Monday Morning Memo for April 10, 2017

Prosecutors toss out case against standoff suspect accused of assault
Prosecutors, citing a lack of evidence, have tossed out the case against a 47-year-old man accused of threatening his family with a shotgun and sparking a five-hour standoff with local sheriff’s deputies. Marc Spitzer was arrested Sunday on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, namely a firearm. On Friday, prosecutors revealed they have dropped the criminal case against him. 
Judge rejects Roman Polanski’s bid to end sex abuse case
A Los Angeles judge on Monday rejected Roman Polanski’s bid to end his long-running underage sex abuse case without the fugitive director appearing in court or being sentenced to more prison time. Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon refused to address how Polanski would be sentenced if he returned to the U.S. after 40 years abroad. He noted that other courts, including a California appellate court, have ruled that the Oscar winner is a fugitive and must return to Los Angeles for sentencing.
Ex-deputies plead to lesser charge in pursuit beating case
Two former California sheriff’s deputies pleaded no contest Monday to charges of disturbing the peace in a deal to avoid a retrial in connection with the televised beating of a man who tried to escape from authorities on horseback. The plea came days after a jury deadlocked while deliberating assault charges against former San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies Michael Phelps and Nicholas Downey.
Conviction & Sentencing
Jury deadlocks on murder charge in crash that killed LAPD officer
A man was found guilty Monday of two counts of assault on a peace officer and one count of leaving the scene of a Harbor City crash that killed a Los Angeles police officer and seriously injured his partner nearly three years ago. But the eight-man, four-woman jury deadlocked on the remaining charges of murder and vehicular manslaughter against Mynor Enrique Varela.
Does race affect plea bargaining? A new study says yes
We know that approximately 95 percent of all criminal convictions are the result of a guilty plea and a plea bargain, rather than a trial. Yet, while the role of race in such justice topics as arrests, detainment, police force, and sentencing outcomes has frequently been the focus of recent academic inquiry, it seems that few researchers in the last 30 years have probed whether or not race influences the various parts of the plea bargain process.
SB 235 would meaningfully reform judicial elections
No more would deputy district attorneys be able to utilize such fanciful ballot designations as “Child Molestation Prosecutor” and “Gang Homicide Prosecutor,” should SB 235 be enacted into law. No more would a deputy city attorney be able to run as a “supervising prosecuting attorney,” implying a higher status than a deputy district attorney lacking supervisorial status.
District Attorney
The corruption case that pushed Electric Daisy Carnival out of L.A. is over
If you ask the promoters who once organized wildly popular raves at the L.A. Coliseum and adjacent Sports Arena, the corruption scandal that erupted in 2011 was all smoke and no fire. But according to critics of the raves at those taxpayer-owned venues, the scandal compromised public trust in an institution that has operated in the city since 1923. The case saw big-name concert organizers pleading no contest to conflict-of-interest charges, for paying the venues’ then-events manager nearly $1.8 million for “consulting.”
Prosecutor’s comments spur backlash by San Bernardino County law enforcement
A senior prosecutor’s assertion that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department fosters a “culture of violence” outraged a local law enforcement labor union, prompting a swift apology from the supervising deputy district attorney and a public statement from the district attorney himself.
The death penalty in America exacts double punishment
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has long campaigned to get the high court to declare America’s death penalty unconstitutional. Recently, he offered another powerful argument for ending capital punishment. Dissenting from the court’s refusal to stop a Texas execution, Breyer highlighted a cruel irony of America’s death penalty system: those condemned to death are almost as likely to die of old age or natural causes as to be executed.
DA Totten announces national crime victims’ rights week
District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced that the week of April 2 – 8, 2017, is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Since its inception in 1981, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week has been a time to honor both crime victims and the advocates who fight for victims’ rights and services.The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office commemorated National Crime Victims’ Rights Week with a ceremony on Wednesday, April 5.
Teens honored for thwarting alleged cop-killer and saving woman from attacker
A brother and sister who allegedly were held at knifepoint by a parolee accused of killing a Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant in Lancaster were among two sets of siblings honored Wednesday as courageous citizens by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey. Nancy Arrowsmith-Hart, 20, and Trevor Hart, 18, of Lancaster were lauded for their quick thinking that led to the capture of Trenton Trevon Lovell, who unbeknownst to them was wanted in connection with the shooting death last Oct. 5 of sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Owen.
