The captain of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff ’s Station has been removed from his post amid allegations of sexual misconduct, a sheriff’s department spokesperson confirmed Monday.
Capt. Joseph Stephen is the target of an internal investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after a female deputy accused Stephen and two other top sheriff’s officials of using their positions to coerce her into sexual relationships, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Steve Whitmore confirmed.
The Los Angeles Times first reported the story Saturday.
Two other LASD officials, retired Chief Ronnie Williams and Capt. Anthony Ward, are also under investigation. Stephen and Williams denied the charges, while Ward could not be reached for comment.
The female deputy is the daughter of “a top aide” of Sheriff Lee Baca, according to the report.
Assistant Sheriff James Hellmond told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday that Stephen and Ward “know our stance on inappropriate relations and they made the decision to resign immediately,” but Whitmore refuted that Monday in a telephone interview with The Malibu Times.
“He [Stephen] has not resigned,” Whitmore said. “But that is an option for him.”
Whitmore remained tight-lipped about Stephen’s future with the department and would not disclose whether Stephen had been reassigned to another station. He did confirm that Stephen remained active with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The probe is reportedly in the preliminary phase.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the female deputy is facing her own charges of misconduct. Court records show that she currently faces one felony charge of vandalism and misdemeanor counts of battery, to which she has pled not guilty, according to the report. She is reportedly on paid leave.
“She’s been relieved of duty and stripped of all power,” Whitmore said. “That is related to an arrest in San Bernardino County.”
Stephen could not be reached by The Malibu Times. In an interview Friday last week with the Los Angeles Times, he called the charges “absolutely, unequivocally” untrue and said the deputy is “trying to save her own skin,” but refused to say whether they had a sexual relationship.
“I don’t want to get into that,” Stephen said, according to the report.
Also accused are Capt. Anthony Ward, who commanded the department’s auto-theft unit, and retired Capt. Ronnie Williams, according to the Los Angeles Times report. Ward could not be reached for comment.
Williams, who retired four years ago, denied the charges outright and said that while the deputy was his “partial friend,” he never supervised her and their relations were never sexual.
“She never was assigned to my division. How could I coerce her to do anything?” Williams said, according to the report.
Lt. Matthew Squire has been put in charge of Malibu/Lost Hills temporarily while the station awaits a new captain.
“There will be a new captain in place at some point in the future,” Squire said in a telephone interview with The Malibu Times.
Squire steps in as a temporary leader after working at the Malibu/ Lost Hills Station as a deputy from 1991-2000 and returning as a lieutenant in 2011. In addition to Malibu, the station serves seven other municipalities, including the cities of Calabasas, Hidden Hills and Agoura Hills, and the unincorporated communities of Topanga, West Hills, Chatsworth Lake Manor and Malibou Lake.
Stephen, 51, took over as captain of the Malibu/Lost Hills Station in Jan. 2010. A native of Compton, he spent more than 27 years working in the department before becoming the local captain. He also worked as a detective, watch deputy and field training officer at the LASD’s Marina Del Ray station.
In 2000, Stephen was promoted to sergeant, and was stationed at the department’s Century City and Compton stations.
Stephen was promoted to lieutenant in 2005. In addition to serving at the Lost Hills/Malibu station as a lieutenant, Stephen also held assignments with the LASD’s Recruit Training Unit, Community College Bureau and the Office of the Undersheriff.
In a 2010 interview with The Malibu Times, Stephen said he had been happily married to his wife Sheila for 16 years.