Monday Morning Memo for December 25, 2017
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Death row inmate says blood evidence in 1984 case could free him, but it was destroyed
A man on death row since a double murder conviction in 1984 says dried blood on a work boot and a pink towel recovered from his home could prove his innocence, thanks to previously unavailable DNA technology, but LA County court employees mistakenly destroyed the evidence, it was reported Monday.
A banker who helped hide Mexican drug money is helping U.S. prosecutors
A former U.S. manager for Dutch banking giant Rabobank Groep says he helped hide possible criminal activity by clients and is assisting U.S. prosecutors in a long-running investigation of whether the lender was tied to laundering millions of dollars in Mexican drug money.
Did OC deputies destroy exculpatory infrared helicopter video in attempted murder case?
Southern California police pursuits make live dramas for TV broadcasts starring unpaid criminal suspects racing down neighborhood streets, running red lights, ignoring stop signs and weaving through crowded highway traffic in Indianapolis 500 fashion.
LAPD cop charged in El Segundo pistol-whip brawl ordered to stand trial
A Los Angeles Police Department officer was ordered Monday to stand trial on charges stemming from an alleged off-duty attack on three men in El Segundo last year. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael A. Tynan ruled that sufficient evidence was presented at Joseph William Rooney’s preliminary hearing for the 34-year-old defendant to proceed to trial on four counts of assault with a firearm.
A video captures police beating that left a man with a broken leg. He’s filed a claim against them
After a November traffic stop led to his violent beating, arrest and a broken leg, an Altadena man has filed a claim for damages against the city of Pasadena, its police department and chief, and the two officers involved. Christopher Ballew’s Nov. 9 arrest at an Altadena gas station was captured on video by a bystander and surfaced on social media this month, creating a stir and leading to denunciations from civil rights advocates.
Carson Mayor Al Robles gets a boost in his legal battle with L.A. District Attorney
Carson City Council passed a local law this week that allows Mayor Al Robles to continue serving in two public positions that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office says are illegally held. The local law, passed in a 4-0 vote, was made retroactive to Robles’ 2016 election to the City Council – when the District Attorney’s office ordered him to step downfrom either that office or his seat on the Water Replenishment District of Southern California.
Are drug rehab centers fueling homelessness in Southern California?
Thirteen-hundred miles from his rural Arkansas home, Tyler McCollough paces across a motel parking lot, veins bulging at his temple, anxiously gripping himself as the pangs of heroin withdrawal intensify. Newly homeless and dope sick on the streets of Costa Mesa, the 25-year-old says he’s thinking about stealing from a nearby store – anything to scrounge up the cash he needs to get drugs.
Teen accused of killing kids, putting bodies in Redding storage unit to be tried as adult
A teenager accused of killing two children and putting their bodies in a Redding storage unit will be tried as an adult, a judge decided Monday – a victory for prosecutors who said the teen’s crimes were “much too serious” for juvenile sentencing, but who faced uncertainty over their ability to try him as an adult because of changes to California law.
Daily Press forum participants outline steps to reducing crime in High Desert
A small but powerful group of regional, county and state leaders took part in the Daily Press’ second Facebook Live forum on crime in two months on Friday morning and outlined steps needed to make a dent in the growing problem. The panel assembled in the Daily Press conference room for the hour-long forum consisted of state Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Hesperia; San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert Lovingood; San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos; San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon; and Victor Valley College Trustee and local businessman Joseph W. Brady.
Judge Alex Kozinski
Judge Alex Kozinski steps down after accusations of sexual misconduct
A prominent U.S. appeals court judge announced his retirement Monday days after women alleged he subjected them to inappropriate sexual conduct or comments. Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a statement that a battle over the accusations would not be good for the judiciary. He said he’ll step down, effective immediately.
Alex Kozinski’s full statement announcing his immediate retirement
The announcement by Alex Kozinski, a powerful judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, comes days after The Washington Post reported on allegations by 15 women that Kozinski had subjected them to inappropriate behavior, including having clerks watch porn in his chamber.
Federal law clerks demand changes to judiciary’s sexual misconduct policies
Hundreds of current and former federal judicial clerks signed off on a letter sent Wednesday calling for changes to the federal judiciary system in order to better address possible sexual misconduct moving forward.