City Attorney
L.A. City Attorney’s request for LAX security clearance met with Kafkaesque denial from Customs
In the hectic weekend following the implementation of President Trump’s original travel ban, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer made headlines when he was was rebuffed by customs officials after showing up at Los Angeles International Airport to get answers and meet with detainees. Despite spending hours at the airport on the night of January 28 seeking basic answers about how many people were being detained and whether officials were complying with a court order that would prevent any of those detainees from being deported, federal officials were “unable and unwilling to provide any information” Feuer with any information.
Prison & Jail
Meet the San Quentin inmates who are learning to code behind bars (Photos)
Just 12 miles past the soaring vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge sits the fortress-like San Quentin prison. Surrounded by water, beneath Marin’s rolling hills and Mt. Tamalpais, there is a cruel irony to being interned so close to this scenery, yet with no way to see it. Built over a century ago, San Quentin is the oldest prison in California and is home to all the state’s death-row inmates.
Too young for juvie? California bill bars prosecution of kids under 12
Sen. Holly Mitchell sits at her desk on the fifth floor of the Capitol and holds up a book. On the cover a small boy in oversized jeans and a Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt stands on a plastic milk crate, too small to reach, as a police officer presses the young child’s ink-soaked fingertips onto a piece of paper. “That image just stuck with me,” Mitchell said.
Law Enforcement
Officer Boyer’s murder wasn’t necessarily the fault of reforms: Thomas Elias
There is little doubt about who killed Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer in late winter, or how he died: Authorities quickly identified ex-convict Michael Christopher Mejia as the culprit, also suspected of killing his cousin and stealing the cousin’s car. But there is plenty of debate over who and/or what is responsible for Boyer’s death. “There’s blood on the hands of Gov. [Jerry] Brown,” trumpeted state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, in a press release two days after the incident.
Police arrests are plummeting across California, fueling alarm and questions
In 2013, something changed on the streets of Los Angeles. Police officers began making fewer arrests. The following year, the Los Angeles Police Department’s arrest numbers dipped even lower and continued to fall, dropping by 25% from 2013 to 2015. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the San Diego Police Department also saw significant drops in arrests during that period.
Deputy found guilty in 2015 Calif. televised beating; mistrial for two others
A sheriff’s deputy in Southern California was convicted of assault for his role in the beating of a suspect following a chase on horseback in 2015. Charles Foster, 35, faces up to three years in prison at an April 28 sentencing after a jury found him guilty of assault by a police officer, San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Christopher Lee said.
Why some of the most controversial police shootings aren’t on video
Moments after gunfire erupted at a Boyle Heights intersection, Los Angeles police officers spotted a man walking away from the area. The officers tried to stop him, the LAPD said, but he ran and pulled a gun from his waistband, prompting police to shoot. The man was struck in the chest and died in an alley. The officers were wearing body cameras, which are intended to add clarity to controversial moments in policing – including these types of shootings.
NYU law advises LAPD through policing project
NYU is extending its influence to the West Coast with its involvement in the Policing Project, a collection of faculty, students and administrators from NYU Law who help enhance policing policies. The Los Angeles Police Department will re-evaluate its policy on the release of body camera footage  with the group’s help. May 7 is the projected date for the Policing Project to submit its report of community input initiatives from Los Angeles residents to the LAPD for review, along with recommendations for the policy itself.
LAPD detective suspects the crips are behind a string of celebrity robberies
A string of burglaries plaguing celebrities and other wealthy individuals around L.A. may be linked primarily to the Rollin 30s Harlem Crips of South L.A., according to the Associated Press.
As an LAPD detective explained to the AP, gang members will target wealthy neighborhoods, handpicking five or so gang members to drive around a neighborhood and find targets for burglaries.
Sessions orders Justice Department to review all police reform agreements
Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered Justice Department officials to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide, saying it was necessary to ensure that these pacts do not work against the Trump administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime.
Sweeping Federal review could affect consent decrees nationwide
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a sweeping review of federal agreements with dozens of law enforcement agencies, an examination that reflects President Trump’s emphasis on law and order and could lead to a retreat on consent decrees with troubled police departments nationwide.
