Monday Morning Memo for September 11, 2017
Share this post on social media or by email
Creep who murdered Sacramento County Sheriff benefited from AB 109
Last week Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy Robert French, a 21-year veteran of the department, was brutally murdered by felon who was free to roam the streets thanks to AB 109. On Wednesday, auto theft task force investigators from the CHP and the Sacramento Sheriff’s department were following up on reports of a stolen BMW. They located the car at a hotel and saw two women drive off.
Group blames Sacramento deputy’s slaying on California law
A law enforcement group is blaming the shooting death of Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy Robert French on a prison reform measure signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. French was killed Aug. 30 in a gun battle that took place between law enforcement officers and Thomas Littlecloud, 32. Littlecloud fired about 34 rounds from an assault rifle and more than a dozen shots from a 9-mm handgun as he tried to get away from the Ramada Inn on Auburn Boulevard.
Advocates push for changes in California’s prison system
The children, mothers, and former prisoners posing for a group picture at the Capitol don’t know each other but they’re all fighting for the same cause: early prisoner release. “We want to make sure they are the best people they can possibly be when they come home,” said Taina Vargas-Edmond. Vargas-Edmond joined the effort after her husband was locked away for 10 years for robbery.
Assemblyman Travis Allen denounces California’s soft on crime policies
Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) called out Jerry Brown and the California Democrats for their soft on crime policies that are resulting in rising crime and the deaths of California’s law enforcement. “This week, a cop killing felon was on the streets due to Jerry Brown’s AB 109 early release law, instead of behind bars where he belonged,” said Assemblyman Travis Allen.
Editorial: Prop. 57, inmate early-release law, needs revisions
Last Nov. 8, Californians, including a sizeable majority of county voters, approved Proposition 57, which allows thousands of prison inmates to apply for early release. Before the election, this newspaper editorialized against the measure, saying that while the intention of reducing prison overcrowding was worthwhile, we had grave doubts about the law’s implementation and the vagueness in just who would be eligible for release.
Prop 57 backlash grows in Fresno County
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims is reacting to the early release of three convicted felons into Fresno County, and a scathing letter sent out by the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. The letter accuses the State Parole Board of mishandling the releases, altering the number of felonies committed by the prisoners released, and sugar coating their criminal histories. The prisoners in question are James Walden, Ralph Ramos, and Susan Lemus.
Mental health and substance abuse solutions needed to reduce crime
Supervisor Robert Lovingood wants us, the voters of San Bernardino County, to impose a crime tax on ourselves. Passage of this tax will require a two-thirds vote of the people. In order to achieve this supermajority, Lovingood needs to engage in a meaningful discussion with voters regarding the causes and prevention of crime.
Prop 57: Debate rages on about which inmates should be released early
Ten months after California voters approved a proposition allowing thousands of prison inmates to apply for early release, a debate is still raging over who ought to be freed. Proposition 57 left it to prison officials to clearly identify which crimes deemed nonviolent would qualify and how an inmate’s criminal history would affect eligibility. The public could weigh in during a 45-day comment period this summer – and boy, did they.
Manson follower Leslie Van Houten recommended for parole; Brown gets final say
Leslie Van Houten, the youngest follower of murderous cult leader Charles Manson, was recommended for parole Wednesday by a state panel for a second year in a row for two 1969 murders. Her release is now in the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed it last year. On Wednesday the California Supreme Court denied a request to hold a hearing in the parole case of Leslie Van Houten.
Fairness has to be part of inmate parole eligibility
On March 17, 2013, Williams Lollis called his pregnant girlfriend and threatened to kill her, their unborn child and another child. He also left a voicemail with the clicking sound of a gun trigger being pulled to further threaten the victim. Pursued by police, Lollis barricaded himself in his mother’s house and assaulted a police officer who tried to subdue him.