Pro per attorney gets no fees in PRA case
The Court of Appeal for this district has declared that an attorney representing himself in gaining access to government documents concerning the 1981 drowning-at-sea of actress Natalie Woods cannot garner attorney fees under the California Public Records Act,. Although the bulk of Wednesday’s unpublished opinion deals with why an attorney cannot receive fees in such a case, and sets forth in the first sentence that plaintiff Samuel A. Perroni is “an attorney representing himself,” it not until footnote 9 that Acting Justice Michael Raphael, writing for Div. Five, reveals that the discussion relating to pro per attorneys is dictum.
Sale of shares at sheriff’s sale may constitute conversion
One might expect that a sheriff’s sale of stock pursuant to a writ of execution could not result in a viable claim for conversion by a judgment debtor. A California Court of Appeal, however, has ruled that it could. In Duke v. Superior Court, Cal. Ct. Appeal Case No. F073712 (filed 11/21/2017; certified for publication 12/13/2017) involved three guarantors of a commercial lease. All three guarantors were shareholders in the corporate lessee.
Ninth Circuit told California law authorizes invalid ‘cease and refrain’ orders
Pending before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the question of whether a provision of the California Corporations Code is facially unconstitutional in permitting the state corporations commissioner to issue an order barring the proposed issuance of securities without disclosing in the notice that any judicial review is barred after 30 days and without spelling out how to mount a challenge.
A traffic ticket dispute in Oregon turns into a bigger fight over free-speech rights
In 2013, Mats Jarlstrom’s wife got a $260 ticket in the mail for running a red light. It wasn’t exactly the crime of the century. A camera caught her Volkswagen passing through a Beaverton, Ore., intersection 0.12 second after the light turned from yellow to red. Other people might curse, pay the fine and forget about it. But Jarlstrom, who earned a degree in electronic engineering in Sweden, got curious: How are yellow lights timed? He decided to investigate.
Ninth Circuit: Mistrial not required based on outburst of co-defendant
Three defendants convicted by a federal jury of participating in a scheme under which more than $33 million in tax refunds were falsely claimed, have lost their bid for reversals by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the ground that a co-defendant caused prejudice to them through her outburst in front of the jury.
How SCOTUS impacted law enforcement in 2017
The extent to which Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court’s newest member, will impact constitutional jurisprudence affecting our nation’s law enforcement will have to wait until next year for review. Even though he did not take part in the three October Term 2016 use of force cases discussed below, there are hints as to his likely position on a number of Fourth Amendment issues confronting the Supreme Court this coming term.
Second-degree murder conviction reversed based on inadequate representation
The Third District Court of Appeal yesterday reversed a conviction on two counts of second degree murder based on incompetence of counsel and directed the court’s clerk/administrator to forward a copy of the opinion to the State Bar for possible disciplinary action.
CA upholds DOJ raps against Armscor officers over guns used in Maguindanao Massacre
The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the ruling of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that ordered the filing of criminal charges against four officers of a firearms manufacturing company for the illegal sale of ammunition that were traced to the killing of 58 persons, an incident in 2009 known as the Maguindanao Massacre.
Judge rejects dismissing charges in case in which man claims Sheriff’s Department and Santa Ana PD destroyed evidence
A judge denied a request on Wednesday to dismiss charges against a man accused of shooting at officers during a police chase, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to prove that law enforcement conspired to destroy video and audio recordings.
Los Angeles deputies aim to quell tide of human trafficking
Los Angeles County is employing a unique approach to get women out of the sex trade. The county is the nation’s most populous with more than 10 million residents and it’s widely regarded as the U.S. epicenter for human trafficking, mostly women forced into prostitution.
Sheriff’s elite Highway Enforcement Team takes on drug traffickers in LA County
An elite and little-known group of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies has been making a major impact by stopping drug money and human traffickers on area freeways. Although the highly skilled unit has been doing remarkable work for years, its existence has only now been made public.
Sheriff McDonnell was not aware of some misconduct, says list of problem deputies is key to reform
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell learned for the first time about misconduct by some of his own deputies from a Times report this month that examined a confidential roster of problem officers, he said. McDonnell tried to give prosecutors a version of the so-called “Brady list,” but his efforts were blocked when a deputies’ union sued him last year. The case is now before the California Supreme Court.
Some Valley community groups want limited clean-up of toxic Santa Susana Field lab. Here’s why
Some San Fernando Valley groups are calling for a minimally invasive clean-up of the contaminated soil and water at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, saying that anything more would negatively impact the environment and their neighborhoods. The preferences from the West Valley and Chatsworth neighborhood councils among other groups were included in letters earlier this month to the state’s Department of Toxic Substance Control or DTSC, urging them to consider an alternative to the way the historic Santa Susana Field Lab should be decontaminated.
