Monday Morning Memo for February 12, 2018
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Prosecutors use aggressive tactics against Suge Knight and his team, sparking civil liberties concerns
As a series of contentious court hearings for Marion “Suge” Knight came to a close, a Los Angeles County judge peered over his glasses at a prosecutor. It had been a long few weeks for the former hip-hop juggernaut – and virtually anyone in his orbit. Two attorneys who have represented Knight at various times since he was charged with murder had been arrested, then released.
LAPD officer charged with Workers’ Compensation fraud pleads not guilty
A Los Angeles police officer charged with workers’ compensation fraud entered a not guilty plea Wednesday. Jason Gordon, 47, is charged with one felony count each of workers’ compensation insurance fraud and attempted perjury under oath. The case stems from a medical claim filed in 2015 by the nine-year Los Angeles Police Department veteran, who was last assigned to the Valley Traffic Division.
Judge orders anonymous jury for ‘El Chapo’ drug trial
Notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will have an anonymous jury at his U.S. trial later this year. In a written order, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan agreed with prosecutors who argued that withholding the names of jurors was needed to address any fears that they could be harassed or intimidated.
Hundreds of Sonoma County inmates could be freed without bail after California court ruling
Sonoma County inmates who remain locked up while they await the outcome of their cases could be freed under a recent state appeals court ruling that reduces or eliminates bail for people who cannot afford it. The so-called Humphrey decision involving a San Francisco theft suspect who languished in jail is expected to have far-reaching effects on the state’s bail system, which has been criticized as being unfair to the poor.
Ninth Circuit reverses order to FBI to disclose records
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday reversed a district court order to the FBI requiring that it surrender to the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and other groups more than 47,794 pages of documents relating to surveillance of Muslims.
Samsung heir freed from prison after court reduces sentence in corruption case
Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong was freed Monday after a South Korean appeals court gave him a 2 1/2-year suspended jail sentence for corruption in connection with a scandal that toppled the country’s president. The Seoul High Court softened the original ruling against Lee, rejecting most of the bribery charges brought by prosecutors who sought a 12-year prison term.
State Supreme Court ruling will help juveniles facing trial as adults
In a victory for youngsters charged with crimes, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a November 2016 ballot measure, which limited prosecutors’ authority to charge juveniles as adults, applied to all cases that were not yet final when the measure passed. Under the unanimous ruling, numerous cases around the state, filed against defendants as young as 14, will be transferred from adult court to juvenile court.
Can the California Legislature retroactively “declare” what existing law is?
The California Legislature regularly passes bills that are signed into law by the Governor which make one or more retroactive statutory changes and the Legislature asserts that those statutory changes are “declaratory of existing law.” Naturally, this raises the question, by what authority can the Legislature retroactively declare that statutory changes made after the original statute was enacted by a previous Legislature are, in fact, part of the original statute?
SCIG rail yard battle likely headed to State Supreme Court as Long Beach signals intent to petition
The legal battle over the BNSF Railway Company Southern California International Gateway project which has dragged on since the Los Angeles City Council’s vote in 2013 to approve the project will now be appealed to the California Supreme Court. A brief announcement by Long Beach City Attorney Charles Parkin during Tuesday night’s city council meeting confirmed that the city will continue its fight against the SCIG project by appealing to the highest court in the state.
Four contests develop for Superior Court open seats
The first contested races this year for Los Angeles Superior Court open seats were initiated yesterday as four candidates filed declarations of intent to run for offices already staked out by other contenders. A fifth candidate filed a declaration yesterday: Deputy District Attorney Wendy E. Segall, seeking Office No. 20, belonging to Judge Marc Marmaro. She presently has no competitor in that race.
Judge Marmaro won’t seek reelection, creating eighth open seat
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marc Marmaro said yesterday he will not seek reelection after serving just one full term on the bench, creating the eighth open seat for a judgeship on the June 5 primary election ballot. There is a single candidate for each of the seven open seats that had previously been identified.