Corrections officials hear suggestions, complaints about revamping California’s parole system
About 100 people gathered in Sacramento on Friday to offer ideas and concerns about new regulations that have overhauled California’s parole system, an effort that will allow thousands more inmates to be considered for early release. The group gathered outside a meeting where corrections officials were to hear public feedback, the first such meeting since state regulators gave the guidelines initial approval in April.
If executions resume in California, at least three San Diego defendants could be next in line
It has been 11 years since the state has executed an inmate in California. That’s a good sign for those who hope to see the death penalty abolished some day. To those who support capital punishment, some of them prosecutors or crime victims, it’s a sign of what’s broken in California’s particular brand of criminal justice, and that long delay is likely what prompted 51 percent of voters to pass Proposition 66 in November.
Which counties had lesser affirmance rates in death penalty cases?
Yesterday, we reviewed the data for the year-by-year numbers of mandatory death penalty appeals decided by the California Supreme Court. Today, we review the overall affirmance rates, county by county. For the entire period, the Court has decided 425 death penalty appeals. The Court has affirmed 342 in all respects.
Here’s why 5 convicted killers may benefit from the Dekraai ruling
For several convicted killers, the horrific case of Seal Beach mass murderer Scott Evans Dekraai is a potential legal gift. Last month, a Superior Court ruled that Dekraai – who admitted to killing eight people at a hair salon in 2011 – should not receive the death penalty because of misconduct on the part of local prosecutors and the sheriff’s department.
Justice or vengeance? Kern prosecutor, public defender on the future of death penalty in California
A recent California Supreme Court ruling could lead to executions resuming in months, and the county’s top prosecutor and a high-ranking public defender spoke this week about whether the decision will in fact speed up the death penalty process and what benefits, if any, that will have. The ruling, filed Aug. 24, upholds much of Proposition 66, passed by voters last year to speed up death penalty appeals.
Prop. 66 could turn out to slow death penalty cases
The California Supreme Court has upheld most of Proposition 66, the initiative to speed up the death penalty, but in doing so may have made an even more tangled mess of it. Associate Justice Carol Corrigan, writing for the majority, said voters were presented with ballot materials promising a five-year time limit on death penalty appeals in state courts, but there is “no workable means of enforcing the five-year review limit.”
One state’s bail reform exposes the promise and pitfalls of tech-driven justice
Jaquan Lugo stood stone-faced and somber inside a circular, wood-paneled courtroom on a Thursday afternoon in Paterson, New Jersey, as Superior Court Judge Donna Gallucio considered her options. Just four days prior, the 22-year-old and two other men were arrested in Paterson, accused of six counts of attempted murder and various gun charges after a predawn drive-by shooting left a 17-year-old girl with a life-threatening wound near her lung.
This group is putting women at the center of the battle to fix California’s bail system
As a public defender in New York City, Gina Clayton realized the cash bail system used in most state courts across the country was placing a heavy burden on women. The grandmothers and mothers who visited her office bailed relatives out so often that they knew several bond agents by name. Often the women navigated complicated contracts and paid high fees alone, she said. Many ended up swimming in debt.
Risk Assessment: The devil’s in the details
Judges around the country are using computer-generated algorithms to predict the likelihood that a person will commit crime in the future. They use these predictions to help determine pretrial custody, sentence length, prison security-level, probation, parole, and post-release supervision. Proponents argue that by replacing the ad-hoc and subjective assessments of judges with sophisticated risk assessment instruments, we can reduce incarceration without affecting public safety.
CONVICTION AND SENTENCING
Homeless man convicted of murdering South Los Angeles woman who took him in
A 31-year-old man was convicted this week of first-degree murder for killing a South Los Angeles woman who had allowed him to stay at her apartment. A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated less than an hour Thursday before finding Laevin Meikel Weatherspoon guilty of the December 2013 stabbing death of Wanda Threadgill, who had allowed the homeless man to live in her apartment for at least six weeks, according to Deputy District Attorney Casey Higgins.
