Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Gascon Won't Oppose Parole for Manson Murder Family Member; Murder Charges Dropped Against Long Beach Man with Corpse Buried in His Yard; and other stories: Monday Morning Memo

Covid deaths mount in courts as jury trials resume, Former major leaguer Scott Erickson charged with reckless driving in pedestrian deaths

 

February 13, 2021

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Former Major League baseball player Scott Erickson in 1994

ADDA Lawsuit

Judge mulls DA union request to stop Gascón from enforcing directives

The union representing Los Angeles County prosecutors urged a judge Tuesday to issue a preliminary injunction stopping District Attorney George Gascón from enforcing directives eliminating three-strikes allegations and some sentencing enhancements, but a lawyer for the county's top prosecutor said that would thwart the will of voters who elected Gascón.

City News Service

Judge hears arguments in case of deputy DA union vs Gascón

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge said Tuesday a decision in the case of the union for county prosecutors against District Attorney George Gascón could come by the end of the week, after hearing both sides of the argument. Judge James C. Chalfant held a preliminary injunction hearing at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in L.A., where attorneys for the union argued that such a hearing was appropriate to help prevent deputy district attorneys from "violating the law."

The Signal

LA district attorney union sues new boss George Gascón over sentence enhancement prohibition

LA District Attorney George Gascón came into office in December with big, progressive plans. He promised voters he'd tackle criminal justice reform by fighting crime with more mercy and less jailing. "We've started fulfilling many of the campaign promises, but change never comes easy," Gascón tells KCRW. During his first day, he announced prosecutors in his office would no longer be allowed to seek most sentence enhancements.

KCRW

DA George Gascón & prosecutors' union went to court to see who's the boss - legally speaking

At the end of the hearing - which featured lengthy arguments by at least three of the union's high powered, and generally very expensive hired lawyers, countered by arguments from the also well-resuméd Robert Dugdale, the attorney representing the DA's office - Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant pronounced himself "exhausted." Chalfant did say, however, that he planned to have a ruling by the end of the week.

Witness LA

LA District Attorney

LA sheriff's office to attend parole hearings after outrage over Manson 'family' case

The Los Angeles County sheriff said Wednesday he'll authorize staff members to stand with victims' relatives at parole hearings to fill a void created by a new policy imposed by the county's newly elected district attorney. The announcement was made three days after NBC News reported that victims' family members were furious about District Attorney George Gascon's decision not to oppose the parole of Charles Manson follower and convicted murderer Bruce Davis.

NBC News

Relatives of Manson' family' murder victims outraged by DA's new policy

Whenever the notorious killer Charles Manson or one of his convicted followers would come up for parole over the last 40 years, a Los Angeles County prosecutor joined victims' family members at a California state prison to argue against the release. But when Kay Martley joined a California Board of Parole Hearings video conference to consider parole for convicted Manson "family" killer Bruce Davis earlier this month, she was stunned to learn she would be making the case on behalf of her murdered relative alone.

NBC News

Los Angeles Times defends Gascón with flawed arguments

The Los Angeles Times on Friday sided with Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón in his battle with his deputies who overwhelmingly oppose his "soft on crime" directives. Its editorial, bearing the headline, "Let Gascón bring in reforms," is stuffed with mistruths. Before getting to the content of the editorial, we take issue with the headline. A "reform," by definition, entails an improvement - not merely a change.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Double murderer approved for parole at third hearing; prosecutors barred from attending under Gascón's reform

A gang member and double murderer convicted in the shooting and killing of two teenagers at a party in Los Angeles more than thirty years ago was found to be suitable for parole by the state at a hearing on Wednesday, a hearing that prosecutors weren't allowed to attend as part of new District Attorney George Gascón's reforms. Howard Elwin Jones has been imprisoned at San Quentin state prison since 1991 for the December 1988 shooting and killing of 18-year-old Chris Baker and another boy at a party in Rowland Heights.

