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Sandoval's 'Godfather' video from a conference
A video of Yuma County sheriff candidate Rick Sandoval comparing the success of his El Centro Department of Homeland Security office with “The Godfather” is a training film, with the parallel to the violent mob saga drawn in jest, Sandoval said.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson in San Diego confirmed that the video was part of a management training conference. Sandoval said he could not attend the conference, which was more than a year ago, because he had just broken his leg, so a DHS agent came to his Yuma home and shot the video of his speech to show attendees.
The short video has drawn the disapproving attention of people opposed to Sandoval and his run for the county's top law enforcement seat — as seen in many of the online comments to a Yuma Sun article appearing earlier this week. That article reported Sandoval's charge that his opponent, Leon Wilmot, had violated federal law by running for sheriff before stepping down from his chief deputy position at the sheriff's office.
In the three-and-a-half minute video, Sandoval gives a monologue about how his office is run the way Vito Corleone ran his criminal enterprise in the iconic books and films. He appears to be addressing peers and also mentions a conference. He is sitting in a chair, wearing pajamas.
“Reason I'm in pajamas, I just broke my femur” after accidentally falling off a short retaining wall in his yard, he said.
The video was posted to YouTube on Sept. 13 by a user named “Paul Stevens,” who joined the video-sharing site three days before posting the clip, the only one posted to YouTube by that account. The video is titled “Rick Sandoval's Leadership Philosophy” and the description reads “THE REAL RICK SANDOVAL.”
The video was shot at Sandoval's Yuma home in spring of 2011 when he was still working in executive management at DHS. He said he learned from Wilmot himself — and Wilmot confirms this — that his challenger had a copy of the video in early April when Wilmot mailed him a disc. This was before Sandoval launched his run for sheriff, but rumors had been circulating, he said.
Wilmot said the disc with the video showed up on his desk from an unknown person and he gave it to Sandoval because “we do not participate in politics in this agency.”
Sandoval said the video wasn't scripted, but it did come at the suggestion of an ICE colleague in San Diego who wanted a “Godfather” theme.
“They wanted me to do an impersonation of Marlon Brando,” said Sandoval, but the painkillers he was on after recently being released from the hospital nixed that.
Alluding to “Godfather” characters while talking about leadership, “... the key to everything is that our office is run almost like the Corleone family — ‘The Godfather.' I don't claim to be the Godfather, but we don't put up with no Fredos in our office. We try to make sure everybody is at least Michael Corleone or Sonny or Tom, (the) consigliere.” (Fredo was the weakest of the Corleone sons and a traitor, while Michael, Sonny and Tom were trusted.)
He goes on with the motif by saying the size of his staff “instills fear” in fellow law enforcement agencies (“the families”) in the Imperial Valley and can “influence” investigations, which he clarified as meaning his employees were helpful and cooperative.
As for what message people take away from the video, both candidates said they cannot control what people will ultimately believe.
Sandoval said the video was an internal government document, and he reported the video's release to DHS' internal affairs department in El Centro for investigation. In addition, Sandoval campaign manager Steve Mercado posted a defense of the video on Sandoval's campaign website, showing his own umbrage.
Hillary Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.