Monday Morning Memo for December 26, 2016

Judge declares mistrial in ex-Sheriff Lee Baca’s corruption trial
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca walked out of federal court Thursday almost a free man after jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked and a judge declared a mistrial in his jail corruption trial. The jury of six men and six women deliberated almost three days to determine if Baca was guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The charges stem from an investigation into inmate abuse inside Men’s Central Jail in 2011.
Los Angeles Daily News
Mistrial in ex-Sheriff Baca corruption case: ‘Hard-working deputies should not be judged’
The mistrial declared in the federal corruption trial of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca should not be viewed as absolving leadership failures in the department, the heads of the sheriff’s deputies’ union said Thursday. Ron Hernandez, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said that instead of concentrating changes in the department at the top, the agency instead is targeting “rank-and-file deputies.”
Jinx’ star Robert Durst’s personal papers object of court battle
Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the Robert Durst case are fighting over whether reams of his personal papers can be used at his Los Angeles murder trial. Motions filed ahead of a hearing next Wednesday do not detail the nature of most of the paperwork, although there are several references to a mystery document titled “BD Story,” which uses the real-estate heir’s initials.
NBC News
Sex predator’s GPS monitor led to multiple murder charges in California
The fourth known victim was found on the trash conveyor belt at a California recycling facility in March 2014, her naked body in such poor condition that those who discovered her could not tell how she died. She had trauma to her vagina and trauma to her neck, where, distinctively written, she also had a tattoo of her mother’s name.
Washington Post
Bouncer at NoHo topless bar charged with murder in death of man punched, fatally struck by vehicle
A bouncer at a North Hollywood topless bar was charged with murder Monday in the death of a man who died in a hit-and-run crash after being punched and falling into traffic. Ernest Shawn Reyes, 34, of Arleta is accused of punching 47-year-old Wilfredo Rodriguez outside a bar early Thursday, Dec. 15. The victim was struck in the face and then fell back into the street and was hit by a vehicle that did not stop, Los Angeles Police Department Officer Drake Madison said Monday.
Conviction & Sentencing
Man finally sentenced for hiring assassin to kill 17-year-old wife decades ago
A man convicted of hiring an assassin to stage a robbery and kill his 17-year-old wife in a La Mirada park — a crime that went unsolved for nearly two decades — was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Morrad Ghonim, 43, was convicted Nov. 21 of the murder of Victoria Ghonim, who was shot on July 23, 1992, while sitting in a car with Morrad and her infant son in La Mirada Creek Park.
Gov. Jerry Brown pardons 112, commutes one sentence in pre-Christmas tradition
Continuing his tradition of giving pre-Christmas reprieves, Gov. Jerry Brown granted 112 pardons and commuted one sentence on Friday. The pardons were granted mostly to individuals convicted of nonviolent, drug-related crimes who have since completed their sentences. Since 2011, Brown has granted 854 pardons and two commutations, according to the governor’s office.
Gov. Brown forgives more felons in past 6 years than were pardoned in previous 30
With the 112 pardons his office announced the day before this Christmas Eve, Brown has granted more than 850 pardons since 2011, many for drug crimes-a stark contrast to his recent predecessors. Between 1991 and 2010, three California governors granted a total of just 28 pardons. Brown’s pattern resembles those of earlier governors from both political parties; his father Pat Brown, a Democrat, and Republican Ronald Reagan each granted a few hundred pardons.
People who commit gun crimes are likely to have been shot before, new study finds
For decades, researchers have probed the “cycle of abuse” that leads some people subjected to child abuse to later commit the same acts they once suffered. A better understanding of the psychological damage inflicted on children who are abused, and the risks they face as they age, has led to well-established social programs and interventions aimed directly at those most susceptible.
Fake guns lead to real tragedies
Police across the country say they are increasingly facing off against people with ultra-real-looking pellet guns, toy weapons and non-functioning replicas. Such encounters have led police to shoot and kill at least 86 people over the past two years, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings nationwide. So far this year, police have fatally shot 43 people wielding the guns. In 2015, police also killed 43.
