Monday Morning Memo for December 5, 2016

Prosecution
Jury selection to begin in former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca trial Monday
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, whose trial on federal corruption charges is scheduled to begin Monday, will now face two separate juries after a federal judge decided Friday to split the trial into two parts. U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson ruled that an expert on dementia can testify about Baca’s mental state, but only as it relates to charges of making false statements to the federal government in 2013, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
Judge rules ex-L.A. Times reporter must testify in corruption trial of former Sheriff Lee Baca
A federal judge ruled Thursday that a former Los Angeles Times reporter who interviewed then-Sheriff Lee Baca during an unfolding scandal over abuses in the county jails must testify in the former sheriff’s corruption trial. Prosecutors want the reporter, Robert Faturechi, to testify about a Sept. 29, 2011, article in which Baca described an FBI undercover sting and a visit that sheriff’s investigators made to an FBI agent’s home. They also want to ask Faturechi about statements he made on KCRW radio earlier this year.
A shotgun on the beach and a bounced check are key clues to a Hollywood murder, prosecutor says
Carrie Jean Melvin and her boyfriend were walking to a Thai restaurant in their bustling Hollywood neighborhood one July evening last year when they heard footsteps behind them. When they turned to look, a man in dark, baggy clothing raised a black pistol-grip shotgun. Without a word, he fired one round into her face from about 10 feet away and fled. On Wednesday, a prosecutor told a downtown Los Angeles jury that the mysterious gunman was Ezeoma Obioha, a security guard at a marijuana dispensary and the owner of a clothing line who owed Melvin money for marketing his business on social media and had developed a romantic interest in her.
Criminal charge against SoCalGas for Aliso Canyon gas leak OK: Judge rejects residents restitution demands
A judge Tuesday approved a settlement between Los Angeles County prosecutors and Southern California Gas Co. to resolve criminal charges against the company stemming from the gas leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Porter Ranch. The judge rejected a request by Porter Ranch residents to have the deal tossed so they could seek restitution. Attorneys representing a group of residents suing the Gas Co. over the leak contended the residents weren’t notified of the settlement agreement, which they said does not include provisions giving residents a chance to submit restitution claims against the Gas Co.
Conviction & Sentencing
Darren Sharper sentenced in rape case
Former pro football player Darren Sharper was sentenced today to 20 years in state prison and ordered to register for life as a sex offender after earlier admitting to drugging and raping two women, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced. Sharper, 41, pleaded no contest almost two years ago to two counts of rape by use of drugs and four counts of furnishing a controlled substance in case BA421442. His sentence was delayed pending completion of federal and state cases in Louisiana where he was held until his return this month to Los Angeles. Deputy District Attorneys Alison Foster and Michele Hanisee prosecuted the case.
Wife of slain Bell Gardens mayor guilty of voluntary manslaughter
The wife of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo pleaded guilty Wednesday to voluntary manslaughter for shooting him three times in their home just over two years ago. Lyvette Crespo, 45, is facing three months in county jail, 500 hours of community service, an anger management course and five years formal probation under a disposition reached with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, according to Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman.
Gangsters killed ‘slow’ teen wearing red shoes: 50 years to life
Two gang members were sentenced Wednesday to 50 years to life in state prison for the killing of a 19-year-old mentally disabled man who prosecutors said was gunned down near a South Los Angeles car wash over the red shoes he was wearing. “This was a tragic, callous and cowardly crime,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo said just before imposing the sentence on Kanasho Johns, 29, and Kevin Deon Johnson, 26.
Ex-Sierra High student gets 16 months for creepy clown threats against school
A Pomona Superior Court commissioner on Friday sentenced a former Sierra High School student to 16 months in prison for threatening to attack his alma mater. He posted the threats on Instagram and Facebook accounts dedicated to creepy clowns. William Salazar, 19, took a deal and pleaded no contest Friday to one felony count of making criminal threats, according to Sarah Ardalani, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Deputies who beat, pepper-sprayed mentally ill inmate sentenced
Two former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who beat and pepper-sprayed a mentally ill county jail inmate without provocation and then lied about it were sentenced Monday to federal prison. Bryan Brunsting was sentenced to a year and nine months in prison, while Jason “Johnson” Branum was given five months behind bars.
Law Enforcement
60 law enforcement officers fatally shot this year, 20 in ambushes, report says
A total of 60 law enforcement officers have died in firearms-related incidents in 2016, marking a 67 percent  increase since 2015, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported. Citing a preliminary report from January 1 through November 23, the organization said that Texas has seen the most fatalities this year with 18. So far, 130 officers have died nationwide.
Metro Board delays vote on new policing contract
Grappling with an issue often raised by Metro riders – the presence of police on the system, or sometimes the lack thereof – the Metro Board of Directors voted 7 to 4 on Thursday to delay a vote on a new policing contract. The vote gives the Metro Board until February to mull a Metro staff proposal to split policing of the Metro system between three police departments – the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Long Beach Police Department – instead of the current deal which relies solely on the LASD.
