January 16, 2017

Prosecution
Parolee pleads not guilty to killing Lancaster sheriff’s sergeant
A parolee accused of shooting a Lancaster sheriff’s sergeant responding to a burglary call, then pumping four additional shots into the veteran lawman once he was down, pleaded not guilty to a murder charge Monday. Trenton Trevon Lovell, 27, of Lancaster, is charged in the Oct. 5 killing of Sgt. Steve Owen. 
1st big case for DA’s special wrongful conviction unit
In 2005, Raymond Lee Jennings was arrested and charged with the 2000 murder of an 18-year-old Palmdale high school student. In 2009, he was convicted and sentenced to serve 40 years to life in prison. This week, prosecutors from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office – the same prosecutors that got him convicted – submitted a request to a judge to overturn the ruling based on newly discovered evidence of Jennings’ innocence.
Decision to retry former Sheriff Baca is questioned
A decision by federal prosecutors to retry former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca on obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges drew negative comments Tuesday in light of the 11-1 jury verdict on Dec. 22 in Baca’s favor. Former Court of Appeal Justice Elizabeth Baron, who was a deputy attorney general from 1977-82, commented that “retrying Sheriff Baca on charges in which there was an 11-1 vote for acquittal smacks of vindictive prosecution.”
Lawyer says Orange County DA uses two-pronged cheating strategy: Deny & attack
Wearing a sharp suit, perfectly coiffed hair and an indomitable expression befitting a feared senior deputy district attorney, Michael F. Murray walked through Orange County’s Central Courthouse in mid-December, entered a courtroom, swore an oath to tell the truth, then sat in the witness chair. Nobody doubted Murray’s contempt for the role reversal.
Conviction & Sentencing
‘Pillowcase Rapist’ ordered back to state hospital
A judge has ordered a notorious serial rapist who muffled victim’s screams with a pillowcase back to a California state mental hospital because he violated terms of his release. Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said Friday that a judge in Northern California revoked the conditional release of Christopher Hubbart.
Proposition 47
Prop. 47 has led to rise in property crime: Letters
It is interesting the editorial board (Jan. 8) chose to lead with a discussion of the national crime picture, and only later trotted out the claim that “California’s experience is in line with that of the rest of the country.” Disingenuous wordplay and deliberate conflating of time periods lie behind that claim.
Community Voices: Let not this teachable moment pass unseized
From the Dec. 16 USA Today: “Lopez, 57, a longtime addict, was serving a life sentence in prison for a third-strike methamphetamine conviction until last year, when he was released by Proposition 47, which downgraded drug possession and most small thefts to misdemeanors. “Prop 47 felt like emancipation at first, Lopez said, but freedom has not gone as planned.”
Prison & Parole
Governor’s budget gives a glimpse into challenges ahead for prison parole overhaul in California
Gov. Jerry Brown is asking lawmakers to set aside $10.6 million to begin the sweeping overhaul of prison parole he convinced California voters to approve last fall, a proposal that corrections officials say reflects his continued commitment to public safety and reforms.
California murder convict becomes first U.S. inmate to have state-funded sex reassignment surgery
A 57-year-old convicted killer serving a life sentence has become the first U.S. inmate to receive state-funded sex-reassignment surgery, the prisoner’s attorneys confirmed Friday. California prison officials agreed in August 2015 to pay for the surgery for Shiloh Heavenly Quine, who was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery for ransom and has no possibility of parole.
How corrections officers control supply and demand for contraband phones in prisons
High fees and communication restrictions have produced a booming black market for cell phones in prisons. In response, corrections departments conduct mass searches and introduce policies intended to diminish their supply. But such efforts arguably play a crucial role in preserving and perpetuating this lucrative market.
Drug maker remains defendant in suit brought by inmate claiming psychotic breakdown
A judge ruled Thursday that Pfizer Inc. will remain a defendant for now in a lawsuit brought by a man who claims its anti-smoking medication was a factor in his psychotic breakdown that led him to gouge his eyes out while in jail. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marc Marmaro added, however, that if Pfizer’s attorneys want to bring another dismissal motion focusing on whether plaintiff Michael Shabsis’ claims are precluded by federal law, he will hold a hearing.