Washington Post
Local Government
No charges for government critic who penned racist comments and images about L.A. City Council member
Prosecutors have declined to file charges against a vocal critic of the Los Angeles City Council who submitted a card during a public meeting with racially incendiary drawings, including a burning cross. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said the card submitted by Encino attorney Wayne Spindler, which labeled City Council President Herb Wesson with a racial slur, was “deeply offensive, morally wrong and socially reprehensible,” according to a memo released Thursday.
Carson Mayor Al Robles settles campaign-finance law violations for $12,000
Carson Mayor Albert Robles has settled his cases with the state’s campaign-finance watchdog for violations of the Political Reform Act, agreeing to pay fines totaling $12,000. Robles faced more than $85,000 in fines for repeated violations of campaign-finance law since 2012 in his campaigns for mayor and for a board member of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California. He won re-election to both offices in November.
Hack of LA County emails exposes personal data of nearly 800,000 people
A Nigerian national has been charged, and others are being sought, in connection with a hack of Los Angeles County emails that might have exposed personal data from hundreds of thousands of people who had business with county departments, officials said Friday. Kelvin Onaghinor, 37, of Nigeria faces nine counts related to the breach, including unauthorized computer access and identity theft, according to the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office.
Nigerian fingered for phishing attack on 750,000 employees
County officials Friday announced criminal charges against a Nigerian national who allegedly waged a phishing e-mail attack that targeted Los Angeles County employees and potentially affected more than 750,000 people. “Based on intensive investigation and monitoring, there is no evidence that confidential information from any members of the public has been released because of the breach,” according to a statement released by Los Angeles County’s Chief Executive Office.
LA doesn’t just ban the box, It gives it the boot
Los Angeles just joined the ranks of other cities like San Francisco and New York City by enacting its own ban-the-box ordinance, prohibiting private employers from inquiring about criminal convictions during the application process. But not to be outdone by other cities, the Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring, Ordinance No. 184652, will be among the most restrictive in the country for private employers, taking it a few steps beyond the restrictions faced by other employers across the country.
How Los Angeles’ first homeless coordinator approaches her job
Los Angeles leaders are hoping to make a significant dent in homelessness, thanks to a series of steps designed to address the issue head-on. The City developed a comprehensive plan that emphasized a “housing first” that the City Council then helped fund in a budget that included millions of dollars in short-term spending. Then, in November, voters approved $1.2 billion to build housing for the homeless.
Law Enforcement
LAPD Chief pulls over distracted drivers to deliver message and some holiday cheer
Some drivers got an unexpected gift when Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck pulled them over for distracted driving Thursday. Instead of writing a ticket, he warned about the dangers of distracted driving and sent drivers off with a gift card to spread some holiday cheer. Beck documented his day with officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Van Nuys and Valley Traffic divisions Thursday on Instagram and Twitter, as he and two other motor officers looked for distracted drivers.
CNN fans more hatred of cops, in touting flawed study
CNN is making a desperate pitch to further enflame the ideological war on cops while it still has a sympathetic ear in the White House. The CNN website is promoting a laughably incomplete study of police use of fatal force under the headline “Black men nearly 3 times as likely to die from police use of force, study says.” Utterly ignored in the study and in CNN’s write-up is any mention of violent-crime rates, which vary enormously by race and which predict officer use of force.
How do cops know if you’re too high to drive?
A month after California voted to approve Proposition 64 and legalize recreational marijuana, law enforcement officials throughout the state are prepping for what many view as the obvious: a jump in the number of people driving under the influence of pot. What they’re not prepped for is less obvious: how to prove it when people are driving under the influence of pot.
Mayor Lee picks William Scott, LAPD veteran, as SF police chief
Mayor Ed Lee plans to announce Tuesday that he is hiring a veteran Los Angeles deputy police chief to lead the San Francisco force as it implements broad changes in the wake of several shootings of African Americans and Latinos, according to City Hall sources. William Scott, who is 52 and African American, has been with the Los Angeles Police Department for more than 25 years and heads the department’s 1,700-member South Bureau, a nearly 58-square-mile territory.
