Monday Morning Memo for January 8, 2018
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California spreads its liberal wings in 2018 with a slew of new laws
Whether you cross the street, head to college or apply for a new job, one of the hundreds of new laws that California will add to the books on New Year’s Day is likely to affect you. The biggest change, however, is that licensed dispensaries can legally sell recreational marijuana to adults 21 years and older starting Monday.
Broken-meter tickets become a thing of the past with new state law
Los Angeles residents are still being ticketed for parking at meters that are broken or malfunctioning. However, a new state law in 2018 aims to change that by allowing drivers to park at broken parking meters ticket-free.
Lancaster couple pleads no contest in attempted child giveaway case
A father and mother in Lancaster entered no contest pleas today for attempting to give their children away, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday. Deputy District Attorney Dianne Hong said Vincent Paul, 38, and Sarah Elise Nilson, 32, entered the plea to one felony count of attempted child abandonment.
Bad ID of OC Weekly reporter causes DA meltdown at serial killer press conference
What if a California prosecutorial office were so incompetent it couldn’t handle a simple courthouse press conference? Those of you who’ve followed Tony Rackauckas’ Orange County district attorney’s office (OCDA) know the question isn’t rhetorical given its management’s continual, remorseless ethical scandals that have harmed innocent citizens and handed outrageous perks to violent criminals.
Philadelphia’s new district attorney isn’t who you’d expect. Is his election a sign of more change to come?
For seven weeks in 2011, Occupy Philadelphia protesters camped out in a park next to City Hall to call attention to the economic inequality dividing their city and the influence of corporations in government. Police eventually swarmed the plaza, arresting 52 people on charges of failing to disperse and obstructing a highway. The protesters struck back.
U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME could cripple labor unions
As the New Year brings us closer to a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME, many labor professionals are wringing their hands at what could be the biggest anti-union judicial pronouncement in 40 years. A ruling in favor of Janus would mean public sector employees could choose to quit their unions and not pay dues, while the unions would still be legally-bound to represent them – a financially draining scenario for the labor movement.
Records show officials lobbied court all year to stop ‘habitual car thief’
Probation officers tried all of 2017 to get a man Redding police call a “habitual car thief” to be held accountable, records show – including a bid in May for prison time. Despite authorities arresting Joshua Anthony Azevedo 16 times only to see him released – and in some cases arrested again – mere days later, those calls for harsher punishment went unheeded until December, when a judge finally ordered him held without bail.
Suspect in San Bernardino deputy’s death described as career criminal, gang member
The suspect in the fatal attack on a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy was described as a career criminal and gang member who has been in and out of the prison system for much of his adult life. Suspect Alonzo Leron Smith, 30, is facing a charge of murder in the death of sheriff’s Deputy Lawrence “Larry” Falce. Smith has a history of arrests on his record, including two felony convictions, officials said.
Man who allegedly shot deputy was recently paroled
The sheriff’s department on Friday identified the suspect who shot and seriously wounded a deputy in the neck during a shootout in November with the armed ex-con. The gunman was identified as 29-year-old Monolito Alexander Guerra of Newhall. Guerra was on parole at the time of the shooting, according to the department. Guerra was initially arrested on October 15, 2014 and was sentenced to state prison on February 2, 2016.
Prop. 57 swings pendulum from ‘warehousing’ to early parole
One of two men who crafted a $3.3 million investment scam around an innovative medical syringe was sentenced to prison last month for more than 35 years. He could get out in five. That disparity is created by Proposition 57, approved by California voters last year to reduce the state prison population and give nonviolent offenders an early second chance to mend their ways.
San Jose grapples with spike in violent, juvenile crimes
San Jose saw a marked increase in violent crimes in 2017, according to preliminary data that the city’s police department expects to finalize later this month. Authorities say the city of a million-plus people was on pace for a 7.2 percent uptick in overall violent offenses, which include homicides, rapes, robberies and assaults, but perhaps the most troubling statistic was an alarming 42 percent spike in crimes committed by juveniles.
