Monday Morning Memo for May 1, 2017

Walgreens pays $10 million to settle California claim
Federal prosecutors say Walgreens has paid nearly $10 million to settle claims that it sought reimbursement from California’s Medi-Cal program without proper documentation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento said Thursday that the state program pays for specific drugs used to treat certain illnesses for millions of Californians with low incomes and disabilities.
Flawed DNA test nearly pinned Spokane man for attempted rape in Beverly Hills
In October 2014, two Beverly Hills, California, detectives boarded a flight to Spokane to visit Mark “Woody” Merrifield at the Geiger Corrections Center. Local prosecutors were preparing to try him for drug possession, theft and possession of a stolen vehicle. The detectives hoped to add a few more charges to Merrifield’s rap sheet.
Veterans score major victory in Los Angeles
Justice was again served last week against the Veterans Administration – specifically, its LA office, which once again got slapped down in its efforts to squelch a critic. Exactly why federal prosecutors tried to work the VA’s will is a question Attorney General Jeff Sessions should be asking. For most of a decade, Vietnam-era vet Robert Rosebrock, now 75, has protested outside the VA compound in Los Angeles, charging that the agency doesn’t do remotely enough for homeless vets.
‘If anything ever happens to me, Bobby did it’ – the latest testimony from the Robert Durst murder case
Susan Berman was pacing nervously and biting her lip when her friend Miriam Barnes entered her apartment. “I’m going to tell you something, but I need you not to ask me any questions,” Barnes quoted Berman as saying. “I did something today.” Berman didn’t explain what she had done, only that it was a favor for a close friend of hers: New York real estate scion Robert Durst.
Judge gives prosecutors access to Durst’s papers for murder trial
A judge ruled Thursday that the Los Angeles district attorney’s office may pore through 60 boxes of Robert Durst’s papers for evidence to use in prosecuting the New York real estate scion for the murder of his close friend Susan Berman. Although Durst’s defense team said materials in the boxes could be protected by the attorney-client privilege, Superior Court Judge Mark Windham held that Durst had waived the privilege by sharing the boxes with the creators of a 2015 documentary about him.
Sessions: We’ll go after white-collar criminals too
In his first weeks as attorney general, Jeff Sessions has kept a relentless focus on his plans to crack down on illegal immigration and violent crime. On Monday, he said that doesn’t mean corrupt businesses will get a pass. “As we re-double our efforts to combat violent crime, we will still enforce the laws that protect American consumers and ensure that honest businesses aren’t placed at a disadvantage to dishonest businesses,” he said.
Local prosecutor wins prosecutor of the state after winning death penalty case
Felicia Nagle is the first woman in Kern County to win the prosecutor of the year award for the state of California. Nagle is being honored by the California District Attorneys Associations. She beat out prosecutors in all other large California counties, like Los Angeles and San Diego.
Nagle has been with the DA’s office since 1996 and has worked in nearly every unit, and has prosecuted numerous homicides and sexual assaults.
Conviction & Sentencing
Lee Baca’s attorneys say ex-sheriff’s dementia diagnosis is ‘sentence of its own’
Federal prosecutors say former Sheriff Lee Baca should be sentenced to more than four years in federal prison, but because of his age and mental condition, a two-year sentence is recommended, they wrote in court documents filed Monday. Baca was found guilty in March of obstruction and other charges in connection with an FBI probe into corruption and excessive use of force inside the Men’s Central Jail in downtown L.A.
Man sentenced to 15 years for starting massive Da Vinci blaze in downtown L.A.
A man charged with setting a roaring blaze at the partially built Da Vinci apartment complex in Los Angeles that caused millions of dollars in damage, melted freeway signs and shrouded downtown in smoke was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison, prosecutors said.
