Monday Morning Memo for August 21, 2017
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Gov. Jerry Brown commutes sentences of 6 murder convicts, 3 others
Gov. Jerry Brown commuted the sentences of six people convicted of murder and three others in prison for attempted murder or kidnapping, saying Friday that they showed remorse and great personal growth while incarcerated and thus deserved a second chance. Among those whose sentences were reduced was Florence Anderson, a prostitute in 2001 when her pimp killed a man during a robbery she took part in.
It’s time to deal with recidivism
California needs a comprehensive approach to lowering incarceration rates – a plan that will not only lower incarceration levels, but preserve the historically low crime rates we currently enjoy. Sacramento’s current approach to this problem is mass early-release for felons – potentially at the expensive of public safety. A more ambitious and effective strategy – that simultaneously reduces incarceration and crime rates – would be to invest in comprehensive programs that reduce recidivism.
LA County commission will explore ‘unintended consequences’ of prison reform laws
Saying they want to strike a balance between public outcry over rising crime rates and statewide criminal justice reforms, Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to approve the formation of a blue-ribbon commission to dig deeper into how best to rehabilitate low-level criminals while also protecting communities.
Prop 47 saved millions of dollars by sacrificing law-abiding citizens
California voters approved Prop 47 three years ago as a way to save money by keeping “low-level offenders” out of jail. So far, $103 million has been saved and will be distributed to two dozen cities and counties for related programs. The problem with Prop 47 is that it puts the law abiding public at risk, while criminals use it to their advantage to commit more crime. Prop 47 emboldens criminals.
He was convicted of trying to stab two people. Under Prop. 57, he’s being released
A man convicted of two counts of assault with a deadly weapon is the first in Fresno to be released from prison as part of Proposition 57’s non-violent parole review, said the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. Danny Ray Lucero’s release was granted Monday at the board of parole hearings where members said that Lucero “did not pose an unreasonable risk of violence” to society, according to the district attorney’s office.
On Prop. 57, Wilk urges state consider public safety
State Sen. Scott Wilk is imploring the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to “consider the full impact” that Proposition 57, which increases the number of inmates eligible for parole, will have on victims, the public and law enforcement officers as it mulls regulations to implement the voter-approved law.
‘Know your neighborhood criminal’: Grass Valley man uses social media to identify ‘repeat offenders’
Nevada County residents concerned about a perceived spike in crime in the area have lately made their voices heard through multiple outlets, including Grass Valley city council meetings, Facebook groups geared toward locals, and meetings of the newly-formed “Citizens for Safe Parks.” Many have complained about changes caused by California’s Proposition 47, which reduced some felony drug charges and other crimes to misdemeanors, effectively reducing the penalties for many criminal offenses.
When government rules by software, citizens are left in the dark
In July, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Sharon Reardon considered whether to hold Lamonte Mims, a 19-year-old accused of violating his probation, in jail. One piece of evidence before her: the output of algorithms known as PSA that scored the risk that Mims, who had previously been convicted of burglary, would commit a violent crime or skip court. Based on that result, another algorithm recommended that Mims could safely be released, and Reardon let him go.
Did a bail reform algorithm contribute to this San Francisco man’s murder?
In the dawn hours of July 16, Edward French, a professional film and TV scout and avid photographer, stood atop Twin Peaks, the famed San Francisco hillside with its panoramic views of his hometown. French, 71, had his camera with him, as he always did. “He knew beautiful places. He was trying to catch the sunrise coming up Sunday morning, especially the way the city’s skyline is changing,” says Brian Higginbotham, French’s longtime partner.
Miscalculated score said to be behind release of alleged Twin Peaks killer
A judge who released a 19-year-old man just days before he allegedly murdered a 71-year-old stranger on Twin Peaks had been given a faulty risk score that understated the danger the defendant posed on the street, officials said Monday. The mistake was made by the Pretrial Diversion Project, a city-funded nonprofit group in charge of calculating “public-safety assessment scores,” or PSA scores, that San Francisco has been assigning to jailed defendants for more than a year, according to the San Francisco district attorney’s office.