LA County sheriff’s employees deployed to help battle Calif. wildifires
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deployed nearly two dozen employees to Santa Barbara County early Sunday morning, Dec. 17, as firefighters continued to try to control the massive Thomas fire burning there and in Ventura County, the agency announced. The deployment was in response to a mutual aid request made by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), according to Sheriff’s Department Deputy Kimberly Alexander.
Fed up with ‘crazy headaches,’ this Valley man created an app to track health symptoms near Aliso Canyon
More than two years after a massive natural gas leak was detected near his northern San Fernando Valley home, Andrew Krowne said he still gets “crazy headaches” and blurry vision at times. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that he thought of developing an app to track residents’ symptoms while a comprehensive health study on the 2015-16 gas leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility has yet to be conducted.
Another gas leak reported at Aliso Canyon facility
The Southern California Gas Company says a gas leak occurred at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility in Porter Ranch just before 5 p.m. Monday night. This comes just two years after one of the nation’s largest accidental gas leaks at the same facility. In an email to San Fernando Valley residents, SoCal Gas says the gas leak happened during a routine operation to pressurize equipment.
Former ‘Glee’ actor Mark Salling pleads guilty to Federal child porn charges, admits he had 25,000 images
An actor who once starred on the popular TV series “Glee” has pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges, admitting he possessed about 25,000 photos showing children doing sexual acts, the California Department of Justice announced Monday.
No prison time for man who had sex with 12-year-old girl
A convicted sexual predator will not spend any time in custody for having sex with a 12-year-old victim, a decision that prompted outrage from the victim’s mother. Jeff Calica, 20, pleaded guilty to a single count of lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor, but at his sentencing Monday, Judge Michael Washington imposed the agreed-upon terms of his plea bargain.
The Department of Justice announces unprecedented award to police executives and unions to create a technical assistance center
The Department of Justice today announced a new $7 million award under the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services’ (COPS Office) Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance. The award is to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), a nonprofit membership organization with 30,000 members in more than 150 countries that serves all ranks at the state, local, territorial, tribal, campus, and federal levels.
Dramatic video shows LA deputies, medical staff reviving inmate who overdosed on Fentanyl
Deputies and other personnel at a jail facility saved the life of a 19-year-old inmate who had stopped breathing after he and four other inmates apparently injested the opioid Fentanyl under the mistaken belief that it was methamphetamine, authorities said today. The incident occurred on Dec. 5 at the Inmate Reception Center in downtown Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported.
FCC creates emergency alerts for threats to law enforcement
The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to establish an alert system that would warn the public if a police officer in their community is threatened, missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty. The so-called “Blue Alerts” are designed to protect the public from potential threats and help apprehend dangerous suspects.
Just 11 of 33 in latest Oakland police academy class receive badges
After a series of scandals involving mostly rookie officers, the recruits who graduated this week from the Oakland Police Department’s training academy made up one of the smallest classes in recent history – part of an effort, the department says, to weed out problem officers before they hit the streets. Just 11 of the 33 who started the 177th Basic Recruit Academy received badges Wednesday.
LAPD officer loses leg in crash that shut down 405 Freeway
A Los Angeles police officer lost his leg after being struck by a suspected drunk driver in one of two crashes that shut down the entire 405 Freeway last week. Officer Fadi Chelico was standing on the side of the freeway during a traffic stop last Monday night when he was struck and pinned between the suspect vehicle and his police cruiser. His leg was ultimately severed.
Police union loyal to Trump despite DOJ opposition to union fees
The largest police union in the country isn’t letting the government’s opposition to public union fees sway its loyalty to the Trump administration, even after the Justice Department asked the U.S. Supreme Court to ban public sector unions from collecting mandatory fees from nonmembers.
This police chief can only be fired if he commits a crime. It has to be a felony
When Baldwin Park rehired Michael Taylor as its police chief, the city included a provision in his contract that makes him exceedingly difficult to fire. Taylor can only be terminated from his $234,000-a-year job, according to the agreement, if he commits a felony. Baldwin Park leaders also prohibited themselves from giving Taylor annual performance evaluations.
