr., who retired in 1990 and served with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for 30 years, according to a Calabasas Patch profile of Stephen published in 2010.

Stephen started as a lieutenant with the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff Station in 2005 and assumed command in January of 2010, succeeding Capt. Tom Martin.

"I'm at the back end of my career. It will be 26 years this month, and it has been a wonderful experience," Stephen told Patch after being asked in 2010 what was next for him.

Andy Cohen January 14, 2013 at 02:38 AM
Shame on the Sheriffs Department for saying Captain Stephen has resigned when it was not true, and then having to say they were wrong. How do you make a mistake like that with one of your high ranking officials? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Everyone is entitled to a fair hearing, but incidents like this are very often proven to be unfounded charges by disgruntled employees, and in this case by a former employee who has been charged with a felony. Investigations like this should be dealt with in private, and only publicized if the person charged in found guilty. Not fair to try a long time outstanding Sheriff's Captain in the media with no due process.
Linda Vallejo January 14, 2013 at 03:48 AM
If story is true, doesn't surprise me & I'm not basing it on headline. I had consistent dealings with Lost Hills Sheriffs Dept. for several years regarding Mitrice Richardson case. She was last seen & found in my neighborhood. Anyone who had contact with Steve Whitmore, knows that he is the front man for Sheriff Baca, parroting whatever he's told to cover up. Truthful is not a word I would use describing him/anyone at that station & I don't say this lightly. I spoke at Malibu Council Mtg last year regarding LASD policy change releasing women. Capt. Stephens blatantly lied when asked if there was a phone in the lobby. Another Malibu resident challenged his lie & told council that there was no phone, only an outline on the wall of a phone (which I also saw). Stevens started back peddling when questioned by the council. You can view hi lie on Council video meetings. Stephens lied re this & that they allow the released to keep their cell phone. If this is true about capt. stevens & his henchmen I am not the least surprised. The last capt. Martin was also a proven liar hiding Mitrice tape for 5 mo. in his drawer & denying its existence. If Stephens was forced to resign, Whitmore would cover their a__. They have to protect their cash cow - Malibu. Remember the 3 different accounts they released regarding the Guido's employee Ivan Rodas? It took them that long changing their story. For years, this station has always had a back story that they keep hidden. Pride cometh before a fall.
Laney January 14, 2013 at 03:56 AM
Regardless of the story changing, I still think it was irresponsible to put out an email with the headline "Captain resigns" when the link it was linked to showed new information.
Marshall Thompson January 14, 2013 at 04:57 AM
I have spoken with Capt. Stevens many times at Malibu events and privately. He impresses me as a capable leader and an honorable man from an outstanding family. I recommend holding fire on wild opinions until the facts are known.
ronda hampton January 14, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Linda - thank you. I think that people are complicated and that it takes multiple dealings with a person to fully assess who they are. Capt. Stephen is a complicated man and while I will reserve my opinion on the current situation that he is in I will share that he is the man who stated to me that the mural was "artwork" and would not consider the sexual overtones, the racial overtones or even consider that it was related to Mitrice Ricardson - see link: https://sites.google.com/site/findmitrice/the-mural
ronda hampton January 14, 2013 at 03:06 PM
I think we should always wait until the facts are known - innocent until proven guilty.
Linda Vallejo January 14, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Hi Rhonda! I believe innocent until proven guilty also - but I also said I would not be surprised at anything that goes on in that dept. Sometimes things are not as a person portrays them to be -- and that goes in either direction. Even if Stephens does not think mural is racial, a person has to blind not to see that it has sexual ovetones. Actually it's not even overtones - it is blatant. Is he kidding? These are not fine art Rembrandts. You and I know this and it doesn't take a therapist to figure it out. This story will be verrry interesting to follow.
ronda hampton January 14, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Agreed Linda! This story is going to be very interesting to follow and I will definitely be following. I believe his comments about the mural were disingenuous, there is no way he believes that the mural was not offensive. But if he truly does see it as artwork then I questions his respect for women. Using the word "hoe" to describe women is offensive in my opinion and I cannot believe that he does not feel the same.
