Monday Morning Memo for May 29, 2017

Prosecutors are pushing back against Sessions order to pursue most severe penalties
A week after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” and follow mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, a bipartisan group of prosecutors at the state and local level is expressing concern. Thirty current and former state and local prosecutors have signed an open letter, which was released Friday by the nonprofit Fair and Just Prosecution, a national network working with newly elected prosecutors.
What San Diego might expect under Attorney General Sessions’ new prosecution guidelines
Harsher penalties against drug couriers and immigrant smugglers who cross the border. The scaling back of a diversion program aimed at reforming youthful, first-time offenders. Fewer plea deals and more trials. These are some of the potential effects that attorneys who work in federal courtrooms in San Diego are expecting to see under U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new orders to prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” in all cases, including drug crimes.
Conviction & Sentencing
Some marijuana convictions go up in smoke with California legalization
Jay Schlauch’s conviction for peddling pot haunted him for nearly a quarter century. The felony prevented him from landing jobs, gave his wife doubts about tying the knot and cast a shadow over his typically sunny outlook on life. So when an opportunity arose to reduce his record to a misdemeanor under the voter-approved law that legalized recreational marijuana last year, Schlauch wasted little time getting to court.
California’s legal pot law helps reduce, erase convictions
Jay Schlauch’s conviction for peddling pot haunted him for nearly a quarter century. The felony prevented him from landing jobs, gave his wife doubts about tying the knot and cast a shadow over his typically sunny outlook on life. So when an opportunity arose to reduce his record to a misdemeanor under California’s voter-approved law that legalized recreational marijuana last year, Schlauch wasted little time getting to court.
Mandatory minimums don’t deserve your ire
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is being tarred as a racist-again-for bringing the law fully to bear on illegal drug traffickers. Mr. Sessions has instructed federal prosecutors to disclose in court the actual amount of drugs that trafficking defendants possessed at the time of arrest. That disclosure will trigger the mandatory penalties set by Congress for large-scale dealers.
House passes bill targeting shootings of police
The House approved legislation Thursday that makes killing a state or local police officer an aggravating factor that juries and judges would consider in death penalty cases. Under current law, killing a federal law enforcement officer is already an aggravating factor in death penalty deliberations. The bill’s supporters say it’s important to apply that standard to the murder of state and local law enforcement and other first responders, too, because it sends a message of accountability.
Lawmakers should think carefully before leashing ‘The Dog’
Crime in California is on the rise and the solution offered by Sacramento is … releasing suspected criminals back into the community without requiring them to post bail? Assembly Bill 42 would, if passed and signed, authorize the pretrial release of an “arrested person,” and “set a time and place for the appearance of the arrested person before the appropriate court and give notice thereof” without the “arrested person” guaranteeing his or her appearance with a surety bond.
Ending California’s bail program would be disastrous
State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, and Assemblymen Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, introduced Senate Bill 10 and Assembly Bill 42, which would end California’s bail system, thus automatically releasing hundreds of thousands of defendants into our streets. To add insult to injury, the legislation provides no incentive for them to appear in court and be held accountable for their actions.
Is bigger better for number of state legislators, county supervisors? Thomas Elias
Bigger, California has learned through long experience, isn’t always better. In fact, it can be downright destructive, as when a city outgrows its water or freeway system. The question of whether bigger can actually be better, more responsive and cost-effective arises again this spring, in a pair of proposals that could fundamentally change politics both statewide and in California’s largest county.
California Assembly Democrats launch progressive caucus
Riding a wave of activism in state politics, nearly two dozen Assembly Democrats have formed a progressive caucus to prop up the party’s left flank in the Legislature. The formation of the group, which held a private audience with hip-hop star Common during last weekend’s California Democratic Party convention, speaks to the ideological fissures that exist within the Democratic supermajority in the Capitol.
District Attorney
South L.A. charter school founder charged with embezzlement, money laundering
The head of a now-defunct South L.A. charter school has been charged with embezzlement and money laundering, accused of funneling roughly $200,000 from the school to a company she owned, prosecutors said Thursday. Kendra Okonkwo, 51, was charged with misappropriation of public funds, grand theft by embezzlement, money laundering and keeping a false account, according to a news release issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Supervisor wants feds to take over Orange County DA’s office
Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer wants the feds to take over the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, alleging misconduct by O.C. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Spitzer sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday, requesting that the Department of Justice “intervene immediately in the deepening crisis within the Orange County Attorney’s Office.” The letter outlines numerous concerns and alleges misconduct by Rackauckas.
On CBS’s 60 Minutes, DA Tony Rackauckas tells OC snitch-scandal lies
With the impending 2016 arrival of a CBS 60 Minutes crew digging into one of the nation’s most troubling criminal-justice-system scandals, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas faced four uncomfortable options: one cowardly, one honest but painful, and two deceitful. Rackauckas could refuse interviews and pray the network’s producers lost interest. The four-term, 74-year-old DA could also take the honorable course by coming clean and resigning office.
