Monday Morning Memo for December 12, 2016

Man on trial for Hollywood murder of woman from Morro Bay
A marijuana dispensary security guard is standing trial for the murder of Carrie Jean Melvin, 30, who grew up in Morro Bay. Melvin was shot and killed in Hollywood by a gunman who walked up behind her, fired one round into her face and fled. Prosecutors said 31-year-old Ezeoma Obioha, who also owns a clothing line, was the gunman. Obioha allegedly owed a debt to Melvin and was romantically interested in her.
Woman accused of embezzling $500K from employer used it for gambling
A woman arrested for allegedly embezzling $500,000 from her employer in Escondido, pleaded not guilty in court on Friday. Prosecutors say Sheila Jo Jackson, 46, was stealing the money from Betz Concrete to fuel a gambling addiction. She faces several felony charges including embezzlement by employee, forgery, grand theft and identity theft.
Prosecutors: Ex-Sheriff Lee Baca was ‘heartbeat’ of jail conspiracy
Former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca was “the heartbeat of conspiracy” when it came to hiding abuses within Men’s Central Jail, and he did nothing to hold deputies who beat inmates accountable, prosecutors said in federal court Wednesday. The remarks were part of opening statements during the first day of Baca’s jail corruption trial, held at the downtown L.A. federal courthouse.
Orange County D.A.’s office could be removed from high-profile murder case
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office, harshly criticized in a recent appellate court ruling for a systemic failure to protect defendants’ rights and under investigation by the state attorney general and the county grand jury, is facing a new legal challenge that could remove it from a second high-profile murder case in less than two years.
USC graduate student charged with professor’s killing
A USC graduate student who allegedly fatally stabbed a psychology professor on campus pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder charge. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gustavo N. Sztraicher ordered David Jonathan Brown, 28, to remain jailed on just over $2 million bail while awaiting a Dec. 19 hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require him to stand trial on a charge that he killed Siaufung “Bosco” Tjan inside the professor’s office.
Trial starts against alleged sex trafficker who told women he was Hollywood modeling agent
Taquarius Ford introduced himself to young women in shopping malls, showered them with compliments and asked if they’d be interested in a modeling career. He claimed he was a successful modeling executive from Hollywood and promised them future fame, paying for their flights to Los Angeles, where he wined and dined them and took them to red carpet events with celebrities.
Judge: Prosecutors can use Bill Cosby’s deposition at trial 
Damaging testimony that Bill Cosby gave in an accuser’s lawsuit, including admissions that he gave young women drugs and alcohol before sex, can be used at his criminal sex assault trial, a judge ruled Monday. The defense had insisted that Cosby only testified after being promised he wouldn’t be charged over his 2004 encounter with accuser Andrea Constand. But his lawyers at the time never had an immunity agreement or put anything in writing.
L.A. prosecutors are accusing four big retailers – JC Penney, Sears, Kohl’s and Macy’s – of tricking shoppers
The Los Angeles city attorney’s office has sued four big retailers, alleging  deceptive advertising that it says misled shoppers into believing that thousands of products were on sale at a hefty discount. The retailers – JC Penney, Sears, Kohl’s and Macy’s – falsely advertised high “list” or “regular” prices on merchandise that was never actually for sale at that price, according to the lawsuits filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Conviction & Sentencing
No death penalty in 1979 Glendale rape and murder
The prosecution announced it will no longer pursue the death penalty against a man convicted of murdering a young woman during a rape in Glendale 37 years ago. The decision by the District Attorney’s Office not to re-try the penalty phase of Darrel Mark Gurule’s trial comes less than two months after jurors deadlocked 10-2, with the majority favoring a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole rather than a death sentence for the convicted killer.
District Attorney
DA Jackie Lacey announces goals at oath of office ceremony
District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced she plans to focus more attention on protecting children from abuse and neglect and addressing the growing opioid abuse epidemic. She also said she plans to mandate elimination of bias training for all prosecutors. District Attorney Lacey made her remarks after being sworn in to her second four-year term as Los Angeles County’s 42nd District Attorney.
