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L.A. County got a restraining order against a foul-mouthed gadfly. He denies making threats

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For Armando Herman, the July 11 L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting was a typical outing.

He called an attorney a “dum dum” and an “Uncle Tom.” During a discussion on the upcoming Olympics, he accused a supervisor of fostering a Holocaust. He used an expletive 25 times, a gay slur twice and a racial epithet once. And he did much of it with a swastika pinned to his back.

Aside from labeling the diatribes as “off topic,” there was little the supervisors could do to stop Herman, 56, an infamous gadfly at both L.A. city and county meetings. His ugly remarks were protected by the 1st Amendment.

“You’re abusing my time,” he responded after one interjection from Board Chair Janice Hahn. “You need to stop that.”

“You’re abusing my ears,” she shot back.

Supervisor Janice Hahn at County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors meeting.

Supervisor Janice Hahn at an L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 3.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A week later, county officials accused Herman of crossing a line by sending vulgar, threatening emails to four of the five members of the all-female board of supervisors. The emails, the officials argued, went beyond what is allowable under free speech protections. A judge agreed, barring Herman last month from attending board meetings in person for three years — although he is still allowed to speak by phone.

Herman insists he didn’t send the emails.

Inflammatory commentators like Herman, who gleefully indulge in hate speech, have been a continual source of disgust for local public officials. Sometimes, the commentators are forced to leave meetings when they act disruptively, such as shouting from the audience or speaking beyond the time limit — but the ban doesn’t extend to future meetings.

In a few instances, officials have obtained restraining orders requiring a critic to stay away from their homes, cars and offices. In 2019, the city of Los Angeles got three separate restraining orders against Herman after he allegedly threatened Deputy City Attorney Strefan Fauble, Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners Executive President Richard Tefank and City Council President Paul Krekorian.

The city also got a restraining order in 2016 against vocal critic Wayne Spindler after he submitted racially incendiary drawings at a public meeting and labeled then-City Council President Herb Wesson with a racial slur.

In each case, a judge allowed Herman and Spindler to continue attending public meetings as long as they stayed 10 yards from the public official.

The newest order against Herman is unusual in barring him from setting foot inside the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration — including during the board’s weekly meetings.

In their petitions for temporary restraining orders, filed July 17, Supervisors Holly Mitchell, Hilda Solis, Kathryn Barger and Hahn each said they had received an email from Herman a few days earlier. Each email asked whether the supervisor would like the sender to “eat her delicious p— at [address],” including the supervisor’s home address in both the subject line and body of the message. The emails were sent from the address “armandoherman@proton.me.”

“l have done my best to tolerate his offensive and vulgar comments and behavior at the public meetings, but his recent email is deeply troubling and an escalation of his behavior that has me concerned for my safety,” Hahn wrote in her petition. “The comments and threats in the email are highly vulgar, deeply offensive, and when coupled with the fact that he tracked down my home address and included it with his comments, I am greatly concerned for my safety.”

The petition from Solis cites other instances in which staffers say they were harassed by Herman. That harassment culminated in July, staffers say, when Herman sent the email to Solis and a text message to one of her field deputies threatening sexual violence.

Herman, who is listed in court documents as a Hacienda Heights resident, denied sending the text and emails, writing in a court filing that he had never seen the email address where the messages originated. He included a complaint that he said he sent to the FBI alleging that he was being set up. He did not specify whether he had a suspect in mind.

“Someone is attempting to impersonate me with the goal of having sanctions placed on me, stripping me of my constitutional rights of attending board hearings,” he wrote. “I am a known activist with a foul mouth, but I have never sent the messages that they alleged that I sent.”

Herman, who was not represented by an attorney in the proceeding, did not respond to several calls for comment. Asked in a text message about his statements that he never sent the emails, he wrote, “Yes , TRUE THEY ARE trying and doing!” but did not respond to follow up messages.

Senior Deputy County Counsel Kent Sommer wrote in a Sept. 7 court filing that the “content, threats and vulgarity” in the emails was “entirely consistent with Mr. Herman’s demonstrated language and conduct” towards the supervisors.

After the court granted the county’s request for a temporary restraining order, Judge Gary Eto issued a permanent order on Sept. 14, barring Herman from going within 100 yards of the four supervisors’ homes, workplaces or cars.

The permanent order also barred Herman from going in person to any public meetings in the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration for three years.

The next meeting he could attend would be Sept. 13, 2026. However, he can still speak at meetings during phone-in public comments.

David Loy, legal director of the First Amendment Coalition, said that even the most offensive speech spewed in city and county public meetings is considered protected speech. However, he said, these protections do not extend to legitimate threats.

“He could be a Democrat, Republican, Nazi, Communist — it doesn’t matter what his point of view is,” said Loy. “What’s relevant is if there’s genuine or true threats to cause harm, unrelated to his politics or ideology.”

Last week, a judge issued an order requiring that Donald Harlan, a frequent speaker at City Council meetings, stay at least 100 yards away from Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, his home, his office and his car.

The case stems from a Sept. 8 council meeting where Blumenfield ordered Harlan removed for yelling from the audience.

After being told to leave, Harlan got up and pointed at Blumenfield, screaming: “Bob, you’re f— dead you f— Jew! I’m going to f— kill all your f— Jewish f— people!”

Harlan, listed in court records as a resident of L.A.’s Westlake neighborhood, is still allowed to attend council meetings in person and speak, but he must stay at least 10 yards from Blumenfield. In a legal declaration, Blumenfield said Harlan had made other anti-Semitic comments earlier this year, during a celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month at City Hall.

“These characters who flit in and out …. are mostly there to be disruptive. They enjoy it.” said Eric Preven, a gadfly whose running commentary is pointed yet civil. “Most of the time you just have to take it.”

Occasionally, however, the casual use of hate speech has caused an uproar among audience members.

A uniformed officer confrongt a woman who points toward her and a man raises his arms.

Yvonne Michelle Autry, center, is ejected from a City Council meeting on Sept. 18, 2018, while fellow attendee Armando Herman waves his arms.

(Los Angeles Times)

In August, after Herman uttered an anti-Black slur, an activist with Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles demanded that council members have him ejected from the room. As Herman continued to give his remarks, audience members chanted, “Cut his mic! Cut his mic!”

“I understand that the language is offensive,” responded Jonathan Groat, a deputy city attorney. “Nobody condones this. But he legally is entitled to give his public comment.”

Two protesters were eventually ordered to leave the room for yelling, even as Herman continued speaking at the podium.

“The longer we disrupt him, the longer he’s gonna be up here,” Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson told the audience.

While Herman is barred from county meetings, he has remained a reliable presence at City Hall, hurling slurs and epithets and at times using fake foreign accents in ways that target various racial and ethnic groups. He sometimes makes loud bleating noises and has his small dog in tow. He rarely says anything substantive.

On Friday, when Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky — who is Jewish — called Herman’s name at a committee meeting, he arrived at the podium and said, “Thank you, Jew.” At one point, he said Yaroslavsky and Blumenfield were “f— Jews.” At another, he called council members “fucking c—.” He also used the N-word.

“I hope god kills you,” Herman said, punctuating his statement with a profanity.

Yaroslavsky ordered Herman to be removed from the room, not because of the language, but because, among other things, his remarks were off-topic. “Get him out of here, he’s out,” she said.

“We apparently are required to listen to this because of lawsuits,” Yaroslavsky told the audience.

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