Linda Vallejo January 14, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Rhonda, my background is in art as a painter. As an artist there are many styles of art, however, this sexually derogative mural depicting women is so explicit that I am amazed that ANY man would not call it so -- maybe we should take a survey. I suppose it is not gang related either according to the Capt, The LASD will go to any lengths to protect their cash cow, Malibu - even more than protect the people. I personally know this for a fact. It seems the only deputies worth anything there, are the rookies (or as these guys referred to themselves "the guys lowest on the totem poles". They came to my house during the Mitrice disappearance & were GREAT - they were looking for her even on their own time. The rest of the bunch are ...... I also find it interesting that Stephens is resigning after he was quoted saying in 2010 "that he was up for the challenge" after he was brought in to replace capt, Martin. Stephens was brought in to quiet the noise regarding Mitrice, since he was the first black Capt, that Lost Hills ever had. (there is a back story to this also). Now 2 yrs later he is resigning after he was just made Capt. in 2010 & was up for the challenge? Well, I guess these allegations are some of the challenges that go with the job.
ronda hampton January 14, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Just in case people did not see the mural: https://sites.google.com/site/findmitrice/the-mural
robert January 15, 2013 at 12:23 PM
I am so sorry about the Mitrese tradgedy, however this is not related to Captain Steven. He was not Captain during the Mitrese tradgedy. There was nothing he could have done. I have had many occasions to meet Captain Steven ,and I can tell you he is one of the finest human beings I have ever met. A role model to young and old.He genuinely cares about people and justice. This shouldn't even be discussed with all sorts of erroneous misreporting. When the truth comes out , I hope Captain Steven and apologies. Someone that has given their live to serve the public, and made it up to Captain certainly deserves a little more credit . Don't ya think ? Let's get the facts here , and give this outstanding man his due process for goodness sake.
ronda hampton January 15, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Robert I am fully aware of who Captain Stephen is as I have also met him on many occasions. I was first introduced to him at a meeting with Lee Baca and former Captain Tom Martin. At that meeting, Captain Martin, who has also been described as a fine man admitted that he had lied for months about a video tape that he claimed did not exist but at that meeting had to admit that he had it hid in his desk the entire time. At that meeting Captain Stephen was introduced as the possible new Captain to replace Martin after he was promoted - interesting that Captain Martin was promoted after publically lying in a relatively high profile case and hiding important information. At that meeting I was told that Captain Stephen would take over aspects of the investigation of what happened to Mitrice. He participated in many aspects of her case and oversaw the handling of various aspects of her investigation. I give credit where it is due and while I will not attempt to take away from your experience with Captain Stephen please do not take away from mine. I do not see him in the same light as you. I don't not see him as an admirable man, I have found some of his behaviors unscrupulous, arrogant and demeaning to women. I believe that he could have been much more helpful in Mitrice's case and he was not. I do not trust him and do not see him as outstanding; however, all are innocent until proven guilty - I would be surprised if he was innocent and will apologize if I am wrong.
Linda Vallejo January 15, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Robert - I just checked records. Mitrice disappeared Sept. 2009. Capt. Stephens assumed his position as captain in early February 2010 -- 5 months after her disappearance (after the videotapes that Capt. Martin insisted did not exist were found in his desk drawer & as a result he was transferred out). Mitrice was found Aug. 2010. Capt. Stephens was captain throughout the main investigation Mitrice. It was under his command at the station that the moving of Mitrice's remains occurred after the Coronor's Dept. had explicitly told the Lost Hills Dept. NOT TO MOVE HER REMAINS. As a result they bungled the investigation under his command. The LASD then proceeded to try to lie their way out & say the Coroner's Dept. gave them permission - then they said they had no cell phone reception. I was standing right next to one of their deputies who was was talking just fine on his phone. I was there when they airlifted her out. So, yes innocent until proven guilty - I was just clearing those facts for you.
robert January 15, 2013 at 08:48 PM
Rhonda and Linda, Fair Enough ... As you have said, I am just stating what I have witnessed regarding the Captain . I have a very different perspective based on my experiences. Innocent until proven guilty ... the truth will come out . respectfully, Robert
Laney January 16, 2013 at 10:21 PM
Thanks for posting the mural video. I realize I'm behind here & still digesting it. Wow.
Linda Vallejo January 16, 2013 at 10:58 PM
Hi Laney ~ The best account was written by Mike Kessler for Los Angeles Magazine the first week in Sept. 2011. I think that was the yr. It is the most concise and gives verified insight to the LASD re Mitrice.
M. Hows January 21, 2013 at 04:39 PM
I have had numerous dealings with Captain Stephen with respect to community events. He consistently struck me as intelligent, straight forward and respectful of everyone around him (including those who just want to rant against the sheriff's department.) The accuser is seriously lacking in credibility. I mean seriously--three high ranking sheriff's officials "coerced" her into sexual relationships? Even if it were true, she's after all a grown woman and theoretically qualified to carry a gun and make life and death decisions, yet isn't capable of saying "no?" And I don't suppose her wild accusations have anything to do with the felony charges for assault and vandalism in San Bernardino have anything with her trying to throw around wild accusations.