Funeral held for retired L.A. deputy who was critically wounded in 1994 traffic stop
A little more than 23 years ago, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Belanger made the last arrest of what should have been a promising career. On patrol in Rowland Heights, the then-29-year-old deputy spotted an assault suspect driving by and ordered him to pull over.
LA County deputy shootings sink to lowest number seen in decades, agency says. This could be why
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies fired their guns at suspects in 22 incidents last year – the lowest number of deputy-involved shootings since at least “the mid-1990s,” according to the agency. The average number of deputy-involved shootings at the nation’s largest sheriff’s department was about 37.5 per year between 2007-2017, according to Sheriff’s Department data.
Battling treacherous office chairs and aching backs, aging cops and firefighters miss years of work and collect twice the pay
When Capt. Tia Morris turned 50, after about three decades in the Los Angeles Police Department, she became eligible to retire with nearly 90% of her salary. But like many cops and firefighters in her position, the decision to keep working was a financial no-brainer, thanks to a program that allowed her to nearly double her pay by keeping her salary while also collecting her pension.
Clear and deliberate assault on SFPD officers (Video)
The video shows a clear and deliberate assault on SFPD officers that rises to the level of attempted murder. It is outrageous that the policy imposed on our officers, by the Police Commission, prohibits us from protecting our own lives by firing at a suspect in a moving vehicle who is trying to kill us.
Santa Maria Police commanders focused on new ideas, principles and people
Three commanders now join Santa Maria Police Chief Phil Hansen to oversee the department — managing everything from training and recruitment to patrolling and investigation. Working alongside Hansen are commanders Dan Cohen, Jack Dunn III and Marc Schneider, who all have expressed a desire to make both the department and community a better place.
State to take on reform oversight at SF Police Department
The state attorney general’s office on Monday will begin overseeing hundreds of reforms at the San Francisco Police Department that were recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2016 after controversial police killings and escalating tensions between law enforcement and the communities they’re assigned to protect.
1st African-American female LAPD captain continues to serve community
There is no denying that African-Americans have had a complex relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department throughout its 149-year existence. Retired captain Ann Young knows that history, which is why the LAPD pioneer now serves and connects with others after succeeding in the black and blue. Today, she connects with “future police” by teaching criminal justice at Cal State Dominguez Hills and two other colleges.
What kind of LAPD chief do you want? Here are your chances to weigh in
Community members will have several opportunities to weigh in on the kind of police chief they want to succeed Charlie Beck when the Los Angeles Police Department’s top cop retires in June. Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said Tuesday that the 5-member civilian board is seeking community input at these public meetings, which will generally be held in the evenings and on weekends.
‘Absolutely Shocked’: Prosecutor fears for life after murderer to be granted parole
A Southern California prosecutor, who has prosecuted the likes of infamous New York real estate heir Robert Durst, said he’s terrified for his life after a man he helped send to prison for the 1988 execution style murder of his estranged wife is to be granted parole. “I was absolutely shocked,” said L.A. County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin.
Parole Board’s continuing irresponsibility
In the 1980’s, America largely came to a consensus that parole was a bad idea. It was abolished altogether in the federal system and sharply restricted elsewhere. The pendulum has now swung back, and there is good reason to believe that it has swung too far. Eric Siddall has this post for the [Los Angeles] Association of Deputy District Attorneys, with the above title.
San Bernardino County DA castigates ‘liberal’ board after six convicted murderers granted parole
“Are you kidding me? I mean what’s going on in this state?” Ramos told the Daily Press. “We’re going to have to take back this system.” Strongly urging the governor to reject their recommendations, San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos castigated the California Board of Parole Hearings on Tuesday as liberal agendists after six convicted murderers in this County were granted parole last month.
L.A. child molester who spent 17 years in state hospital awaiting trial won’t be released – at least for now
A child molester was expected to walk free this week, after a Los Angeles County judge ruled last month that repeated delays in bringing the man’s case to trial had violated his constitutional rights. But at the last minute, prosecutors made a plea to a state appeals court to keep George Vasquez from returning to the community.