Former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca fails in latest bid to stay free on bond
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was rejected in his latest bid to remain free on bond pending the appeal of his conviction for obstructing an FBI probe into the county jail system, and a federal judge ordered him to begin serving his three-year prison sentence on Monday. Baca’s attorney, however, said he plans to appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will automatically delay the former sheriff’s surrender date.
Fewer prison inmates signing up to fight California wildfires
Thomas Rohl adjusted the 30-pound pack strapped to his back and hopped into a nearby fire rig. He was in a remote part of Solano County, on his way to help put out a grass fire smoldering a few miles to the west. It’s backbreaking, dangerous work. But it beats prison. “We get to go out on the top of mountains, and the views are insanely beautiful,” said Rohl, 52, who was sent to state prison in 2016 for a drunken-driving collision that put another driver in the hospital.
Pot growers accused of offering California sheriff $1M bribe
Two Northern California marijuana farmers have been charged with offering a sheriff $1 million to turn a blind eye to their pot growing operations. On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento charged siblings Chi Meng Yang and Gaosheng Laitinen with attempting to bribe Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey to protect their farms from raids.
Officials weigh gang label after Berkeley brawls
Not long after dozens of black-hooded protesters were filmed pummeling people on his city’s streets, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin made clear his disgust for the self-stylized vigilantes. “Antifa,” he said, is no different than a street gang, and police should start treating protesters in the anti-fascist movement accordingly.
Pasadena psychiatrist convicted of assault, making criminal threats faces next challenges
A Pasadena psychiatrist recently convicted of assault and making criminal threats against his children’s nanny and a former employee said he has continued seeing patients at his practice. Dirk de Brito, 54, of La Cañada Flintridge, who specializes in adult ADHD, bipolar disorder and depression, faces two civil lawsuits. He maintains he never physically harmed his employees.
Charges dropped in Costa Mesa councilman setup case
Due to the death of a private investigator accused of setting up a Costa Mesa City Councilman, Orange County Prosecutors moved to dismiss charges against the defendant. Scott Impola, who was 49, died July 10, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Chris Duff. He was accused of attempting to set up Costa Mesa City Councilman Jim Righeimer with a phony DUI arrest.
Adachi: San Francisco prosecutor repeatedly hid evidence
A San Francisco prosecutor improperly withheld evidence that could have aided the defense in at least three criminal cases, city Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Thursday. Adachi, who filed a complaint with the State Bar of California in June, is now taking the unusual step of calling for a state criminal investigation into what he called “the serious and recurring instances of unethical behavior” by Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Mains.
Marin deputy’s hot tub joke turns into undercover drug sting
Sarcasm can be a tricky thing. Just ask Andrew James Harris, who, according to court records, discovered the joke was on him when he ended up the subject of an undercover drug sting. It all started at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Mission Valley on March 26, where Harris got into a friendly conversation with a woman and two men relaxing in the hot tub.
Criminal justice reform push losing momentum
Not only has it been a disappointing year for the lawmakers and civic leaders behind the recent push for sweeping reforms of California’s criminal justice system, their achievements are under harsh fire in Los Angeles County. Last December, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, proposed to largely scrap cash bail on the grounds that it wasn’t essential to getting people to show up for their trials, was destructive of individuals’ lives and would sharply reduce costs and crowding at county jails.
Recalling Redding City Council members won’t solve Shasta County’s crime problem
In encouraging news, several local citizens involved in the effort to recall two Redding City Council members took their concerns about deteriorating public safety to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors in late August, calling the supervisors out on the county’s repeated failure to provide enough jail space to contain the rising tide of drug-and-alcohol-addicted petty offenders terrorizing the community.
There’s safety in L.A. County’s real crime numbers: Sal Rodriguez
Last week, Robert Sass, vice president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, wrote a response to a column of mine pointing out that crime rates in California remain at near-record lows even after the passage of criminal justice reforms. Arguing that I “completely and conveniently ignored the rise in crime since Prop. 47,” Sass pointed to crime increases since 2014, the year Proposition 47 was passed, and 2013, in Los Angeles County specifically. as evidence that “Prop. 47 has created a criminal culture where criminals know they face little, or far lesser, punishment for their crimes.”
