Monday Morning Memo for February 13, 2017

3 Suspects plead not guilty to 12 counts of murder in 1993 Westlake fire called deadliest arson in state history
Two men and a woman were charged Tuesday in a deadly 1993 Westlake apartment fire that police said was deliberately set as retribution against a building manager who wanted to stop gang drug dealing at the complex. The fire killed 10 people: seven children and three women, two of whom were pregnant.
Rapper “The Game” pleads to assaulting off-duty officer during basketball game
Rapper “The Game” pleaded no contest to assaulting an off-duty police officer during a basketball game at a high school in Hollywood, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced. Jayceon Terrell Taylor, 37, entered a no contest plea to one misdemeanor count each of criminal threats and battery. Taylor also pleaded no contest to one felony count of grand theft.
Ex-prosecutor tried to sell whistle-blower suit for Bitcoin: Feds
A former prosecutor who became a partner at a top law firm carried out a cloak-and-dagger operation – complete with a wig and a request to be paid in Bitcoin – to sell a sealed whistle-blower lawsuit for $310,000, according to the FBI. Jeffrey Wertkin of the firm Akin Gump was arrested Jan. 31, but the charges against him were not made public until this week.
Animal cruelty charges filed against Hohberg’s Poultry ranches in Ontario
A chicken farm in Ontario faces chilling allegations of animal cruelty as prosecutors announced dozens of charges were filed on Tuesday. Investigators said the chickens at Hohberg’s Poultry Ranches were kept in cages so tight that they couldn’t turn around. “I think it’s horrendous,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos said.
Conviction & Sentencing
Meth taco-truck stabbing gets attempted killer 13 years behind bars
A man pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempted murder and was immediately sentenced to 13 years behind bars for an unprovoked knife attack on a woman  waiting in line at a taco stand in East Los Angeles. Andres Contreras, 30, attacked the 23-year-old woman while high on meth in the 5100 block of Whittier Boulevard last Sept. 7.
Killer who gunned down 5-year-old Spider-Man boy in Los Angeles gets sentence reduction
An appeals court ruling published Monday reduced the sentence of a man convicted of the Halloween 2010 shooting death of a 5-year- old boy – who was gunned down in his South Los Angeles back yard while wearing a Spider-Man costume – from 128 years to life to 114 years to life.
Former head of L.A. Coliseum deserved a year in jail in corruption case, probation official says
A no-jail sentence recently handed down to the former head of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum after he was accused of taking weekly kickbacks for several years was much more lenient than the punishment recommended by probation officials: a year in jail.
Former San Diego deputy DA suspended for obstruction
The State Bar of California ruled on Nov. 20 to suspend Allison Christine Worden, a former San Diego County deputy district attorney, from the practice of law for 60 days, according to the State Bar website. Worden also will serve one year of probation.
Law Enforcement
No fluke: Incarceration rates fall, crime rates rise: Guest commentary
A Jan. 8 editorial in this newspaper asserted a lack of relationship between crime rates and imprisonment rates, and noted that crime remains at historic lows nationally, with property crime declining more than 50 percent percent since 1991. But that certainly hasn’t been our experience in Whittier, nor has it been the experience elsewhere in Southern California.
The stress of sitting in traffic can lead to more crime
Society pays a heavy price for traffic. It leads to lost time, more pollution and increased spending on gasoline. In metropolitan areas, road congestion in 2012 led consumers to waste 2.9 billion gallons of fuel and spend 5.5 billion hours sitting in traffic.
35 Years later, sister in Durst case is still looking for answers
Mary McCormack Hughes has a vivid recollection of the phone call she got 35 years ago this week from Robert Durst, her brother-in-law. “Have you seen Kathie?” he asked. Kathie was Kathleen Durst, Ms. Hughes’s younger sister, who at 29 was in the final months of medical school.
Fake FBI and Secret Service badges continue to be sold at Amazon
While the big e-commerce websites downplay both the numbers and significance of sales of fake products, there is one area where the sellers might want to put more attention. It remains possible to purchase fake badges and identification credentials on Inc. that purchasers could use to pass themselves off as FBI or Secret Service agents.
eBay won’t tell buyers – you bought a fake
Consumers flock the internet in hopes of finding bargains, but that good deal may not be what you think. You may have received a fake from online sellers peddling an estimated $1.7 trillion in counterfeit goods to unsuspecting consumers this year. How would you know if you received a fake?
Threats against judges in immigration ban cases leads to increased security
Threats against more than one judge involved in legal challenges to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration have prompted federal and local law enforcement agencies to temporarily increase security protection for some of them, according to law enforcement officials.
