Monday Morning Memo for February 20, 2017

New trial date set for ex-Sheriff Lee Baca – but he can’t wear his ‘star’ pin
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca will stand trial – again -and this time he can’t do it wearing the lapel pin that honored his former agency. Jury selection in Baca’s case will begin Feb. 21 in federal court in downtown Los Angeles, where he’s been charged on three counts: obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements, which stem from an investigation into inmate abuse inside the Men’s Central Jail in 2011.
Judge limits character witness testimony in upcoming Baca trial
As attorneys prepare to retry former L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca, federal prosecutors have successfully blocked Baca’s defense team from calling character witnesses to testify on his prior “good acts.” Baca is accused of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and lying in connection with a scheme to thwart an FBI investigation into the inmate abuse in the jails. A prior trial ended in a hopelessly deadlocked jury, forcing a new trial, which is expected to begin later this month.
3 Plead not guilty to gang-related revenge arson, 12 murder counts
The death penalty could be presented to two gang members and a woman charged with capital murder in an arson fire fueled by revenge at a Westlake apartment building. The historic, decades-old revenge arson killed seven children, a woman, and two pregnant women. According to prosecutors, the alleged defendants took action on May 3, 1993 when the apartment manager and others wanted to prevent drug deals in the complex on the 300 block of Burlington Avenue, west of downtown.
Secret witness testifies Robert Durst’s wife feared ‘The Jinx’ subject
The so-called secret witness in the Robert Durst case was revealed Wednesday to be an advertising executive who was introduced to him through a mutual friend – the woman Durst is accused of murdering. Nick Chavin, 72, took the witness stand at a pretrial hearing and testified that he had met “Bobby” more than three decades ago through his pal, writer Susan Berman, and became such good friends that Durst was the co-best man at his wedding.
Los Angeles driver accused in destructive chase may face 137 years behind bars
Criminal charges were filed Friday against a Los Angeles man who allegedly led police on a two-part, high-speed chase that ended when his car struck several vehicles, including one that overturned. Tyree Francis, 24, pleaded not guilty to two counts each of assault on a peace officer, assault with a deadly weapon and evading an officer, along with one count each of evading an officer causing injury, hit-and-run and being a felon in possession of a firearm – all felonies – and a misdemeanor count of hit-and-run.
15 years after a boy was kidnapped and sexually assaulted in Northridge, DNA leads LAPD to the suspect
Fifteen years after a man kidnapped a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint, blindfolded him and then sexually assaulted him, Los Angeles police arrested a suspect this week after a DNA match cracked the cold case open. Mirek Paul Voyt, a 54-year-old former grocery store manager, was arrested at his Hollywood home Tuesday and charged in connection with the Northridge assault, LAPD Capt. Billy Hayes said at a news conference Thursday.
Investor pleads guilty to withholding email during grand jury probe of Port of L.A. police chief
Santa Monica attorney pleaded guilty Thursday to disobeying a federal grand jury subpoena during the public-corruption investigation of the Port of Los Angeles’ former police chief. Gerard N. Casale Jr. admitted that he failed to turn over an email in response to the subpoena seeking information about his business dealings with the former port police chief, Ronald Boyd, according to court papers filed in the Central District of California.
Roman Polanski seeks to have prosecutor’s testimony unsealed
Roman Polanski’s attorney has asked a Los Angeles judge to unseal testimony given by a former prosecutor who handled the fugitive director’s long-running sexual assault case. Polanski’s attorney Harland Braun wrote a letter filed Feb. 10 seeking to unseal testimony given in 2010 by a former prosecutor handling Polanski’s case. Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl and fled the United States in 1978 on the eve of sentencing.
Roman Polanski might return to the U.S.
Even though his legal counsel successfully argued against an extradition order late last year, Roman Polanski is pondering doing the right thing and returning to the United States. The director will even go back to court, but not to discuss carrying out the remainder of his sentence for raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977. According to Deadline, these are the conditions Polanski would like met if and when he comes back to the U.S. Polanski’s attorney Harland Braun tells the publication that they’re looking to unseal a “secret transcript” of the 2010 testimony of former prosecutor Roger Gunson.
Conviction & Sentencing
Richmond woman’s sentence called unconstitutional, is reduced
A state appeals court has taken the rare step of reducing the mandatory life prison sentence of a Richmond woman who shot and gravely wounded a man who had just taken part in the beating of her father. Deyanira Cuiriz was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison for attempted voluntary manslaughter, mayhem and shooting at an occupied vehicle.
District Attorney
District Attorney warns against fake attorneys revolving immigration
Amid fears of deportation, as a result of President Donald Trump’s stance to increase enforcement of United States immigration law, the Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has informed those seeking immigration assistance to beware of the use of Notorio Publicos, or other “fake attorneys,” a statement on the district attorney’s website noted. Similar to a Notary Public, Notarios are common in Mexico and Latin America, but handle a variety of other tasks such as filing government forms, or offering legal advice.