Vietnam vet memorial wall graffiti attack in Venice: No contest plea to ‘horrible insult’
A second man pleaded no contest Wednesday to defacing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Venice just before Memorial Day last year in what one official termed a “horrible insult.” Luis Daniel Medina, 20, was immediately sentenced to 90 days of community service – 60 days of graffiti removal and 30 days with the Veterans Administration – along with 17 days already served behind bars and three years formal probation, according to Ricardo Santiago of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Weighing the stakes between public safety and punishing the poor with state bail reform
As reported by Bay Area News Group, AB 42 would enable people to be released at no cost while waiting for trial. The bill will be heard Tuesday before California’s State Assembly Committee on Public Safety. Under the proposed legislation, judges would be able to decide whether individuals would need to be held until their court date.
Anticipating a shift to the right in the courts, the NRA begins its attack on gun controls in California
The state affiliate of the National Rifle Assn. on Monday filed the first in a series of planned court challenges opposing sweeping new gun control laws approved in California in the wake of the San Bernardino terror attacks. The flurry of legal action comes as Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, takes his seat, returning a conservative majority to the nation’s highest court.
The hidden costs of gas-tax legislation
For the last three weeks this column has focused on both the policies and politics of the $5.2 billion annual transportation tax increase. In the unlikely event that some have forgotten – or were on another planet – the taxes include a substantial hike in the car tax as well as a 12 cent increase in the gas tax. However, as one might hear in a low-budget, late-night television ad, “But wait, there’s more!”
Federal-state marijuana policy: An uneasy peace
Cannabis industry entrepreneurs are used to navigating the obvious tension between state and federal law regarding the legalization of marijuana, particularly now that states like Colorado, Washington and California, among many others, have legalized recreational marijuana.  However, recent comments by Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicating intent to increase enforcement of federal prohibitions on marijuana have ratcheted up that tension.
Proposed CA bill could take some convicted sex offenders off registry
A controversial bill making its way through the California Capitol is aimed at removing some sex offenders from the online registry. California Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, introduced Senate Bill 412, which would limit the amount of time sex offenders are included in the online registry based on the seriousness of their sex crime and the risk they pose to others.
$155 billion a year in higher taxes and fees proposed in first four months of legislative session
In the first four months of the 2017-18 legislative session, California lawmakers introduced $155 billion in higher taxes and fees – a staggering amount that will give pause to every business owner when considering expansion, and cause families to reflect on California’s affordability.
District Attorney
Orange County District Attorney’s top investigator accused of sexting on the job
A new scandal has hit the Orange County District Attorney’s Office after one of its top investigators was accused of sexting while on duty. The department’s chief investigator, Craig Hunter, a former deputy chief at the Anaheim Police Department, was off the job after accusations of sexting while at work.
Prison & Jail
Two inmates found dead in separate cells at Salinas Valley State Prison
Two inmates were found dead inside separate cells at a state prison in Monterey County early Saturday, officials said. Authorities at Salinas Valley State Prison are investigating the death of Cedric J. Saunders as a homicide, saying the 22-year-old inmate serving a five-year sentence for robbery was found unresponsive inside his cell Saturday morning.
How ‘schools not prisons’ became a favorite rallying cry for criminal justice reformers
A bill winding its way through the Legislature proposes a creative way to fund early childhood education: imposing a tax on companies that do business with California’s prison systems.
A tax on the “privilege” of such contracts, as Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) puts it, is an unorthodox policy prescription.
Deaths, ‘self-inflicted violence’ up in LA County jails
It’s shaping up to be a bad year for deaths inside Los Angeles County jails: 10 people died from natural causes through March 24, county Inspector General Max Huntsman said Thursday.  “There were a lot of deaths at the beginning of the year,” Huntsman told the new Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission, which had requested the numbers. “If they continue at this rate, we will about double the rate of deaths from last year.”