LA arrests are in freefall while crime spirals … here’s what’s really behind it
A recent Los Angeles Times story explored the recent drop in arrest rates, both in Los Angeles and across the state, stating it was “unclear” why arrest rates have dropped as crime has risen. While we can’t speak for other agencies, we can inform the public about some reasons for the arrest rate decline in jurisdictions patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  One key factor is the lack of unobligated patrol time due to short staffing in our patrol functions.
Union for LA deputies says sheriff is a factor in dwindling arrest count
Ron Hernandez with the Association of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies says those on patrol are afraid of losing their jobs if they’re accused of any wrongdoing. “We’ve had this new sheriff, maybe he just finds it easier to simply come down hard on the deputies in the hopes that it will result in something beneficial for the public but I think all it’s doing is proving to deputies that they’re going to be over-scrutinized for everything they do.”
Consumers deceived, eBay profits selling counterfeits
eBay has migrated from the auction house of garage sale items to a global Marketplace of new items at a fixed price from unvetted global sellers. The problem is that anybody, anywhere, can sell just about anything on eBay, including counterfeit products that are visually deceptive and may be dangerous. Regardless, eBay collects a transaction fee on each sale. Counterfeiting is an illegal $1.7 trillion global criminal enterprise that is profitable, difficult to track and widely unpunished.
L.A. pot shops want authorities to back off
In March, Los Angeles voters overwhelmingly approved a proposition that aims to expand the marijuana business while also fully legalizing it. If all goes according to plan, pot shops, growers, delivery services and even edibles makers will be able to get licenses from City Hall next year, as soon as state law starts allowing for the sale of recreational weed. But the promise of Proposition M is being undermined by city law enforcement, which is targeting some of the very cannabis businesses that backed the proposition, according to some M supporters.
Feds raid Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens
Multiple federal agencies today raided the Bicycle Hotel and Casino in Bell Gardens, authorities said, but the details of the investigation were not immediately clear. Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said a search warrant at the casino was filed by a magistrate judge. “Because the warrant is under seal, we are not able to comment on the scope or nature of the investigation,” said Kice in a statement.
Police unions hail Trump’s easing of scrutiny. Local officials worry.
Black pedestrians in Baltimore stopped without reasonable suspicion. Black drivers in Ferguson, Mo., searched much more frequently than whites. Cleveland residents punched and kicked by officers and subjected to stun guns, without posing any threat. In report after report in the Obama years, Justice Department lawyers found patterns of eye-popping rights violations and used them as leverage to force local departments to agree to major policing overhauls.
25 years after the riots: An LAPD detective recalls gathering intel on who would be looted
This is the fifth installment in a series of as-told-to stories from Angelenos who witnessed the first 48 hours of the 1992 riots. At the time, Glynn Martin was a Major Narcotics detective for LAPD. The unit had seized 10,000 pounds of cocaine in two record-setting cases the year before, records he says still stand today. On April 29, 1992,Martin’s unit had to drop preparation for two major federal trials and assist with the all-hands-on-deck order from Chief Daryl Gates.
LA Sheriff calls Antelope Valley federal agreement ‘beneficial’
As the U.S. Justice Department prepares to review and possibly roll back a series of federal agreements mandating reforms at law enforcement agencies across the country, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell says the agreement affecting his department has brought about “beneficial” changes. Four years ago, the Justice Department found L.A. Sheriff’s deputies in the Antelope Valley were engaged in “widespread” harassment of the mostly minority residents of low-income housing.
‘War on Cops’ author Heather Mac Donald shouted down at UCLA by hysterical Black Lives Matter protest
A speech by Heather Mac Donald at UCLA on Wednesday frequently descended into chaos as Black Lives Matter protesters stormed the stage and chanted their signature phrase over and over, and also took over portions of the Q&A with angry accusations and raucous shouting, a video of the event shows. Mac Donald, a Manhattan Institute scholar who spoke on campus at the behest of the Bruin Republicans to give a “Blue Lives Matter” talk about her 2016 book “The War on Cops,” appeared to be able to largely get through the first half of her speech without much dissension.