Racist killer gangster targeted blacks? Mexican border arrest after 12 years
An alleged gang member from Highland Park who spent more than a dozen years on the run in connection with two racially motivated murders will finally face a federal court judge in Los Angeles Monday after being arrested at the Mexican border on hate crime charges.
Growing number of women leading U.S. police departments
When Anne Kirkpatrick took the helm at the scandal-ridden Oakland Police Department, she inherited an agency the city’s mayor likened to a frat house. The veteran police officer knew she inevitably would be asked what it’s like to combat the culture as one of a growing number of women heading police departments, many struggling to repair their public image.
Medical staff say Fontana woman was in serious condition when blood was drawn after deadly wrong-way crash
A Fontana woman accused of drunken driving in a February 2014 wrong-way crash that left six people dead was under sedation and wasn’t being prepared to go into surgery when an emergency room physician drew a blood sample, he testified in court Wednesday.
Shuttering, called an online brothel, could hurt law enforcement
There’s a law enforcement paradox to, labeled by officials as the largest U.S. internet prostitution ad provider. California prosecutors label the site an “online brothel” that rakes in millions of dollars from sex trafficking that often includes minors, want to shut it down and send its owners to jail.
Local police release immigration statement
Ventura County law enforcement agencies on Thursday issued a joint statement regarding their stance on immigration enforcement. The was sent by the Ventura County Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee in response to inquiries about local police involvement in immigration enforcement after President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on the matter.
Credit card thieves tricking innocent pawns into delivering stolen goods
Credit card thieves are taking a new approach to moving their stolen goods, authorities say. The thieves are hiring innocent, unsuspecting middlemen to send out the stolen items in order to shield themselves from police. Eriena Munsun of Alhambra sells products online through eBay and Amazon.
County’s inspector general ‘pleased’ with Sheriff’s jail reforms
The county’s inspector general praised the Sheriff’s Department for its efforts to improve conditions at jails in a report presented to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. Inspector General Max Huntsman said he and his staff were “pleased with the department’s efforts to identify issues and reform its Custody Services and Patrol Division policies, practices, and operations.”
Westlake has gotten safer, but the gang behind its most terrifying crime is still active
Two of three suspects charged in a 1993 apartment complex arson that took the lives of 10 people are connected to a gang that’s still very much active in the Westlake community, police say. The Columbia Lil Cycos, known by its prolific tagging under the letters CLCS, is a clique of the mighty 18th Street Gang that still haunts the streets surrounding the complex on South Burlington Avenue, according to LAPD Det. F. Flores, with the Rampart Division gang enforcement detail.
Deputy who fired lethal shot acted in self defense
A local sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a man in Canyon Country during a traffic stop a little more than a year ago fired the fatal shot in self defense,  Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced today. Deputy Nathan Gillespie of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station acted lawfully in self defense when he shot Miguel Hernandez on Jan. 13, 2016, according to a report prepared by the DA’s Justice System Integrity Division.
The LAPD’s biggest conundrum: How to suppress crime without alienating South L.A.’s black residents
On a chilly night in South Los Angeles, a young black man stood on the sidewalk watching police officers rummage through his car. Their reason for stopping him: the tinted front windows on his Nissan Maxima. Because he was on probation, the officers could legally conduct a search. It was the first of four times that Rio Cater would be stopped by police that night.
Torrance police chief suspended over alleged offensive remarks
Torrance Chief Mark Matsuda told the Daily Breeze Friday that he’s been off duty and won’t return until Feb. 13. He says he was relieved of duty after the Los Angeles suburb opened an independent investigation in October. The results have been forwarded to the city manager. Matsuda declined to discuss the allegations.
Prison & Parole
State predicts more than 1,000 new parolees post-Prop. 57
It could be another eight months before Shasta County feels the impact of Proposition 57, the voter-approved initiative to expand parole eligibility and time credits for prison inmates. But the best guesses by state officials on upcoming releases and paroles aren’t as dire as some of the measure’s opponents predicted.
1st inmate in U.S. to get sex reassignment moves to California female prison
Officials say the first U.S. inmate to receive state-funded sex-reassignment surgery has been moved to a women’s prison. California corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said 57-year-old Shiloh Heavenly Quine was admitted to the Central California Women’s Facility on Wednesday. The prison northwest of Fresno holds about 2,900 women.
Deputies at LA Men’s Central Jail face ‘disgusting’ assaults by inmates
Inside the Los Angeles Men’s Central Jail, security video shows inmates about to attack unsuspecting deputies. The assault is called “gassing,” when inmates toss urine, feces or semen at the deputies. “If it gets in their face, their eyes, you don’t know what kind of diseases the inmates have. It’s very traumatic for the staff,” Kelly Harrington, the Assistant Sheriff of Custody Operations, said.
