Monday Morning Memo for September 4, 2017
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18 inmates to get execution dates after California Supreme Court ruling
The clock is ticking again on executions in California. The state Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday, upholding much of a prosecution-backed initiative seeking to speed up the death penalty process, cleared the way for the prison system to approve new rules for lethal injections for the first time in more than a decade.
California seeks new one-drug execution method
California correctional officials on Friday asked state regulators to approve a revised method of carrying out death sentences after years of delays that have stalled executions since 2006. The new regulations would allow California’s death row inmates to be executed using one of two different drugs or choose the gas chamber.
What is the Arnold Foundation hiding?
As stories emerge about the Arnold Foundation’s “algorithm” pretrial release tool, we should be disturbed about the results. As covered in a previous blog, use of the tool is linked to two murders and the wholesale release of dangerous felons. However, a Wired story raises even more questions about the Arnold Foundation algorithm.
Don’t replace judges’ bail assessment with an algorithm
The cause du jour for apparently uninformed liberals regarding criminal law is based on a principle that poor defendants without money are unjustifiably held in jail pending trial simply because they can’t afford bail and are, thus, the objects of unconstitutional discrimination by unequal treatment.
Jerry Brown, lawmakers push plans to change bail system to 2018
Legislative efforts to change the state’s bail system have been pushed into the next year, Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers behind the measure said Friday. Discussions on SB10, which the Senate passed in June, are expected to continue through the end of the year, Brown said in a statement with state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys (Los Angeles County), and Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, author of the bill.
Minor Judiciary: Using risk assessment to inform bail decisions
Setting bail has consequences. For a defendant, the consequence can be the difference between going home or sitting in jail. Even a short stay in jail can cost an individual their job or even their home. Defendants who are unable to post bail are more likely to be sentenced to jail or prison and serve longer sentences than those who are released, according to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
Bail reform threatens crime victims
As it is with many issues, there are occasions where we, as Californians, can agree on a goal, but disagree on the method to achieve that goal. Senate Bill 10, a “bail reform” bill by Senator Robert Hertzberg, is one such example. I think we can all agree that we want a justice system that is fair to all parties, regardless of their socio-economic status, but in this bill, victims are a too much of an afterthought.
‘THIN BLUE LINE’
LA police unions slam hate groups’ use of ‘thin blue line’ symbols
Police unions are calling out attempts to hijack the phrase and symbol “thin blue line” for hate and intolerance. The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) in a statement on Monday joined with the United Coalition of Public Safety (UCOPS) to denounce extremists. “I’ve seen photos, and I’m seeing it on television through the news,” said Robert Sass, vice president for ALADS and a deputy for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Cops speak out against use of ‘thin blue line’ by hate groups
Police union leaders are condemning the use of the “thin blue line” by hate groups and extremists. The symbol and phrase were originally created for communities to show their support of law enforcement officials. In a statement released Monday, The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) in a statement on Monday joined with the United Coalition of Public Safety (UCOPS) to denounce extremists.
CONVICTION AND SENTENCING
Ex-LA undersheriff Paul Tanaka’s obstruction conviction upheld by appeal’s court
A federal appeals court panel today upheld the obstruction of justice conviction of former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who began serving a five-year prison term in January at a minimum security camp in Colorado. During his trial, prosecutors argued that Tanaka directed an operation to derail a 2011 FBI investigation into allegations of excessive force within the jail system.
Man sentenced to 50 years to life in prison for raping 2 elderly women during robberies in Northridge
A 33-year-old man was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison for raping two elderly women during separate robberies in 2015, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office officials announced Wednesday. Danilo Gonzalez pleaded no contest earlier this month to two counts each of forcible rape and assault by force to cause great bodily injury.
L.A. Unified after-school coach sentenced to 105 years in prison for molesting girls on campus
A coach for a Los Angeles Unified School District after-school program was sentenced to 105 years to life in prison Tuesday for molesting multiple students over several years. Ronnie Lee Roman, 44, of San Fernando, worked as a Youth Services coach for Beyond the Bell, an after-school program offered in some elementary and middle schools.
Bay Area man snared in historic sting convicted of car theft
A 24-year-old San Francisco man is among the first to be convicted in connection with a historic sting aimed at curtailing drug- and gun-related crime in San Mateo and San Francisco counties. On Thursday, Bernard DeLeon pleaded no contest to felony auto theft. Prosecutors said DeLeon and an unnamed accomplice sold a stolen Toyota Previa minivan to an undercover agent for $300.
