Monday Morning Memo for February 27, 2017

Prosecution
Accused Dodger Stadium attacker pleads to assault in 2015 beating
A Palos Verdes Estates man pleaded no contest to an assault charge Wednesday for punching a man in a parking lot at Dodger Stadium after a Dodgers-Mets game. Michael Rae Papayans, 28, entered his plea to a felony count of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and admitted an allegation that he caused great bodily injury, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
No contest plea from man who hammered Donald Trump’s Hollywood star
A man who admitted damaging Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to make a political statement shortly before last year’s presidential election pleaded no contest Tuesday to a felony vandalism charge. James Lambert Otis, 53, of Los Angeles, was immediately sentenced to 20 days of Caltrans work and three years probation.
Ex-LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich charged with misconduct in death penalty case
The State Bar of California announced Thursday that it has filed disciplinary charges against former Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich for alleged misconduct in a death penalty case dating back more than 30 years. The State Bar alleges Trutanich suppressed evidence, withheld the identity of a witness and allowed false testimony to be entered in the case of Barry Williams, who was accused of a fatal 1982 shooting.
LA sheriff’s deputy pleads no contest to killing Sylmar man in 2012
A former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy has pleaded no contest to killing a man in Sylmar who had been involved in a fight with the deputy’s son in 2012, officials said. Francisco Gamez II, 45, entered a plea to one count of second-degree murder as well as one count of attempted murder for also shooting at a neighbor during the incident.
More drama in Robert Durst’s pre-trial murder hearing
Robert Durst’s defense attorney went on the attack Friday against testimony from a longtime friend who’d said the eccentric real estate heir had admitted murdering their mutual friend Susan Berman in 2000. In blockbuster testimony Thursday, New York advertising executive Nick Chavin said Durst effectively confessed to the killing after they had dinner in December 2014.
Hearing in Roman Polanski’s long-running case delayed
A hearing to unseal testimony in Roman Polanski’s long-running underage sex case has been delayed. The Los Angeles Superior Court sent out a notice Wednesday stating that a hearing scheduled for Friday has been delayed a new date has not yet formally been set. The delay comes days after Polanski’s attorney filed a formal motion to unseal the testimony of a former prosecutor who handled Polanski’s 1977 unlawful sex with a minor case.
Law Enforcement
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti accused of being silent on city’s rising crime
The violent crime rate rose for a third consecutive year in Los Angeles, but that’s not something Mayor Eric Garcetti is eager to highlight ahead of the March election, one mayoral challenger said this week. During a candidate forum hosted by the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, Mitchell Schwartz, a political strategist who is attempting to unseat Garcetti, accused the mayor “of hiding and suppressing the police reports from last year” by not holding his annual news conference to discuss the end-of-year crime statistics.
Whittier police officer killed in shootout, suspect may be involved in separate homicide
One officer was killed and another injured in a shootout Monday with a 26-year-old suspected gang member who may have been involved in a separate homicide in East Los Angeles, authorities said. Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper identified the deceased officer as 28-year-veteran Keith Boyer of Whittier and the wounded officer as Patrick Hazell, also of Whittier.
Gang member accused of killing Whittier cop had cycled in and out of jail, records show
The gang member accused of killing a Whittier police officer Monday has cycled in and out of jail for repeatedly violating the terms of his release, records show. L.A. County sheriff’s homicide Capt. Steve Katz on Tuesday identified the suspect as Michael C. Mejia, 26, a career criminal with a history of drugs and violence. Mejia has a “history of control problems,” Katz said.
Police chief says Whittier officer’s slaying shows danger of criminal justice reform, but details are unclear
Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper says the man suspected of shooting an officer to death on Monday is an example of how statewide efforts to reduce incarceration of certain criminals can have tragic consequences. “We need to wake up. Enough is enough,” Piper said at an emotional news conference on Monday, the day Officer Keith Boyer was killed. “This is a senseless, senseless tragedy that did not need to be.”
Accused hit and run killer had been deported
A man booked on suspicion of murder – after he allegedly killed a woman in North Hills while fleeing the scene of another car crash – had been removed from the United States to Mexico five times between 1998 and 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Estuardo Alvardo, 45, was arrested Sunday afternoon after the fatal crash at Sepulveda and Plummer Streets and was being held in lieu of $1,050,00 bail, according to jail records.