Poll shows a majority of Contra Costa residents want DA to resign
Troubles continued to mount for Conta Costa County’s embattled District Attorney Tuesday as an exclusive new KPIX 5 poll showed a whopping 70 percent of respondents saying he should resign. A civil grand jury and prosecutors in DA Mark Peterson’s own office have already called for his resignation. Last week, Peterson was officially indicted for misappropriating $66,000 from his campaign, spending the money on travel, hotels, restaurants, and movie tickets.
Prison & Jail
Debate over sex offenders moves to court as California undertakes prison parole overhaul
Los Angeles-based nonprofit is claiming California prison officials have undermined last fall’s ballot measure to overhaul the state’s parole process by excluding sex offenders from consideration for early release. The Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, which advocates for the rights of those convicted of sex crimes and their families, says the exemption – written into newly released guidelines to implement Proposition 57 – “impermissibly restricts and impairs the scope” of the initiative.
California leads the nation in life sentences. A new bill aims to change that
Twenty-five years after a grieving father’s obsession helped turn his state into one of the strictest on repeat offenders, California leads the nation with the highest percentage of prisoners serving for life. The Sentencing Project released last week a report stating that one in every seven state or federal prisoners across the country are serving life, or virtual life, sentences.
Informant says he was planted in Orange County jail to snitch
Orange County, California-an hour south of Los Angeles-is best known for its wealthy, sprawling suburbs, tony beach communities and Disneyland. But lately, it has drawn unwanted attention from the California attorney general and the U.S. Department of Justice for the way its prosecutors use informants in its jails. Used correctly, informants can be valuable assets to law enforcement to help bolster their cases.
Gun Control
Proof CA democrats prefer criminals over legal gun owners
Thursday, in a move that absolutely defies the slightest semblance of logic, the Democrat controlled California State Senate passed a measure that will lower the sentences for felons who used a gun in the commission of their crimes.  Yes, you read that right.  They are reducing sentences for criminals using guns.  These are the very same Democrats that constantly create and pass stricter and stricter gun control laws, and who constantly scream, cry and whine about how guns are bad.
State releases new assault weapon rules after threat of legal action
Regulations on the ownership and registration of assault weapons in California were released to the public late Thursday after a coalition of Second Amendment proponents threatened legal action against state agencies if the rules were not disclosed. The regulations, which the California Department of Justice initially said might not be released for 30 days, went online late in the afternoon after attorneys for the coalition threatened to go to court to obtain them.
California lawmakers aim to strengthen gun ban in schools
California lawmakers have passed a bill to revoke superintendents’ ability to let people carry guns in a school zone. The California Assembly passed AB424 43-23 Monday, sending the measure to the state Senate. The Legislature initially let superintendents give people permission to carry guns on campus to ensure domestic violence survivors could protect themselves, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty said.
Arizona gun laws in L.A.? It could happen
Californians have a lot on the line in the next congressional debate about America’s gun laws. Two bills stacked with legislative sponsors – HB 38 in the House, SB 446 in the Senate – would override our state’s longstanding rules governing who is allowed to carry a concealed, loaded firearm in public.
Law Enforcement
‘Community member’ term for suspects on Seattle police use of force reports
When Seattle police officers write use of force reports they no longer call a suspect a suspect. “Community member” is the new term. Several officers say the term is offensive, explaining their work with violent suspects. Sources point to the suspect who shot three officers last month after a downtown Seattle armed robbery. When officers involved in that incident were writing their use of force reports they were required to refer to the shooter, Damarius Butts, as a “community member,” not a suspect, police sources said.
Arrest made in hit-and-run crash that left LAPD officer with broken leg
Police have arrested the hit-and-run driver of an SUV they said struck a Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle officer, severely injuring him. “The driver was a juvenile so I can’t give you much information about him,” LAPD Lt. Abe Rangel of the Central Traffic Division. The male juvenile was allegedly spotted leaving the scene by a security guard who was near the crash site, Rangel said. That guard flagged down an officer who went after the driver.
Key figure in L.A. County Sheriff’s Department jail corruption scandal sentenced to nine-month prison term
William “Tom” Carey, once a captain in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who admitted to obstructing an FBI investigation into county jails and gave federal prosecutors crucial testimony that helped convict disgraced former Sheriff Lee Baca in the scheme, was sentenced to nine months in prison Monday. The punishment was handed down by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson, who presided over the trials of Baca and eight others found guilty of playing roles in the obstruction plan.
LAPD officer is spared time behind bars in South L.A. assault case caught on video
It was a case that echoed the larger national debate about how police use force: a black man, assaulted by an officer, caught on video. For some, the beating cried out for a stiff punishment.
But on Tuesday, a judge sentenced Garcia to two years of probation, allowing him to avoid jail time as part of a deal with prosecutors that drew criticism for being too lenient.