Annual FBI report is a reminder of the stress, trauma, and violence officers endure to protect and serve
Each year the FBI releases an annual report that speaks directly to the grim fact that law enforcement officers do not only address violence, but also often experience it, and the physical and psychological tolls it brings. The physical and violent reality of law enforcement compounds other routine occupational stressors like shift work, low morale, and high-pressure and emotionally taxing encounters.
The benefits of police body cams are a myth
In the three years since Michael Brown’s fatal shooting in Ferguson, police body-worn cameras have been sold to the public as a tool that would primarily deter police misconduct. One of the main selling points is the claim that the devices would have a “civilizing effect” on officers. Officers would behave better, the argument goes, if they knew their actions were being recorded.
State Assembly Muratsuchi bill targets ‘porch pirates’
State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi plans to submit a bill during the next legislative session to clamp down on package theft rings by including their activities in existing RICO statutes. It would make organized package theft a felony. The Assemblyman and his staff were the victims of package theft themselves, according to Muratsuchi.
CrisisResponsePro releases third annual list of the worst- and best-handled crisis communications of the year
CrisisResponsePro, an innovative technology resource for crisis and litigation communications, today released its third-annual list of the worst- and best-handled crisis communications responses. “With the election of Donald Trump as president, this year really saw an extraordinary number of high-profile crises that touched on political issues,” said James F. Haggerty, founder and CEO of CrisisResponsePro and author of the new book Chief Crisis Officer: Structure and Leadership for Effective Communications Response (ABA Books, 2017).
California vehicle registration fees increasing in 2018
You’ll pay more to renew your car’s California registration in 2018, as part of a new law to help pay for deferred maintenance and roadwork. The deal approved by Gov. Jerry Brown also increased the state gas tax on Nov. 1. The new registration fee depends on what the car is worth, ranging from $25-175. Not everyone loves it, but David Clore, a retiree who drives a new Porsche, argues if anything, California taxes should be higher.
Prop. 13 targeted by proposed California ballot initiative
Forty years after Proposition 13 was approved by California voters, the issue of property-tax limits could be back on the state ballot in 2018. A coalition of liberal groups is trying to qualify an initiative for the November ballot that would remove Prop. 13’s restrictions on reassessments and tax increases for corporate-owned property.
Your choice for California governor could depend on how much you make
Wealthier, white voters and people from the Bay Area like Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Los Angeles residents tend to prefer their former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also gets support from households of modest means and Latinos. The two have settled into first and second place in the race to replace Gov. Jerry Brown, according to the latest California gubernatorial poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies.
‘Kosher burrito’ mayor who may take on Trump in 2020
Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti, has a favourite mantra. Twenty-three American states, he likes to tell interviewers, have a population smaller than the city he runs. This is no mere boasting about America’s biggest city. Instead, Mr Garcetti is advertising his executive skills as he prepares for a possible run for the presidency. In its 230-year history, America has elected vice-presidents, governors, senators, generals – and Donald Trump – to its highest office.
Convicted felon arrested after critically injuring 68-year-old woman
A 40-year-old convicted felon on a new, violent crime spree attacked and critically injured a 68-year-old woman in her house in West Covina, and has been arrested, police said today. Officers located Christopher Arenas about 11:55 p.m. Saturday hiding behind the $3.99 Pizza Co., 2435 S. Azusa Ave., the West Covina Police Department reported. Arenas initially ran from officers but was eventually found hiding in some bushes, police said.
Anita Hill to lead Hollywood commission on sexual harassment
A coalition of powerful Hollywood and media figures on Friday formed a commission meant to address the avalanche of sexual misconduct claims in the entertainment industry that have emerged in recent months. The Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace will be led by Anita Hill and comes after a number of women, and some men, have come forward to speak out about their experiences with sexual harassment across a wide swath of industries.
Alyssa Milano and Minnie Driver do not appreciate Matt Damon’s sexual harassment opinions
When dozens of women first began to come forward with allegations that film mogul Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed them, Matt Damon was in the midst of his press tour for Suburbicon, along with George Clooney. The two actors addressed the allegations at the film’s premiere, with Damon predicting a paradigm shift.
#MeToo is being hijacked to trivialize real sexual harassment. Here’s how to end that
California’s Legislature is at last systematically addressing sexual harassment in its own workplace. The effort comes not a moment too soon. Here as nationally, partisans and cynics are realizing the potential for the #MeToo wave to be hijacked for political ends. There’s a risk that dubious claims and farfetched smears will be lumped in with demonstrably illegal abuses of power.