Murder victim’s mother sues New Jersey governor over ‘flawed’ bail reform
On a Sunday last April, 26-year-old Christian Rodgers was returning from a convenience store in New Jersey when he was shot and killed by a convicted felon who had just been released from jail under the state’s new bail reform laws. The victim’s mother, June Rodgers, is now suing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over what she says was a failure to protect her son.
Marin Voice: Look before you leap on bail reform bill
Reforming the cash bail system is emerging as a progressive cause in California and around our nation. On Aug. 7, former federal anti-trust attorney and candidate for Marin District Attorney Anna Pletcher, firmly embraced SB10, the “Money Bail Reform Act” and challenged other candidates for Marin County district attorney in 2018 to get on board. Despite my commitment to social justice and equity, I cannot in good conscience support this poorly structured, dangerous bill and I urge others to look before they leap.
To fix ‘unfair’ bail system, will California copy Kentucky?
It’s rare that a California lawmaker seeking a policy model to follow would turn to Kentucky. But with the Legislature on summer recess, that’s precisely what Sen. Bob Hertzberg is doing. The mission: travel to the Bluegrass state to investigate how Kentucky gets its defendants awaiting trial to show up for court dates and keep them from committing crimes – all without locking them up.
Dog the Bounty Hunter to rapper Common: Don’t be a sucker on bail reform
An open letter to the rapper Common: We are sure you are sincere and passionate in your desire to hold your concert in Sacramento on Monday to raise awareness for justice reform. But to the extent your advocacy worsens the downsides of existing reforms, or promotes questionable new ones now before lawmakers such as Senate Bill 10, you would be wise to understand that recent laws and numerous voter-approved propositions in California already allow for the release of tens of thousands of inmates on an ongoing basis.
Tried as an adult
California’s Second Appellate District on Monday tossed the second-degree murder conviction of a 17-year-old who was charged as an adult, finding a voter-approved change in the law entitles all juvenile offenders whose convictions are not final to a determination of the appropriateness of being tried as an adult.
Glendale man admits to supplying drugs to LA gangs under Mexican Mafia ‘peace treaty’
A gang member who managed a group of three rival street gangs in and around the San Fernando Valley, which officials say were brought together at the behest of the Mexican Mafia, pleaded guilty Monday, while admitting to being a primary supplier of drugs to the group.
Prosecutors face challenges securing human trafficking convictions
Last month, California’s attorney general announced 54 felony charges against three men involved in luring victims from the Central Valley and trafficking them throughout the state. The victims, including eight minors, were sold for commercial sex throughout the Central Valley, Bay Area and Los Angeles.
Millions embezzled by non-profit execs: Dodger tix, sports cars, cruise
Three former executives of a nonprofit group that provides counseling, job-placement and other services pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling millions of dollars from the organization that received varying amounts of financial support over the years from the city and county of Los Angeles.
CONVICTION & SENTENCING
Plastic bag forced over 10-year-old girl’s head by teacher: No classroom for three years
A former fourth-grade teacher at Rosewood Elementary School who pleaded no contest in 2015 to a felony child abuse count for putting a plastic bag over a 10-year-old girl’s head had the conviction reduced to a misdemeanor Monday. He could therefore be back in the classroom after three years.
Man sentenced to life without parole for killing Chinese USC student
A 21-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the fatal beating of a USC graduate student from China who was attacked during an attempted robbery near the campus after walking another student home from a late-night study session. Andrew Garcia was convicted June 8 of first-degree murder for the July 24, 2014, death of Xinran Ji, a 24-year-old electrical engineering student.
Dangerous knock-offs being sold as sales of counterfeit goods explode
Fake law enforcement badges and other dangerous items are hitting the market as the sales of counterfeit goods explode, experts say. From fake luxury purses to electronics, counterfeiting consumers’ most popular buys isn’t a new issue — but it certainly is getting more serious. Craig Crosby started The Counterfeit Report, tasked with tracking a $1.7 trillion industry. He said it’s the largest criminal enterprise in the world.