Courts
Supreme Court to consider liability for “provoking” use of force
The outcome of Supreme Court Case 16-369 (Los Angeles County, Ca v. Mendez) could pose significant challenges for law enforcement-and police training. Provoking Use of Force – Basically, the main issue involves whether law enforcement officers are entitled to qualified immunity or liable for “provoking” the need for use of force-according to the “provocation rule” created within the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Freddie Gray case: Judge allows malicious prosecution lawsuit against Mosby to proceed
A federal judge is allowing key parts of a lawsuit against Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, brought by five of the six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, to move forward. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled that claims including malicious prosecution, defamation, and invasion of privacy can move forward against Mosby and Assistant Sheriff Samuel Cogen, who wrote the statement of probable cause.
Kathryn Steinle’s parents get OK to sue feds, but SF cleared
The parents of Kathryn Steinle, who was shot to death on a San Francisco pier in July 2015 by an immigrant with a record of deportations, can sue the federal government for negligence because a ranger allegedly left the gun used in the shooting in his unlocked car, a federal magistrate ruled Friday.
Court tosses California law that barred grand juries from investigating police shootings
A California appeals court tossed out a law that banned grand juries from determining whether police officers involved in fatal shootings should face criminal charges. The 2015 law sought more transparency in shooting investigations by shifting charging decisions from closed-door grand juries to prosecutors.
U.S. judge supervising Oakland police, California prisons to retire
The federal judge overseeing California’s prison healthcare system and the city of Oakland’s police department plans to retire in August, raising questions about how reform of both troubled institutions will unfold. Thelton Henderson, an icon of the U.S. civil rights movement, has presided over numerous high profile cases in more than 35 years on the San Francisco federal bench.
California’s top court to decide whether planned speed-up in executions is legal
California voters in November legalized marijuana, approved a plan to reduce the prison population and enacted gun controls. But on one key issue – the death penalty – the liberal tide shifted. Voters rejected a measure to ban capital punishment and instead approved an initiative intended to hasten executions. That measure is now before the California Supreme Court.
No right to child porn – none, appeals Court says
A California law requiring psychotherapists to report patients who look at child pornography on the internet does not violate patients’ privacy – even if the patients are teenagers sexting nude selfies to each other, an appellate court ruled Monday. “The privacy interest of patients who communicate that they watch child pornography is outweighed by the state’s interest in identifying and protecting sexually abused children,” Division Two of the Second Appellate District ruled, affirming a judgment from Los Angeles Superior Court.
Judge Persky critic rips state panel report in Brock Turner case
The Stanford law professor campaigning to remove a judge who gave a former athlete at the university six months in jail for sexual assault says the state commission that cleared the judge of unethical conduct ignored some facts and distorted others. The Commission on Judicial Performance’s examination of Judge Aaron Persky was “a one-sided, closed-door proceeding that resulted in an error-ridden report … by an agency with a long history of protecting judges,” Professor Michele Dauber said in an analysis posted Sunday on a website devoted to recalling the judge.
Another ruling says pension set at hire can be cut
A second appeals court panel has unanimously ruled that the public pension offered at hire can be cut without an offsetting new benefit, broadening support for what pension reformers call a “game changer” if the state Supreme Court agrees. The new ruling on Dec. 30 in a state firefighters suit on pension-boosting “airtime” purchases made several references to a groundbreaking ruling last summer in a Marin County pension “spiking” suit.
Law Enforcement
Inside LAX’s new anti-terrorism intelligence unit
In the summer of 2014, Anthony McGinty and Michelle Sosa were hired by Los Angeles World Airports to lead a unique, new classified intelligence unit on the West Coast. After only two years, their global scope and analytic capabilities promise to rival the agencies of a small nation-state. Their roles suggest an intriguing new direction for infrastructure protection in an era when threats are as internationally networked as they are hard to predict.
Rep. Duncan Hunter: Colleague’s ‘art’ disrespected cops
The U.S. Capitol represents many things to different people, but one thing it’s not is a modern art museum. Every year, Members of Congress host an art competition in their congressional districts and the winners-selected through a variety of ways-are given the honor of having their artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol for the world to see.  With the artwork, creativity is not in short supply.
Political ‘pig’-skin: Lawmakers scuffle over controversial Capitol Hill painting
A controversial painting on Capitol Hill depicting a police officer as a pig was becoming the very definition of a political football Tuesday as Democratic and Republican lawmakers repeatedly passed it back and forth in a growing tit-for-tat. Democratic lawmakers tried – twice – to put the painting back on display after a GOP colleague took it down Friday amid outrage from law enforcement groups.