With the retirement of Alex Kozinski, the Weinstein effect hits the federal courts
As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, where he served as chief justice from 2007 to 2014, Kozinski has been one of the most influential American jurists. Appointed by Ronald Reagan, Kozinski has been a staunch defender of civil liberties. Now, amid an investigation of multiple complaints of sexual misconduct, many of which come from former clerks, Kozinski is retiring.
S.C. affirms conviction for second-degree murder
The California Supreme Court yesterday fashioned an instruction which it said should have been given at a murder trial if it had been asked for-though it wasn’t-and opined that if it had been requested and refused, it would have been harmless error.
Commentary: Long-running judicial feud has a new battleground
The size and cultural complexity of California spawns many unique political conflicts, and none more so than a years-long, multi-party squabble within the nation’s largest judicial system. The new year will doubtless see renewal of the power struggle, which grew out of the 2002 decision by the Legislature and then-Gov. Gray Davis to consolidate what had been county-governed courts into a statewide system managed by the state Judicial Council, chaired by the Supreme Court’s chief justice, and its Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).
California can’t prevent credit card surcharges, court rules
A federal appeals court says California can’t prevent five businesses from charging additional fees to customers who use credit cards. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday a 1985 state law that banned credit card surcharges violated the businesses’ free speech rights. The case dealt with swipe fees that merchants must pay credit-card issuers each time a customer charges a purchase.
LA County leader urges state not to block natural gas connections to new customers
A Los Angeles County Supervisor is calling on the state to reject an emergency moratorium on new commercial and industrial natural-gas customer connections that is being proposed because the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility is not fully operational.
After spending nearly a half-billion dollars, the LA County ‘trash train’ will not leave the station for another 10 years, if ever
They call it the trash train, billed as the answer to a waste disposal crisis looming in the late 1980s and ’90s that, if left unaddressed, would leave tons of garbage rotting on Los Angeles County streets. But the crisis never materialized: Literally and metaphorically, no train has ever left the station.
Public comment period on cleanup ends, extent of remediation to be revealed in 2018-19
The state agency that is overseeing the long-planned cleanup of the former Santa Susana Field Laboratory released its draft environmental impact report in September, but the document did not say what the remediation plan was or how thorough it will be.
Fed up with inaction, Porter Ranch residents take matters into own hands – and it’s ’empowering’
When Susan Gorman-Chang saw a group of children trick-or-treating in Porter Ranch on Halloween night of 2015, a few days after the biggest gas leak in the U.S. history erupted near her neighborhood, she was stunned. “I couldn’t believe those kids were exposed to the gas,” the 56-year-old resident said.
Replacing judicial discretion with automated formulas poses risk
Recent articles that have appeared in these pages in support of reforming our bail system fail to understand that the controversial choice by the California Judicial Council to recommend California eliminate it and replace it with some algorithm-based computer pretrial system ignores inconvenient facts and heightens the risk to public safety.
It’s a matter of justice, as Legislature again mulls bail-reform
Facing an existential threat to their business model, California’s bail-bonds industry worked last session to derail two bills that would have changed the way the state deals with people who have been accused of crimes, but are awaiting trial. Opponents even brought out the colorful reality TV star, Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman, to make the case that the Assembly should kill the bill that was on the table.
Criminal justice reform poised to take off in 2018
Criminal justice reform came back with such renewed energy this year after sputtering out in Congress in 2016 that meaningful bipartisan legislation is poised for success in 2018. In October, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, announced he and a bipartisan group of senators were reintroducingthe Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would overhaul prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and allow for more judicial discretion during sentencing.
‘Boon’ or ‘boondoggle’: One year in, New Jersey’s bail reform still a contentious issue
Bail reform has provoked no shortage of reactions since it was implemented a year ago. Some New Jerseyeans thunderously applauded it as a boon for the poor and minorities who were once trapped in a bail system that gave wealthy, sometimes more dangerous defendants a leg up.