Amazon’s war on fake eclipse glasses trips up newbie merchant
Jason Wright wanted to make a quick buck selling eclipse-viewing glasses on Amazon.com Inc. before the moon blocks the sun in a rarely seen cosmic spectacle next week. He loaded up his credit cards to buy thousands of pairs from a manufacturer, enlisted family and friends to pack and ship them from his parents’ Salt Lake City home and watched the orders pour in. Then Amazon suspended his account.
LA deputies’ private body cams raise transparency questions
America’s largest sheriff’s department still lacks a policy for body cameras after years of studying the issue, so hundreds – perhaps thousands – of its deputies have taken matters into their own hands and bought the cameras themselves. It’s reassuring for those Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who have the devices, which sell for about $100 online, but it raises a host of thorny questions about transparency.
Career criminals nabbed in Murrieta mail thefts with prying tools, stolen IDs: Police
A pair of suspected Murrieta mail thieves were nabbed this week in a traffic stop just as the duo was attempting to get onto the 215 freeway in town, police said Tuesday. The man and woman were pulled over around 1:08 a.m. Sunday on Los Alamos Road at I-215. As police officers contacted the driver, they soon discovered that she was on parole for assault and had a felony warrant out for her arrest.
Police: Convicted rapist caught working at California rape counseling center
A convicted rapist who served 13 years in prison was caught working as a security guard at a Fresno rape counseling center last week. Damon Rodgers, 40, was arrested by Fresno police for possessing a gun and switchblade, neither of which he should have given his status as a convicted felon. Sergeant Israel Reyes of the Fresno Police Department told The International Business Times that Rodgers was “followed down the street and ultimately pulled over” and was found by police to be “in possession of a loaded firearm.”
Woman claims Roman Polanski sexually victimized her as teen
A woman has come forward claiming that director Roman Polanski “sexually victimized” her as a teen. Appearing alongside attorney Gloria Allred Tuesday morning in Los Angeles, the woman, who identified herself only as “Robin,” told reporters that she was sexually victimized by Polanski in 1973, at the age of 16. Allred said that Robin will not file a civil suit against Polanski.
Jail is largest psychiatric facility in Sonoma County
The largest psychiatric facility in Sonoma County is not a hospital. It’s the jail. If not by design then by default, jail cells have essentially replaced psychiatric hospital beds for many of Sonoma County’s most severely mentally ill residents. It is a trend that began before the closure of Santa Rosa’s two secured mental health hospitals a decade ago, and has continued since.
Soros-funded activist and his group try to undercut LAPD
An activist that was paid by George Soros’ foundation to “challenge Los Angeles Police Department surveillance” has vowed to shut down the LAPD’s drone program before it gets off the ground. After the LAPD presented police commissioners with plans to move forward with an “unmanned aerial system” earlier this week, Hamid Khan ignited a disruption of shouts and chants that quickly turned the boardroom into an unlawful assembly, as declared by an officer on the scene.
Off-duty Las Vegas officer that stopped robbery has been terminated
It’s apparently the unemployment line for a Las Vegas detective who stopped an attempted armed robbery while off-duty, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department isn’t shedding any light on the officer’s status. ABC News reports Lance Spiotto’s official separation date was Aug. 1. However, a spokesperson with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said they could not release any other information about Spiotto’s departure because it is a personnel issue.
Court blocks Federal prosecution of California pot growers
A U.S. District Court this week blocked federal prosecutors from moving forward with their conspiracy case against a pair of Northern California cultivators because the duo was determined to be in compliance with Golden State medical marijuana laws. Humboldt County growers Anthony Pisarski and Sonny Moore had already pleaded guilty to federal allegations but sought an evidentiary hearing based on legislation, first enacted in 2014, that prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice from cracking down on cannabis suspects who are otherwise following their state laws.
Severing ties with utilities isn’t as easy as cutting the cable cord
If disaster ever struck, Joe Fleischmann could keep the lights, refrigerator and big-screen TV running in his Orange County home, even if the power company went dark. Fleischmann is an early adopter of home energy storage: In his garage is a battery strong enough to help keep the essentials in operation. The home of the former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy sports a full suite of eco-friendly power equipment – solar panels on his roof as well as battery storage and an electric vehicle charging station in his garage.
