March 6, 2017

Prosecution
D.A. opposes Roman Polanski’s bid to unseal transcripts
The L.A. County D.A.’s office Wednesday filed its objections to Roman Polanski’s latest legal maneuver, holding to its position that the director’s decades-old rape case cannot be resolved while he remains a fugitive. Polanski is seeking to unseal a 2010 transcript of Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson, who prosecuted the 1977 case. Polanski’s attorney, Harland Braun, wrote a letter Feb. 6 to Judge Scott Gordon urging him to make the document public.
Los Angeles district attorney refuses to put up with Roman Polanski’s B.S.
In February, we reported that famed director and admitted rapist Roman Polanski was trying to return to the U.S. after several decades on the run, but only if the Los Angeles courts would unseal a “secret transcript” that supposedly proves Polanski was just supposed to get sentenced to 90 days of psychiatric evaluation after confessing to raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977.
Sex with girl, 13, by Roman Polanski: Poland nixes LA extradition
Efforts by Los Angeles prosecutors to bring back Roman Polanski to punish him for having had sex with a 13-year-old girl almost 40 years ago suffered a major setback when the Polish Supreme Court rejected a request by Poland’s government to extradite the Oscar-winning filmmaker. Polanski was arrested in 1977 on charges that included the rape of a 13- year-old girl at the home of actor Jack Nicholson.
USC graduate student charged with professor’s killing
A USC graduate student who allegedly fatally stabbed a psychology professor on campus last week pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder charge. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gustavo N. Sztraicher ordered David Jonathan Brown, 28, to remain jailed on just over $2 million bail while awaiting a Dec. 19 hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require him to stand trial on a charge that he killed Siaufung “Bosco” Tjan inside the professor’s office.
Trial starts against alleged sex trafficker who told women he was Hollywood modeling agent
Taquarius Ford introduced himself to young women in shopping malls, showered them with compliments and asked if they’d be interested in a modeling career. He claimed he was a successful modeling executive from Hollywood and promised them future fame, paying for their flights to Los Angeles, where he wined and dined them and took them to red carpet events with celebrities.
Judge: Prosecutors can use Bill Cosby’s deposition at trial
Damaging testimony that Bill Cosby gave in an accuser’s lawsuit, including admissions that he gave young women drugs and alcohol before sex, can be used at his criminal sex assault trial, a judge ruled Monday. The defense had insisted that Cosby only testified after being promised he wouldn’t be charged over his 2004 encounter with accuser Andrea Constand.
Prosecutors: Ex-Sheriff Lee Baca was ‘heartbeat’ of jail conspiracy
Former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca was “the heartbeat of conspiracy” when it came to hiding abuses within Men’s Central Jail, and he did nothing to hold deputies who beat inmates accountable, prosecutors said in federal court Wednesday. The remarks were part of opening statements during the first day of Baca’s jail corruption trial, held at the downtown L.A. federal courthouse.
Baca Retrial: Ex-Lieutenant Greg Thompson takes stand for 1st time
It took a subpoena from federal prosecutors and a court-ordered grant of immunity to haul former LASD Lieutenant Greg Thompson into court Tuesday at the corruption retrial of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. Prosecutors aimed to tie the ex-Sheriff to acts they say prove Baca illegally stonewalled an undercover FBI probe into inmate abuse and deputy corruption inside L.A. County jails.
Allred wishes more Cosby accusers could testify
Lawyer Gloria Allred says she appreciates a court ruling Friday that lets one of her clients testify against Bill Cosby at his sex assault trial, though she wishes more of the accusers could join her. The Allred client says Cosby drugged and molested her at a Los Angeles hotel in 1996 when she a 29-year-old assistant to the comedian’s late agent.
The Southern Illinoisan
‘Butt dial’ message records murder victim’s final moments, prosecutors say
The voicemail came just after midnight – only hours before a woman’s mangled corpse was found abandoned near the seventh hole of an Indio golf course. It sounded like a barely audible conversation between a man and a woman, and Ian Thompson figured the call was an accidental “butt dial” from his friend Michael John Franco.