LAPD sergeant gives back to community through mentorship from life experiences
Echo Park resident Letisia Ruiz was a troubled teen who dropped out of school and became a single mother. She endured several struggles throughout her life but proved you can turn it around with ambition and dreams. Now, she is Officer Letty Ruiz – a respected member of the Los Angeles Police Department and she’s using her life experiences to help other troubled teenagers who may not have guidance.
Los Angeles police officer recovering after ambush shooting
A Los Angeles police officer has been shot in an ambush attack but she’s expected to recover. The Los Angeles Police Department says the officer, a recent graduate of the police academy, was shot while patrolling with her training officer shortly before 10 p.m. Friday in the Rampart area. Police tell KCBS-TV that they had stopped someone for what’s termed a “minor infraction” when shots rang out from a distance.
Ex-Sheriff Clarke denies he’s still under FBI investigation for plane incident
Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. on Friday night denied reports that he was under FBI investigation after several news outlets reported on a March search warrant that had been filed targeting Clarke’s personal email address. Clarke was accused in January of ordering his deputies to question a man who Clarke believed showed him disrespect on an airplane.
The critics of proactive policing are wrong
In the last week of 2017, it was announced that homicides in New York City were at a 60-year-low and that gun murders of officers nationally had dropped 33 percent, after rising 53 percent in 2016. Inveterate cop critics seized on the information to argue that there was no such thing as a war on cops, and that proactive policing was irrelevant to crime control, since pedestrian stops had dropped in New York City along with homicides.
10 States that pay police officers the highest (and lowest) salaries
No matter what job you have, where you live is going to determine how much you get paid – almost as much as the degree you got in college or your current job title. That’s why tech developers have their eyes set on the West Coast, financial analysts are gunning for a spot on Wall Street, and so on. But what about those jobs that are needed everywhere, and aren’t concentrated in a specific area?
Health foundation helps Black Lives Matter spread anti-cop message
The California Endowment – one of the largest health foundations in the United States – is helping Black Lives Matter amplify its anti-police sentiment, recently donating a full-page newspaper ad to the group’s Sacramento chapter. “(The) Endowment had the ad space and used it for us,” explained Tanya Faison, founder of Black Lives Matter-Sacramento.
California city official is gunned down while vacationing in Mexico
An American tourist was shot and killed while apparently being robbed in a resort town on Mexico’s Pacific Coast that has become popular with surfers and Hollywood stars. Douglas Bradley was killed Thursday in the hotel zone of Ixtapa. He was on Christmas vacation in neighboring Zihuatanejo and would have turned 50 the next day. The city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County announced Bradley’s death on Friday.
Swatting case poses legal challenges for police, prosecutors
The 911 call was fake, authorities said, but the bullet was very real. Investigators and prosecutors in Kansas and California, and with the federal government are trying to untangle the strands of a swatting case that ended with a police officer fatally shooting a 28-year-old father of two standing in his front door. Swatting is usually done by computer hackers, gamers or people skilled in online and smartphone communications as a prank.
In Los Angeles, homicides are down, but violent crime is up for the fourth year in a row
Homicides and gun violence were down in Los Angeles in 2017, a payoff of building closer ties between police and communities and increased efforts to remove firearms from the streets, officials said. The 6% decline in homicides was a reversal from the increases of the previous two years. There were 271 homicides through Dec. 16, compared with 289 last year.
San Jose leads array of California cities with spiking violent crime
In an unwelcome role reversal, San Jose, which has long touted itself as one of the country’s safest big cities, saw street violence continue a recent ascent over the past year while Oakland and San Francisco trended in the opposite direction. The Bay Area’s largest city was on track for a 7 percent rise in violent crimes – homicides, aggravated assaults, rapes and robberies – in 2017, according to the San Jose Police Department, which will have finalized numbers by mid-January.
SF vehicle break-ins at record levels; police try new approach
Vehicle break-ins have continued to soar this year in San Francisco, on top of already epidemic numbers, despite recent efforts by police to stop such crimes with more officers on the street. Auto break-ins were up in every police district from the start of the year through the end of November, accounting for a 26 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the most recent data provided by the San Francisco Police Department.