SF sues online gun suppliers, calls sale of ‘repair kits’ illegal
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued five gun suppliers Thursday, alleging they broke a state law banning the sale of high-capacity magazines by selling them in pieces and falsely marketing them as “repair kits.” The suit appears to be the opening of what could be a protracted legal fight over California gun-control measures, which are among the most restrictive in the country.
D.A. to review how this councilwoman-turned-consultant raised money from companies seeking business with Huntington Park
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office is looking into a Huntington Park councilwoman’s role as a political consultant in which she raised money from companies that sought to do business with the city, a spokeswoman for the D.A. said this week. The inquiry by the district attorney’s public integrity division follows a Times article published Sunday detailing how Councilwoman Karina Macias raised money for a state Assembly campaign by parlaying her connections throughout the community.
Law Enforcement
L.A.’s newest data portal highlights where, when and why people get parking tickets
With an eye on improving parking and parking policies, Los Angeles launched a new website in January to track its more than 2.4 million parking fines issued each year. Controller Ron Galperin published the parking fine data taken from fiscal 2015 on a dedicated data showcase – dubbed Street Talk: Parking Tickets in LA – as a resource for residents and policy makers working to reform the city’s parking system.
Homeland Secretary defends immigration raids in L.A., elsewhere
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Monday defended recent “targeted enforcement operations” by federal authorities in areas including Los Angeles that triggered mass-deportation fears in some immigrant communities, saying the raids were aimed at criminals and people who violated immigration laws.
LASD deputy runs in remembrance of Sgt. Owen, other fallen first responders
Ten-year Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department veteran, Deputy Jenna Nunez, not only talks about honoring fellow first responders lost in the line-of-duty, she showed it in the best way she knew how: running a half-marathon race in the uniform she dons daily to make a physical declaration of esteem and appreciation for them.
eBay faces a credibility problem
Consumers should have confidence and expect authentic, safe products when they shop on eBay, but that’s not what happens. At issue is eBay’s illusory claim; “You can’t list replicas, fakes, counterfeits, or other illegal copies on eBay.” The fact is that counterfeit and replicas can be, and are, easily listed on eBay. The same sellers often repeatedly re-list counterfeits which may be dangerous or even deadly despite repeated notifications to eBay.
LAPD mediation program for residents and cops creates better understanding – when they show up
A mediation program designed to help LAPD officers and residents understand each other better is largely successful when both sides agree to meet, according to a department report to be delivered Tuesday to the Los Angeles Police Commission. But cops and residents often choose not to engage in face-to-face mediation.
Sheriff’s narcotics unit cracking down on illegal marijuana shops in LA County
By passing Proposition 64 in November, California voters made it legal to own or grow a small amount of marijuana for recreational use. The sale of recreational pot, however, is another matter, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Narcotics Bureau has been cracking down on illegal pot shops operating in its jurisdiction. From shootouts to robberies, problems have skyrocketed following the statewide legalization of marijuana under Prop. 64., according to authorities.
US Prosecutors: Arrested Seattle ‘Dreamer’ admits gang ties
A Seattle area man detained by immigration agents despite his participation in a federal program to protect those brought to the U.S. illegally as children admitted to having gang ties, the U.S. Justice Department said in court documents filed Thursday. Daniel Ramirez Medina “stated ‘no, not no more,’ when asked if he is or has been involved with any gang activity,” the government said in documents filed in U.S. District Court.
LA’s west San Fernando Valley is no ‘Shangri-La’ as gang crime stirs concern
The perception that life west of the 405 Freeway is relatively free of crime is one that hasn’t gotten past Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield. He and other community leaders in the West Valley aren’t buying what he’s heard from some people. “They kind of think we live in Shangri-La of the West Valley, and we don’t have these kinds of problems,” Blumenfied said.
With Valley murders on the rise, LA leader pushes for LAPD report on gangs
With the San Fernando Valley experiencing a significant increase in homicides over the last two years, a City Council committee on Monday advanced a motion that would direct police to prepare a report on gang activity west of the 405 Freeway. The motion approved by the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee states that in “the western San Fernando Valley, street gangs have been a continuing problem, with various criminal acts being committed by gang members.”
Ballot Measures
Orange County lagging in race for Prop. 47 grants
Across California, counties are jockeying for a share of $34.4 million in competitive state grants aimed at providing services for the more than 5,000 nonviolent drug offenders released from state prisons since the 2014 passage of Proposition 47. Agencies in a number of counties have formed advisory committees, held community forums, and developed proposals that target specific needs involving substance abuse, behavioral health, job training and housing.