Fox11 LA

LA District Attorney Gascón angers crime victims, prosecutors with sweeping policies

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón won over voters last year with promises of criminal justice reform and has largely stuck to his commitments, introducing sweeping changes that have been praised by some while simultaneously roiling detractors and his fellow chief prosecutors. Since taking office in December, he's has issued directives to halt bail requests, stop trying juveniles as adults, stop seeking the death penalty and banned prosecutors from seeking sentencing enhancements and from attending some parole hearings.

Fox News

Woman fears LA County DA's new policies will thwart justice in son's cold-case killing

Connie Vargo keeps the yellowed newspaper clippings neatly tucked away in a photo album, only retrieving them when she is asked to relive a parent's worst nightmare. "We never really get them out and look at them," she told a reporter of the old articles, replete with screaming headlines such as "Worker discovers body of missing boy" and "The cruelty that lasts a lifetime." "We've kept them because the event changed our lives forever."

Orange County Register

D.A. Gascón appears to sever relations with CDAA

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, whose special directives have been assailed by a statewide group of prosecutors, is apparently cutting off relations between his office and that group. Incurring the enmity of the new prosecutor is the California District Attorneys Association ("CDAA"), which is supporting the local Association of Deputy District Attorneys ("ADDA") in its bid to block policies against alleging strikes or other factors that would create a boost in sentences and requiring deputies to move to withdraw allegations made under the administration of former District Attorney Jackie Lacey.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Inside one prosecutor's revolt against DA Gascón's criminal justice agenda

L.A. District Attorney George Gascón is fighting his own staff in court to defend his sweeping new policies designed to reduce mass incarceration and end racial disparities in the justice system. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the union that represents Gascón's prosecutors, has sued the DA, arguing that his special order to stop using so-called "sentencing enhancements" violates state law. Enhancements can tack on many years to a prison sentence.

LAist

LA District Attorney Gascón hires 2nd in command at LAPD to run DA's Bureau of Investigation

On Monday, February 1, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón administered the oath of office to Robert Arcos, who will serve as chief of the DA's Bureau of Investigation. Arcos is an interesting choice. He has been with the Los Angeles Police Department for 32 years, and was one of three candidates who were short-listed to be the chief in the spring of 2018, after former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck resigned. Mayor Eric Garcetti ultimately chose Michel Moore to lead the department.

Witness LA

DA must focus on advocacy as well as reform

I have a confession. While I may be familiar to some as the neon haired activist and victims' advocate discussing my highly publicized stalking case or breaking down the impact of Prop 57 on talk shows, there was a time when my greatest awareness of the legal system came courtesy of Dick Wolf. I distinctly recall voting for Al Gore in my first election, and being so young and uninformed when voting on local candidates that I thought it was a great idea to just pick a woman or unconventional sounding politician.

LA Weekly

Family of slain LAPD officer speaks out against Gascón's policies

The sisters of an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer who was fatally shot in 2019 criticized L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón's changes to sentencing enhancements on Tuesday while speaking outside of a hearing for two suspects charged in their brother's death. Francisco Talamantes, 23, and Cristian Adrian Facundo, 20, of Temecula, had previously been charged with murder and special circumstances alleging gang membership in the death of 24-year-old LAPD Officer Juan Diaz.

KTLA5

Violent crime in LA. is skyrocketing; are Gascón's policies to blame?

Residents of Los Angeles County are unwittingly - and mostly unwillingly - taking part in a social experiment to determine what happens when theories and policies central to the "reimagining" of the criminal justice system are implemented, and the results aren't surprising. L.A. County's new district attorney, George Gascón, issued a number of special directives on his first day in office in December 2020 including an end to cash bail, a blanket prohibition on charging enhancements and strikes, and an end to charging any - any - juvenile as an adult.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Courts & Rulings

Judge won't dismiss sentence enhancements against man accused of killing 2 teen nephews in Arcadia

A judge Monday denied a request by prosecutors to dismiss sentence-enhancing allegations against a murder defendant arrested in Hong Kong, where he fled after allegedly beating to death his two teenage nephews with a bolt cutter in their Arcadia home in 2016.

City News Service

Qualified immunity

A police sergeant and county district attorney's office investigator are entitled to qualified immunity summary judgment on deprivation-of-liberty and conspiracy claims brought by a man who spent more than two decades in prison for a murder that another person confessed to on a 911 call, the Ninth Circuit ruled.