Beloved Deputy in Compton dubbed ‘unofficial mayor’
“You need some help” asks Compton Deputy Rafer Owens. He’s talking to a student doing homework at YAL, the Youth Foundation for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It’s a typical day on the job for the veteran deputy who now works community relations in his hometown. At a time when some in law enforcement say they can feel unappreciated, Owens is beloved. His captain Michael Thatcher calls him the unofficial mayor of Compton.
Chemerinsky: A long overdue investigation
The announcement on Thursday that the United States Department of Justice is launching an investigation of civil rights violations by the Orange County District Attorney and the Orange County Sheriff is terrific news, but long overdue. The evidence is overwhelming that there long have been systematic unconstitutional practices by these offices. Yet, it is still unknown how many convictions are tainted and the problems still are unremedied.
Ballot Measures
California set a bunch of drug offenders free-and then left them hanging
California’s experiment with releasing thousands of drug offenders from its prisons-a major step in the fight against mass incarceration-has run up against a big problem: Once they’re out, there aren’t enough social service programs to help these offenders overcome addictions and restart their lives.
Heinous acts deserve death penalty
In the most recent election, Californians reaffirmed their strong support of the death penalty. California voters simultaneously voted to keep the death penalty as a possible punishment (Proposition 62) and enacted a series of reforms (Proposition 66) to ensure that the death penalty actually works, bringing meaningful justice for murder victims whose lives were cut short and some semblance of closure to the victims’ loved ones, while still safeguarding the constitutional due process rights of defendants.
Felony pot convictions could become misdemeanors under California’s marijuana legalization law
When Californians voted last month to legalize recreational use of marijuana, they may not have realized they were also allowing retroactive changes that could turn a felony pot conviction into a misdemeanor. Under Proposition 64, people who have been found guilty of possession, transportation or cultivation of marijuana can now ask the Superior Court to reduce those felony convictions to misdemeanors, as long as there are no disqualifying factors in their criminal histories.
Lawmakers try to fix a side effect of reducing drug and theft crimes: Not enough DNA samples for cold cases
California lawmakers are once again trying to expand the collection of DNA evidence in criminal cases, something they say has declined under Proposition 47, hurting cold rape and murder investigations. The landmark ballot measure, which voters passed in 2014, reduced drug possession and some theft crimes to misdemeanors in a move to lower the jail and prison population across the state.
Los Angeles Times
Lawyer: ‘Appalled’ by FBI warrant that shook Clinton
The FBI warrant that shook Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign in its final two weeks has been unsealed, and the lawyer who requested it says it offers “nothing at all” to merit the agency’s actions leading up to the Nov. 8 election. The warrant was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Los Angeles lawyer Randy Schoenberg, who wants to determine what probable cause the agency provided to suspect material on disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner’s computer might be incriminating to Clinton.
Prosecutor is ninth candidate in L.A. congressional race to replace Becerra
The number of candidates fighting to replace Rep. Xavier Becerra is now at nine, with L.A. County prosecutor Steven Mac the latest to jump in. Mac, 35, filed papers with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday. He previously lived in Glendale, but moved to Eagle Rock this week due to rising rent, he said.
Lending money to pot businesses is a high-risk move: ‘This is not for the faint of heart’
Despite California voters’ approval last month of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, and coming ground rules for pot businesses set to take effect in 2018, it remains difficult and expensive for companies that want to grow, process or sell marijuana to borrow money. Most banks won’t even open checking accounts for marijuana businesses, much less lend to them.
What new marijuana laws mean for employers
On election day, voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada decided to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, joining Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. Residents in Montana voted to roll back marijuana provider restrictions, and Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota legalized marijuana use for medical reasons. Medical marijuana is already legal in 25 other states and the District of Columbia.