Santa Barbara County pursuing grant to divert criminals with mental illness to alternative programs
Planning is underway for a Proposition 47-funded program in Santa Barbara County, and mental health officials are poised to finalize their grant proposal by the looming deadline. The county is going after a $3 million grant – distributed over 38 months – utilized by savings garnered by Prop. 47, a voter-approved 2014 law that reclassifies a wide range of felonies as misdemeanors.
Calexit supporters hold forum in LA aseffort to collect ballot signatures continues
The belief that California would be better off as an independent country is driving an organized effort whose supporters want the Golden State to secede from the United States. “We’re talking about full-blown independence and breaking off from America,” said Marcus Ruiz Evans, vice president of the Yes California Independence Campaign. “As I like to say, this isn’t pizza toppings.”
Newsom runs for governor, waging 140-character war against Trump Time was, Gavin Newsom dismissed the office of lieutenant governor by wondering what the job did and whether it should exist. The answers: not much and no. But six years into it and aspiring to move over to the governor’s suite, Newsom is using the position of lite guv to be everywhere. As a UC regent, he voted against a tuition hike. That heartens younger voters. Sacramento Bee
Homelessness now outranks traffic and crime as number one voter issue
“Traffic and crime have been overtaken by homelessness as the defining issue for voters right now, and that’s pretty amazing,” said Tommy Newman, spokesperson for the Yes on H campaign, citing internal polls. The homeless, seen everywhere and discussed constantly, continue to penetrate the consciousness of city leaders and citizens in the run up to the March 7 Primary Election when voters will be asked to support Measure H: The Los Angeles County Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness.
New criminal justice reform focus: Harsh bail laws
The same coalition of Democratic lawmakers and interest groups that worked with Gov. Jerry Brown on Propositions 47 and 57 – which lessen the amount of time convicts must spend behind bars for relatively minor crimes and make it easier for convicts to gain parole, respectively – have a new target: the state’s harsh bail laws. Brown has yet to sign on to the campaign led by state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland.
Proposed legislation would block release of body camera footage showing victims of rape, domestic violence
A new bill in the California Legislature would prohibit the public release of police body camera footage depicting victims of rape, incest, child abuse or domestic violence. Assembly Bill 459 from Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Arcadia) says the privacy of victims outweighs any public interest in body camera footage and should be protected. Under his proposal, video could be released if the victim allows it.
Local Government
County supervisor warns of $100 million budget cut
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob outlined an array of priorities over the next year, setting goals that she hopes county government will pursue long after current board members leave office.But the chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors issued a more immediate warning in her State of the County address Wednesday regarding major fiscal challenges, including possible budget cuts of $100 million.
Are LA County dams safe? In wake of Oroville spillway trouble, local leader wants to know
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Monday she’ll ask for a comprehensive investigation of the county’s system of dams, spillways and other water collecting structures to determine if there are any potential threats to public safety. Her request, to be made Tuesday during the Board of Supervisors meeting, comes just one day after 185,000 people were ordered to evacuate near the Oroville Dam, east of the Sacramento Valley.
County floats homeless tax
Measure H, a Los Angeles County quarter-cent sales tax on the March 7 ballot, will raise an estimated $355 million annually for the next 10 years to combat homelessness. The money would fund services for thousands of homeless individuals, including children, foster youths, seniors, battered women, people with disabilities and veterans. It will also give the county one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation.
LA decriminalizes street vending, but those with convictions still on the hook
The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday adopted ordinances that remove criminal penalties from the city’s law banning street vending, but city attorneys say they have no way of granting amnesty to vendors already convicted of misdemeanors. The council voted 13-0 to adopt decriminalization ordinances that include an “urgency” clause to fast-track their enactment. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he plans to sign the legislation. Once he does, it would go into effect immediately.
LA to allow homeless to pay parking tickets with community service
Homeless people who receive parking tickets in Los Angeles will have an alternative way to pay fines after a resolution was passed by the city council on Tuesday. The most recent numbers from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority suggest that about 7,000 people in the city live in vehicles, with many of them accumulating parking citations.
Oroville evacuation: 500 inmates moved to Alameda County jails
Alameda County has accepted more than 500 inmates from Butte County who were evacuated because of the flooding danger from the Oroville Dam. The inmates began arriving Sunday night and are being housed at both Santa Rita jail in Dublin and the Glenn Dyer in Oakland, authorities said. It was not known how long the inmates would be housed in Alameda County.
Transgender inmate name changes would be faster under California bill
California could make it easier for inmates to legally change their names or gender identification. State Sen. Toni Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego, said Tuesday that her bill, SB310, would let state prison inmates apply for the legal changes without first getting approval from several state correctional officials. Her bill would also apply to inmates in county jails.
Go to jail. Die from drug withdrawal. Welcome to the criminal justice system.