LA Sheriff’s body cam plan would permit release of some video
After two years of study, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has prepared a proposal to equip nearly 6,000 deputies with body cameras, and to enact a policy that permits the release of at least some video shot by officers. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors needs to approve the plan, which, when fully implemented, would cost $55 million dollars a year.
DA’s watchdog for SFPD is chased out of town
Just months after being hired by District Attorney George Gascón to investigate officer-involved shootings, Roger Guzman has resigned amid accusations of off-duty misconduct. The retired Los Angeles police detective was hired in November at a salary of $116,000 a year – part of a team Gascón assembled after a string of officer-involved shootings raised questions about police use of deadly force.
How the war on terror has militarized the police
At around 9:00 a.m. on May 5, 2011, officers with the Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff’s Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) team surroundedthe home of 26-year-old José Guerena, a former U.S. Marine and veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq, to serve a search warrant for narcotics. As the officers approached, Guerena lay sleeping in his bedroom after working the graveyard shift at a local mine.
Deputy killed in hotel shootout kept firing, even after a bullet hit his heart, sheriff says
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy killed in a hotel shootout last week continued to fire his weapon at an armed gunman, even after a bullet had pierced through the soft tissue of his shoulder and hit his heart, Sheriff Scott Jones said during a press conference Tuesday. Deputy Robert French, a 21-year veteran of the department working for the North Division, rushed to the hotel parking lot after hearing reports of shots fired at the Ramada Inn, Sgt. Shaun Hampton said Tuesday.
Man jailed in San Gabriel Valley for alleged house-stealing scheme
Investigators in the San Gabriel Valley jailed a Fontana man Thursday on suspicion of carrying out an “elaborate scheme” to steal the homes of the elderly and families of recently deceased people, authorities said. Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’ Department’s Fraud and Cyber Crimes Detail, Real Estate Fraud Unit, arrested Vo Hoang Ho, 38, about 6:30 a.m., according to sheriff’s officials and booking records.
Two attorneys fined for releasing banned abortion videos
According to Law.com, two California lawyers were sanctioned for aiding in the release of secretly recorded videos of abortion providers. The videos had been barred from public release due to an injunction but ended up on the attorneys’ website. U.S. District Judge William Orrick III of the Northern District of California ordered former Los Angeles County district attorney Steve Cooley and attorney Brentford Ferreira to part of the $195,350 civil-sanction fee.
Harassment restraining order against director in city attorney’s office denied to deputy
Onica Cole, a deputy Los Angeles city attorney who has launched a campaign for election next year to the county’s superior court, yesterday lost her bid for a permanent order to the human resources director in her office to stay at least 10 yards away from her. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu on Aug. 8 issued a temporary restraining order to that effect, which was to expire last Tuesday when a hearing was scheduled to be held on whether to extend the order.
Fresno, officers must face wrongful death claims in death of unarmed man
Wrongful death and excessive force claims against two Fresno, California, police officers advance after a federal judge ruled a Latino man shot and killed by police wasn’t posing a threat or resisting arrest. U.S. District Judge Dale Drozd’s order issued Wednesday addressed motions for summary judgment filed by Fresno Police officers Zebulon Price and Felipe Miguel Lucero and the city, in a case that stems the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man.
Court rips arrest of Giants’ Morgan, 1992
Here is a look at the past. Items have been culled from The Chronicle’s archives of 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago. Sept. 16: A federal appeals court in San Francisco sharply criticized the Los Angeles Police Department yesterday for the illegal arrest of former Giants and A’s second baseman Joe Morgan. The U.S. Court of Appeals reduced Morgan’s $540,000 damage award for his 1988 ordeal at Los Angeles International Airport to between $190,000 and $340,000, with the amount to be determined later.