Death Penalty
Death sentences and executions are down, but voters still support death penalty laws
In 2016, 30 people were sentenced to death in America, and 20 people were executed. Those numbers are the lowest in decades, according to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center, which collects data on capital punishment in the United States, and advocates against the death penalty. The 2016 numbers fit with a multi-decade trend.
California Supreme Court halts death penalty measure
A ballot initiative approved by voters to speed up death penalty appeals was put on hold Tuesday by the California Supreme Court to consider a lawsuit challenging the measure. The court issued a one-page decision staying the “implementation of all provisions of Proposition 66” and set a timeline for filing briefs that the court will consider before deciding to hold a hearing.
CalPERS opts to keep ban on tobacco stocks
CalPERS said no again to tobacco Monday. Amid a passionate debate on the wisdom and morality of investing in tobacco, the big California pension fund rejected a recommendation by its staff to end its 16-year-old ban on the practice. CalPERS’ investment committee, in a 9-3 vote, concluded that the tobacco industry is heading toward long-term decline and presents too much of a risk.
California employee pension will consider cutting return assumption
Calpers may be getting a bit more real. The $300 billion California public employees’ pension manager is considering cutting its investment return assumption. The move would squeeze the budgets of public authorities and employees, but secure funding for retirees. If the American government pension bellwether can do it, others will follow.
Presidential Transition
New fund provides legal help for immigrants facing deportation proceedings
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Monday announced the creation of a $10 million fund to help provide legal assistance to local immigrants facing deportation proceedings. Garcetti said the plan is a direct response to Donald Trump’s threat to increase deportations of undocumented immigrants and other “dangerous rhetoric” by the president-elect.
What jury duty with Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson was like
The following is a Dec. 13 post by Emily Roden on the five days she spent serving jury duty in Denton, Texas with Donald Trump’s Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. (Emily Roden is the wife of Denton City Councilman Kevin Roden.) “Nine years ago, I showed up to the Denton County Courthouse for jury duty and got myself picked for the job. A young girl had accused her mom’s boyfriend of sexual assault and the case was being brought to trial.”
If feds try to ID deportable immigrants using California data, state will block access
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. But lately, apprehension has smothered that enthusiasm. “More people come with fear. They say, ‘What is going to happen to my information?’ ” she said. “I tell them they have to get (their driver licenses) before Jan. 20, before Donald Trump.”
How much will Trump reverse course on mass incarceration?
California has been leading the way on prison and sentencing reform, a cause that Barack Obama embraced in the final stretch of his presidency. But it looks like mass incarceration will be another huge policy U-turn from President-elect Donald Trump. His law-and-order crusade, however, would ignore the reality that locking up a lot of nonviolent and drug offenders costs taxpayers a ton of money without improving public safety very much. A new study estimates that nearly 40 percent of those behind bars don’t need to be there, based on the seriousness of the crime and the risk of committing another.
Trump can end the war on cops
Donald Trump’s promise to restore law and order to America’s cities was one of the most powerful themes of his presidential campaign. His capacity to deliver will depend on changing destructive presidential rhetoric about law enforcement and replacing the federal policies that flowed from that rhetoric. The rising violence in many urban areas is driven by what candidate Trump called a “false narrative” about policing.
How pollsters with close Alabama ties helped propel Trump into the White House
Pollsters make a living being public opinion experts. But 2016 has been a tough year for the polling industry after the overwhelming majority of the “experts” were flat out wrong on two of the world’s most significant events – Brexit in the U.K. and the presidential election in the U.S. However, a polling firm with close ties to Alabama correctly called President-elect Donald J. Trump’s improbable victory, and their insight helped propel him to the White House.
Trump’s apparent disregard for nation’s laws raises fears
From flag-burning to libel, from conflicts of interest to torture, President-elect Donald Trump has made comments – in tweets, campaign orations and calm discussions – that have suggested he was either unaware of the applicable laws or didn’t care about them. “Nearly every president has probably done something that a court has later held unconstitutional or contrary to law,” said Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor who recently served as supervisor of voting rights cases in the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

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