When Tyler Tabor was booked in a jail outside Denver on a spring afternoon in 2015, he told a screening nurse that he was a daily heroin user and had a prescription for Xanax. A friendly, outdoorsy 25-year-old with a son in kindergarten, Tabor had started using opioids after he injured his back on the job as a welder.
Supreme Court nominee has defended free speech, religion
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has been a defender of free speech and a skeptic of libel claims, an Associated Press review of his rulings shows. His record puts him at odds with President Donald Trump’s disdain for journalists and tendency to lash out at critics. On other First Amendment cases involving freedom of religion, however, Gorsuch’s rulings in his decade on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver reflect views more in line with the president and conservatives.
Court: Questioning of Sandra Bullock’s accused stalker was unlawful
An appeals court ruled Tuesday that Los Angeles police detectives violated the rights of a man arrested inside Sandra Bullock’s home when they obtained his consent to search his home and recovered illegal automatic firearms. A three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal unanimously ruled Tuesday that police detectives violated Joshua James Corbett’s rights to remain silent during a police interrogation, and his right against an unlawful search of his home.
With pension reform looming, these California departments went on a hiring spree
On the eve of major pension changes that would crimp retirement benefits for new hires, a handful of California government agencies went on a holiday hiring spree. The Board of Equalization hired 25 new faces that week. Seventeen reported for their first day of work on New Year’s Eve. The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District brought on 23 new recruits between Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 of 2012.
Criticism of CalPERS is often misplaced
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think CalPERS is the source of all California’s ills: higher taxes, bankrupt cities, reduced public services, lavish pensions – the list goes on. We’ve even been blamed for failing to catch the fact that Wells Fargo employees were creating fake bank accounts. There’s undoubtedly a cost to pensions. And as a member of the CalPERS board and a committed fiscal conservative, I was just as eager as anyone to understand the costs and inner workings of the system.
Other News
Why you can’t get tickets
Cyber criminals are blocking your attempts to purchase good seats to concerts and games at a reasonable price, and California’s legal attempt to stop them appears to be failing, the I-Team has learned. A growing number of online scalpers are using “ticket bots,” automated computer applications that can hold, then purchase, hundreds of tickets the second they go on sale at primary sale sites.
Top California Dem: ‘Half of my family’ could be deported by Trump order
For California Sen. Kevin de León (D), the battle against President Trump’s immigration order isn’t business – it is personal. De León, the current Senate president pro tempore, told the state Senate Public Safety Committee that half of his family could be rounded up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and deported because they are living in the U.S. illegally, and criminally.
Victor Davis Hanson column: California goes Confederate
Over 60 percent of California voters went for Hillary Clinton – a margin of more than 4 million votes over Donald Trump. Since Clinton’s defeat, the state seems to have become unhinged over Trump’s unexpected election. “Calexit” supporters brag that they will have enough signatures to qualify for a ballot measure calling for California’s secession from the United States.
Lobbyist faces fine after inviting L.A. politicians to his $51,000 birthday party downtown
A longtime lobbyist faces a proposed fine of more than $11,000 for inviting dozens of Los Angeles city officials to a birthday party. A Los Angeles City Ethics Commission investigation found that John Ek violated city rules that restrict gifts from lobbyists to city officials when he hosted a 50th birthday party for himself at a downtown bistro two years ago.
Executive Branch
Trump signs orders to combat crime, with little new in them
At an Oval Office ceremony for the swearing in of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, President Trump announced that he was also going to sign three executive orders “designed to restore safety in America,” to “break the back” of cartels and “stop as of today” violence against the police. The praise began arriving immediately.
Can the President “destroy” criminal-justice reformers?
On Tuesday, President Trump hosted a group of county sheriffs at the White House, where he spurred a now-infamous exchange with a lawman from Texas. The back-and-forth went like this: Trump asked the sheriffs if they had any ideas on “how we can bring about law enforcement in a very good, civil, lovely way,” in order to “stop crime.” Sheriff Harold Eavenson, of Rockwall County, Texas, fired first. “Asset forfeiture!” he called out.
Police chiefs say Trump’s law enforcement priorities are out of step
Not surprisingly, President Trump’s approach to crime, which began to take shape in a series of moves last week, generated swift criticism from liberals and civil rights groups. But it also stirred dissent from another quarter: prominent police chiefs and prosecutors who fear that the new administration is out of step with evidence that public safety depends on building trust, increasing mental health and drug addiction treatment, and using alternatives to prosecution and incarceration.
In wake of confusion, ICE officials release details of arrests
Federal officials on Monday released details about an immigration sweep in Los Angeles and surrounding counties last week that resulted in the arrests of 161 people living in the country illegally. In response to the protests and panic in immigrant communities that erupted as word spread of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations in Los Angeles and several other cities, federal officials in a statement reiterated their claim that the arrests were not the result of President Trump’s aggressive stance on deportations.

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