Courthouse News Service

MOU between County, ALADS, prevails over bar on recouping wage overpayments

The statutory bars on an employer recouping over-payment of wages to an employee do not apply to efforts by the County of Los Angeles, a chartered county, to gain reimbursements from deputy sheriffs, Div. Eight of the Court of Appeal for this district declared on Friday, saying that a provision in a memorandum of understanding between the county and the deputies' union prevails.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

California Supreme Court denies petition for review; Justice Liu cites limits of current legislation

The California Supreme Court late last week denied a petition for review in a case of murder and robbery, underlining questions about the rigidity of legislation and the limits of judicial interpretation. On March 12, 2015, 18-year-old Giovanny Montelongo allegedly stabbed and robbed 15-year-old Keyshawn Brooks in Long Beach, California. According to the Long Beach Post, Montelongo "mistakenly believed the teen was a rival gang member."

Davis Vanguard

Fed up judge sets meeting at LA shelter on homeless crisis

A fed up federal judge in California said last week's rainstorm created "extraordinarily harsh" conditions for homeless residents of Los Angeles. prompting him to order city officials to meet with him at a Skid Row shelter to discuss how to address the worsening crisis of people living on the streets. "These conditions cannot be allowed to continue!" U.S. District Judge David Carter wrote in a strongly worded order on Sunday.

AP

California Supreme Court creates alternative path to law licensure for recent grads

The California Supreme Court on Thursday blessed an alternative licensing plan for recent law school graduates that could usher thousands of new lawyers into the practice. Under the expanded law license pathway, those who scored at least 1390 on the bar exam between July 2015 and February 2020 but did not pass can join the bar without taking the test again if they complete 300 hours of supervised practice.

The Recorder

Ca. High Court rejects appeal of killer who dumped victim in Palm Springs area

The California Supreme Court Monday affirmed a judgment against a man on death row for raping and murdering his ex-girlfriend, whose decomposing body was discovered in the Palm Springs area. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye's opinion on behalf of the full court, written in response to an automatic appeal, began by quoting the victim. "Judy Palmer told a friend that she was afraid of defendant Paul Wesley Baker and that `if anything happened to her, he did it.'

NBC Palm Springs & City News Service

Deadly terror for no reason as innocent college student stabbed in head again and again on Montebello bus: Killer's appeal rejected

A state appeals court panel has upheld a killer's first-degree murder conviction for repeatedly stabbing a fellow passenger in the head with a knife in a random attack aboard a Montebello Public Transit bus. The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense's contention that the trial court erred in admitting unduly confusing DNA evidence and allowing a Los Angeles County sheriff's detective to identify Manuel Ortiz Jr. as the person seen in surveillance videos that were played for the jury when he was on trial for the attack on Austin Angelo Zavala.

My News LA

Killer strangles repairwoman fixing his refrigerator in Lancaster: Whether it was sex or surveillance, Court rejects appeal

A state appeals court panel Tuesday upheld a Lancaster man's conviction for strangling a woman who was sent to his home to repair a refrigerator. The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense's contention that there was insufficient evidence against Williams Franklin Hughes to support the jury's finding of premeditation and deliberation involving the July 14, 2017, killing of Lyndi Fisher.

My News LA

Judge tosses murder charge against homeowner accused of burying missing California man in his yard

A 54-year-old Long Beach man posted bond and was released from jail this week after a judge tossed out a murder charge against him in the death and burial of 31-year-old Zach Kennedy, whose remains were found in the man's side yard more than two years ago. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office would not say how much prison time Scott David Leo would face if convicted of the other four charges against him after Judge Gary J. Ferrari dismissed the murder charge during a Tuesday hearing in Long Beach Superior Court.

Southern California News Group

Up in smoke: Judge rejects LA's suit against brokers who leased to unlicensed pot shop

A Superior Court judge in Los Angeles has ruled a commercial real estate brokerage and two of its employees cannot be held liable for leasing space to an unlicensed marijuana shop, rejecting the city's claim. County Judge Robert Draper's Jan. 27 decision comes nearly two years after L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer filed the civil suit against Daum, two of its brokers and entities and individuals that leased the South Park shop. Marijuana Business Daily first reported on the judge's ruling.

