Riverside Sheriff Won’t Apologize for Smearing Councilwoman Cervantes

Elected leaders have demanded an apology from Riverside Sheriff Chad Bianco after he accused a council member of participating in vandalism outside the county courthouse — a claim the council member vehemently denies.

Bianco made his accusations following an abortion rights protest last month. During the demonstration, a group of people defaced the county courthouse with green paint.

Riverside Councilwoman Clarissa Cervantes says she drove by the protest that day, briefly asked Riverside police what was going on, and went on her way. The police department says body camera footage confirms she was only there for a few minutes. Rosy Cortez, an artist who was with Cervantes that day, also supported Cervantes’ account.

But the next day, in a public Facebook post, Bianco claimed Cervantes was there supporting the vandalism.

“You are lucky we couldn’t arrest you,” the sheriff wrote

Since Bianco’s unfounded accusations, Cervantes says her office has received threats and harassment.

“For myself, it’s extremely concerning and alarming that our sheriff would put my life in harm’s way and my family by extension. I have a daughter,” said Cervantes, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times.

A group of lawmakers — including the councilwoman’s sister, Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside), Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), and Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside) — have called on Bianco to apologize.

“It is reprehensible for our county’s chief law enforcement officer to recklessly publish false and inflammatory statements that place people in immediate danger and compromise the safety of fellow elected officials and their families,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

A spokesman for the sheriff’s office said he will not apologize. The Facebook post has not been removed.