M. Hows January 21, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Facinating, but how is this relevant to the issue at hand? Or do you think that this man's career should be destroyed based on unproven allegations just because you don't like the handling of the Mitrice investigation?
Michael Hooker January 21, 2013 at 04:58 PM
For all of those who think that he, Captain Stephens, will get a fair shake in this matter, do not know much about the process. When there is a claim of sexual harrassment, he will be thrown under the bus. The County would rather defend a wrongful termination case, than pay out damages on a valid or bogus sexual harrassment lawsuit.. Knowing Joe Stephens for more than a decade, he was and is still is a person of great integrity. Will the truth about the complaintant ever surface, I would venture a guess that it will never happen... Read the book, Bonfires of the Vanity, and you will see how this story will play out. Joe will be pictured as the bad guy, and the female deputy will be pictured as this poor, picked on embodiedment of virtue of the community. I have never seen someone so involved in this community, as he was.... those attending any of the events at the station are there to backup my support of Joe Stephens.
ronda hampton January 21, 2013 at 06:08 PM
There is so much more to this story and I truly hope that it all comes out, many will be surprised.
Linda Vallejo January 21, 2013 at 09:03 PM
I heard it's only the tip of the iceberg ~ what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas. We'll have to wait and see.
M. Hows January 22, 2013 at 03:57 AM
Did you read the story? He IS NOT resigning. And it is incredibly racist of you to suggest that the only reason he was made captain is because he is Black. The sheriff's department is incredibly competitive and the captain worked hard and earned his position. Please don't let your biases judge him before the facts are even out.
M. Hows January 22, 2013 at 05:17 AM
Oh really, you heard? Since this is an internal investigation, I very seriously doubt that you are in a position to be receiving inside information. Gossip does not qualify you to get onto a public comment section and start insinuating that the allegations are true. Pathetic.
ronda hampton January 22, 2013 at 05:25 AM
Well, there are certainly conflicting stories over rather or not he has resigned or not. If you were to call the Sheriff's department, they appear to be taking the 5th. At this point there is no confirmation on what his status is. By first reports he did resign and then that quickly changed and now he has turned in his car and keys and no one can seem to answer the question as to where he is.
ronda hampton January 22, 2013 at 05:31 AM
M. Hows - the Patch is not the only source of information. If you were following the story you would have read: http://malibusurfsidenews-blog.blogspot.com/2013/01/publishers-notebook_16.html#links
M. Hows January 22, 2013 at 06:04 AM
OK, read the racist rant. Still doesn't say anything of substance that would justify your snarky little insinuations. Just saying...
Linda Vallejo January 22, 2013 at 06:16 AM
Mr. Hows - you don't know anything about me, or any of the issues I have investigated over the last several years, so don't assume that I'm some bored, flighty housewife, laying on the beach, who has nothing better to do than to hear & spread gossip. Just because I said "I heard" doesn't necessarily mean that it's hearsay. Just MAYBE it is a safe way of not incriminating anyone. Let's wait and see what facts come in. Above, you asked how this has any bearing on the Mitrice case. It may or may not -- except for the fact that it definitely exposed his character. Read L.A. Magazine first week in Sept. 2010 or 2011, the Mitrice story by award-winning journalist Mike Kessler. It is factual from beginning to end - I know, I lived there and through it every day for several years. He records immense insight to the Lost Hills Dept. - from the top dog on down. Do the research and then you may start wondering too. Meeting someone with their game face on, a couple of times in a community setting is not enough to observe consistent character. Steve Whitmore does all the clean-up for LASD - that is a known FACT. Not everything that glitters is gold. Hope all the parties are innocent, but it would not surprise me in the least if otherwise.
Linda Vallejo January 22, 2013 at 06:37 AM
M. Hows -- Racist rant?! I'm a little confused about your referral to Anne Soble and her newspaper article. Are you kidding me? She's one of the best and the most persistent reporters in Malibu. Lost Hills Sheriff's Dept. has had the reputation of being rascist and anti-Semitic for decades -- do your the research before you argue this point. Lost Hills has never had a black captain and probably never would. The only reason Capt. Stephen was given that position was to quiet the storm that would not go away regarding Mitrice. Thanks to Anne Soble and the rest of us. Please do your homework -- there's plenty of factual sources on this -- and it might save a woman's life in the future.
M Stanley January 23, 2013 at 06:51 AM
LA Times is again reporting that Stephens is out - wonder if they got it right this time? http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/01/malibu-sheriffs-captain-relieved-of-duty.html
Leah138 March 01, 2013 at 12:55 PM
Does anyone know if Mitrese's clothes were tested for DNA evidence? (the clothes found with her remains)..

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