L.A. County Sheriff’s Department investigating incident involving court spokeswoman

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has launched an internal affairs investigation into why a deputy acting as a bailiff detained and handcuffed a Superior Court spokeswoman Tuesday inside a downtown courtroom, officials said.

Vania Stuelp, the deputy public information officer, was handcuffed by the sheriff’s deputy after she refused to leave the area usually occupied by attorneys and follow the deputy’s directions, said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department. Stuelp was not arrested, Whitmore said.

The court was not in session at the time.

Court officials declined to comment.


The incident occurred shortly before 9 a.m. when Stuelp became concerned that a TV crew was violating court regulations, Whitmore said.

Stuelp informed the crew that it could not film in the courtroom and requested that it turn over the footage. “She walked into the well area,” Whitmore said.

A deputy district attorney objected to her presence, but Stuelp insisted she had the right to be there, Whitmore said. The prosecutor asked the sheriff’s deputy to deal with the issue. The deputy tried to move everyone from the courtroom into the hallway to resolve the matter, Whitmore said.

But Stuelp repeatedly refused to leave. The deputy then “put his hand on her arm to escort her out.” At that point, she was “detained, handcuffed and sat down in the court,” Whitmore said.

A sheriff’s sergeant arrived and recognized her as the court spokeswoman and directed that she be released, Whitmore said.

Stuelp later sought medical treatment, two sources said.