Get help or go to jail? Some criminals in the Long Beach area will soon have a choice
Low-level drug and prostitution offenders in North Long Beach and nearby communities may soon get help instead of prosecution when a new pilot program begins in September. The Los Angeles County Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program, or LEAD, will divert some offenders to social services like rehabilitation, counseling and stable housing in an effort to reduce crime.
Yolo DA, Woodland police urge comments on parole regulations
The California Department of Corrections announced that the period for public comment is open on the implementation of Prop. 57 and both the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and Woodland police are urging the public to do so. On Nov. 8, 2016, voters approved Proposition 57, also known as the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016.
Three ” dangerous ” Fresno County criminals to be released
The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office says three criminals it describes as “dangerous” are about to be released due to voter approved proposition 57, and that the State Board Of Parole Hearings has made serious miscalculations in it’s decision to turn the trio loose. They are James Robert Walden, Ralph Zapata Ramos, and Susana Lua Lemus, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Prop 47 saved millions of dollars by sacrificing law-abiding citizens
California voters approved Prop 47 three years ago as a way to save money by keeping “low-level offenders” out of jail. So far, $103 million has been saved and will be distributed to two dozen cities and counties for related programs. The problem with Prop 47 is that it puts the law abiding public at risk, while criminals use it to their advantage to commit more crime. Prop 47 emboldens criminals.
Organizations encourage people to weigh in on Prop 57’s comment period
Organizations have been urging people to take advantage of the public comment period for Proposition 57 to ensure that the original intentions of the proposition are put into place. Proposition 57, known as The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, was passed by voters in November and aims to review parole hearings and acknowledge inmates’ improvement in behavior.
$2.5 million Prop 47 grant awarded to police department to help formerly incarcerated community members
The Pasadena Police Department has been awarded a California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) grant award of $2,511,537, to be used over three years to provide mental health, substance abuse treatment, and supportive services to formerly incarcerated community members.
Damning testimony in murder pretrial for Robert Durst
Susan Berman, whom New York real estate heir Robert Durst is accused of murdering, told her boyfriend that Durst had killed his own wife, Kathleen, the boyfriend testified Monday in court. Testifying in Los Angeles Superior Court, Paul Kaufman said Berman made the surprising statement almost in passing as they flew from L.A. to New York to meet Durst in 1990.
L.A. district attorney grants immunity to potential witnesses in Ed Buck investigation
Human rights attorney and legal consultant Nana Gyamfi announced today that several young men have been granted immunity by the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office in its investigation of Gemmel Moore’s death. The announcement of immunity paves the way for those who may have had contact with prominent Democratic donor Ed Buck to safely provide statements to homicide detectives that may assist in their investigation into the July 27 accidental methamphetamine overdose death of Moore, 26, as well as other crimes Buck has been alleged to have committed against young black gay men.
Orange County prosecutor’s ethical blunder with jail snitches botches yet another case
More evidence emerged this month underscoring the win-at-all-costs mentality warping the Orange County district attorney’s office (OCDA) when the California Court of Appeal ruled that a prosecutor tricked a pre-trial suspect into accepting a 23-year prison sentence by unethically hiding evidence that undermined the government’s case.
In one year, head of small school district in Lawndale made $663,000. Now he’s facing a dozen public corruption charges
During his nearly five years heading the tiny Centinela Valley Union High School District, prosecutors say, Jose A. Fernandez devised policies to dramatically pad his salary and retirement benefits. In 2013 alone, supervising a handful of schools in Hawthorne and Lawndale, the former superintendent pocketed $663,000 in pay and benefits.
ASO Sgt. accused of fondling deputy placed on leave, faces criminal charges
An Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant is accused of fondling a deputy he supervised and forcing her to provide sexual favors in their workplace in exchange for his approving her time-off requests, it was reported earlier this month. However, according to WitnessLA, two additional civilian women have come forward and claimed that they have had “distressing encounters” with Sgt. Michael John Spina when he was a deputy assigned to the department’s Crescenta Valley station around 2011.
Ex-contractor in leak case wants FBI admission suppressed
A former government contractor charged with leaking classified U.S. documents is asking a federal judge to rule that comments she made to FBI agents before her arrest can’t be used as evidence. Reality Winner is charged with copying a classified report and mailing it to an online media organization. The initial criminal complaint against the former Air Force linguist says she admitted to leaking the documents in a June interview with FBI agents serving a search warrant at her apartment in August, Georgia.