Accused cop killer could’ve been locked up longer
Prosecutors from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Wednesday they’d asked a judge to sentence the gang member accused of murdering a Whittier Police Officer to four years in prison in 2014. An L.A. Superior Court judge sentenced Michael Mejia to half that. Mejia completed the prison term last April and was released on probation.
Props allowing early release of inmates under fire after Whittier office killed
Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper spoke out Monday night against propositions recently passed in California after one of his officers was killed in the line of duty by a parolee. “We need to wake up. Enough is enough. You’re passing these propositions, you’re creating these laws that is raising crime,” he said.
LAPD asked to step up patrols amid rising crime rate
Amid a rising crime rate and officer complaints that response times are slower, a City Council committee will begin examining today if the Los Angeles Police Department needs to increase its regular patrols. A motion submitted in January by council members Mike Bonin and Joe Buscaino and seconded by Councilman Mitchell Englander calls on the LAPD to look at increasing patrols, including dismantling some specialized units and hiring more civilians to move officers off desk duty.
Should eBay be doing more to stop sales of fakes?
Sales of counterfeit items on online marketplaces like eBay Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. has been and continues to be a source of irritation (at least) to the companies, the manufacturers of the fake goods and to the consumers who buy them. According to The Counterfeit Report, a website that searches out fakes and reports the items to the e-commerce websites, “eBay is proving to be an ideal platform to distribute counterfeit goods – an activity that is profitable, difficult to track and widely unpunished.”
Retired deputy reached settlement in lawsuit against LASD
Lawyers for a retired deputy and for Los Angeles County told a judge Thursday that a tentative settlement was reached in the plaintiff’s lawsuit, in which he alleged that he endured an internal backlash for refusing a captain’s request that he campaign on behalf of former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka in his failed bid to be elected sheriff.
4 major US cities are seeing a surge in homicides
Four major US cities are experiencing a surge in homicide rates and have neared or exceeded the numbers from the 1990s, according to a study from The Wall Street Journal. The publication looked at homicide data stretching back to 1985 and found that murder rates in Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Memphis now look like numbers from the 1990s: an era wrought with gang violence and drug-trafficking.
Drones, law enforcement and privacy
Law enforcement departments are already making use of drones to help them on different mission types, but laws revolving privacy and safety of a drone’s usage are still a concern of many, especially the public. In January 2017, The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced they will be using a drone to help search and rescue operations, bomb detection, hazardous material spills and hostage situations.
Eyes over Compton: How police spied on a whole city
This is the future if nothing is done to stop it. In a secret test of mass surveillance technology, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent a civilian aircraft* over Compton, California, capturing high-resolution video of everything that happened inside that 10-square-mile municipality. Compton residents weren’t told about the spying, which happened in 2012.
Burbank sees a rise in property and violent crimes
Burbank saw a 12% increase in the number of reported property and violent crimes in 2016, according to the Burbank Police Department. In the department’s year-end crime statistics, 3,160 instances of crime were reported in 2016 as opposed to 2,815 in 2015. Property crime – which includes burglary, theft and auto theft – jumped from 2,656 cases to 2,948.
17 y/o girl abducted by sex traffickers rescued after she ‘prayed and prayed’ family would find her
Sarah Dunsey from Logan, Utah, was found in Venice, California, on Friday after she disappeared over a month earlier. At the time of her disappearance, the teen was on a trip with her friends in Las Vegas, where she was believed to have been kidnapped into sex slavery. Sarah’s mother Amie, who made an emotional plea for her return in a video campaign that went viral, took to Facebook to celebrate the news of her daughter’s safe return.
Challenges ahead for law enforcement
There is little question that Napa County is a relatively safe place to live. In many parts of the county, people think nothing of leaving their doors open and cars unlocked. People walking at night have more to fear from inattentive drivers than from muggers. Even in the more urbanized areas of Napa and American Canyon, murders, rapes and serious assaults are mercifully rare, especially when compared with other counties in the outer suburban ring around San Francisco.
It’s legal for an immigration agent to pretend to be a police officer outside someone’s door. But should it be?
During a nationwide operation this month by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a team of ICE agents in Los Angeles approached the house of a man targeted for deportation. “Good morning, police,” one agent announced in the pre-dawn darkness. A man opened the door moments later. “Good morning, how you doing? I’m a police officer. We’re doing an investigation,” the agent said.