Man pleads not guilty to murdering two men in Chinatown social club
A man accused in the stabbing deaths of two men, who were attacked last month while playing mah-jongg in a private social club in Chinatown, pleaded not guilty Friday to capital murder charges. Vinh Dao – who prosecutors allege has a 2002 conviction for manslaughter – is charged in the Jan. 26 deaths of Tony Young and Kim Kong Yon at the Hop Sing Tong Benevolent Association at 428 Gin Ling Way, near the 900 block of North Broadway.
After 118 court appearances, California man’s murder trial hearing postponed again
The recently-appointed attorney for a man who has spent more than a dozen years awaiting trial for a pair of decades-old murders was given more time on Tuesday to go over the extensive evidence collected in the long-running case. John Laurence Whitaker’s 118th court appearance ended on a familiar note, as Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick Donahue agreed to continue the 69-year-old defendant’s pretrial hearing until September.
Murder victim gunned down because letter ‘P’ was on his hat, prosecutor argues
Closing arguments are scheduled Thursday in the trial of a reputed gang member accused of gunning down a young man in Indio after mistaking the victim as a member of a rival gang. Shawn Anthony Wynn, 24, of Palm Desert, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the June 16, 2014, slaying of 20-year- old Juan Carlos Hernandez.
Former DWP employee pleads no contest to embezzling $4M in public funds
A former audio-visual technician for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power pleaded no contest Thursday to charges that he embezzled more than $4 million in public funds. Thatcus Richard, 65, entered his plea to nine felony counts each of embezzlement by a public officer, public officer crime and conflict of interest, according to Deputy District Attorney Susan Ser.
Conviction & Sentencing
Appeals court upholds 3 life sentences in Pasadena murder
A state appeals court panel Friday upheld the convictions of three men serving life prison sentences without the possibility of parole for a drug deal that went bad in Pasadena and left a 21-year-old man dead. The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding of a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of an attempted robbery against Peter Parra, Kevin Cabrera and Raymond Conchas.
Disabled man stomped to death: ‘Heinous crime’ killer sentenced
A 21-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years to life behind bars for the beating and stomping death of a disabled man at Rancho Cienega Park in the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw area. “You made my brother really suffer in his last moments in life,” the victim’s sister told the defendant in court. “You’ve created a wound in our hearts that will never heal. I hope that my brother’s face will haunt you for the rest of your life.”
Law Enforcement
New law could lead to rise in crime throughout California
Concern continues to grow among local law enforcement officials and politicians about the anticipated impact a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015 will have on policing, if not the crime rate. Between AB 109 and Proposition 47, many communities already have seen crime rise in recent years. It may only worsen when Assembly Bill 953 takes effect in 2018, according to San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon.
McDonnell appoints new undersheriff La Berge, first since Tanaka’s ouster
Los Angeles County has introduced its new undersheriff Monday, nearly four years after its former undersheriff resigned in scandal. At a press conference Monday at the Hall of Justice, Jacques “Anthony” La Berge, the assistant sheriff in charge of patrol operations, accepted the role, which has been vacant since his predecessor, Paul Tanaka, resigned in March 2013.
California has some of the toughest laws keeping police discipline private. That seems unlikely to change
In the nearly three years since nationwide protests erupted after a Ferguson, Mo., police officer shot and killed teenager Michael Brown, state lawmakers introduced multiple bills designed to overhaul how much Californians are allowed to know about officer-involved shootings and internal investigations, and increase access to body camera videos.
Ambush shootings of police officers reach highest total in decades
Police officers across the country say they are taking new precautions in response to a spike in what they call “ambush-style” attacks against them. Cops are teaming up to respond to emergency calls, suiting up more often in ballistic vests and helmets, even taking greater care to monitor their surroundings while dining out, police officials from half a dozen cities who spoke with The Trace said.
Attacks on police officers would be classified as hate crimes under California bill
Alarmed by a wave of shootings targeting police officers, state Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear) has introduced a bill that would make an attack on law enforcement a hate crime in California, allowing stiffer penalties for those convicted. Obernolte’s bill comes after a series of shootings that have left 62 law enforcement officers dead so far this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The new, more powerful wave of civilian oversight of police
In Oakland, Calif., police will soon answer to civilians newly entrusted with the power to discipline officers and fire the chief. Last November, the city’s residents voted to create a civilian-run commission with a level of authority over law enforcement that is rare in this country.”This was a no-brainer given Oakland’s history,” says Rashidah Grinage, coordinator of the Coalition for Police Accountability, a group that helped write the ballot measure, which faced no formal opposition and passed with 83 percent of the vote.