David Little: One important local story, unfortunately, isn’t going away
Looking back at 2017 this week, I happened to look way back to 10 years ago – and noticed a connection. The last week of the year is a good time to reflect and to get work done. Nearly everybody we try to contact for stories is on vacation. That’s why newspapers and television fill the void by reviewing the top stories of the passing year.
Baltimore residents blame record-high murder rate on power police presence
For the third year in a row, Baltimore, Md., has had more than 300 murders, reaching a new record of murders per number of residents in 2017. Some residents attribute the high murder rate to relaxed police patrols in the city following high-profile cases of police brutality. Officers have backed off in neighborhoods, like the one where Freddie Gray was arrested.
The new reformer DAs
Larry Krasner twists and turns the touchscreen map on the dashboard of his red Tesla, reorienting the city’s streets as he navigates through unusually heavy traffic on a rainy afternoon in Philadelphia-all the while discussing the finer points of cash bail, civil asset forfeiture, juvenile justice, and the root causes of mass incarceration.
Albemarle case over warrantless search for motorcycle is going to U.S. Supreme Court
The high-speed pursuit of a motorcycle that began in Albemarle County 4½ years ago leads this month to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose justices will hear arguments on a search-and-seizure question. A Charlottesville-area man was convicted in 2014 of receiving stolen property – the motorcycle, which twice had been used to elude police – after an officer who suspected it was stolen walked onto private property and removed a tarp covering the bike without a search warrant.
Pulled over in a rental car, with heroin in the trunk
In the summer of 2014, Terrence Byrd was driving a rental car on an interstate highway in Pennsylvania. His fiancée had rented it, and he was using it with her permission. But he was not listed on the rental agreement as an authorized driver. A state trooper, David Long, noticed Mr. Byrd and decided to follow him.
How Trump wields unprecedented control over America’s judiciary
In less than a year, President Trump has made enough appointments to the federal courts to “reshape the judiciary.” That is not an overstatement. Thanks to Republican obstruction during the last two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, an unusually large number of openings on the courts greeted Trump, including the Supreme Court seat now occupied by Justice Neil Gorsuch.
California Supreme Court struggles as vacancy drags on
When the California Supreme Court voted 4-3 Dec. 21 to give ailing patients broad rights to sue pharmaceutical companies for defective warning labels on generic drugs, the deciding vote was cast by a judge from a lower court. Louis Mauro, a justice on the state appeals court in Sacramento, was seated on the high court for the case by random selection to fill the vacancy created by Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar’s retirement on Aug. 31.
California drivers are paying more. Here’s why that might get overturned in 2018
A political dispute over how to pay for the repair of California’s pothole-plagued roads and crumbling bridges is spilling over into 2018, with new vehicle fees taking effect, followed by court dates and ballot measures. The increase in gas taxes and vehicle fees to raise more than $5.2 billion annually for road and bridge repairs and improvements to mass transit was approved in April by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown.
Turmoil in northeast San Fernando Valley politics didn’t start with Bocanegra scandal
A politician leaves office early, having jumped or been pushed. Controversy and confusion ensue. Allies and voters feel abandoned. A power vacuum yawns. Campaign pros plot to fill it. An election is arranged. A new representative is picked. Order is restored. Until the next time.
The biggest California political questions of 2018
With two competitive top-of-the-ticket races and a national spotlight on the state’s congressional districts – to say nothing about the Legislature’s busy agenda coupled with a growing sexual harassment scandal in the state Capitol – 2018 will be a blockbuster year for California politics.
California governor’s race is likely to be decided in Los Angeles County
For the hopefuls in California’s race for governor, the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles County is as mesmerizing as the blanket of lights that glistens every night from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Long Beach coast. The election will be decided here, where 1 in 4 of the state’s voters live.