California passed a law boosting police transparency on cellphone surveillance. Here’s why it’s not working
Several years ago, little was known about the StingRay, a powerful surveillance device that imitates the function of a cell tower and captures the signals of nearby phones, allowing law enforcement officers to sweep through hundreds of messages, conversations and call logs.
SF’s safe injection plan hinges on passage of state bill
Eight California counties may soon have the legal coverage to open up safe injection sites to address the opioid epidemic. Of those counties, San Francisco is most prepared to open safe injection sites, possibly in early 2018. A task force called for by Board of Supervisors President London Breed has studied opening safe injection sites and is set to recommend their opening in a final report expected for release in September.
Inland Empire prosecutor attacked while jogging in Newport Beach; police probe possible links to her job
Police are looking for a man who attacked a San Bernardino County deputy district attorney while she was jogging in Newport Beach early Thursday. Newport Beach police received a call at 5:50 a.m. from an employee at Newport Workout, at 747 Dover Drive, who reported that a female jogger came into the business saying she had been attacked.
As car break-ins jump 28 percent in San Francisco, police shuffle response
With car break-ins spiking again in San Francisco to the tune of about 85 a day, police Thursday unveiled a shakeup that eliminates a citywide task force focused on the epidemic in favor of assigning dozens more cops to walk neighborhood beats. The disbanding of the auto burglary task force, which the city created less than two years ago, comes even though the city’s civil grand jury recommended that San Francisco not only make the special unit permanent but beef it up with more officers and equipment.
Trump talk on hate groups uproar as cops see hate crime hike in LA
As the KKK and neo-Nazis have made headlines with President Trump’s controversial comments on hate groups, Los Angeles police reported Friday that local hate crimes increased in the city in the first half of the year. And officials said that’s a nationwide trend. The Los Angeles Police Department reported a 12.6 percent increase in hate crimes in the first half of 2017, 161 compared to 143 over the same period last year, while violent hate crimes climbed from 24 to 36, according to the Los Angeles Times, which cited data collected by Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
Here’s where police say knock-knock burglars often go to unload stolen goods
Months after burglars ransacked his Porter Ranch home, David Lasher was surprised to learn where some of his family’s stolen property, including his wife’s “irreplaceable” jewelry, may have ended up. Instead of being hawked in the San Fernando Valley, a detective told him his property was likely being peddled miles away, in the downtown Los Angeles Jewelry District or at the Slauson Super Mall, known as the Slauson swap meet, in South Los Angeles.
Suspect in Sacramento deputy killing had been on the run for a month
Thomas Daniel Littlecloud had been on the run for weeks when he arrived in Sacramento and allegedly set off a wild gunbattle that killed an area deputy Wednesday. The suspect in the slaying of Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert French at an Auburn Boulevard Ramada Inn had eluded authorities since July, when he failed to appear in court for two separate cases – one a federal indictment charging him with methamphetamine and weapons possession and identity theft, the other a 2015 weapons case in Sonoma County where a judge issued a $50,000 bench warrant for his arrest.
VIDEO: Are Southern California jailers injuring inmates with abusive ‘chicken winging’ holds?
Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Wesley Dean was admittedly agitated and looking to inflict pain on a jail inmate when he wrenched the man’s hand high behind his back, breaking his arm just above the elbow. After the inmate sued the county, Dean admitted during a sworn deposition that he used excessive force.
As Trump paves way for more military gear for police, LAPD says they’ll decline, sheriff says maybe
On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that President Trump will roll back the restrictions that President Obama had placed on surplus military equipment being supplied to local police. As noted at NPR, that equipment could include grenade launchers, bayonets, and large-caliber weapons.
Officials disagree that jail serves as ‘de facto mental health facility’
Although the Monterey County Civil Grand Jury asserts that the county jail still struggles to meet the needs of inmates with mental illness, county supervisors and Sheriff Steve Bernal disagree, maintaining that many of the cited issues are of the past. In the civil grand jury’s report released earlier this summer, they write that with 45 percent of the inmates dealing with mental illness, the jail is serving as a “de facto mental health facility,” and although jail standards have been improved, mental health care issues still aren’t adequately addressed.
The public will get to see police license plate data
In what civil libertarians are calling a “big win for transparency” in law enforcement, the California Supreme Court has decided the public is entitled to see at least massive amounts of data collected by police and sheriff’s license plate capture program. The decision was announced Thursday in the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the LAPD and L.A. Sheriff’s Department.