The Real Deal

Racial slur in work potluck chat can't sustain Calif. bias case

A California appeals court declined to kickstart a Black physician's race bias case against a medical clinic on Friday, finding the "minor, occasional incidents" she faced, including a co-worker texting a racial slur in a group chat about a potluck, don't add up to a lawsuit. Among other harassment Vivi R. Stafford claimed she encountered while working for Avenal Community Health Center in 2017, she said a co-worker used the N-word in a group chat with her and other colleagues when responding to a message about a dish that someone said they would bring to a potluck, followed by emojis expressing enthusiasm for the planned fare.

Law360

Russian hack brings changes, uncertainty to US court system

Trial lawyer Robert Fisher is handling one of America's most prominent counterintelligence cases, defending an MIT scientist charged with secretly helping China. But how he'll handle the logistics of the case could feel old school: Under new court rules, he'll have to print out any highly sensitive documents and hand-deliver them to the courthouse.

AP

New DNA testing ordered in 39-year-old conviction for Huntington Beach murder

An Orange County Superior Court judge has granted new DNA testing that could be used to challenge the 39-year-old murder conviction of Willie Ray Wisely, who became a celebrity of sorts in the 1980s when he secretly married his ACLU law clerk behind bars. Wisely taught himself the law and became a jailhouse thorn in the side of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, delaying his sentencing for several years.

Orange County Register

COVID-19 & Justice System

New general order authorizes judicial emergency continuances for criminal, juvenile dependency matters

Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor today announced a new General Order extending last-day deadlines for Criminal trials and specified hearings, as well as Juvenile Dependency cases pursuant to the emergency powers granted to him by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye under Government Code 68115. "The Court continues to prioritize health and safety while fulfilling our legislative and constitutional mandates," Presiding Judge Taylor said.

Los Angeles Superior Court News Release

COVID-19 shutdowns cut Ventura County court's workload by half, data show

Work at the Ventura County Superior Court reduced by more than half in 2020 over the months-long period the courthouse largely shut down due to the coronavirus. New data released by the California Judicial Council, the policy making body of the state courts system, compared staff production between March 1 and Aug. 31 to work done by staff during that same period in 2019.

Ventura County Star

Judges differ on when it's safe to hold in-person jury trials

Despite reports from federal courts of in-person jury trials being held safely, many judges across the country are still deliberating whether to hold in-person jury trials at all. In September, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts posted an article sharing judges' accounts of in-person pandemic-era jury trial success stories in which precautions taken ensured participants' safety.

ABA Journal

Defending trial ban, U.S. judge says O.C. state courts aren't tracking coronavirus infections

A federal judge defending the court's pandemic-related prohibition on jury trials said her stateside counterparts in Orange County Superior Court aren't tracking jurors after trials end, so it's impossible to know how many people have been infected through them. "How do you know it wasn't spread throughout the community because of the trial? How do you know someone's grandmother wasn't hospitalized because she came into contact with the juror?" said U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton.

Daily Pilot

Workers in L.A.'s courts are dying of COVID-19 as in-person hearings, trials continue

At a time when officials are pleading with residents to not leave their homes because of COVID-19, Juan Garcia rode the bus to a downtown L.A. court to defend against getting evicted from his. The disabled widower used a cane as he navigated Stanley Mosk Courthouse, waited among dozens in a hallway for his hearing, and then asked a judge for more time to secure low-income housing - at least another month or two.

Los Angeles Times

Prosecutors

City asks Sheriff's Station to track prosecutions due to concerns over no-bail policy

The actions of a quick-thinking cleaning crew saved a bad situation from becoming potentially worse around 10:20 p.m. on the night before New Year's Eve. As two women went to clean the women's restroom at Creekview Park on Park Street in Newhall, they found a strange man inside, who was gratifying himself with his pants down. He solicited the women to join him, according to a Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station arrest report.