Ballot Breakdown: These initiative ideas are headed your way
Direct democracy can be an exhausting business. This year civically engaged Californians will be expected to have informed opinions about affordable housing and park funding, how best to divvy up cap-and-trade money, how to spend the state’s new gas tax money, and when new voter-approved laws ought to be enacted.
Federal courts will review sexual harassment policies
Chief Justice John Roberts is promising a careful evaluation of the federal judiciary’s sexual misconduct policies. Writing in his annual report on the judiciary, issued Sunday, Roberts touched briefly on the issue of workplace sexual misconduct, which has in recent months brought down men in entertainment, politics, and the media.
California lawmakers to confront sexual misconduct scandal
California lawmakers will grapple with a growing sexual misconduct scandal when they return to Sacramento on Wednesday for the 2018 legislative year that will bring debates about boosting protections for victims and whistleblowers and improving the Legislature’s policing of itself.
He announced a run for Feinstein’s seat. Then a harassment scandal broke under his roof.
She’s “losing her ironclad grip.” State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León titled a December fundraising email with the phrase. He outlined key messages in his campaign against California’s senior U.S. senator, Dianne Feinstein, and said she isn’t being tough enough on President Donald Trump.
Roman Polanski ‘disappointed’ he didn’t get to spend the holidays with Harvey Weinstein
For Roman Polanski, the holidays just weren’t the same without fellow miscreant Harvey Weinstein. The pervy “Repulsion” director told friends at the Palace Hotel in Gstaad in Switzerland that he was bummed Weinstein didn’t make the trip this year. “Polanski was having dinner at the hotel and expressed that he was ‘disappointed’ Harvey wouldn’t be there,” according to a vacationer who chatted with the 84-year-old filmmaker.
CVS Pharmacy to pay more in settlement
According to a press release from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, CVS Pharmacy, Inc. has agreed to assign two executives who will be responsible for pricing issues in Southern and Northern California under a May 2015 settlement for allegedly overcharging customers at checkout. The Rhode Island-based company agreed to pay an additional $551,687 as part of the judgment approved on December 20, 2017 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White.
Walmart has a dark side – selling counterfeits
Walmart is the world’s largest retailer and employs over 2-million employees, but practices a shady business – Walmart sells counterfeit products. Walmart operates as both a direct seller of counterfeits, and allows third-party sellers to list just about anything on its website – including fakes. Consumers can no longer expect honest services, authentic, and safe products when they shop Walmart.
Erik Menendez interview wraps up: Life in prison, his unconventional marriage and hope for an appeal
On August 20, 1989, Erik and Lyle Menendez brutally murdered their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, with two 12-gauge shotguns. While Lyle has been telling his side of the story in numerous interviews — including many this year — Erik has remained silent since 2005. Speaking from inside the walls of the Donovan Correctional Facility, the other brother has been detailing his personal account on A&E’s new documentary series, “The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All.”
Training therapy dogs helps soften CMC inmates doing the hardest time
Forty-nine-year-old Bernard Henderson is a convicted murderer who was sentenced in 2003 to a life term with the possibility of parole. Over the past 14 years, he has learned to respect his victim and move beyond his crime. Recently, he’s done it with the help of a dog. Henderson is one of 25 long-term California Men’s Colony inmates participating in a program that trains dogs to help veterans and first responders cope with post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Daughter takes on ruling that may let mom’s killer go free
On a spring day in 1994, a retired German couple who’d traveled to California to see their daughter were sightseeing in the San Jacinto Mountains when they were robbed and shot by three young men. Gisela Pfleger, 64, died in the attack. Her husband, 62-year-old Klaus, was severely injured. One of the assailants pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years to life.
New California laws aim to end juvenile crime cycle
California is joining 19 other states in ending life sentences for children and teens. It’s just one of several new laws attempting to change the way the state’s justice system treats juveniles. “I would run away, get another warrant, go on the run. Go back and forth,” said Michael Rizo. He was stuck in a revolving door.