Law Enforcement
After United clash, airport police brass warn officers to avoid such feuds
Police agencies that patrol U.S. airports have a message for their rank and file after Chicago officers dragged a United Airlines passenger off a plane: Don’t get involved in carriers’ civil disputes. It is one that police brass have relayed to officers in cities such as New York City and Atlanta in the wake of the April 9 incident at O’Hare International Airport when Chicago Department of Aviation officers pulled David Dao, 69 years old, from a seat after United had bumped him and three other passengers to make room for crew members due to fly the next morning.
Police report says passenger fought with officers before he was pulled from United flight
The Chicago aviation officers who forcibly removed a passenger from a United Airlines flight filed reports saying the traveler was “aggressive” when responding to requests to give up his seat and flailed his arms while fighting with officers.
Police chiefs: Speed safety cameras in San Jose, San Francisco can save lives
Last year 50 people in San José and 30 people in San Francisco tragically died due to traffic collisions. Each left behind a heart-breaking hole in their families and communities. The cities of San José and San Francisco both have adopted a commitment, known as Vision Zero, to end traffic fatalities in our cities.
LA Sheriffs: Cop videos not the whole story
In recent years’ videos of law enforcement in action have become commonplace. Departments have adopted video cameras to record their deputies and officers in action, bystanders have posted cellphone videos of police action, and surveillance cameras have captured images which have been replayed on local and national media.
BART takeover robbery: 40 to 60 teens swarm train, hold up riders
BART police are beefing up patrols at Oakland stations after dozens of juveniles terrorized riders Saturday night when they invaded the Coliseum Station and commandeered at least one train car, forcing passengers to hand over bags and cell phones and leaving at least two with head injuries.
Aero Bureau Noir: The strange case of the LASD’s missing helicopter engines
Part I: The Mystery of the Engines – Mike Stille stared grimly at the group of huge cans-metal barrels, really-that his transport guys had recently unloaded inside his Number 2 warehouse located in Peachtree City, GA. The cans themselves looked normal enough, but Stille did not have an upbeat feeling about what he was going to find inside the things.
Seven years later, shooting death of prominent SoCal attorney remains a mystery
Family members and investigators issued a call for help Tuesday in an effort to solve the 2009 killing of a prominent attorney who was gunned down outside his Rolling Hills Estates residence. Jeffrey Tidus, 53, was fatally shot on Dec. 7, 2009, after he returned home from a fundraiser in Redondo Beach, according to the sheriff’s department.
Cyber extortion demands surge as victims keep paying: Symantec
Hackers are demanding increasingly hefty ransoms to free computers paralyzed with viruses, as cyber criminals seek to maximize profits from large numbers of victims willing to pay up, according to cyber security firm Symantec Corp. The average demand embedded in such malicious software, which is known as ransomware, more than tripled last year to $1,077 from $294, and the pricing has continued to rise in 2017, according to Symantec.
Technology use by sex traffickers fuels debate between privacy and security
Sex traffickers are growing more adept at using sophisticated technology to exploit people, especially tools to hide their identity and encrypt data, fanning an ongoing battle between online privacy and security, a conference heard on Tuesday. Websites, chat rooms and virtual currency all are used by traffickers to hunt for child victims and sell them, said Kevin Gutfleish, a specialist in violent crimes against children at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
With gang crime up in the west San Fernando Valley, LA leader seeks more funding
While the west San Fernando Valley is not known for high rates of gang activity, a recent rise in gang-related crime in the area has prompted a Los Angeles city councilman to call for more funding to prevent the problem from getting worse. The Los Angeles Police Department’s West Valley Division has a fully staffed gang unit, but it does not receive any direct financial help from the mayor’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development program, a $25 million program distributed across 23 zones around the city to operate gang prevention and intervention services.
LA rapper who bragged about ‘flocking’ wanted in string of knock-knock burglaries
A Los Angeles street gang member who starred in a rap music video about “flocking” – a slang term for breaking into a home in order to steal – has been on the run for months after being charged by Ventura County prosecutors with four counts of residential burglary, authorities said.