The Signal

Erickson hit with reckless driving charge

Former Major Leaguer Scott Erickson has been charged Wednesday with reckless driving in connection with the events of Sept. 29, 2020, when two boys were struck and killed in a Westlake Village crosswalk, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said. The D.A. alleges that Erickson, 51, was racing with Rebecca Grossman, a close personal friend, in the moments before Mark and Jacob Iskander, 11 and 8, were hit by a car at Triunfo Canyon Road and Saddle Mountain Drive. The collision was fatal.

Thousand Oaks Acorn

Former Maywood mayor charged in 34-count criminal complaint

The former mayor of Maywood and 10 others have been charged in a 34-count criminal complaint alleging widespread corruption, including soliciting and receiving bribes, misappropriation of public funds and embezzlement over a three-year period, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon announced Thursday.

City News Service

YouTubers, accused for their parts in street races reaching up to 160 mph on OC toll roads, charged

Three YouTube personalities and two other men face felony charges on suspicion of being involved in street races that reached speeds of up to 160 mph on some of Orange County's toll roads, authorities said. The charges followed a six-month investigation into street racing on the 241 and the 261 toll roads.

Southern California News Group

California sheriff's deputy accused of staging ambush

A California sheriff's deputy was arrested and charged on Friday with felony vandalism and falsely reporting a crime for allegedly staging a "shocking ambush," according to the Santa Clara County district attorney's office. A year ago, on January 31, 2020, Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office Deputy Sukhdeep Gill reported that "he was shot from a passing car as he stood on a dark rural road," according to a news release from the district attorney's office.

CNN

5 men charged in sexual exploitation of underage OC girl

Five Southern California men were charged in the sexual exploitation of a teenage girl from Anaheim, officials announced Tuesday. The arrests capped a months-long investigation. Police arrested the following men over a span of several months: Mitchel Biela, 31, of Long Beach; Michael Araujo, 48, of Anaheim; Nick Rexford Walpert, 59, of San Diego; Michael Leija, 40, of Norwalk; and Juan Catalan, 42, of Gardena.

Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch

State employee charged with defrauding California's AIDS office out of $2 million for personal expenses: Feds

A manager of California's Office of AIDS has been charged with defrauding the state out of about $2 million that was intended to help combat the condition. Schenelle M. Flores, 45, of Sacramento pleaded not guilty to wire fraud Wednesday during a remote hearing of the federal court in Sacramento and was allowed to remain out of custody on a $25,000 bond, the Sacramento Bee reported.

AP

Policy/Legal Issues

Woman asks judge to allow late claim file over son's jail death

A woman whose son died in Los Angeles County jail in 2019 is asking a judge to allow her to file a negligence claim beyond the time normally allowed, saying she mistakenly missed the deadline while healing after her son's death and because she was worried about the coronavirus spread. Jacqueline Cothran brought the petition Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

City News Service

Ill-gotten is not illegal, Barstool Sports says of recording

In a case pitting the mayor of a Boston suburb against Barstool Sports, the Massachusetts Supreme Court seemed unlikely Monday to seal up a recorded interview just because the interviewer faked his credentials. The Bay State is one of several in the country that prohibits secret recordings, a law that Joe Curtatone, the mayor of Somerville, Mass., says made it illegal for a radio host who misrepresented himself as a Boston Globe reporter to record their conversation.

Courthouse News Service

Trump's impeachment defense raises flags for legal experts

Securing new counsel with only a week to go before his second impeachment trial gets underway, former President Donald Trump's focus on relitigating the 2020 election has drawn alarm from legal experts. "I wouldn't make that argument," said Jared Carter, an assistant professor of law at Vermont Law School, referring to reports that Trump pulled in new attorneys Sunday night because his last team refused to hinge the case on so-called theft of the 2020 election.

Courthouse News Service

Los Angeles County/City

When the sheepdogs become the sheep

What happens to crime fighters when the cost of the fight is too high? What happens when politicians find it in their best interests to ignore real crime, i.e., shootings, robberies, burglaries, and the like, and instead focus on violations of what we might call the Pandemic Penal Code? The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has taken it upon itself to crack down on so-called "super-spreader parties" taking place around the county as young people seek ways to socialize while bars and restaurants are shut down due to Covid-19 regulations.

