Despite the County of Los Angeles’ strict coronavirus quarantine orders for non-essential business, Cherie Townsend, the Black woman wrongfully accused of murdering a wealthy retired nurse named Susan Leeds in 2018, has been ordered to attend a deposition Tuesday in her civil rights lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles. Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever because this is not an urgent case before the court right now.
And while former Sheriff Jim McDonnell and sheriff detectives have been given the courtesy to attend the deposition virtually, Townsend and her attorney Nazareth Haysbert have been ordered to appear in person under the threat of her case being dismissed if they do not.
“We should all be appalled and frightened that the County and the obviously biased Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian are ordering citizens of Los Angeles County into closed-door depositions at the height of a global pandemic and in spite of executive orders issued by local, state, and national governments warning citizens to stay at home or face fines and arrest if they do not comply,” said attorney Nazareth Haysbert. “How many other in-person depositions were ordered during this pandemic? Courts across the country are delaying trials and depositions and continuing discovery and trial deadlines but L.A. County has refused to do so with the support of the Courts putting many lives at risk for non-essential business. We asked the County for an extension until May 1 for her deposition. They refused.”
On March 27, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order allowing the Judicial Branch to allow for remote depositions in every case (the law had previously required that parties be deposed in person) and electronic service of process.
Townsend is suing the County for defamation, emotional distress, negligence, false arrest/imprisonment and violation of her civil rights — as she should.
My Los Angeles folks will remember that Cherie was falsely accused of murder by former Sheriff Jim McDonnell after visiting the Promenade on the Peninsula shopping center in Rolling Hills Estates on May 3, 2018, the same day retired nurse Susan Leeds was found in the driver’s seat of her Mercedes SUV stabbed to death. Cherie was subsequently arrested by the Sheriff’s Department for the murder but on May 22, 2018, after the Sheriff’s Department presented their evidence against Ms. Townsend to prosecutors, the District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges stating that there was not enough evidence to charge her with a crime and she was released without restrictions.
Townsend was put in jail for five days during which time Sheriff McDonnell, who was in the middle of facing two challengers in an election the following month, held a news conference where he identified Ms. Townsend as the murder suspect to the media. That part.
Asked if the announcement had been a mistake, McDonnell said, “No, I thought it was what we needed to do to be able to let the community know where we were on the case. There was a lot of interest in that case, certainly, and a lot of anxiety, and to the degree that we were able to provide some closure, some comfort to that community, we wanted to do that.”
Almost two years later, the murder is unsolved and the Sheriff’s Department still claims that Cherie is the lead suspect in the murder, although the County Board of Supervisors has issued a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect. In addition, they still have Cherie’s car in their property. A car that she had to continue making payments on although she doesn’t have it.
To date, Cherie is still dealing with the aftermath of being publicly accused of murder by the sheriff. She says that her entire life has changed and the lives of her two children. She lives in hiding and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD. Townsend says that she was an active parent involved in all of her children’s activities but that has stopped. She’s scared to be in public because she thinks that everyone looks at her like she’s a murderer and when she sees the police she gets nervous with fear.
As of now, Cherie Townsend and her attorney Nazareth Townsend are scheduled to come out of quarantine and appear in person for her deposition on Tuesday morning in Glendale. If she doesn’t, her lawsuit for wrongful arrest will most likely be tossed out by the judge.
Bring gloves, wear a mask.