Are cops liable when they “provoke” violent encounters? SCOTUS may soon decide.
The US Supreme Court has decided to hear a case centering around liability for an officer-involved shooting in which the officers are accused of provoking the violence that occurred. On October 1, 2010, Members of the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s “COPS HIT” (Community-Oriented Policing Services High-Impact Team) reportedly entered a backyard shack where Angel Mendez, 30, and Jennifer Garcia, 27, were living.
Supreme Court grants review of 9th Circuit rule that endangers peace officers 
We welcome the decision of the United States Supreme Court to hear a 9th Circuit case involving two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies which poses important peace officer safety and civil liability issues. Using a “provocation” theory followed by no other federal courts, the 9th Circuit upheld the award of $4 million dollars to two persons wounded by deputies even though the court determined the use of force was reasonable under the Supreme Court standard in Graham v. Connor.
Comment about gang can’t be used as evidence, court rules
A San Francisco man, charged with taking part in the murder of the man who allegedly dragged a teenage relative into prostitution, won a federal appeals court ruling Monday barring evidence that he told a jailhouse deputy he was part of a gang. Antonio Gilton is one of four people charged with murdering Calvin Sneed, 22, of Compton (Los Angeles County) in June 2012.
Sex tape goes public if you don’t give me $2.5 million! Sports celeb’s lawsuit
A sports celebrity who anonymously sued a woman he claims is threatening to release a tape of them having sex unless he pays her $2.5 million won a round in court Tuesday when a judge issued a preliminary injunction and told the woman to surrender the tape to the court by Friday. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant’s order applies to the defendant, Elizabeth Ruiz, her former attorney and a sex tape broker.
Sex with girl, 13, by Roman Polanski: Poland nixes LA extradition
Efforts by Los Angeles prosecutors to bring back Roman Polanski to punish him for having had sex with a 13-year-old girl almost 40 years ago suffered a major setback when the Polish Supreme Court rejected a request by Poland’s government to extradite the Oscar-winning filmmaker. Polanski was arrested in 1977 on charges that included the rape of a 13- year-old girl at the home of actor Jack Nicholson.
Ballot Measures
Are criminal justice changes making California safer?
It has been a momentous decade for California crime-and-punishment. Once defined by tough sentencing laws and other strict policies that stuffed prisons to the point the feds intervened, the state has been moving steadily in the opposite direction. Many of those changes have emanated from the voters.
Prop. 57 sends minors on new path through court system
Weeks after voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 57, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office and prosecutors across the state have initiated their own policies concerning juvenile offenders who face criminal charges as adults. Under the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act, which took effect the day after the Nov. 8 election, prosecutors no longer have the ability to directly file complaints in adult court involving felony crimes allegedly committed by minors.
Study misses point of Prop. 13: Jon Coupal
A recent study published in Trulia, a website dedicated to housing issues, has raised eyebrows among those who follow Proposition 13. Indeed, the title of the study itself was marginally inflammatory: “The Taxpayer Revolt: Winners and Losers.” The study was written by Trulia’s chief economist, Ralph McLaughlin, a person who clearly has bona fides as a housing expert. Indeed, the study sets forth detailed data that those of us who are tax and housing wonks will surely appreciate.
Warriors coach Kerr says marijuana could ease pain
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr says marijuana didn’t help his chronic back pain, but he still thinks pro sports leagues must eventually reconsider their opposition to the drug. Kerr told CSN Bay Area that he experimented with marijuana a “few times” to help him cope with pain. Medicinal marijuana use has been legalized by the state of California, although it’s still illegal under US federal law and against the rules for players in the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball.