Hate crimes are rising but don’t expect them to be prosecuted
Last week, the FBI announced there were 5,850 hate crimes in 2015-a 7 percent increase over the year before. But that total, which is based on voluntary reports of hate crimes from local and state police departments, is likely far lower than the real number. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated about 260,000 hate crimes annually in a 2013 report looking at hate crimes between 2007 and 2011. The BJS’s estimate was based on anonymous responses to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which the bureau conducts every year.
Heroin tightens deadly grip on county
Overdoses involving heroin killed 33 people in Ventura County last year, the fatalities rising after two years of decline in a trend experts say shows the hammerlock the drug holds on communities as different as Oxnard and Simi Valley. “There are no racial boundaries. There are no financial boundaries. There are no geographic boundaries,” said Joseph May, deputy chief of police in Simi Valley. Two sets of data from the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office showed deaths involving heroin overdoses – in some cases paired with other drugs – descended from 43 in 2012 to 23 in 2014. But fatalities climbed in 2015 with 12 deaths in the city of Ventura alone.
LAPD could roll out ‘less-lethal’ weapon citywide to curb escalation
Los Angeles police have long used “less-lethal” launchers with sponge rounds for crowd control and by their elite SWAT team on individuals when less than deadly force may have been needed. But in July, the Los Angeles Police Department equipped patrol officers from several stations, including the Mission Community Police Station in Mission Hills, with these “guns” and their 40 mm sponge rounds, which are intended to incapacitate but not kill a subject, to use on their beats for the first time.
LAPD Skid Row homeless killing ruled OK
A Los Angeles Police Department sergeant and two officers were legally justified in the deadly shooting of a homeless man on Skid Row and will not face criminal charges, according to a document released Thursday by the District Attorney’s Office. According to a 22-page report prepared by the District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division, Sgt. Chand Syed and Officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others” on March 1, 2015, when they opened fire on 39-year-old Charly Keunang, who was known on Skid Row as “Africa.”
Wage theft is common in garment manufacturing in Southern California
Beating drums and waving hand-lettered signs, 40 garment workers marched in front of a Los Angeles Ross Dress For Less outlet chanting “Ross Stores, you can’t hide! We can see your greedy side!” Among the protesters on a sunny Saturday before Thanksgiving, Maribelia Quiroz, 46, mother of three, said she stitches blouses for Ross at a downtown contractor, earning $300 a week for up to 60 hours of work, with no overtime. That’s less than half California’s legal minimum wage. “The bosses fire anyone who asks for more,” she said.
Carjackers’ big mistake: Armed victim is fed cop, shoots attacker
Two carjacking suspects picked the wrong victim as their target turned out to be an armed off-duty ICE agent in Wilmington who wounded one of his attackers, police said. The shooting occurred around 7:45 p.m. Wednesday near Figueroa and Anaheim streets, prompting the closure of the Anaheim Street off-ramp from the northbound Harbor (110) Freeway. The agent fired shots at the female driver and her male passenger as they took off in his white Mazda, according to reports from the scene.

City News Service

Strangled with a shoelace: Slaying of inmate in Lancaster prison came after ‘extremely vicious’ fight
When Leron Morris summoned guards to his cell at a state prison in Lancaster, he showed them a gruesome, bloody scene and a lifeless body. Morris and his cellmate, Rashell Clarke Jr., had a furious fight that ended only after Morris bit off part of the other man’s ear and wrapped a shoelace around his neck, strangling him, according to investigative reports. By the time guards began performing CPR on Clarke, his body was already showing signs of rigor mortis, suggesting he may have been dead for a while.
Tear gas terminates tense squatter SWAT standoff
A homeless man taking shelter in a residence under construction was forced out with a volley of tear gas and arrested Wednesday after a tense, hours-long standoff with a SWAT team. The incident began about 9:30 a.m. near Beverly and Plymouth boulevards, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The unidentified suspect was taken into custody shortly before 2 p.m. KNX Newsradio reported that the man was squatting in a home under construction and had threatened workers, but he was not believed to be armed.
Understanding police use of force: Right vs. reasonable
In a front page article from the New York Times titled “Training Officers to Shoot First and He Will Answer Questions Later”, the author attacks Dr. Bill Lewinski. Dr. Lewinski is a use-of-force expert, police trainer and researcher. Through Force Science Institute, he has examined controversial use-of-force scenarios and explained why police react within the constitutionally reasonable realm in most instances. The comments in articles, the letters to the editor and national media commentary on police use-of-force incidents don’t reflect the reality of what would really happen if those critics were faced with any of those use-of-force situations.
Gridiron gangster: How a vigilante gambler took down an alleged crime boss
Inside the story of Owen Hanson, former USC athlete suspected of heading an international gambling and drug syndicate.
Sheriff McDonnell looking to improve LASD’s community relations
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell was this week’s guest on a special Eyewitness Newsmakers. He wanted to open a community dialogue following last month’s shooting death of veteran deputy Sgt. Steve Owen. McDonnell acknowledged his deputies might not get policing right 100 percent of the time, but it’s time to talk about making relations better between law enforcement and the community. McDonnell heads the nation’s second-largest police agency and the largest jail system.