California corrections CIO says everyone inside prison walls should get a tablet
A penitentiary may seem like an unexpected venue for a modern IT strategy, but Russ Nichols, CIO of California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said his office is debunking that assumption with a vision that embraces connectivity as a key driver of public safety and rehabilitation.
Victorville prison guard to plead guilty to bribery
A federal correctional officer who worked at the United States Penitentiary in Victorville has agreed to plead guilty to a federal bribery charge for taking a $1,000 bribe to smuggle contraband to a prisoner inside the facility. Ignacio Adrian Sobers Jr., 31, of San Bernardino, entered into a plea agreement that was filed today in United States District Court.
Pension plans in peril
If you have a pension, you probably breathe a sigh of relief. Unlike a workplace retirement plan in which you invest and pray that you get decent returns, a pension guarantees you a stream of income. Even if the pension is small, it’s something. It’s there for as long as you live. Or it used to be. For an increasing number of retirees in the private and public sector that guarantee is in jeopardy.
Supreme Court schedules three significant cases for March
Mostly likely, an eight-person Supreme Court will hear three closely watched cases during March, including a dispute about transgender bathroom use, as the Court released its latest hearing calendar on Friday. It is not expected that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch would be available to join the Court for arguments in March if his nomination is approved by the Senate unless the Senate expedites the traditional nomination process.
Local Government
LA County leaders to begin talks on regulating legal marijuana sales
With legal marijuana sales set to begin in California in less than a year, Los Angeles County leaders will introduce a motion Tuesday to start the process of crafting a set of regulations to protect public safety and to encourage a sustainable and potentially multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry.
LA County’s economy depends on immigrant labor, study finds
Immigrants contribute significantly to the economies of the city and county of Los Angeles, according to a study released Wednesday. The report from the New American Economy, which is a bipartisan coalition of mayors who support immigration reform, says immigrants contributed $232 billion to the county’s gross domestic product in 2014, or 35.7 percent.
L.A. City Council approves $1.5-million settlement in police killing of Ezell Ford
The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Ezell Ford, whose 2014 killing by LAPD officers became a local touchstone in the national outcry over police shootings. The 10-2 vote approving the settlement comes two weeks after L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey announced she would not criminally charge the two officers who shot Ford during a scuffle in his South L.A. neighborhood.
L.A., Orange counties are home to 1 million immigrants who are in the country illegally, analysis shows
The chatter of Spanish serves as the backdrop of Pico-Union, where the aroma of pastries from the panaderia merge with the synthetic smells of an auto repair garage. A predominantly Latino neighborhood, it has for decades been a first stop for immigrants – both legal and illegal – coming from various corners of Latin America.
Bill to provide immigration law resources for public defenders across California is advanced by Assembly committee
Public defender’s offices across California are in need of immigration law training and resources, a demand that a state lawmaker says has been made more pressing under President Donald Trump and his threat of massive deportations. Speaking before members of the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Monday, Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) urged support for a bill that he said would provide critical immigration resources to criminal defense lawyers working on the front lines.
Presidential Administration
California unions playing defense as Trump presidency begins
Labor unions in California helped push successful efforts for increasing the minimum wage, mandatory paid sick leave and expanding overtime rules for farmworkers in the state. But the Trump administration has unions playing defense, even in labor-friendly California. The new administration worries Belinda Beeks-Malone. She’s a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
More than 150 former federal prosecutors have denounced Trump’s Muslim ban
Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel to the United States by the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and by refugees worldwide has been broadly rejected by the judiciary, with over a dozen federal court orders restricting or staying the travel ban. Now, more than 150 former federal prosecutors have expressed their disapproval of Trump’s overreach as well.
Misleading ‘L.A. Times’ article quotes cops who don’t want to enforce Trump’s policies
Call it Sally Yates Syndrome. Ms. Yates, you’ll recall, was the Justice Department official who chose to grandstand in her refusal to defend President Trump’s clumsily executed but clearly legal executive order on refugee admissions to the country. In the absence of a sitting attorney general, it fell to Ms. Yates to defend the order against the legal challenges that would surely arise.
Sanctuary Cities: Police vs. Mayor
Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) President Ken Crane wrote a letter to Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton about his recent comments regarding President’s Trump executive orders. Mayor Stanton said he will fight the federal government’s attempt “to turn the Phoenix Police Department into a mass deportation force.” Crane responded in an interview with “The Mike Broomhead Show” that the mayor’s comments are nothing more than “fear mongering “and “pandering.”
Political Road Map: There’s a $368-billion reason why California depends on the federal government
During the depths of California’s budget crisis, talk in Sacramento about how many tax dollars were sent to Washington, compared with what the state received in services, generally sparked anger. But these days, it’s triggered fear. After all, President Trump has promised to rethink the kinds of federal policies whose fiscal importance to the state is writ large.

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