Value of item is the price marked, plus sales tax-Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday held, in a case of first impression, that although the price marked on a cellphone the defendant pilfered was less than $950, he was guilty of second degree burglary, not shoplifting, because the value of the item was nearly $1,000 when sales tax is added. Div. Eight, in an opinion by Acting Justice Douglas W. Sortino, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge sitting on assignment, affirmed the judgment in all respects except to add 89 days of presentence conduct credit.
Four elite unit LAPD officers allowed to take whistleblower case to trial
Four Los Angeles police officers who were members of an elite unit can take to trial their whistleblower case alleging they were wrongfully subjected to adverse employment actions after complaining about a material change in their work schedules, a judge ruled Tuesday. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Beaudet denied a motion by the City Attorney’s Office to dismiss the officers’ complaint, which was filed in January 2012.
California top court makes it a bit easier for tax measures to reach ballot
The California Supreme Court handed down a ruling on Monday that could make it slightly easier for citizens to levy new local taxes through voter-sponsored ballot initiatives. The ruling rested largely on how the court interpreted sections of the state Constitution impacted by Proposition 218. Passed by voters in 1996, Prop. 218 spells out how local governments may levy new taxes and fees, including the vote thresholds that have to be met to approve proposed taxes.
Judge rules deadline doesn’t apply to activist who made recordings
A Superior Court judge today rejected a Murrieta-based civil liberties attorney’s arguments, giving state prosecutors leeway in refiling felony charges against a woman accused of illegally taping conversations with Planned Parenthood and National Abortion Foundation representatives who were targeted for allegedly arranging to sell fetal tissue.
First Amendment coalition entitled to attorney fees
Each member of a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted to reverse an order denying attorney fees to the First Amendment Coalition for its part in forcing the Department of Justice to release legal memoranda justifying the killing of a U.S. citizen acting as a terrorist abroad, with each of them writing separately. Their opinions were filed Friday.
Brian Kabateck sues celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos over airplane ownership
Two prominent L.A. attorneys and business venture partners – plaintiffs’ lawyer and L.A. County Bar Association President-elect Brian Kabateck and celebrity defense attorney Mark Geragos – are locked in a legal battle over a private airplane they jointly own. Kabateck filed suit Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking at least $10 million in damages from Geragos for breach of contract over the plane, a Cessna Citation Jet Model 525 the two jointly purchased in 2014.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS / POLITICS
California state regulators see methane spikes at Aliso Canyon
n the month since Southern California Gas Company got the green light to refill its underground gas storage field near Porter Ranch, airborne monitors have detected at least two spikes of methane in the skies above the Aliso Canyon facility, state regulators say. The storage field was the site of the nation’s largest uncontrolled leak of methane, releasing 109,000 metric tons of the potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere over nearly four months beginning in late October 2015.
Trump to pardon Baca after Arizona sheriff uproar? Ex-LA sheriff attorney won’t say yes or no
In the wake of a controversial pardon for convicted ex-Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, will President Trump also pardon disgraced ex-Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca? Baca’s attorney Monday refused to comment when asked if there’s any possibility of a presidential pardon for his client. Baca is fighting to stay out of custody while he appeals his conviction for conspiring to derail an FBI probe into corruption in the jail system.
Effort to recall Long Beach councilwoman over ‘unethical’ behavior moves forward
A group of Long Beach residents have mounted an effort to recall Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce for “unethical” and “extremely inappropriate” behavior stemming from a recent late night encounter with police that resulted in a public integrity probe by Los Angeles County prosecutors.
California’s biggest political fights these days are among – not between – Republicans and Democrats
An illustration of a knife with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s last name plunging into a California bear’s back is spread on social media. Police are called to a protest at the district office of Inland Assemblyman Marc Steinorth. These weren’t acts of conservatives upset with Rendon, D-Lakewood, or liberals seething at Steinorth, R-Rancho Cucamonga.
Texas: A magnet for conservatives fleeing California
There are no cardboard boxes or bubble wrap or heavy duty packing tape in Tim Stokes’ 1,600-square-foot Sacramento, Calif., home. But, according to the 36-year-old, he and his pregnant wife, their three kids and their two 100-pound mastiffs are on the verge of selling the house they bought just over a year ago. Though Stokes was born in Nevada, he has spent all but the first six months of his life in California.