LAPD Valley chief urges calm amid deportation fears
Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Robert Green said he and his team are working to “promote calm” amid concerns in the San Fernando Valley over the possibility of mass deportations of immigrants. Many don’t understand what the Los Angeles Police Department can and can’t do when it comes to dealing with undocumented immigrants – and are concerned with hypothetical future scenarios not grounded in fact, said Green, who is commanding officer of LAPD’s Operations-Valley Bureau.
Law enforcement creating new unit to fight DUIs
The county’s District Attorney’s Office opened a new investigative unit focused on training law enforcement personnel on the investigation and prosecution of drunken driving and driving under the influences of substances. The passage of Prop 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, created new challenges for law enforcement, said District Attorney Jackie Lacey “With the legalization of marijuana in California, we in law enforcement must be prepared to aggressively investigate and prosecute vehicular deaths and injuries caused by impaired drivers,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said.
Metro approves $646M annual multi-agency transit policing contract
At today’s meeting, the Metro board approved a new five-year multi-agency transit policing contract. For the past decade, transit policing had been done by the L.A. County Sheriff Department (LASD.) Under the new contract transit policing will be done by LAPD, LASD, and Long Beach Police Department. When the proposal first came to the board in November-December 2016, it was $547 million annually.
LA Sheriff’s Department sends cease and desist over Yes On S ‘eviction notice’ mailer
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department issued a cease and desist letter Friday over a Yes On S political campaign mailer designed to look like a Sheriff’s Department eviction notice, according to a statement from the department. “The political mailer depicted in the photos attached to this message is counterfeit and could mislead members of the public to believe they are subject to legal action by the Sheriff’s Department,” the department said in the statement.
Should eBay be doing more to stop sales of fakes?
Sales of counterfeit items on online marketplaces like eBay Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. has been and continues to be a source of irritation (at least) to the companies, the manufacturers of the fake goods and to the consumers who buy them.
According to The Counterfeit Report, a website that searches out fakes and reports the items to the e-commerce websites, “eBay is proving to be an ideal platform to distribute counterfeit goods – an activity that is profitable, difficult to track and widely unpunished.”
Courts
A court is blocking L.A. County sheriff from handing over a list of 300 problem deputies
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has collected the names of about 300 deputies who have a history of past misconduct – such as domestic violence, theft, bribery and brutality – that could damage their credibility if they testify in court. Sheriff Jim McDonnell wants to send the names to prosecutors, who can decide whether to add them to an internal database that tracks problem officers in case the information needs to be disclosed to defendants in criminal trials.
Declaration of L.A. prosecutor in the legal fight over the L.A. sheriff’s Brady list
Jason Lust­ig, the deputy in charge of the Los Angeles County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s dis­cov­ery com­pli­ance unit, said in his de­clar­a­tion that there is no policy or prac­tice by which any loc­al law en­force­ment agency no­ti­fies his of­fice of po­ten­tial of­ficer mis­con­duct. In ad­di­tion, he said, the of­fice “act­ively de­clines to ac­cept in­form­a­tion from a peace of­ficer per­son­nel file if the in­form­a­tion is offered by a law en­force­ment agency without the ex­press per­mis­sion of the in­volved of­ficer.”
Court of appeal upholds LAPD recruits’ failure to accommodate claim
Seyfarth Synopsis: The Court of Appeal held that police officer recruits who were not “qualified individuals” under FEHA for purposes of their discrimination claim could nonetheless prevail on their claim for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation, where they were qualified to fill a reassigned position. The City was required to temporarily assign injured recruit officers to light-duty administrative assignments in light of the City’s past practice of doing so.
Prop. 57: High-profile Bay Area murder cases on hold so judges can consider teens for juvenile court
The much-anticipated trials of a 20-year-old Oakland man accused of killing a Santa Clara County paramedic and a Santa Cruz teen charged with the murder of an 8-year-old girl are among hundreds of prosecutions on hold so California judges can determine if the young defendants should be prosecuted in juvenile court.
How will Trump’s Supreme Court nominee rule on California union cases?
Two years ago, Placer County middle school teacher Michelle Raley launched a long-shot bid to change one of the state’s most powerful labor groups from the inside. She ran for president of the California Teachers Association, and rhymed her frustrations with the union in a campaign statement. “My local is a closed shop. We have to pay dues. I want to be a proud member. Not sing the CTA blues,” she wrote in her platform for the 2015 CTA election.