After 27-year-old Darren King was arrested for the Simi Valley burglaries, he posted bail of $50,000 last August but failed to appear in court later that month, according to police.
Study raises alarm about drugged drivers
Driving under the influence of legal and illegal drugs is causing the same concern for motorists today that drunken driving caused 40 years ago and should generate the same response. That’s the conclusion of an updated study released Wednesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association, which called for greater enforcement of laws against impaired driving, improved training for police officers and increased educational programs to persuade drugged drivers not to get behind the wheel.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Crack down on prostitution aims at impounding cars of LA pimps and johns
Pimps and johns in Los Angeles could soon see their vehicles impounded after a state Assembly committee approved a bill Wednesday that aims to create a pilot program allowing the action by law enforcement in an effort to crack down on prostitution. AB 1206 was approved with a 6-1 vote by the Assembly Public Safety Committee and would create a 24-month pilot program in Los Angeles.
Plan to station deputies in Commerce gets initial look
When a 9-1-1 call goes out in Commerce, deputies assigned to the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s station respond with lights flashing and sirens blaring as they cut through traffic to reach crime victims and arrest the bad guys. Commerce pays the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department $7.5 million a year to protect its residents and businesses, but worries precious response time is being lost because deputies are stationed outside the city.
Death Penalty
California further delays lethal injection regulations
California corrections officials are delaying their new lethal injection regulations by four months, officials announced Monday, pushing back this week’s deadline until late August. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation needs more time to update the proposed rules after an initial version was rejected by state regulators in December, spokeswoman Terry Thornton said.
California could finally resume executions next year
California has long been what one expert calls a “symbolic death penalty state,” one of 12 that has capital punishment on the books but has not executed anyone in more than a decade. Prodded by voters and lawsuits, the nation’s most populous state may now be easing back toward allowing executions, though observers are split on how quickly they will resume, if at all.
With executions in balance, Supreme Court grapples over role of experts
The Supreme Court struggled to decide on Monday whether criminal defendants who may be mentally ill are entitled to independent expert witnesses to help defend them, or whether court-appointed experts who report to both the prosecution and the defense are sufficient. The case concerns a death row inmate from Alabama, James E. McWilliams, but the issue in his case also figures in two of the eight executions Arkansas had hoped to carry out this month.
Meet the man leading the push for more executions in the U.S.
It’s been a decade since California’s last execution; the state now has 749 people on death row. Many of them have had that designation for decades; their execution seems increasingly unlikely. In November, Californians voted in favor of Proposition 66, which was billed as a “fix it, don’t end it” reform of the death penalty.
California Today: A big swing on sanctuary cities
Not long ago, California Democrats were broadly opposed to so-called sanctuary policies that limit cooperation between local police and federal immigration agents. But times have changed. A poll conducted by U.C. Berkeley researchers in 2015 found that attitudes on sanctuary policies transcended political affiliation: 82 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats were opposed to them.
Once celebrated, special driver’s licenses stir anxiety among immigrants in California
Leticia Aceves remembers the fear of her first drive alone. She was pregnant and in the country illegally with no driver’s license, and little grasp of English or California’s traffic laws. She had a doctor’s appointment, so she drove on side streets and avoided Highway 49 — the town’s main road — hoping to lessen her chance of being pulled over by police.
Sanctuary cities ruling: When a judge quotes Sean Spicer, it’s not a good sign for the White House
When a long list of comments from President Trump, his surrogates and his spokesmen shows up in a federal court ruling, it’s fair to say it can only mean one thing: a constitutionally questionable executive order is about to get a judicial smackdown. That was true in March, when federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland suspended Trump’s travel ban, saying the administration had showed a clear animus toward Muslims, despite government lawyers’ claims to the contrary.
A new federal office will seek to assist victims of crimes committed by immigrants
In the latest Trump administration effort to spotlight crimes committed by immigrants in the country illegally, the head of Homeland Security on Tuesday launched a new office to help what he said are forgotten victims. The office, part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was given a toll-free hotline to report crimes and to offer support to victims, including local contacts with immigration officers and access to social services.