Blood alcohol evidence excludable if driver didn’t consent to test
A judge must suppress blood-test evidence against a man lawfully arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence because there was no search warrant and the suspect, while acquiescing in the drawing of his blood, did not expressly consent, the Appellate Division of the San Mateo Superior Court has held, declaring that California decisions to the contrary must be scrapped in light of a 2013 United States Supreme Court opinion.
Guilty plea at retrial doesn’t bar suit over initial conviction
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday reinstated an action for violation of civil rights brought by a man who was convicted of attempted murder, ordered released from prison by a federal judge based on possible chicanery on the part of an officer linked to the Rampart scandal, and, after bringing suit, pled guilty to the attempted murder and was sentenced to time served.
Wilk’s bill extends outreach for $7B in California unclaimed property
“Since learning of the billions of dollars that Californians have in unclaimed property it has always been my goal to create an easier way for Californians to put what is rightfully theirs back in their pocket,” Wilk, R-Antelope Valley, said in a statement. Describing it as a “natural extension” of his earlier efforts, state Sen. Scott Wilk on Wednesday lauded Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of a Wilk-co-authored bill to publicize how Californians can reconnect to their unclaimed property.
Bill to reduce names on California’s sex offender registry shelved
A bill that would have ended lifetime listing of many convicted sex offenders on a public registry was shelved Friday after officials said it could cost tens of millions of dollars to make the change. State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey had proposed that the names of those who committed lower-level, nonviolent sex crimes or who are judged to be low risks to reoffend be removed from the registry after 10 or 20 years.
Sacramento appeasers pay gang members to not kill people
While President Donald Trump has vowed that United States authorities will “destroy” the gang MS-13 as part of his crackdown on crime, the Sacramento City Council voted unanimously last week to pay gang members $1.5 Million to not kill people. The controversial program the city plans to adopt, Advance Peace, claims it “interrupts gun violence in U.S. urban neighborhoods by providing transformational opportunities” to gang members involved in weapons offenses… paying them not to terrorize and kill people.
California Assembly votes to repeal HIV criminalization laws
The California Assembly voted Thursday to reduce the penalty for intentionally exposing someone to HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor. Existing laws discriminate against people with HIV, the virus that causes the immune system-weakening disease AIDS, supporters of the change said. The bill, passed 44-13, would treat HIV like other communicable diseases under California law. It requires final Senate approval before it can go to Gov. Jerry Brown.
State Bar Trustees: No preference on proposal to lower required Bar examination score
The State Bar Board of Trustees yesterday opted to take no stance on whether the standard for passing the bar examination should be lowered or not, simply passing on to the California Supreme Court three possible choices: retaining the present score of 1440 points, lowering it to 1414, or going down to 1390. Those were the options the State Bar put forth in seeking public comment on the matter.
S.F.’s DA, public defender mend fences over questioning of immigrants
San Francisco’s policy scrums can get awfully heated, but those on opposing sides of the city’s extremely skinny political aisle can sometimes find agreement – especially if they’re unified against President Trump. And who in San Francisco isn’t against President Trump? (If you live in the city and support him, I want to know. Really.)
Gov. Jerry Brown’s draft “sanctuary” bill creates new routes for ICE in California
After Donald Trump’s election, California Gov. Jerry Brown pledged to lead the resistance to the president’s anti-immigrant policies. “You don’t want to mess with California,” he said in March, when Trump threatened to withhold federal funding if California became the first “sanctuary state.” “I’m not going to just turn over our police department to become agents of the federal government as they deport women and children and people who are contributing to the economic well-being of our state, which they are.”
Bill to restrict ICE agents from entering places of employment heads to Senate floor
Assembly Bill 450, which would require employers to restrict immigration agents from their businesses, heads to the Senate floor after passing the Senate Appropriations Committee on Friday. The bill, authored by David Chiu, D-San Francisco, would prohibit California employers from allowing federal immigration agents to access non-public areas of their business without a warrant.