Assault weapons are not protected by the Second Amendment, appeals court rules
A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld Maryland’s ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, ruling that Second Amendment protections do not extend to what it called “weapons of war.” Writing for the 10-4 majority, Judge Robert King of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said that the landmark Heller v. District of Columbia decision rendered in 2008 explicitly allows governments to regulate firearms similar in design and function to those issued to members of the military.
ACLU files lawsuit against SDPD over juvenile DNA policy
Under California’s Proposition 69, which was approved by voters in 2004, law enforcement agencies are allowed to collect DNA samples from all felons. Yet, the San Diego Police Department is reportedly collecting DNA samples from juveniles who haven’t been charged with a crime. The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties filed a lawsuit this week against SDPD over a department policy that allows officers to collect DNA from juveniles, without a warrant, as long as they get signed consent from the minor.
Controversial painting depicting cops as pigs is now subject of lawsuit
The battle over a controversial painting that portrays police officers at pigs moved from Congress to the courts on Tuesday. The artwork, created by a Missouri high school student, was removed from a gallery in the U.S. Capitol last month, after House Republicans lodged a complaint with the Architect of the Capitol arguing that painting was offensive and violated Capitol rules.
Legislation
Bill would limit early parole for crimes like rape, arson, abuse and murder for hire
State Sen. Patricia Bates Thursday revealed a list of crimes that would be covered under a bill that seeks to modify Prop. 57, which increased opportunities for parole of nonviolent felons and to allow judges, not prosecutors, to decide if some juveniles can be charged as adults. “Californians approved Prop. 57 last year with the intention of showing leniency to offenders who are truly non-violent,” Bates said.
Props allowing early release of inmates under fire after Whittier officer killed
Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper spoke out Monday night against propositions recently passed in California after one of his officers was killed in the line of duty by a parolee. “We need to wake up. Enough is enough. You’re passing these propositions, you’re creating these laws that is raising crime,” he said. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s prisons were so overcrowded it amounted to “cruel and unusual” punishment.
Bill would add hotels, motels to human trafficking fight
A new Senate bill looks to address human trafficking where the crimes often occur: hotels and motels. Senate Bill 225, introduced earlier this month by Sen. Henry Stern, D-Agoura Hills, would add hotels and motels to the list of businesses that are required to post signs with hotline numbers people can call or text if they suspect human trafficking or need assistance. Human trafficking involves not only forced prostitution but also forced labor.
Local Assemblyman introduces bill to target serial thieves
Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) on Feb. 21 introduced a measure that aims to toughen the state’s penalties on serial thieves. Current state law, which was shaped by Proposition 47, considers a theft to be a misdemeanor if the stolen item’s value is less than $950 in each case. Under Cooper’s Assembly Bill 1326, an offender can face felony theft charges if he or she steals more than $950 worth of items within one year.
Proposed state legislation could push back last calls for bars
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, announced legislation Wednesday that would allow local governments to decide how late alcohol can be served. If approved, the Let Our Communities Adjust Late Night, or LOCAL, Act would allow the previously set 2 a.m. time for last calls at bars in California to be pushed back as late as 4 a.m. The legislature has been met with both positive and negative reactions.
McCarty introduces legislation to create independent review of fatal police shootings
In early February, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, who represents West Sacramento and portions of Sacramento, introduced for the second time legislation that would require independent review of fatal police shootings. Right now AB 284 is a spot bill without a lot of detail, being used as a place holder to comply with deadlines, but Assemblymember McCarty said he’s hopeful that the bill will become law this time.
Assembly bill aims to make California a “shall-issue” State
A new bill introduced in California would amend the state law to allow citizens showing “just cause” for self defense to obtain a concealed carry permit. AB 757 states: Existing law authorizes the sheriff of a county, or the chief or other head of a municipal police department, if good cause exists for the issuance, and subject to certain other criteria, to issue a license to carry a concealed handgun or to carry a loaded and exposed handgun, as specified.
Politics & Local Government
The untold story of how Kevin Leon became Kevin de León
The name on his birth certificate isn’t Kevin de León. That’s how the Los Angeles Democrat identified himself more than two years ago when he was sworn in as the 47th president pro tem of the California Senate, the first Latino to hold the position in more than a century. On his birth certificate and voter rolls, however, the 50-year-old politician is Kevin Alexander Leon.