Democratic congressman fights hard for painting of cops as pigs to go back on display on Capitol Hill

They say every picture tells a story. That’s certainly true of the painting at the centre of a recently announced lawsuit by Missouri Democrat, Rep. Lacy Clay and his ongoing legal battle to have the picture,  depicting police officers as pigs,  go back on display in a Capitol Hill hallway. And if it’s true that one look is worth a thousand words, then the uproar around this picture would currently generate enough words to fill a whole novel.

High-risk, high-expense security for celebrities plagued by stalkers
In recent celebrity stalking cases, Los Angeles courtroom events have shined a spotlight on the personal dangers some Hollywood stars face and the surprising extent and expense of protection measures these celebrities are forced to take. “I hate to say that if you’re a celebrity and you’re famous it comes with the territory, but it does. The more people that are following you, the more fans you have, the greater the likelihood that there’s going to be an unstable person in that midst,” explained Kris Mohandie, a police and forensic psychologist who previously ran the Los Angeles Police Department’s Behavioral Sciences Unit.
State has highest paid law enforcement officers in the nation
A recent study shows California law enforcement officials are the highest paid in the nation. The study published by career website Zippia.com shows that deputy sheriffs and police officers in California earn more than their peers in the other 49 states. The figures cited in the study come directly from Bureau of Labor Statistics data and were adjusted to reflect living wages throughout the nation.
AG sessions says DOJ to ‘pull back’ on police department civil rights suits
Donald Trump’s attorney general said Tuesday the Justice Department will limit its use of a tactic employed aggressively under President Obama – suing police departments for violating the civil rights of minorities. “We need, so far as we can, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness. And I’m afraid we’ve done some of that,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
California law enforcement union sues to block police accountability
Because there’s just not enough opacity shrouding police misconduct and not enough slanting of the criminal justice system against defendants, California police unions have decided to get involved in a judicial dispute over lists of law enforcement officers whose half of “our word against yours” isn’t quite as bulletproof as is normally assumed. A Los Angeles sheriff is trying to do the right thing, but he’s running into opposition from his own supposed “representatives.”
Amazon turns a blind eye to counterfeits
Amazon’s Marketplace proving to be an ideal counterfeit outlet.
Counterfeit problems are growing for Amazon as sellers overwhelm the web platform. Complaints are mounting, and legitimate manufacturers are suffering. Counterfeit sales can be a lucrative revenue source for the e-commerce giant, as transaction fees are charged for each sale of fake goods.
LA officials urge ICE agents to stop identifying themselves as ‘police’
Los Angeles officials have requested that agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement immediately cease the practice of identifying themselves as “police.” In a letter, Mayor Eric Garcetti, city attorney Mike Feuer and Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson urged ICE agents to no longer refer to themselves as “police” while carrying out their duties in L.A.
Courts
Public officials can’t shield government business by using personal email, state Supreme Court rules
Texts and emails sent by public employees on their personal devices or accounts are a matter of public record if they deal with official business, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a unanimous decision hailed by open-government advocates. But the court provided only general guidance on where the line would be drawn, posing a challenge for cities and counties forced to balance employees’ privacy against the public’s right to know.
Supreme Court poised to strike down N.C. law barring sex offenders from Facebook
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday appeared poised to strike down a North Carolina law barring convicted sex offenders from Facebook and other social media services, with justices noting the expansive role such online tools play in today’s society. Lester Packingham, a registered sex offender due to a statutory rape conviction, challenged the North Carolina law as a violation of his free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
ACLU sues Milwaukee Police Department, community-police relations: A simple discussion?
Do Black rights matter in Milwaukee? Do Black lives matter in Milwaukee? What if one asked Dontre Hamilton’s family? What about the 70 men subject to forced strip searches over a matter of two years? The Milwaukee Police Department’s vision is “A Milwaukee where all can live safely and without fear, protected by a police department with the highest ethical and professional standards.”