VIDEO: County jail inmates assault deputy
For 34 seconds, Correctional Deputy Dillon Huffman found himself on his own, fighting off Humboldt County jail maximum security inmates Lorence Bailey and Jonah Little until supporting deputies arrived. On Friday, two days after the attack, Sheriff William Honsal put the blame on the state Legislature. Bailey is in custody as a suspect in the November 2016 murder of 50-year-old Cheryl Bussell in Hoopa, to which he pleaded not guilty in May.
White supremacist gang drug house targeted in Canoga Park
he City Attorney’s Office Monday sued three people, asking that a Canoga Park home where a white supremacist gang gathers that has been the site of ongoing drug sales since 2011 be declared a public nuisance. The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit name as defendants 50-year-old Lisa Bellinaso; her 79-year-old mother, Isabella Bellinaso; and Lisa Bellinaso’s 37-year-old boyfriend, Ryan Matthew Andrews.
Shocking video shows moment cop is shot at point-blank range
Startling video footage captured by a South Carolina cop’s personal body camera shows the officer being shot three times at point-blank range – with him asking a dispatcher to “tell my family that I love them” in what he thought was his dying breath. Officer Quincy Smith, of the Estill Police Department, managed to survive that fateful day last January after suffering two broken arm bones and a “life-threatening” neck injury, according to Hampton County officials.
How the police should have treated the Nazis in Charlottesville
Much like today, the years of my adolescence were a time of sharp political divisions in the country. The war in Vietnam was raging, as were the protests against it on the streets here at home. It was at one such protest in Los Angeles that I, more than ten years prior to my joining the Los Angeles Police Department, learned something about police work and crowd control.
SANCTUARY CITIES / STATE
Rep. Buddy Carter says federal government should halt rape kit funding for ‘sanctuary cities’
Georgia’s Rep. Buddy Carter, a RepublicanOfCourse, managed during a town hall meeting back home to reach new heights of repulsiveness; his new idea is that to rein in “sanctuary cities” with policies Buddy Carter doesn’t like, the federal government should stop paying for processing rape kits in those cities.
Capitol Tracker: What would the ‘sanctuary state’ bill do?
The California Values Act, SB 54, which is also referred to as the “sanctuary state” bill is being slammed by the state’s sheriff’s association. “This misguided bill would result in dangerous criminal offenders (including drug dealers and known gang members) being released to our streets without communication with federal authorities,” wrote Bill Brown, the sheriff of Santa Barbara County and president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, in an editorial published by the Sacramento Bee.
Labor groups demand records on LA Sheriff’s fight against sanctuary bill
Two labor groups have sued Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell seeking a court order to release communications between his department and the Trump administration about California’s sanctuary bill. The Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West, or USWW, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, or NDLON, sued McDonnell in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Aug. 9. The complaint was made available Thursday.
California joins fight over Justice Dept. funding for sanctuary cities
The state of California is teaming up with the city of San Francisco against new conditions on federal crime-fighting grants imposed on sanctuary cities by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Starting in fiscal year 2017, the Justice Department will cut off $385 million in funding from cities and states who refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
GOVERNENT / PUBLIC SAFETY
California law school deans lobby for lower bar exam standards
The bar exam is a poor measure of a lawyer’s competence, law school deans told California State Bar officials on Tuesday at a public comment session regarding whether to adopt a lower passing score. “We’re testing academic things but they don’t go to the matters that actually cause lawyers to do things that harm the public – things like failing to follow through on matters, mishandling money, not keeping clients adequately informed,” said Greg Brandes, former dean of Concord Law School in Los Angeles.
White supremacy: Are US right-wing groups on the rise?
The deadly violence on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, comes at a time of a dramatic rise in prominence of far-right movements in the US. The election of Donald Trump to the White House has been cited as a factor in the re-energisation of activists and groups in America that reject both left-wing ideology and mainstream conservatism. Social media is also said to be playing a large part in promoting these ideologies.