Retail marijuana for all? Not so fast …
We dare you to tell the difference between recreational pot and medical pot. The true distinction these days has to do with who’s allowed to sell it. Following reports that a few Los Angeles-area medical pot shops were opening their doors to anyone 21 or older, regardless of whether they have a doctor’s recommendation, the L.A. City Attorney’s office warned medical dispensaries that they face prosecution if they’re caught selling to the general public.
Legal California cannabis could deliver $1 billion in pot taxes. Here’s how they’ll spend it
It’s estimated that legalized recreational marijuana in California will deliver $1 billion in sales tax revenues annually to the state. Some of the target sources for the funds include research on the impacts on legalization, the development of roadside protocols to determine marijuana impairment, drug use prevention and treatment, programs for at-risk youth, law enforcement and waterways restoration.
Will legal pot shops be stymied by local politics?
wo efforts to fully legalize pot shops in L.A. are aiming for the March city ballot. Also on that ballot? A zoo of candidates, most of them long shots, running for City Council. Odd-numbered council districts 1 through 15 – a total of eight seats – are up for grabs. These dozens of hyperlocal candidates are largely concerned about down-the-block issues and will bring supporters – often older, more conservative Angelenos – to the polls.
Prosecutor, defender consider legal pot impact: Proposition 64 to affect San Mateo County courts by reducing or dismissing some criminal charges
Just one month into recreational marijuana becoming legalized in California, those most familiar with prosecuting and defending crime in San Mateo County are bracing for the effects of the new rules. Exactly how the laws sparked by Proposition 64 trickle down to the local courts has yet to be realized, but the district attorney and head of the private defender program are hopeful the impacts won’t be severe.
Prop. 64: Legalized marijuana may generate less tax than planned
Many medical marijuana patients were worried that a ballot measure legalizing cannabis for recreational use in California would make the price of their medicine go up. Instead, for some of them, pot just got cheaper, though maybe not for long. The Board of Equalization recently sent notice that anyone who has both a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana and a county-issued ID card identifying them as a patient no longer has to pay state sales tax thanks to Proposition 64.
Will the death penalty resume with Prop 66 passage, despite Jerry Brown’s opposition?
Although he has served as governor longer than anyone else in California history, Jerry Brown has never been forced to make one of the weightiest decisions governors face: whether to spare a convicted criminal from execution. California has executed more than 500 people, but the death penalty has been on hold pending legal challenges during both of Brown’s two-term stints as governor.
Assemblyman introduces bill to provide $500 tax deduction to combat crime
Assemblyman Marc Steinorth introduced legislation to help Californians defray the rising cost of combating crime. Steinorth’s Protect Our Homes Act (AB 54) will allow Californians to claim up to $500 in state income tax deductions for the cost of installing security alarms, fences, and surveillance systems.
California lawmakers want to reform a bail system they say ‘punishes the poor for being poor’
California lawmakers next year will make it a top priority to reform the system through which judges award criminal offenders bail, saying courts across the state are punishing “the poor for being poor.” Assemblyman Rob Bonta and Sen. Bob Hertzberg said they plan to fire the first salvo Monday, when lawmakers descend upon the Capitol for the start of the 2017 legislative session.
LA County Deputy DA assails danger of “Affordable Bail Act” reform
California state lawmakers are looking at reforming the bail system to help low-risk, low income suspected criminals stay out of jail, where, because of the overburdened court system, they are apt to languish, possibly losing their job and housing. Assemblyman Rob Bonta and Senator Bob Hertzberg are behind the legislation.
Attacks on police officers would be classified as hate crimes under California bill
Alarmed by a wave of shootings targeting police officers, state Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear) has introduced a bill that would make an attack on law enforcement a hate crime in California, allowing stiffer penalties for those convicted. Obernolte’s bill comes after a series of shootings that have left 62 law enforcement officers dead so far this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Law Enforcement
LAPD officer fined for leaking audio recording of ‘Django Unchained’ actress
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission ruled Tuesday that former Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Jim Parker violated city rules by releasing an audio tape of his conversation with a “Django Unchained” actress during her arrest in 2014, and fined him $500. Staff had recommended a fine of $10,000, but all four present members of the commission agreed that a more nominal fine was appropriate. Commissioner Ana Dahan was absent.