The Pipeline

Don't dare disrupt vaccinations or go to jail! LAPD Chief Moore warns anti-vaxxers after Dodger Stadium protest

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday that if anti-vaccine protesters interfere with people getting the COVID-19 vaccine, as some did Saturday at Dodger Stadium, they may be arrested or cited. "Going forward, people that are walking in roadways around or confronting individuals attempting to get a vaccine, it's my expectation and direction, that enforcement will be swift and certain," Moore said during Tuesday's Police Commission meeting.

MyNewsLA

LA and Police union reach tentative deal to avoid layoffs amid budget crisis

Mayor Eric Garcetti and the union representing Los Angeles Police Department officers announced Tuesday they struck a tentative agreement to avoid layoffs amid the city's economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Los Angeles Police Protective League agreed to defer two scheduled salary increases for the 2021-22 fiscal year to the following year.

City News Service

National Police Foundation to review LAPD's response to George Floyd protests

The National Police Foundation will hold two listening sessions Thursday to help independently assess the Los Angeles Police Department's response to the large demonstrations that followed last year's in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The sessions will be held at noon and 5 p.m. to get input from members of the public, business owners and community leaders on interactions they had with officers during demonstrations between May 27 and June 7 of 2020.

MyNewsLA

Palos Verdes Estates City Council votes to retain its police force

Palos Verdes Estates will remain the only town on the Peninsula with its own police force, after the City Council recently voted to keep the agency rather than contracting with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. But concerns remain over the long term, since the department's main funding source - a temporary parcel tax - does not cover all of the current costs, and rising pension obligations loom.

Palos Verdes Peninsula News

Public Safety/Crime

Explaining the great 2020 homicide spike

Last year, cities across the country suffered from what I will call the Great 2020 Homicide Spike. Homicide rates were 30% higher than in 2019 - an historic increase representing more than 1,268 additional murders (in a sample of 34 cities), according to an important new report released today by Professor Richard Rosenfeld and two colleagues. The new Rosenfeld report explains that this is a "large and troubling increase that has no modern precedent."

Reason

IE mother of 4 used her children's identities to bilk EDD out of $56,000: Police

A San Bernardino woman has been arrested on suspicion of identify theft-related charges after using her four children's identities to fraudulently obtain tens of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits from the state, police said Thursday. Detectives began investigating on Dec. 29, 2020, after a man called to report an identity theft case, according to a news release from the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department.

KTLA5

Two California men indicted after investigation into reports of sex trafficking at the Desert Star Motel

A federal grand jury has returned a one-count indictment against Jatinbhai Naresh Bhakta, 29, and Roy Gene Drees, 45, both of Bakersfield, charging them with use of facilities of interstate commerce in aid of a racketeering enterprise, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced today. According to a criminal complaint, Bhakta purchased and began operating the Desert Star Motel at 516 South Union Avenue in Bakersfield in 2015.

Sierra Sun Times

Business owner on Venice boardwalk shutting down shop after rise in crime and drugs in area

A business owner on the Venice Beach Boardwalk is closing his ice cream store after a rise in crime, drugs and encampments during the pandemic. Klaus Moeller, the co-owner of Ben & Jerry's at Venice Beach, said the ice cream shop opened three years ago in the area. "It was doing really well and Venice always had homeless people, but it's never been a problem and we've always taken care of the homeless. Our security guard is a homeless guy who lives in a tent and has been working as our security guard for two and half years and is phenomenal," he said.

Fox11 LA

Data: gun violence across Long Beach has spiked, reaching its worst level in years

When Peter Stark moved to the South Wrigley area three years ago, he knew the neighborhood occasionally dealt with gang activity and violent crime. But lately, the amount of gunfire near his home has shocked him. "This is not normal," Stark said, after two shootings occurred within earshot of his apartment on two consecutive nights in December. Since then, Stark has taken up listening to a police scanner and monitoring local Facebook groups to scrape together a better sense of what's going on in his neighborhood.