California pot shops prepare for their first day of legal recreational marijuana sales
Pot dispensaries in Southern California were scrambling Sunday to prepare for their first day of legal recreational marijuana sales, with a historic state law permitting such businesses set to take effect New Year’s Day. “We are excited. We just got our state license on Saturday … so immediately there was extra energy in everyone’s step,” said Robert Taft Jr., founder of the medical marijuana dispensary 420 Central in Santa Ana.
With clock ticking down to legalization, marijuana becomes a suburban affair
All that’s left of the onions at the Wheeler Farms shed here is the smell. The only crop around it is the field of discarded shopping bags flagged to the thorns of desert weeds. For cannabis power couple Lisa and Bob Selan, though, this drive-by plot of high desert in suburban Antelope Valley could be a cornerstone of Los Angeles’ medical marijuana market, which is days from expanding to include any adult who wants to take off the edge.
Former federal prosecutor buys California’s first legal cannabis
In one of the many surprises from the launch of commercial cannabis sales in California on Jan. 1 was the backstory of the first buyer. A former federal prosecutor turned legal mastermind of the marijuana industry named Henry Wykowski bought the Golden State’s first legal bag of marijuana. Wykowski paid $20.01 cash for a gram of Neville’s Purple at 6 a.m. on Jan. 1 at the Oakland dispensary Harborside.
Sessions terminates US policy that let legal pot flourish
The Trump administration threw the burgeoning movement to legalize marijuana into uncertainty Thursday as it lifted an Obama-era policy that kept federal authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will now leave it up to federal prosecutors to decide what to do when state rules collide with federal drug law.
Housing-homeless up to Garcetti, Ridley-Thomas
Pressure will be heavy in the coming year on Mayor Eric Garcetti and county supervisors board chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas to show much more progress with the so-far insoluble housing-homeless problem. They are the two most powerful and prominent elected officials in our tangle of local government, which consists of Los Angeles County, the city of Los Angeles and 87 other cities within the county boundaries.
Cases could open door to pension cuts for California workers
For decades in California, a sacrosanct rule has governed public employees’ pensions: Benefits promised can never be taken away. But cases before the state Supreme Court threaten to reverse that premise and open the door to benefit cuts for workers still on the job. The lawsuits have enormous implications for California cities, counties, schools, fire districts and other local bodies facing a sharp rise in their pension costs.
When pensions run out of cash
Pension funds are likely to follow the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s recent move to lower its target for cash as investors desperately look to generate higher returns, a strategy that may ultimately set off a market swoon. According to client research from global investment bank Canaccord Genuity, which was reviewed by Institutional Investor, pensions with small cash cushions may end the credit-led bull market once they aren’t able to meet margin calls, or demands for cash deposits made by brokers.
Amid rising gun violence, accidental shooting deaths have plummeted. Why?
A country music festival in Las Vegas: 58 dead. A Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas: 26 dead. The streets of Baltimore last year: nearly 300 dead. Gun violence has received no shortage of attention. But one bright spot has gotten much less: the number of accidental shooting deaths has steadily declined.
New year, new gun laws in California
New Year, new guns laws in California. And from the perspective of some local gun sellers, only one thing is certain. “That everybody has a question,” said Brent Dawson, who owns Kilroys in West Sacramento. Dawson says he’s been getting questions from all over the region from customers wanting to know what they need to know about California`s changing gun regulations.
Two possible instances of discrimination reported after California issues driver’s licenses to immigrants here illegally
The California Research Bureau on Tuesday released its first report on incidents of discrimination under a 2015 state law that has provided driver’s licenses for hundreds of thousands of immigrants here illegally. Researchers found no complaints have been made against government agencies tasked with enforcing anti-discrimination laws.
How 2018 immigration law will affect local law enforcement
New immigration laws going into effect in the New Year could impact the way some local law enforcement agencies operate. State lawmakers passed Senate Bill 54, or the “California Values Act” this year, a law that sets limits on how much local police can help federal immigration authorities. SB-54 was met with strong opposition, at first from the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Sheriff’s Association.