Is posting on Facebook a fundamental right?
Lester Packingham Jr. registered as a sex offender in 2002 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl when he was 21. But that offense isn’t what brought Packingham to the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday. The crime this time around? A Facebook post. The post itself was benign enough. In 2010, Packingham took to Facebook to celebrate a recently dismissed parking ticket.
Los Angeles County sues state over political boundaries law
Los Angeles County is suing over a new state law it says discriminates against more than 1 million voters while taking away the power of the Board of Supervisors to draw its own political boundaries. The lawsuit aims to block the 2016 law that creates a 14-member commission to draw boundaries for county supervisor districts after the 2020 census.
Judge grants restraining order against Black Lives Matter activist accused of threatening L.A. police commissioner
A judge has granted a restraining order against a Black Lives Matter activist who took his racially charged rhetoric to the law office and home of Los Angeles Police Commission President Matt Johnson. The intrusion of the activist, Trevor Ferguson, into the commissioner’s private life marked an escalation of a conflict that had previously been confined to public meetings.
Los Angeles mayor flirts with sanctuary movement while collaborating with ICE
On February 2, the American Civil Liberties Union held a press conference at the Terminal 2 arrivals gate of Los Angeles International Airport. The occasion for the press conference was the return of Ali Vayeghan, an Iranian lawful permanent resident of the United States who had been deported a few days before as a result of President Trump’s Muslim ban, to American soil.
SF tells high court there’s nothing to fear from trans restrooms
Decades of allowing transgender students, park visitors and government workers to use restrooms that fit their gender identity show that fears of sexual predators and invasion of privacy are unfounded, San Francisco and 30 other local governments said Thursday in a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court. “Wrapping discrimination in a cloak of fear doesn’t protect anyone,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement announcing the court brief.
Immigration courts clogged with 2-year backlog
Among the dozens of foreigners facing possible deportation who appeared before San Francisco immigration judges last week was Arturo Rojas, a former military officer from El Salvador who said he had fled his homeland in fear of his life. In his native country, Rojas had worked with local law enforcement to combat criminal gangs. But when his name showed up on a powerful gang’s hit list, his lawyer said, he left his wife and their infant son behind and headed north.
Ballot Measures
Prop. 64: Legalized marijuana may generate less tax than planned
Many medical marijuana patients were worried that a ballot measure legalizing cannabis for recreational use in California would make the price of their medicine go up. Instead, for some of them, pot just got cheaper, though maybe not for long. The Board of Equalization recently sent notice that anyone who has both a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana and a county-issued ID card identifying them as a patient no longer has to pay state sales tax thanks to Proposition 64.
Measure S campaign bucks Sheriff’s Dept. demands on ‘eviction’ mailers
Backers of Measure S refused Monday to comply with county demands tied to a campaign mailer that mimics an eviction notice, arguing that concerns about misleading tenants are “quite overblown.” The mailers are emblazoned with the phrase “EVICTION NOTICE” under the words “County of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.” Below, in much smaller print, the mailer mentions the Measure S campaign committee and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, its chief financial backer.
Prison
Last words of California’s executed inmates
Thirteen inmates have been executed in California since 1978, and seven of those prisoners chose to make final statements. Robert Alton Harris, KCRA-TV: Harris was convicted of abducting and murdering two teenage boys in 1978. Last words: “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the Grim Reaper.” William George Bonin, KCRA-TV:  Bonin, also known as the “Freeway Killer,” kidnapped, robbed, raped and killed a total of 14 teenage boys between 1979 and 1980.
‘Gary from Chicago’ released from jail 3 days before Oscars
The tourist who became a breakout star of the 89th Annual Academy Awards said he was released from prison, where he served more than 20 years, just three days before the appearing at the Oscars. “Gary from Chicago,” whose real name is Gary Alan Coe, was part of a sightseeing tour group who unexpectedly ended up at the Oscars as part of a skit organized by host Jimmy Kimmel.