Weaponized police drones are coming
In small unmanned aerial drones, police and firefighters have discovered a useful new tool, with at least 347 agencies in 43 states now flying them. Drone deployment by law enforcement and municipalities began more than a decade ago when it was just an emerging technology with extremely limited use. But those days are over: Last year, more public agencies acquired drones than in all previous years combined, with at least 167 departments fielding the flying robots in 2016, according to a study released April 6 by Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone.
SF courts anything but safe for some immigrants in sanctuary city
San Francisco’s public officials constantly say the city must remain a sanctuary for immigrants living in the country without documentation so they’ll come forward if they’re a victim of or witness to a crime. But some who have come forward have found the city’s courtrooms anything but a safe harbor. Maria, a housekeeper from Honduras living in San Francisco without documentation, called police in May 2015 to report that she had been sexually assaulted.
For some California sheriffs, it’s not politics stopping them from fully helping ICE: It’s the legal risk
Adam Christianson makes no bones about helping federal immigration agents nab people for deportation. The three-term sheriff of Stanislaus County, east of the Bay Area, gives agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement unfettered access to his jails, where they interview inmates and scroll through computer databases. The information allows the agents to find and take custody of people they suspect of living in the country illegally before they are released from jail.
Study validates value of allowing driver’s licenses for unauthorized residents
Thousands of immigrants who can now drive legally under a new California law have lowered the rate of hit-and-run accidents throughout the state and improved traffic safety, Stanford analysts say. More than 800,000 immigrants in the country without authorization have obtained California driver’s licenses since the controversial law took effect two years ago over the objection of critics who said it would raise the risk of traffic accidents.
Prosecutors want ICE agents to stop making arrests at courthouses
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and District Attorney Jackie Lacey are among a dozen prosecutors who sent a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking the federal government to stop its agents from making immigration arrests at local courthouses. The letter was sent in support of California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who first raised the issue in March in a letter to the Trump administration.
California prosecutors sign letter asking ICE agents to stop arresting at local courthouses
Prosecutors across the state, including Long Beach’s own Doug Haubert, added their names to a letter sent yesterday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking the federal government to stop its agents from making immigration arrests at local courthouses. “We want to ensure that crime victims and others have access to justice and safeguarding that courthouses are places of safety is important for that access,” Haubert told the Post.
Public Safety
911 systems are getting old, and the public can be in danger when they fail
A recent rash of disruptions in antiquated 911 emergency-response systems points up the urgent need for new technology to save lives in the wireless age. But few states or localities have the financial means to pay for it on their own. On one evening in March, AT&T Wireless customers nationwide found they couldn’t dial 911, prompting local emergency officials in more than a half-dozen states – including Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas – to tell people to call an alternate number or text authorities in case of emergency. The company said it was a “service issue.”
Sessions warns of crime spike despite being ‘near historic lows’
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday warned against a spike in crimes across the U.S. and called for a crackdown on violent criminals while acknowledging that overall crime rates “remain near historic lows.” “In the past four decades, our nation has won great victories against crime,” Sessions said during a speech in St. Louis. “Overall, crime rates remain near historic lows. Murder rates are half of what they were in 1980. We have driven the violent crime rate down to almost half of what it was at its peak.”
Hackers next target could be the US electric grid
You’ve heard about hackers trying to steal credit card numbers and wipe out bank accounts. But there’s another group that many cybersecurity experts say especially worry them. These criminals are targeting critical infrastructure, like power grids – and what makes them dangerous is that some are backed by governments and big money. “Turning off water, turning off electricity. Those are all realistic attacks now,” said Liam O’ Murchu a director with cybersecurity company Symantec, the manufacturer of Norton security products.
California gubernatorial candidates call for a change in approach to public safety policies
Candidates in California’s 2018 race for governor on Tuesday sounded off on their support for mental health services, rehabilitation programs and an approach to criminal justice that puts victims at the center of policy. At a community forum hosted by the group Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, State Treasurer John Chiang, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom were quizzed on their public safety priorities as the state has moved to loosen sentencing, reduce prison overcrowding and provide greater assistance to offenders re-entering society.
Hate crimes rise 15 percent in LA with uptick in LGBT victims
The city of Los Angeles experienced a 15 percent increase in hate crimes in 2016, along with a significant spike in attacks against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, according to data analyzed by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. The number of hate crimes rose from 200 in 2015 to 230 in 2016, the highest number of hate crimes seen in Los Angeles since 2008, said Brian Levin, the center’s director.