Deputies sue former high-ranking sheriff’s official and former prosecutor, alleging vendetta
Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies say they were framed for lying about a drug bust and that prosecutors knowingly withheld evidence that would have spared them a trial, lost wages and public humiliation, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday. The lawsuit names former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former county prosecutor Kevin Stennis, who now serves as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.
Inglewood cop killer’s release disturbs family, police officials
A man convicted of killing an Inglewood police sergeant nearly 30 years ago was released from prison on parole Tuesday, dealing a stunning defeat to the officer’s family and colleagues who believe he should never live freely again. Joevone Elster, 51, who masterminded the robbery that resulted in Sgt. George Aguilar’s death, was handed over to Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies Tuesday afternoon, a state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman said.
CrimeBeat: How much trouble will I get in for a gram of heroin?
How much legal trouble will a gram of heroin get me in? First things first: Even a small amount of heroin can be deadly. And if you are caught in possession, it can do lasting damage to your finances and life, be it at work, school or home. As for the level of legal jeopardy if you are busted with a gram, the simple answer from Mike Perry, a Sonoma County chief deputy public defender assigned to the county’s drug court: “Not too much, actually.”
Why California must defy Trump on immigration
Here’s what we learned about Ruben Navarrette Jr. from his May 16 column: He thinks we shouldn’t protect hardworking undocumented residents from President Trump’s mass-deportation machine because it is like kicking “white people in the teeth.” Their fear of losing the “white majority” in coming decades has been heightened by the president’s politically expedient portrayal of immigrants as a lawless community.
Governor’s race heats up among California Democrats
Californians won’t pick their governor until November 2018, but one story line is emerging among the Democrats battling to replace termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown: Because they largely agree on the issues, the race to lead the world’s sixth-largest economy is likely turn more on style and biography. The top four announced candidates for governor have been busy, collectively raising $20 million.
Eric Garcetti isn’t running for president (wink, wink)
Joe Biden’s already been to New Hampshire. Bernie Sanders will be in Iowa in July. Eric Garcetti is headed to Wisconsin. The Los Angeles mayor and his staff like to say his trip to the state Hillary Clinton famously forgot to pay attention to last year – he’ll keynote the state Democratic convention June 2 – is because the former state party finance director is a friend who used to fundraise for him, or that he was just such a hit when he spoke to the Wisconsin delegation during the Democratic convention last year that they invited him for more.
City & County Government
How LA County’s new mental health director hopes to help heal troubled minds
For as long as people who lived in the neighborhood could remember, the bottom floor of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health’s headquarters was surrounded by a chain-link fence, closed off from their view. Then a few months ago, something changed. The fence was pushed away. The space inside cleaned, painted and furnished.
Big changes recommended for California’s traffic court
The more than 4 million traffic tickets handed out to Californians each year for such infractions as speeding, failing to stop at a red light or failing to signal before changing lanes should no longer be criminal charges, but instead be handled in civil court, says California’s top judge. If other judicial leaders and state lawmakers agree with Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, erring drivers would spend less time in court and would no longer face fines of up to $300, and possible license suspensions, for failing to show up for a hearing.
Judge in mass-murder case claws at SoCal sheriff
Nearly 5½ years after Scott E. DeKraai massacred eight people at an Orange County beauty parlor and four years after DeKraai’s public defender began exposing the jailhouse informant scandal that rocked the county’s criminal justice system, the judge in the case says important information is still being kept from him.
Governor Brown names 23 trial judges, including nine in Los Angeles County
Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday named 23 persons to serve as trial judges, including nine who will sit on the Los Angeles Superior Court. The nine are Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha, Robert S. Harrison, Sarah J. Heidel, Gus T. May, Rubiya Nur, Nancy A. Ramirez, Lynn H. Scaduto, Neetu S. Badhan-Smith and J. Christopher Smith.
Counterfeit Products
Counterfeit products sold on Amazon hurt small, big businesses alike
When Amazon picked up the Forearm Forklift, the owner, Mark Loprieato, thought his Baldwin Park business would be lifted into the multimillionaires club. But instead of a sales boom, it was a sales bust. Loprieato says his product suddenly started getting bad reviews. So he looked closer at the listings on Amazon and discovered it was not his listing. People were ripping off his product, not one but dozens of fake listings on Amazon using the Forearm Forklift name, logo, even photos.
Amazon and eBay – Perfect marketplaces for counterfeits
Amazon and eBay are proving to be ideal platforms to enable and facilitate the distribution of some $1.7 trillion in global counterfeit goods, expected to grow to $2.8 trillion by 2022. Counterfeiting is profitable, difficult to track and widely unpunished. These benefits are drawing an avalanche of counterfeit listings from both U.S. and global sellers. All sorts of despicable things are involved in counterfeiting; terrorism, child labor exploitation, kidnapping, money laundering and organized crime.

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