The 2020 campaign just kicked off in a New Hampshire strip mall
Just like that, the 2020 retail campaigning for president began right here in a strip-mall campaign headquarters Monday, when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti showed up for what he called “the most important race in the country.” He was talking about the Manchester mayor’s election. Joyce Craig, the Democratic candidate, invited him to join her for an afternoon that also included a speech to the Manchester Young Democrats and a fundraiser.
California voters legalized pot. Are ‘shrooms next?
California wasn’t first to the pot legalization party, with last November’s Proposition 64 lagging behind decriminalization measures in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and some other parts of the U.S. State voters, though, could be the first to legalize psychedelic mushrooms under a recently filed proposal from a former candidate for mayor in the Central Coast city of Marina.
Investigators seek photos and videos of former USC medical school dean with drugs
For Dr. Carmen Puliafito and a group of younger people he befriended, life was a photo-op. Partying in Las Vegas or shopping at Target, pumping gas or playing cards, the dean of USC’s medical school and his younger companions captured their time together on camera. They snapped photos and filmed videos of wholesome activities – cuddling a litter of kittens, cheering on the Dodgers – with the same gusto that they recorded hotel room orgies and drug binges.
LA’s response to homeless encampments ‘isn’t working,’ councilman says
Amid rising homelessness and mounting outcry from residents and business owners, a Los Angeles city councilman said Wednesday he wants to take a hard look at the way the city responds to the increasing presence of encampments and recreational vehicles. “What we have isn’t working,” Councilman Mitchell Englander said.
On LA County’s remote north end, the homeless are stuck. Is hope on the horizon?
At the desert edges of north Los Angeles County, where the August sun beats down with no mercy, men who live in tents or in cars near the recently shuttered homeless shelter cling to a few last, remaining hopes. Bone-thin and dazed, Bruce Reed struggled to lift himself from his bed of dirt and rocks one recent afternoon. The 28-year-old hoped someone, anyone, would come by to refill a water bottle long gone dry.
L.A. is poised to roll back its ban on ‘ultracompact’ guns
For more than a decade and a half, Los Angeles has banned the sale of “ultracompact” guns, which lawmakers feared could be more easily hidden by criminals. Now the city is poised to eliminate that rule in the face of legal warnings from the National Rifle Assn. and the California Rifle & Pistol Assn., which say that the city restrictions have been preempted by state law.
Ads target ‘sanctuary state’ bill as it nears the finish line
Imagine if Gov. Jerry Brown had a son who was killed by an immigrant who entered the country illegally and sanctuary policies shielded him from federal law. That’s what Don Rosenberg is asking Californians to consider in a new ad opposing Senate Bill 54 airing in Sacramento this week. “California should be a sanctuary, for Californians,” Rosenberg says in the 30-second spot running during morning and evening news programs.
Arpaio’s pardon splits Arizona down the middle
President Donald Trump’s Friday night pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio caused a raucous reaction in Arizona as Republican supporters applauded and civil rights workers called it support for white supremacy. The announcement came as no surprise after Trump all but promised at a Tuesday rally in Phoenix that he would pardon the six-term sheriff for his criminal contempt of court, for which he faced up to six months in jail.
What happens when California becomes a ‘sanctuary state’?
California’s so-called “sanctuary state” bill, introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León as a direct response to President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to deport “bad hombres” and undocumented immigrants, is well on its way to becoming law. One of the most contentious legislative issues in a year rife with racial tension, Senate Bill 54 pits nationalists who have long called for the removal of the undocumented community from an increasingly Latino state against advocates on the left who believe the president is unfairly targeting a vulnerable population of Mexican immigrants.
New LA Times publisher drops web widget
Ross Levinsohn, the new publisher of the Los Angeles Times as of last Monday, wrapped up his first week in the newspaper business with a rah-rah cheerleading note to the staff on Friday afternoon. In it, he thanked the Times staff for its support. Levinsohn also announced the banishment of one of the unnecessary, slow-loading widgets that has helped make LATimes.com one of the least pleasant reading experiences among news websites.
Bar the press from LACBA board of trustees meetings
A member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association Board of Trustees on Wednesday night, at the board’s monthly meeting, called for barring the attendance, in the future, of members of the news media-a proposal that met with an immediate rebuff by the elected officers, who ran on a reform ticket that promised increased openness in the organization. Proposing the ban on press coverage was trustee Sheri Bluebond, chief judge of the Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California.