Governors face up to criminal justice reform
Critics say that criminal justice policy often is made without much regard for some of the people who will be affected by it. Some politicians call for “tough on crime” sentences, for example, with no apparent recognition that those convicted of crimes will end up serving long terms behind bars with little real hope of rehabilitation. The Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG) has started a project to remedy that aspect of policymaking.
Suspected meth death at political donor Ed Buck’s West Hollywood home raises questions
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s homicide bureau “has assigned several investigators to review the circumstances of the death to determine if any criminal culpability exists,” according to a sheriff’s statement. Sheriff’s officials say the case is closed on the recent death of a 26-year-old suspected of overdosing on methamphetamine at the West Hollywood apartment of political influencer Ed Buck.
A lawyer who has been a defender of USC now must investigate the dean scandal. But can she be impartial?
Debra Wong Yang is used to taking on headline-grabbing scandals. She was one of five attorneys New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hired to examine his involvement in a scandal over closing lanes of the George Washington Bridge to punish a political rival. After the investigation cleared Christie, a federal judge criticized the attorneys for “opacity and gamesmanship” in not preserving complete records of the interviews they conducted.
What if LA County paid residents to house the homeless? Leaders are exploring the idea
Some Los Angeles County homeowners may qualify for up to a $75,000 subsidy to build a second dwelling on their property to house homeless people, if a pilot program is approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors. The program was introduced last year as part of Los Angeles County’s set of 47 strategies to solve homelessness.
Struggling L.A. County cities are hoping to cash in on California’s relaxed marijuana laws – and facing push back
As California braces for the impact of relaxed marijuana laws that allow recreational use for adults, several small, financially strapped cities in southeast Los Angeles County and elsewhere are at the forefront of efforts to seize business opportunities – despite pushback from some residents. In Los Angeles County, cities like Maywood are approving marijuana licenses in anticipation of boosting local economies, creating jobs and filling commercial lots.
GOVERNMENT / PUBLIC SAFETY
How private is your cellphone? The next Fourth Amendment challenge
Most people know that very little they do on the web is private. The terabytes of data held online contain personal information accessible not only to friends, relatives and would-be employers, but to private businesses, which frequently collect user information in order to deliver better services to customers.
California prison psychologist alleges guards locked her in with a convicted rapist
A California prison psychologist has filed a lawsuit against the state alleging she was threatened and demoted after she reported mistreatment of gay and transgender inmates at a correctional facility in Vacaville. On two occasions, psychologist Lori Jespersen alleges, a correctional officer locked her in a confinement area with dangerous criminals after she filed complaints on behalf of transgender inmates at the California Medical Facility.
California court upholds mom’s secret recording of babysitter’s abuse
California law makes it a crime to record someone’s conversation secretly, with a few exceptions – and one of them, a state appeals court says, allows a parent to use a hidden cell phone to record her child’s talks with a babysitter suspected of abuse. A mother’s recording led to the conviction of a 12-year-old babysitter for molesting his 4-year-old cousin.
GOVERNMENT / PUBLIC SAFETY
Justice Department wants data on anti-Trump protesters. An L.A. tech firm is resisting
Los Angeles tech company is resisting a federal demand for more than 1.3 million IP addresses to identify who visited a website set up to coordinate protests on President Trump’s Inauguration Day – a request whose breadth the company says violates the Constitution. “What we have is a sweeping request for every single file we have” in relation to DisruptJ20.org, said Chris Ghazarian, general counsel for DreamHost, which hosts the site.
Adding supervisors, executive is wrong for L.A. County
The proposal to expand the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is back – and no better than ever. Senate Constitutional Amendment 12, moving through the California Legislature, is a little different from previous plans that were rejected by state lawmakers and L.A. County voters. The plan lawmakers are considering putting on the state ballot would require L.A. County to increase the number of supervisors from five to seven. That’s a smaller increase than in past proposals.
Who Is Ed Buck?
Who is Ed Buck? Those who follow politics in West Hollywood know him as the guy whose successful campaign for a ban on fur sales helped propel City Councilmember John D’Amico into office in 2011. He’s also known for his tenacious digging into City Hall records to make a claim that credit cards were being misused. And he is known for his financial support for local, county, state and national Democratic Party candidates.