To parole or not to parole? Debate sparked after panel says Inland killers have redeemed themselves, should be freed
San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos believes some crimes are so heinous that the perpetrators deserve to be locked up for as long as the law will allow it. Others, like the California Board of Parole Hearings, believe that some inmates have turned their lives around and deserve to be freed.
Prosecutor: Man in US illegally meant to kill deputies
A man who came to the U.S. illegally had “nothing but hate” when he killed two California sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors said in closing arguments Thursday in a case that has helped fuel the national debate on immigration. Authorities say defendant Luis Bracamontes intentionally shot Sacramento County Deputy Danny Oliver in 2014 then killed Placer County Detective Michael Davis Jr. hours later.
GOP Senators introduce ‘Eric’s Law’ to reform death penalty cases
A group of Republican senators has introduced a bill to give federal prosecutors the option of impaneling a second jury for sentencing in federal death penalty cases where the first jury failed to reach a decision. Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Pat Toomey (R., Penn), John Cornyn (R., Texas), and Ted Cruz (R., Texas) introduced Eric’s Law Wednesday, so named for federal correctional officer Eric Williams who was murdered in 2013 by an inmate serving a life sentence.
Man crashes van in Wilmington, opens fire on gang detail before being shot
A man in his 30s who crashed a van into two vehicles and then opened fire on police who had been following him was critically wounded in an officer-involved shooting in Wilmington. No officers were injured as a result of the shooting, which occurred about 3:25 p.m.Friday in the area of Opp Street and Fries Avenue, Los Angeles Police Department Officer Drake Madison said.
Huge increase in arrests of homeless in L.A. – but mostly for minor offenses
Los Angeles police found Reed Segovia slumped in a folding chair near the Venice boardwalk early one spring morning in 2016 and shook him awake. The officers handed the homeless street artist a ticket for sleeping on the sidewalk. Three months later, LAPD officers were citing Segovia again when they discovered an unpaid ticket for sleeping on the beach.
SF police union criticizes policy, video shows car hitting officer
The San Francisco Police Department released a video Friday of an auto break-in suspect running over a plainclothes police officer and an alleged accomplice Thursday near Alamo Square. The police officers union said the attack shows how the department’s policy prohibiting officers from firing at moving vehicles puts its “officers’ lives in danger.”
Authorities suspect gun was taken in chaos of South LA shooting that left teen dead
Sharing new details of the investigation into use of deadly force Sunday night, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell acknowledged Thursday the possibility the 16-year-old suspect may not have been armed when he was shot. Since the death of Anthony Weber, the Sheriff’s Department has faced intense criticism from his family and others who insist he did not have a gun.
Eric Leonard joins KNBC
Eric Leonard is an Investigative Reporter and joins NBC4 with more than 20 years of experience in the news business. Known for his work covering government corruption and high-profile crimes, Leonard brings his sharp analytical and steadfast fact-finding expertise to further expand NBC4’s award-winning Investigative Team.
Letter to the LA Times newsroom from Patrick Soon-Shiong
I’m pretty sure the journalists at the Los Angeles Times never received any first greeting this warm from any of the people sent out from Chicago. Patrick Soon-Shiong doesn’t take over until April, but I have to feel he just secured some precious goodwill. By the way, a New York Times profile of Soon-Shiong this afternoon included the tidbit that he lives next door to former Times publisher Austin Beutner.
Newsweek fires top editor, deputy editor and at least one reporter after unflattering stories
Chaos roiled the Newsweek offices Monday with the firings of the editor in chief, his deputy and at least one of the reporters who had been working on stories critical of the newsmagazine’s parent company. Johnathan Davis, the co-founder of Newsweek Media Group, ordered the firing of top editor Bob Roe, Roe’s deputy editor Ken Li and reporter Celeste Katz, a source said.
Excessive force legal claims plummet at LA Sheriff’s Department
The number of legal claims alleging excessive use of force and other misconduct by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies fell dramatically for the second year in a row last fiscal year, according to a county report issued Tuesday. Claims plunged by 23 percent in the fiscal year that ended last June 30, falling from 643 to 491. The number was 781 in the fiscal year that ended in June 2015.