D.A. probing payments to alleged victims
Harvey Weinstein might dodge prosecution on sex crimes, but he could still get nailed for financial crimes tied to settlement money he’s paid alleged victims over the years. Law enforcement sources confirm the Manhattan D.A. is actively probing dozens of payments Weinstein has made to settle sexual misconduct cases out of court. We’re told the D.A.’s Office is looking into the source of that settlement dough.
LAPD Chief promises “progress” in early 2018 in H’wood sexual assault probes
He never said the name “Harvey Weinstein,” but Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck certainly made it clear today that investigations into sexual assault claims against the much-accused producer and others are about to enter a new phase in early 2018. “We may have some progress on the more high-profile ones in the new year,” the LAPD’s top cop said Wednesday during an interview on NPR radio.
One-third of online shoppers victims of counterfeit sales
Unknowingly buying a counterfeit product online is easy to do. So easy, in fact, that nearly one-third (31%) of worldwide shoppers says that they have unwillingly bought a counterfeit product online. It gets worse. Of that third, half say they have been tricked more than once. More than a third (34%) said they were victimized two or three times, 11% said they had bought fake goods three to five times and 5% said they had made more than five fake purchases online.
LASD issues warning about extortion scams
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is reminding the public about criminals who are posing as government agencies as part of an extortion scam. The caller in these cases will typically demand payment and threaten the victim with some sort of legal action (arrest them or disrupt services) if the payment is not made. The caller will then instruct the victim to get a Money Order, conduct a wire transfer, or purchase some type of gift card to “pay the fine.”
‘Operation vigilance’ targets Yolo County sex offenders
Yolo County law enforcement conducted surprise compliance checks on over 300 sex offenders earlier this week, District Attorney Jeff Reisig announced. “Operation Vigilance” is a program that started nine years ago with the goal to protect Yolo County citizens by ensuring that sex offenders who live in the County are complying with all laws, probation and parole directives.
California Fires: Meet the prisoner firefighters who are battling the flames in Southern California
Wildfires continue to rage across Southern California. And many of the men and women fighting to contain them come from California’s prisons. What began as a program to replace male firefighters during World War II in 1946 has turned into a “volunteer” service of prisoners. According to KPBS, approximately 3,700 of the firefighters fighting wildfires in the state of California are prisoners, both male and female.
Inmate bicycle program hits new record for 2017
Tuesday morning, more than 200 bicycles, refurbished by one Folsom State Prison (FSP) inmate, rolled out of the front gate en route to numerous area children in need through a partnership between the prison and Cameron Park Rotary Club. The FSP bicycle donations are a Christmas season tradition that began in 1986.
Convicted of a marijuana crime in California? It might go away, thanks to legal pot.
Yirtuamlak Hailu Derege came to California a decade ago with dreams of making it big in the entertainment business. But shortly after arriving, he was arrested and convicted of selling marijuana, a felony that has made it difficult for him to find any job at all.
How cops could cash in on legal weed in California
Next month, recreational marijuana sales will officially be legal in California. But instead of a bacchanalian scene where previously surreptitious stoners share the sidewalks with suburban dads blazed off fizzy, cannabis-infused root beers, the transition to a post-prohibition California is almost certain to be a messy one.
Homeless to get more housing in revamped, Lego-like shipping containers
The workhorse cargo container is at the center of an architectural design craze. It even has a moniker: “Cargotecture.” Shipping containers are being recycled to create luxe homes and vacation getaways. Hipster food halls. A 40,000-seat stadium for the 2020 FIFA World Cup. In Southern California, containers are being modified for a more modest but vital purpose.
Court clears Hews Media Group of Central Basin Leticia Vasquez’ phony defamation allegations
In a wide-ranging ruling, and a victory for free press, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rafael Ongkeko has ruled in favor of Hews Media Group-Community News and Publisher Brian Hews in a bogus defamation case filed by Central Basin (CB) Director Leticia Vazquez. In response to the complaint, Hews filed what is known as an Anti-SLAPP motion and won.
Anti-deportation ralliers decry surge of Cambodian detentions
While the topic of immigration and deportations has almost squarely focused on the Latino community, families like that of Cathee Khamvongsa’s are dealing with the fallout of seeing loved ones detained with little acknowledgment. More than 200 Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants living in the U.S. were detained by immigration agents in October; a crackdown that advocates say was the largest raid to ever affect the Southeast Asian community.