Some worry that flawed gang database will be used for immigration enforcement
California legislators are feeling heightened urgency and pressure to make changes to law enforcement’s “CalGang” database because of fears that President-elect Donald Trump might use flawed information for immigration enforcement. Democrats and Republicans alike have voiced concern about use of the database, meant as a tool for local law enforcement agencies to fight organized crime.
Crime declines despite drop in imprisonment
As national imprisonment rates continue to fall, so too does crime, according to data collected by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Between 2010 and 2015, the national imprisonment rate declined 8.4 percent while property and violent crime rates fell a combined 14.6 percent. During this time period, 31 states saw reductions in both crime and imprisonment.
How the DOJ will conduct civil-rights investigation of Orange County district attorney, sheriff
Community forums. Face-to-face meetings with leaders of the local deputies union and with local defense attorneys. Twitter. Is this any way to conduct a civil-rights investigation? Actually it is. All of those forms of public outreach – many of them as likely to get people talking to each other as they are to ferret out misconduct – could be part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s new probe into the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Ferguson effect real, survey finds
Police work has always been hard. Today police say it is even harder. In a new Pew Research Center survey conducted by the National Police Research Platform, majorities of police officers say that recent high-profile fatal encounters between black citizens and police have made their jobs riskier, aggravated tensions between police and blacks, and left many officers reluctant to fully carry out some of their duties.
Sheriff has a promise for L.A.’s immigrants: Jim McDonnell
As sheriff of the largest and one of the most diverse counties in the nation, I want to assure our residents, and especially our immigrant communities, that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is deeply committed to helping all people in their time of need regardless of their immigration status.
Survey: Two-thirds of cops say marijuana laws should be relaxed
A Pew Research Center survey of nearly 8,000 police officers finds that more than two-thirds of them say that marijuana use should be legal for either personal or medical use. The nationally representative survey of law enforcement, one of the largest of its kind, found that 32 percent of police officers said marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, while 37 percent said it should be legal for medical use only.
DEA must end its informant program now
For years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has engaged in a questionable use of thousands of informants. The DEA has used airline employees, parcel services workers and even staff at other government agencies, such as the Transportation Safety Administration and Amtrak, as its informants, in violation of Justice Department policies.
LA County to expand Sheriff’s mental evaluation teams
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to more than double the number of mental evaluation teams at the sheriff’s department. The so-called MET teams include a specially trained deputy and clinician from the Department of Mental Health. They respond to deputies who need help dealing with a mentally ill person.
California police would have to disclose the use of more surveillance devices under this proposed law
In what will likely become another battle over the balance between privacy and public safety, new legislation at the state Capitol would expand the list of electronic surveillance devices that California law enforcement agencies must disclose to the public. The bill, introduced last month by state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), would require any local law enforcement agency in California that uses surveillance technology to submit a plan to local officials on how it uses the equipment and the information collected.
The Black Dahlia: Los Angeles’ most famous unsolved murder
Few people noticed the dark-haired woman when she was dropped off at the swanky Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, but when her torso was found nearly a week later, Elizabeth Short became a household name. On the morning of 15 January 1947, Betty Bersinger was walking with her young daughter along a barely developed street in the planned neighbourhood of Leimert Park when she saw what she thought was two halves of a tailor’s mannequin.
LAPD deepens training, psychological support for officers after shootings
The Los Angeles Police Department will now require officers who fire their guns on the job to complete training before they return to the field and meet with department psychologists more often. The changes, approved by the Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday, represent a subtle but significant shift in how the LAPD treats officers after shootings.
White and black police officers are sharply divided about race, pew finds
A new national survey of law enforcement officers found that the vast majority feel their jobs are harder than ever before, after the police-involved shootings of black Americans over the past several years. The nationally representative survey of close to 8,000 police officers, released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, provided some data to back up assertions made by leading law enforcement figures, including the F.B.I. director James Comey, that the publicity surrounding such episodes has discouraged the police from confronting suspects.
Crime is back as a Los Angeles city election issue
Crime rates have ticked up in Los Angeles, dramatically so in the San Fernando Valley, removing whatever complacency may have set in during years of improving public safety. If there’s any consolation about the end-of-2016 crime reports, it’s that they come at just the right time to put the issue on the table in the campaigns for the March 7 elections for citywide and City Council offices.