LA County spends $145M on settling and fighting legal claims
Los Angeles County spent more than $145 million fighting and paying for lawsuits alleging wrongful conviction, excessive use of force, medical malpractice and violation of federal clean water laws, among other claims, during fiscal year 2016-17, according to a report received Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.
Homebuilder Toll Brothers sues SoCal Gas over Porter Ranch leak
Luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers has filed a lawsuit against Southern California Gas over the massive leak in Aliso Canyon that the builder says caused extensive financial losses. The leak at the facility near Porter Ranch lasted nearly four months and is considered the worst natural gas leak in U.S. history.
Los Angeles officials to debate regulations for Airbnb
A Los Angeles City Council committee that has been examining the hotly contested issue of how to regulate Airbnb and other short-term rentals is set to pick up the debate again Tuesday. The Planning and Land Use Committee has been working on a proposed ordinance to regulate the short-term rental industry for over two-and-a-half years and is attempting to craft a policy that pleases both short-term rental hosts who say their livelihood depends on the practice and those who say it is contributing to the city’s housing shortage and impacting quality of life issues in some neighborhoods.
LA County exploring a system of ‘battle buddies’ helping other veterans
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has taken a step toward creating a new peer support network to better connect local veterans to housing and services. On Tuesday, the board approved a motion asking the Los Angeles County Health Agency, the L.A. Homeless Services Authority, and other agencies to team up with the VA and veteran-focused nonprofits to create a plan for establishing a “veteran peer access network” in L.A. County.
Above the surface and below, L.A. is still an oil town
A few years ago I picked up my friend David from LAX and, bound for the Fairfax District, turned off La Tijera onto La Cienega. The fog had come in, and after we crossed Slauson, the wells of the Inglewood Oil Field suddenly appeared. Operating since 1924, the 1,000-acre Baldwin Hills site is one of the country’s largest urban oil fields. In the mist, the scattered, silhouetted rigs looked vaguely menacing, a petro-noir landscape of bobbing pump jacks.
Jury convicts Inglewood man of raping and forcing 11-year-old into prostitution; deadlocks on transgender woman’s murder
An Inglewood man was convicted Wednesday of raping an 11-year-old girl and forcing her into prostitution in early 2015, but a jury was not able to reach a verdict on charges that he robbed and killed a 21-year-old transgender prostitute three months earlier. Robert James Spells, 33, was also accused of lewd acts with the girl, who was seen in online advertisements for prostitution wearing a white bra.
A year after DUI crash kills 26-year-old woman, Murrieta teen driver is sentenced to 4 years in prison
An 18-year-old Murrieta woman who was driving drunk and under the influence of cocaine when she crashed into a 26-year-old woman, killing her, has been sentenced to four years in prison, the Murrieta Police Department announced Thursday. The prison sentence was handed down to Taylor Suzzanne Channel during a court appearance Friday at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, local police said.
Firefighters union asks mayoral candidates for veto power over bike lanes, pedestrian safety projects
Firefighters want their department to wield veto power over Vision Zero street safety projects – which often include bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements – and they’re asking mayoral candidates to help them achieve it. That’s according to a questionnaire sent to mayoral candidates by San Francisco Firefighters Local 798, which was obtained by the San Francisco Examiner Wednesday.
Essential Politics: A close look at the California Legislature’s sexual harassment investigations over 11 years
Last fall, when more than 140 women came forward to decry what they called a pervasive culture of sexual harassment in California’s state Capitol, The Times attempted to get data to learn more. As we reported over the weeks since, it’s not so easy to learn what’s been reported to California’s Legislature.
#MeToo movement lawmaker investigated for sexual misconduct allegations
California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia – whose high-profile advocacy of the #MeToo movement earned her national media notice – is herself the subject of a state legislative investigation in the wake of a report that she sexually harassed and groped a former legislative staffer.