California inmate dies awaiting execution for rapes, murder
Authorities say a California condemned inmate has died while awaiting execution for a series of rapes and one murder nearly four decades ago. Corrections officials say 60-year-old Stevie Lamar Fields was found unresponsive early Tuesday in his single cell at San Quentin State Prison. He later died, but the cause of death is awaiting an autopsy. He was sentenced to death in 1979 by a Los Angeles County jury for kidnapping, robbing, raping and murdering 26-year-old Rosemary Janet Cobb.
Pensions
Public pensions are in better shape than you think
The beleaguered condition of state and local pension plans is one of those ongoing disaster stories that crops up about once a week somewhere. The explanation usually goes something like this: Irresponsible politicians and greedy public employee unions created over-generous benefit schemes, leading to pension plans which aren’t “fully-funded” and eventual fiscal crisis. That in turn necessitates benefit cuts, contribution hikes, or perhaps even abolishment of the pension scheme.
Californians hit as bad debts lead to government pension cuts
Maureen Lynch, 66, retired when the California government job-training agency where she worked was shuttered in 2014, assuming she could count on a $1,705 monthly pension for the rest of her life. But her former employer, East San Gabriel Valley Human Services Consortium, left a $406,027 unpaid bill to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which manages benefits for 3,000 local governments and districts.
Politics & Government
Rancor over development, crime shadow LA mayor’s race
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s toughest competitor in his campaign for a second term might not be another candidate. Anxiety over taller, denser development, a jump in violent crime and the city’s notoriously fickle voters together inject a faint hue of uncertainty into what otherwise looks like a lopsided contest. Slim and polished, the 46-year-old Democrat is nearing the end of a relatively steady first term blessed by an improved national economy.
IHSS cost shift: More costly to counties
Some new analysis of the Governor’s plan to shift costs for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) back to Counties shows the impact is larger and grows faster than originally thought. Counties stand to lose $625 million in the first fiscal year, and the total cumulative cost is more than $7 billion by the 2022-23 fiscal year. Tables showing the increased costs are available at this link.
As state attorney general, Xavier Becerra gets to battle Trump – and discourage rivals in 2018
The race for California attorney general in 2018 has been shaken up by the so-called “Trump factor,” with the state’s newly appointed top lawyer, Xavier Becerra, seeing his profile boosted to the national stage by legal challenges to the Republican president. What was shaping up to be a free-for-all with several strong candidates before Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Becerra last month is now looking to be a much narrower race, with some candidates signaling they may drop out.
GOP California congressman calls for special prosecutor in probe of Russia-Trump ties
A Republican congressman has called for a special prosecutor to investigate whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and was in touch with President Donald Trump’s team during the campaign. Rep. Darrell Issa of California says it would be improper for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to lead the investigation. Issa made the comments Friday on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
LA County Deputy DA assails danger of “Affordable Bail Act” reform
California state lawmakers are looking at reforming the bail system to help low-risk, low income suspected criminals stay out of jail, where, because of the overburdened court system, they are apt to languish, possibly losing their job and housing. Assemblyman Rob Bonta and Senator Bob Hertzberg are behind the legislation. Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Berger says changing the bail system will jeopardize public safety.
Other News
Poll shows surprising Bay Area support for key Trump immigration policies
An exclusive new Survey USA poll offered a stunning snapshot of where the Bay Area stands on immigration Monday, with the new numbers revealing that more local residents are backing President Trump’s policies than you might think. The KPIX 5 Survey USA Poll showed more than half of people support a key element of the President’s immigration policy. 53 percent said local law enforcement should always contact federal authorities about illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes.
Urgent appeal: California Democrats to invoke new anti-Trump weapon
As they suit up for battle against the Trump administration, Democrats who dominate California’s Legislature vow to unleash one of the superpowers of holding a supermajority: the ability to enact laws immediately. An underplayed consequence of the fact that they won two-thirds of the seats in both houses last month is that-if they stick together-California Democrats have the required margin to pass a bill with an “urgency” clause.
In L.A.’s historic African American core, a growing Latino wave represents a possible ‘turning point’
Few places hold as much importance in Los Angeles’ black history as Central Avenue, the birthplace of the West Coast jazz scene and a magnet for those leaving the South seeking a better life. It runs through City Council District 9 in South Los Angeles and ends blocks from City Hall – a pathway that is both symbolic and literal. Voters in the district have elected an African American to the City Council since the early 1960s.
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