Long Beach Post

Sacramento man suspected of killing 2 women livestreamed himself with bodies: Police

Police in California arrested a man suspected of two killings after someone reported seeing a livestream on social media that showed him with a gun and two women lying motionless on the floor of an apartment. The Vacaville Police Department said officers went to an apartment complex for formerly homeless veterans and low-income families early Saturday after getting a call from a woman about the livestream.

AP

Consumer

Why Amazon, Walmart, and eBay are allowed to sell counterfeit products

The U.S. e-commerce business keeps on growing. Online shopping due to COVID-19 has contributed significantly to the growth and to the proliferation of counterfeit products available on Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. "Many consumers are ... unaware of the significant probabilities they face of being defrauded by counterfeiters when they shop on e-commerce platforms," reads a January 2020 Department of Homeland Security report recommending measures that would force e-retailers to take counterfeits more seriously.

The Counterfeit Report

Millions of counterfeit masks flooded U.S. Customs facilities last year

U.S. Customs agents seized nearly 13 million counterfeit face masks in the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, according to a report set for release Thursday, as the Covid-19 pandemic spurred demand for protective equipment. Agents also confiscated 177,000 test kits prohibited by the Food and Drug Administration and 38,000 chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine tablets that were barred by the FDA, the report said.

Wall Street Journal

California/National

Famed San Francisco private eye Palladino dies after attack

Jack Palladino, the flamboyant private investigator whose clients ranged from presidents and corporate whistleblowers to scandal-plagued celebrities, Hollywood moguls and sometimes suspected drug traffickers, died Monday at age 76. Palladino suffered a devastating brain injury Thursday after a pair of would-be robbers tried to grab his camera outside his home in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district.

AP

Daly City pair held in deadly assault on 84-year-old man on SF street

San Francisco police arrested a man and woman from Daly City on Saturday in the death of an 84-year-old man who had been pushed to the pavement. The victim died Saturday, police said, after being attacked about 8:30 a.m. Thursday near the intersection of Anzavista and Fortuna avenues in the Anza Vista neighborhood. A man had run up to him and shoved him before fleeing with a woman, police reported.

San Francisco Chronicle

Daddy molests 18-month-old son, films it all with girlfriend's help in Desert Hot Springs? Pair pleads 'not guilty'

A father and a girlfriend accused of molesting the man's 18-month-old son in Desert Hot Springs and filming their actions re-entered not guilty pleas Tuesday and were ordered to return to court on March 5 for a trial-readiness conference. Michael James Flaherty, 34, of Desert Hot Springs, and Cynthia Fuentes, 24, of Coachella, were arrested in August 2017.

MyNewsLA

Gunman ambushed slain FBI agents with doorbell camera, police say

In the bloodiest day for the FBI in decades, two veteran agents were shot to death and three others wounded Tuesday morning when a gunman opened fire from inside his home as they attempted to serve a search warrant at an apartment in Sunrise as part of a child pornography probe. The gunman, not yet identified by the FBI, is believed to have monitored the approach of the agents with a doorbell camera and ambushed them through the unopened door with a hail of bullets from an assault-style rifle, law enforcement sources told the Miami Herald.

Miami Herald

Another San Diegan found wrongfully confined to state hospital for decades

San Diego County prosecutors have identified a second person wrongfully committed to a California state hospital for more than two decades, raising questions about commitment oversight and whether more offenders are currently unlawfully incarcerated across the state. NBC 7 was first to report the story of Alan Alter, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who was held unlawfully in a state hospital for nearly 24 years until his release in mid-January.

NBC7 San Diego

Inmate firefighter who fought California's record-setting wildfires released from ICE hold after deportation threat

An injured California inmate firefighter has been released from federal immigration detention and is home with his parents and sister for the first time since his arrest more than two decades ago when he was age 16, his attorney said Thursday. Bounchan Keola, now 39, was hurt when a tree fell on him while he was helping fight a deadly wildfire southwest of Redding in Northern California in early October.