L.A. deputy accidentally shoots arson suspect
A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy accidentally shot an arson suspect as the man fought with deputies in front of his burning home in Paramount, authorities said Friday. When county firefighters pulled up to Rodolfo Martinez’s home Thursday afternoon, the house was engulfed in flames and Martinez was refusing to leave the building, officials said. Armed with a fire extinguisher, Martinez, 32, used it to fight off the firefighters trying to put out the blaze, said sheriff’s homicide Lt. John Corina, who is investigating the incident because a deputy fired a weapon.
The LAPD’s watchdog group is being investigated over a claim that it broke city ethics rules
Los Angeles ethics officials are investigating an allegation that the Police Department’s watchdog broke city ethics rules by showing a reporter a confidential document outlining the movements of a high-profile inmate who was in special protection. A lawyer representing Inspector General Alex Bustamante said he met with ethics investigators in recent weeks and had tried to resolve the case, which he said is ongoing.
McDonnell appoints new undersheriff La Berge, first since Tanaka’s ouster
Los Angeles County has introduced its new undersheriff Monday, nearly four years after its former undersheriff resigned in scandal. At a press conference Monday at the Hall of Justice, Jacques “Anthony” La Berge, the assistant sheriff in charge of patrol operations, accepted the role, which has been vacant since his predecessor, Paul Tanaka, resigned in March 2013.
Ambush shootings of police officers reach highest total in decades
Police officers across the country say they are taking new precautions in response to a spike in what they call “ambush-style” attacks against them. Cops are teaming up to respond to emergency calls, suiting up more often in ballistic vests and helmets, even taking greater care to monitor their surroundings while dining out, police officials from half a dozen cities who spoke with The Trace said.
State Government
Will Legislature follow or evade California’s new sunshine law?
Last month, California voters approved, by a nearly 2-1 margin, Proposition 54, which if faithfully followed would shine some light on the Capitol’s dark corners. Specifically, it would require any bill to be in print and published on the internet for 72 hours before facing final votes. It’s aimed at the common practice, particularly in the closing hours of each year’s session, of writing bills in secret and then revealing their presence just hours, and sometimes just minutes, before legislators vote.
Media and the state Capitol: A lawyer’s view
Love ’em or hate ’em, reporters play an important role in the legislative process – as well as with legislative strategy and ethics – in California. Because of this influence, the media in many ways are commonly viewed as a fourth branch of government (or “fourth estate,” as the cliché goes). They don’t approve or reject legislation, but their coverage affects those who do and they often influence the fate of bills.
California regulates cow farts
California is taking its fight against global warming to the farm. The nation’s leading agricultural state is now targeting greenhouse gases produced by dairy cows and other livestock. Despite strong opposition from farmers, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in September that for the first time regulates heat-trapping gases from livestock operations and landfills.
Editorial: Becerra needs to put attorney general job first, not career moves
Rep. Xavier Becerra, the governor’s pick for California attorney general, will be successful if he resists the temptation to view the post primarily as a political launch pad. Gov. Jerry Brown’s selection of Becerra to fill the state’s top law enforcement position was a surprise. He was on almost no one’s list of possible appointees. But he has solid credentials for the post: A graduate of Stanford Law School, he was a deputy attorney general before seeking elective office.
Californians approve $5.0 billion per year in new Taxes
For the last few years, using data provided by the watchdog organization CalTax, we have summarized the results of local bond and tax proposals appearing on the California ballot. Nearly all of them are approved by voters, and this past November was no exception. With only a couple of measures still too close to call (TCTC), as can be seen, 94% of the 193 proposed local bonds passed, and 71% of the proposed local taxes passed.