Missed payments to L.A. County foster parents prompt supervisors’ call for inquiry
Los Angeles County supervisors this week called for an inquiry into the “root cause” behind hundreds of missed payments from the county’s child protection agency to foster care parents, group home managers and others depending on public assistance. The missed payments, first reported by The Times last month, left many in dire straits. A group home manager said she had to borrow thousands of dollars from friends to make payroll.
LA’s moves to protect immigrant street-food vendors come with a catch
LA is the only major American city where it is against the law to sell food and merchandise on the sidewalk. Criminal charges are relatively rare – of the 50,000 street vendors in LA, just 22 were convicted of misdemeanors last year, according to the city attorney’s office. Even so, President Trump’s executive order to speed up the deportation of undocumented immigrants has pushed local elected officials to change the law.
California lawmakers can’t figure out what to do with Airbnb. Here’s why
In San Francisco, tumult at the ballot box, with the Board of Supervisors and in the courtroom has defined the city’s relationship with Airbnb and other short-term rental sites. In Los Angeles, regulating Airbnb is a top issue at City Hall. In New York last fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed one of the nation’s most restrictive laws penalizing Airbnb hosts who do not abide by limits on how frequently they can rent out their properties.
Other News
Arizona to death-row inmates: Bring your own execution drugs
The recent revelation that condemned prisoners in Arizona can now provide the lethal drugs to be used in their executions has received attention around the world and raised questions about the state’s rules for the death penalty. The novel policy has drawn sneers from defense attorneys who were puzzled as to why the state would think that they would assist in killing their clients.
Trump’s inroads in union ranks have labor leaders scrambling
Donald J. Trump redrew the electoral map with his rousing economic nationalism and evocation of a lost industrial age. It was a message that drew many union members to his cause. And now it is upending the alliances and tactics of the labor movement itself. In early November, workers at the Momentive chemical plant in upstate New York went on strike to beat back pension and health care concessions.
Elwood Lui: Following in the footsteps of David Yaffe
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David Berger was slammed last Aug. 31 in a Court of Appeal opinion in connection with his handling of a restoration-of-sanity proceeding. At the tail end of the opinion, authored by Elwood Lui-now an associate justice of this district’s Div. One, and in all probability the next presiding justice of Div. Two-the clerk is instructed, upon issuance of the remittitur, to ship a copy of the opinion to the State Bar, and to advise Berger that he’s been reported for possible disciplinary purposes.
Surprising no one, Los Angeles is the most gridlocked city in the world
In Los Angeles, every day brings a new carmageddon. The portmanteau was originally coined to describe a weekend in July 2012, when a section of 405 Freeway was closed for massive widening project. The traffic apocalypse turned out not to be as bad as predicted, but the additional lanes of freeway did nothing to alleviate LA’s legendary traffic woes. In fact, one could argue they’ve only gotten worse.
The flawed logic of the Calexiters
“Thursday night the streets were filled with excited crowds. No one talks of anything but the necessity for prompt action. … It is hardly prudent for any man to express his opinion adverse to immediate secession, so heated are the public passions, so intolerant of restraint is the popular will.” You would probably assume that this report came from California in the wake of the 2016 election, right?
Federal Government
Senator Harris (D) strongly supports resistance to federal immigration policy
On Thursday, Feb. 16, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris delivered her maiden speech on the Senate floor, addressing the contributions immigrants make to our society and how she will be a fierce advocate for them, especially the more than 250,000 DREAMers who reside in California. Harris, a former California Attorney General and career prosecutor, also discussed why President Trump’s Executive Orders that target immigrants and refugees run counter to our nation’s ideals, and threaten public safety, national security, and the economy.
Senator Kamala D. Harris
US Border Patrol shooting of Mexican national goes to Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on Tuesday took up the case of a 15-year-old Mexican national who was shot to death in 2010 as he cowered behind a pillar in Mexico, by a US Border Patrol agent standing on American soil. The family of Sergio Hernandez is seeking to sue the border official for their son’s death. They say the agent violated Hernandez’s constitutional rights. The violent shooting was caught on cell phone video and sparked outrage because fact that Hernandez was unarmed.
The private prison industry is licking its chops over Trump’s deportation plans
Immigration agents sparked panic across the country last week, when a series of high-profile operations made it clear that a new era of crackdowns on undocumented immigrants had begun. Coming on the heels of a couple of major executive orders on immigration, the arrests and deportations were a very public reminder of President Donald Trump’s promise to deport upwards of 2 million immigrants upon taking office.