Hate crimes focal point of new DOJ task force
Attorney General Jeff Sessions provided an update on the Justice Department’s new crime reduction task force Wednesday, including new details on a subcommittee that will specifically focus on hate crime prevention. In a letter to US Attorney’s offices across the country, Sessions explained that the Hate Crimes Subcommittee “will develop a plan to appropriately address hate crimes to better protect the rights of all Americans.”
San Fernando Valley residents fight crime spike with social media
A recent spike in burglaries in the San Fernando Valley is one of the reasons hundreds of people came out for a town hall meeting. Jane Yamamoto reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
Shootings up 183 percent in Santa Ana from 2013 to 2016, new police analysis shows
Newly released data is presenting a fuller picture of the magnitude of a surge in Santa Ana shootings last year that pushed street crime to the forefront of the November election and sharply shifted the balance of power at City Hall. A pace of more than a shooting a day for the first 50 days of 2016 represented a five-year high that brought unwelcome news media attention to Orange County’s second largest city.
County Government
County officials looking at options for LA homeless who refuse help
Los Angeles officials are looking into options for getting homeless with severe mental illnesses off the county’s streets. On Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors instructed the Department of Mental Health to research what legal options officials have at their disposal to compel people into treatment if it’s believed they’re so gravely disabled, they can’t make decisions for themselves.
LA leaders seek more teeth for holding employees accountable
A rule that blocks Los Angeles County employees from being discharged or reassigned will be reviewed after the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to find ways to hold them accountable while also protecting their rights. The board’s vote means several departments will review and possibly suggest amendments to a hearing process “to allow discharges, reductions, promotions or reassignments of Los Angeles County employees to different positions if they are found to previously have made false statements, misrepresentations and omissions of material facts in internal investigations.”
LA County’s legal costs mount to $132 million. Here’s why
Los Angeles County spent $132 million last year defending itself from lawsuits and other litigation costs related to the sheriff’s and fire departments and health services, among others, a recent report shows. The final tally marks an 11 percent increase over money spent in litigation costs in the 2014-15 fiscal year as well as a steady rise since 2012-13, according to the county counsel’s annual report released in February but posted on its website Thursday at the request by the Los Angeles Daily News.
Barger to ask County to look at mental health policy
L.A. County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger is recommending the Department of Mental Health to provide a legal analysis, interpretation and application of all existing state mental health laws. “Currently in Los Angeles County, we have a homeless crisis,” said Tony Bell, spokesperson for Supervisor Barger. “Many of these individuals are suffering from mental illness.”
City Government
Circus, racist antics test free speech at LA City Hall
Gadflies who like to antagonize elected officials at public meetings and often get kicked out as a result may soon be facing criminal citations for trespassing as a result of a City Council motion passed Wednesday, according to a city councilman. “Oftentimes we have a lot of disruptions during the meetings where we have to remove particular speakers. These are the same people over and over that come in each and every day, in every committee meeting, to disrupt the meeting in the same form and fashion,” City Councilman Mitchell Englander told City News Service.
Facebook loses search warrant challenge in New York court
Facebook has lost a legal fight against a New York City prosecutor who sought search warrants for hundreds of user accounts. The New York state Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that while the case raised important questions about privacy it was “constrained” by the law relating to who can challenge search warrants. Prosecutors in Manhattan sought search warrants in 2013 for the accounts of 381 people in connection with a disability benefits fraud case against New York City police and fire retirees.
Trying to speed up executions could deal ‘mortal blow’ to California Supreme Court
If a November ballot measure to speed up executions goes into effect, the California Supreme Court will have to decide hundreds of death penalty appeals in rapid succession. That mandate would turn the state’s highest court into what analysts say would be “a death penalty court,” forced for years to devote about 90% of its time to capital appeals.
Retirement savings for all? California vows to proceed despite new D.C. obstacle
California’s grand plan to extend retirement security to millions of workers, a cornerstone of the economic agenda put forward by state Democrats, is looking a little bit less secure. That’s because Republicans in the U.S. Senate are poised to vote to roll back a little-known Obama administration regulation, putting California’s Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program in jeopardy.

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