Harvey Weinstein gets a step closer to court as District Attorney receives three cases from LAPD
Although police in three cities are investigating alleged crimes of sexual abuse by now-disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, things took a step closer to a courtroom on Thursday. Fox News has confirmed that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has been given three cases from the LAPD involving Weinstein.
LA’s faded street signs could void your parking ticket
If you live in Los Angeles, or have visited the city, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten a parking ticket, but maybe you didn’t actually deserve it. Charlie Temple was recently ticketed for parking on the side of a street in Hollywood during street cleaning. The ticket warning is posted on a sign, but that sign – like every single street cleaning sign on the block – is faded.
Sparked by the Blaze Bernstein case, officials propose new legislation against hate crimes
Prompted by the investigation into the killing of college student Blaze Bernstein, officials on Friday proposed a new bill that would expand hate crime laws in murder cases to include gay victims. Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach has been charged with murder for allegedly stabbing Bernstein, 19, in a Lake Forest park last month.
Limit painkiller prescriptions to three days, California lawmaker says
With California and the nation reeling from an epidemic of opioid abuse, one lawmaker believes the first step is limiting access to the highly addictive drugs. Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, is pursuing legislation to limit prescriptions for opioids, which are often used as painkillers, to no more than three days.
Women candidates hit a wall in California
If 2018 is The Year of the Woman, nobody told California. In the biggest blue state on the map, the only woman running for governor, former state schools chief Delaine Eastin, is polling in single digits. London Breed, the interim mayor of San Francisco and the first black woman to hold the post, was bounced from her position last month by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She was replaced by a white man.
California Gubernatorial candidate explains his stances, past affair
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom attempted to distinguish himself as a common-sense gubernatorial candidate at a forum at the University of San Francisco on Monday, painting himself as a pragmatist with a soft spot for the common man. “My purpose has always been to fight for those who are struggling,” Newsom said.
Prop. 13 fight looming over how California taxes business properties
It has been a liberal dream for decades to undo parts or all of Proposition 13, the seminal California initiative limiting the property tax rate. Is that fight finally coming to the ballot box this fall? A coalition of civil rights and community organizations is expected to begin collecting signatures later this month for a measure to tax commercial properties at market value while leaving in place the Proposition 13 protections for homeowners, a concept known as “split roll.”
In US bail reform, justice-by-algorithm can only go so far
Like the clairvoyants in the film “Minority Report,” computer-generated risk assessment algorithms aim to predict the likelihood that someone will commit crime in the future. These risk assessment tools are used to determine whether someone awaits trial in jail or goes home, what their sentence will be, and whether or not parole is granted, among other decisions.
He stole $5 and a bottle of cologne. His bail was set at $350,000
The case of a San Francisco senior citizen accused of stealing $5 and a bottle of cologne from his neighbor reveals the obvious injustice of California’s bail system, and may finally lead to reform. Kenneth Humphrey has languished in San Francisco County Jail for more than 250 days on $350,000 bail.
Local agencies warn employees against using recreational marijuana, even off-duty
Local government agencies have begun to warn employees that using recreational marijuana, even off-duty, may violate workplace rules. Recreational adult-use became legal in 2018 after voters passed Proposition 64 in 2016. The LAPD circulated a memo to remind officers that drug use on and off-duty is never allowed.
While some California DAs are throwing out old pot convictions, L.A. County’s Jackie Lacey takes a different path
In contrast to policies announced in San Francisco and San Diego this week, Los Angeles County’s District Attorney said her office will not work to expunge or reduce marijuana-related convictions in light of California’s legalization of the drug. That doesn’t mean Angelenos’ convictions can’t be dismissed; in fact, the ability to do so is a central part of Proposition 64, the ballot initiative that issued in legal weed.
Supreme Court’s conservatives appear set to strike down union fees on free-speech grounds
Paying union dues and baking a wedding cake may not seem like classic examples of free speech-except perhaps at the Supreme Court. This year, the high court is poised to announce its most significant expansion of the 1st Amendment since the Citizens United decision in 2010, which struck down laws that limited campaign spending by corporations, unions and the very wealthy.