Sheriff's deputy won't be charged in domestic violence case but remains on leave as department probes video

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy at the center of controversy after a YouTube video showed him inside his patrol car ignoring a shooting call won’t face charges in a separate incident in which he was accused of domestic violence.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office declined to prosecute Deputy Jeremy Joseph Fennell in the Jan. 25 domestic violence arrest, citing insufficient evidence of a crime. The decision not to charge Fennell, 26, was filed last week and was revealed by prosecutors Tuesday.

Fennell, however, remains relieved of duty because of a pending administrative investigation into his conduct on the YouTube video, in which he is seen ignoring a call about a shooting while recording a personal message to his ex-girlfriend. The video was condemned by Sheriff Jim McDonnell as very disturbing and behavior not reflecting the department’s values.

The ex-girlfriend, who was also involved in the domestic violence incident, posted it several months ago along with other videos of Fennell in his patrol car during their relationship.

Sheriff’s Capt. Darren Harris said the department, with the closure of the criminal probe into Fennell, will now conduct a separate administrative probe into the domestic violence allegations.

Those allegations are detailed in a declination memo by Deputy Dist. Atty. Mario Coto-Lopez.

He wrote that the woman alleged the attack occurred in the early hours of Jan. 25. The woman told investigators Fennell used his fingers to jab and strike at her throat as they argued in a bedroom. Once inside a bathroom, she alleged, the deputy grabbed hold of her wrist and twisted it. The woman said that after she made 911 calls, she spoke to a friend on the phone.

As she spoke to that friend, the woman alleged, Fennell interrupted the conversation, “grabbed her arm and twisted her wrist again,” according to the prosecutor’s declination memorandum.

The prosecutor said that in reviewing the potential domestic violence charge he examined police reports, photos, audio transcripts from the woman and other witnesses related to the incident in Lakewood.

The woman had “a slight ½ inch discoloration to the left side of the neck, a burn-type rash like mark to the right side of the neck, a 1 cm bruise to the right wrist, a ¼ inch slight abrasion to the right upper chest,” the prosecutor noted.

Fennell, according to the prosecutor, declined to provide a statement to investigators. The prosecutor said there were contradictory statements and some witnesses’ accounts helped a claim of self-defense or mutual combat.

“As presented, the evidence depicts a ‘one-on-one’ factual scenario with minimum, insufficient corroboration from witness accounts and photos of victim’s injuries,” Coto-Lopez concluded.

Fennell’s attorney's office declined to comment on either the video or the domestic violence allegations.

The document does not identify the woman. But Priscilla Anderson, who posted several videos of Fennell, said she was the victim in the arrest.

Anderson's attorney, Ben Meiselas, said in a statement: “The decision is an embarrassment, a miscarriage of justice, and has exhausted what little credibility remains in the DA’s ability to handle cases involving police misconduct. Once again, the DA has given de facto immunity to the police.”

Anderson previously told The Times that Fennell had choked her and pointed his department-issued gun at her, stating, “I can't live like this.”

“I was scared,” Anderson said. “I felt very terrified. Everything was all over the place; my nerves, I was crying, I didn’t know what to do and how to react to it.”

“After I was able to leave and go home, I knew he wasn’t going to stop,” she said. “He continued to call me after I had left, and I needed to go ahead and do something more.” She got a restraining order in February. Anderson also began posting videos of Fennell’s conduct on duty that he sent her.

In the main YouTube video, the deputy is in uniform, wearing sunglasses and sitting inside his patrol car, recording a message for Anderson when a radio call of a shooting comes through. The deputy pauses to hear the call before speaking to the camera.

“Someone is getting shot right now, damn…. I know I got to go, but I’m not going to go because you’re mad. So I’m not going to go,” Fennell says in the video.

“Someone’s getting shot — oh well … oh well … because I want to make things right with me and you first. Because you’re mad for no reason and you don’t need to be mad.”

richard.winton@latimes.com

Twitter: @lacrimes

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