A project honoring fallen LAPD officers also says a lot about the city
Along the First Street entrance to the Police Administration Building, there is a memorial that stands cold and apart from the living challenges and social media-fueled tensions faced by the Los Angeles Police Department. Here, 207 badges are mounted on a wall to honor the LAPD officers who have died in the line of duty since 1907. Forty-two of those bronzed shields recall men who died in Downtown. That is not the only place where the department’s fallen are remembered.
Police Chief: Understaffing and AB109 contribute to rising violent crime rates in Redding
Redding Police Chief Robert Paoletti says violent crime rates are higher in 2016 than they were in 2015. He gave residents an in-depth look at this year’s crime statistics at the fourth quarterly Redding Town Hall, held in the Redding City Council chambers. According to the report, violent crime has increased 24%, from 409 cases reported at this point in 2015, to 540 cases this year. Paoletti says the increased cases of rape victims and cases of aggravated assault are the most alarming. Cases of rape increased nearly 33% in the last year, while cases of aggravated assault went up nearly 29%.
Ballot Measures
Local authorities still determining impact of Prop 57 passage
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said he will continue working with the Secretary of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to determine what impact the passage of Proposition 57 will have in the county. California voters approved the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act, better known as Prop 57, last week. It is supposed to help reduce the state’s prison population by providing more parole opportunities for some convicted felons. The proposition allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons, authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior and education and allows juvenile court judges to decide whether a juvenile will be prosecuted as an adult.
Young man convicted in 2014 murder wants new trial after Prop. 57 passes
Kurese Bell was 17 when he was charged with murder. Despite his age, his case was handled in adult criminal court based on a determination that both he and the crime he was accused of committing were not suited for the juvenile system.  Until recently, state law allowed prosecuting agencies in California – including the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office – to make those determinations in certain cases without taking the issue to a judge first. It’s a process known as “direct filing.” But that changed when voters on Nov. 8 approved Proposition 57.
Prop. 57’s passage worries local officials
Local officials say the passage of the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act, aka Proposition 57, on the November ballot could potentially cause an upswing in criminal activity. Speaking on behalf of El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini, Sgt. Tasha Thompson called Prop. 57 “deceptive.” “With the passing of Prop. 57 California is going to witness the overturn of 40 years of criminal reform. In addition, it is going to allow the early release of 16,000 violent felons,” Thompson explained. “California will now reclassify violent crimes as nonviolent and add more fear to the victims of crimes already committed.
In legalizing marijuana, California clears small-time criminals
Chris Phillips, a marijuana entrepreneur and Livermore father of four, faced five felony counts and possible prison time after he was accused of illegally growing pot at his home, which police raided in June. But when California voters legalized cannabis for recreational use Nov. 8, they retroactively erased several small-time pot crimes and reduced the penalties for bigger ones like growing, selling and transporting.
State Government
Kamala Harris will step in to defend SF cash bail system after City Attorney, Sheriff Refuse
City Attorney Dennis Herrera has refused to fight a class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of San Francisco’s bail system because he agrees it unfairly punishes the poor, but whether she agrees with Herrera or not, California Attorney General and Senator-Elect Kamala Harris will step in to defend San Francisco against the legal challenge. To do so, Harris will seek approval from a federal judge in Oakland, her spokesperson Kristin Ford said, according to the Chronicle.
Becerra’s attorney general selection sets off scurry for House replacement
It didn’t take long after Xavier Becerra was selected as California’s next attorney general for the race to succeed him to begin. Less than an hour after Gov. Jerry Brown announced Thursday morning that the Democratic congressman from Los Angeles would take over for Attorney General Kamala Harris when she heads to the U.S. Senate next year, the first candidate emerged for this rare open House seat: former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.
County Government
Term limit tears: Supervisors Antonovich, Knabe end decades as ‘little kings’
It was a tearful farewell Tuesday for the two long-time “legends” of the Los Angeles County Supervisors, as Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe ended decades of service by attending one last meeting. In an era of national harsh political turmoil, supervisors praised the pair as cooperating with other supervisors regardless of their philosophical views. With term limits, it’s unlikely any supervisor will come close to the lengthy records of Antonovich and Knabe in an era when powerful, long-term supervisors were called “little kings.”
Courts
Court rules against driver who lost AC job over health disclosure
A doctor’s concern for public safety entitled her to disclose a patient’s medical information to the Department of Motor Vehicles, a disclosure that cost the man his job as an AC Transit bus driver, a state appeals court has ruled. The driver, a San Francisco resident, obtained a commercial license in 2000 and was hired by AC Transit in April 2006. When he applied for a permit to drive a school bus six months later, his primary care physician, Dr. Ann Kim of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, wrote a letter to the DMV over her patient’s objections, saying he had been diagnosed with a cognitive disorder.