Amazon and eBay ideal outlets for counterfeits
When e-commerce giants eBay and Amazon try to monopolize profits, the collateral damage for manufacturers and consumers can be enormous, and devastating. Both eBay and Amazon have channeled their efforts into online “Marketplace” retail outlets which allow un-vetted global sellers to peddle hugely profitable counterfeit goods to unsuspecting consumers.
Preliminary crime stats for 2016 released
Monday, the FBI released its Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, which covers January through June 2016 and which shows an increase in the number of violent crimes and a decrease in the number of property crimes when compared to figures from the same time period in 2015. The data came from 13,366 law enforcement agencies across the nation.
Backers of police discipline change should be careful what they wish for
Both the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department may soon make changes to their disciplinary processes – but the proposals for the two agencies are moving in decidedly opposite directions. The sheriff is seeking something more like what the LAPD has while the police union and some self-styled police reformers want something more like the seriously flawed system used to discipline sheriff’s deputies.
Local Government
Questions, conflict of interest surround Norwalk trash contract bid process
Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained a Nov 15, 2016 letter sent to Norwalk City Attorney Roxanne Diaz from the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) that definitively stated Norwalk Mayor Mike Mendez was in a conflict of interest position with respect to the trash contract being negotiated with the City and could not, at the time, participate in any decisions related to the agreement.
LA County to consider support of county mental health squads
County supervisors are going to discuss more support for the county’s Mental Evaluation Teams, or MET, to assist in preventing physical confrontations between local law enforcement and mentally ill individuals. “Instead of sending a squad car full of officers, a MET team would be mobilized and an MET clinician would ride along with officers in the squad car to help avoid confrontation and get them the treatment they need,” said Tony Bell communications deputy for LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
L.A. needs to borrow millions to cover legal payouts, city report says
The Los Angeles City Council in recent years has repeatedly settled costly, high-profile lawsuits, agreeing to spend millions of dollars to end litigation brought by grieving families, disability-rights groups and people wrongfully convicted of crimes. City Hall leaders championed some of the settlements as having a silver lining for taxpayers, such as one in 2015 that created a program to fix L.A.’s buckling sidewalks.
LA County votes to set up its own immigrant affairs office
Los Angeles County supervisors approved creation of an Office of Immigrant Affairs that would coordinate and streamline access to countywide services for immigrants. The motion to approve the office passed on a 4 to 1 vote and was sponsored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl. Last month, the two supervisors co-authored a related motion seeking protection for immigrants under an incoming Donald Trump administration.
Legislation
Uber-inspired bill would crack down on illegal self-driving cars in California
Inspired by Uber’s self-driving car fiasco in San Francisco last month, a local lawmaker wants to add teeth to California’s autonomous vehicle rules. Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, on Thursday introduced a bill that would allow the state to fine companies up to $25,000 per vehicle per day for operating unauthorized self-driving vehicles. If passed, the law also would prevent those companies from applying for an autonomous vehicle testing permit for two years.
People
Persons of the Year 2016: Alan Skobin
Alan Skobin likes to go fishing. Sometimes. After decades raising a family in the San Fernando Valley, serving as vice president and general counsel of one of the world’s largest automobile sales and service businesses, and serving the public as a reserve deputy sheriff and member of city, county, and state boards and commissions, he is willing to acknowledge that he needs to relax. But he hasn’t exactly sailed off into the sunset.
Presidential Transition
Trump’s war on sanctuary cities threatens to gut police funding
Cops who viewed Donald Trump as their law-and-order ally could now lose essential funding if the new president carries out his threat to crack down on cities that protect undocumented immigrants. “Terrifying,” said New Haven police officer David Hartman. “This is something that’s terrifying.”
No, Justice Ginsburg hasn’t said she’s resigning because Trump won
It’s been making the rounds on Facebook, but it’s not true: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has not said she’s stepping down now because Donald Trump won the election. The story appeared on a website called “Success Street” on Dec. 22 — trumpeting the headline “Breaking News: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is RESIGNING From The Post of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court!!!!”
California attorney general nominee Xavier Becerra jabs Trump for proposing mass deportations, Muslim registry
Ahead of his first confirmation hearing Tuesday, state attorney general nominee Rep. Xavier Becerra has assured legislators that he will be a strong force to counter the policies of President-elect Donald Trump , including opposing proposals for mass deportations and a registry of Muslim immigrants.
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