City Government
LA City Hall braces for retirement wave
It’s a statistic they’ve known for a while now, but it’s inching ever closer: More than 40 percent of the city of L.A.’s 45,000 employees will become eligible for retirement by 2018. The wave of retirement is mostly due to an aging workforce, something that’s happening all across the country, said Dr. Fernando Guerra, who runs the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University (and is a member of KPCC’s Board of Trustees).
Montebello council to consider placing sales-tax measure on November ballot
After relying for years on one-time infusions of cash to plug holes in the city’s budget, Montebello’s council could soon declare a fiscal emergency that would allow officials to put a sales tax increase on the Nov. 7 ballot. The city faces a $5.6 million deficit in City Manager Francesca Tucker-Schuyler’s $58 million budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
Berkeley cell phone warning law upheld by federal appeals court
Berkeley can require retailers to warn their cell phone customers about the possible radiation effects of carrying switched-on phones close to their bodies, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. The cell phone industry sued to block enforcement of the ordinance, calling it an “inflammatory” message that violated retailers’ freedom of speech.
U.S. top court won’t review Houston police shooting ‘waistband’ defense
The U.S. Supreme Court, turning down a chance to test the limits of police use of force, declined on Monday to revive an unarmed suspect’s lawsuit accusing a Houston officer of unconstitutional excessive force for shooting him in the back after he reached for his own waistband.
California Supreme Court: An epidemic of misconduct?
Secrecy is power. Power tends to corrupt. Corruption destroys. The courts are the most secretive branch of government. The secrecy which the California courts enjoy has resulted in serious constitutional violations. While anyone may bring a video camera to record other public meetings, the law forbids the recording any judicial proceeding without the express, prior permission of the court.
Sotomayor sees ‘disturbing trend’ of unequal treatment regarding police, alleged victims
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote Monday that the court is developing a “disturbing trend” of siding with police officers accused of excessive force at the expense of their alleged victims, a notion disputed by two of her colleagues. Sotomayor was arguing that the court should have accepted the case of Richardo Salazar-Limon, who was shot in the back by Houston police officer Chris Thompson in 2010.
Split roll property tax proposal is really a pension tax
When state Sens. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, introduce a split roll property tax to increase taxes on business property, you’ll hear arguments from advocates that the tax money is for the schools and local services such as libraries and police. In actuality, the measure is a tax to fund public employee pensions and health care costs.
Some common sense in California? 
The California Public Employees Retirement System, the largest public pension fund in the nation, rejected a proposal that it divest itself of stocks in fossil fuel companies because-yes, I can hardly believe it-it would harm the investment returns of the fund. Given than California’s unfunded liability for future public pensions is perhaps $800 billion or more, California’s investment managers need to get every cent they can from their portfolio.
Think public pensions can’t be cut? Think again.
As John M. Richardson, a pioneer in the study of system dynamics, once put it, “When it comes to the future, there are three types of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” That’s as good a way as any to describe what has befallen so many of our state and local government pensions systems, now facing a collective funding shortfall of $5 trillion.
L.A. Riots Anniversary
From Los Angeles to Ferguson: 25 years after Rodney King riots, ‘there’s a South Central in every city and every state’
The side streets between Normandie and Vermont Avenues are meticulously pleasant, nearly suburban. Children ride bikes down clean sidewalks, past tidy gardens of desert succulents. A toddler kicks a soccer ball into a fence. Old folks watch from the porches of small, well-kept homes.
5 ways South L.A. has changed since the riots
When the riots struck in 1992, South Los Angeles was mostly composed of poor and working-class neighborhoods. The community south of the 10 freeway was trying to recover from the 1980s crack epidemic and from disappearing manufacturing jobs that had supported families and sustained homeownership for decades.

Recommended Posts