Local Government
Councilman: Don’t force LA businesses to hire felons
The City of Los Angeles has jumped into a huge mess as it tries to offer convicted felons a second chance in life by forcing businesses to initially overlook criminal histories on job applications. Mitch Englander was the only councilman to vote against the ordinance known as “Fair Chance” or “Ban the Box.” It affects city contractors and employers with ten or more workers by prohibiting them from asking an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional job offer has been made.
San Francisco city officials to ask Kate Steinle’s family to dismiss lawsuit
The U.S. government and the City of San Francisco are asking Kate Steinle’s family to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit in a hearing on Friday. Kate Steinle was shot and killed in July of 2015 on Pier 14 along San Francisco’s waterfront. Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant, has been charged in the murder. Lopez-Sanchez was released from the San Francisco City Jail in Apil.
Brown Act complaint pending, City stands behind council’s airport vote
The City of Long Beach is maintaining that a complaint filed with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office alleging the city council violated an open meetings law will not affect the council’s vote to host a study session regarding the potential international terminal at Long Beach Airport (LGB) and to allow city staff to engage with tenants at LGB.
Will LA County voters tax themselves to fund homeless services?
L.A. County voters will decide in March whether to raise their sales taxes to fund hundreds of millions of dollars worth of services for the homeless. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously to place a 1/4-cent tax on the March 7 ballot specifically aimed at homeless funding. It will need support from 2/3 of voters to pass and would raise an estimated $355 million annually.
In other news … 
Last words of California’s executed inmates
Thirteen inmates have been executed in California since 1978, and seven of those prisoners chose to make final statements. Robert Alton Harris – Harris was convicted of abducting and murdering two teenage boys in 1978. Last words: “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the Grim Reaper.”
LA Magazine says editor Davan Maharaj is what’s wrong with the LA Times
When my colleague at LA Observed Mark Lacter died suddenly in November 2013, he was at work on a much-needed update for Los Angeles Magazine on the state of the Los Angeles Times. The magazine has now gotten around to going deep on the subject of the Times, and that piece, posted Wednesday, describes a newsroom with some serious internal issues beyond those market forces that are slamming all newspapers.
Presidential Transition
California plans to block Feds access to data on undocumented immigrants
Ever since Maribel Solache began teaching her own version of driver’s ed in Spanish two years ago, the classes-held around San Diego County -have been jammed. She estimates she’s helped some 3,000 students earn their licenses. But lately, apprehension has smothered that enthusiasm. “More people come with fear. They say ‘what is going to happen to my information?’ ” she said. “
Donald Trump’s election is the death of America’s labor unions
I’ve written before on how the decline of organized labor beginning in the late 1970s gave birth to the backlash that fueled Donald Trump’s election. Labor’s deterioration weakened worker protections, kept wages stagnant and caused income inequality to soar to the highest levels in over eight decades. It also made workers feel they needed a savior like Trump. In other words, his unlikely victory follows a straight line from the defeat of the Labor Reform Act of 1978 to the election of 2016.
Immigrant advocates fighting to keep state gang database away from Trump
With President-elect Donald J. Trump just weeks from taking office, legal experts and advocates in California are scrambling to convince state Attorney General Kamala Harris to block federal access to the state’s controversial gang database out of fears that the Trump administration will use it to deport unauthorized immigrants who’ve been erroneously labeled as gang members.
Trump and California secession
Not since 2010 has California felt itself politically so out of step with the times. That year the state resisted the nationwide wave of anti-incumbent, anti-regulation and anti-big government voting to elect Jerry Brown as governor, ease the passage of big-money state budgets and turn away a challenge to its pioneering greenhouse gas regulations.
Urgent appeal: California Democrats to invoke new anti-Trump weapon
As they suit up for battle against the Trump administration, Democrats who dominate California’s Legislature vow to unleash one of the superpowers of holding a supermajority: the ability to enact laws immediately. An underplayed consequence of the fact that they won two-thirds of the seats in both houses last month is that-if they stick together-California Democrats have the required margin to pass a bill with an “urgency” clause.

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