AP

Capitol Riots

A loophole might allow lawmakers to bring guns into the Capitol, but it's not a free pass to violate local laws

Gun-toting lawmakers at the US Capitol insist on bringing their firearms to work, and it's causing a stir in the halls of Congress. A 54-year-old loophole in the building's firearms ban has emerged in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, during which hundreds of pro-Trump extremists took control of the Capitol, putting the nation's lawmakers and their staff in danger.

Business Insider

Officer who died after DC riot to lie in honor in Capitol

Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died at the hands of the mob that besieged the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, will lie in honor next week in the building's Rotunda, congressional leaders said Friday. Congress will hold a ceremonial arrival for Sicknick on Tuesday night, after which a viewing period will be held overnight for members of the Capitol Police. Lawmakers will pay tribute Wednesday morning before a ceremonial departure for Arlington National Cemetery, where Sicknick will be interred.

AP

Convictions/Sentences/Pleas

Transfer of COVID-positive California prisoners caused 'public health disaster'

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation risked the health and safety of thousands of inmates and prison staff last year by transferring potentially COVID-19-positive inmates to San Quentin State Prison, according to a report released Monday by the state's inspector general. The CDCR and California Correctional Health Care Services, which oversees health care within the state prison system, transferred 189 inmates from the California Institution for Men in Chino between May 28 and 30 of last year amid a coronavirus outbreak at the facility.

CBS SF Bay Area

Corrections & Parole

Man paroled in Delano teen's murder now in ICE custody

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says 48-year-old Gerardo Zavala, whose parole from prison was criticized by the Tulare County District Attorney's Office, was released into ICE custody Thursday. Zavala is one of several men convicted for the death of Eric Jones, who was 17 years old when he was kidnapped and tortured in Delano before being driven to Tulare County and shot 10 times.

KGET

Son's bloody baseball-bat bashing murders of dad, uncle and alarm tech: Killer departs mental health facility before attack, gets life, no parole

An ex-minor league baseball player who killed his father, uncle and an alarm company technician with a bat in Corona was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A Riverside jury in November convicted 27-year-old Brandon Willie Martin of three counts of first-degree murder and found true a special-circumstance allegation of taking multiple lives in the same crime, and convicted him of one count each of auto theft, evading arrest, obstructing a peace officer and injuring a police canine.

My News LA

San Quentin faces $421,880 in CalOSHA fines over employee safety violations during COVID-19 outbreak

CalOSHA has proposed levying $421,880 in fines against San Quentin State Prison for allegedly endangering its employees during a massive COVID-19 outbreak that sickened more than 2,000 inmates and 427 employees and claimed 29 lives including one guard. The state agency cited 14 violations ranging from failing to report employee illnesses to state health officials to exposing staffers "to unsafe patient handling conditions" while removing ill inmates from cells on stretchers to unsafe working conditions in the prison medical lab to not enforcing mask policies.

CBS SF Bay Area

Does Fresno jail lead nation in COVID cases? Sheriff challenges New York Times on data

A report in the New York Times that named Fresno County as the nation's leader in jail coronavirus cases has prompted Fresno County Sheriff's officials to fire back, pointing out the great majority of the nation's correctional facilities are missing from the data. An inquiry by The Bee, conducted as part of this story, found large gaps in coronavirus data reporting among California jails, making efforts to compare data among the facilities in in the state's 58 counties highly problematic.

Fresno Bee

Articles of Interest

They called for help. They'd always regret it.

When Antonietta Zuñiga woke up to smoke pouring through her bedroom window, everything she had learned about how to care for her grandson completely left her mind. It was November 2019, in the Los Angeles County city of Pico Rivera. Antonietta's grandson, Carlos Zuñiga Jr., is schizophrenic; she had the number for ACCESS, L.A. County's mental-health hotline, taped to her fridge for moments precisely like these. But she knew they were vastly underfunded, and it might take days for them to respond.

The Atlantic

Heard turns to Virginia anti-SLAPP law to beat Depp defamation case

In Virginia, an anti-SLAPP law allows immunity from civil liability for statements about matters of public concern that would be protected under the First Amendment. But when an actress pens a muscular editorial on the impact of domestic violence, does the law cover her? At issue is whether Amber Heard, 34, star of "Aquaman," is entitled to use an anti-SLAPP defense in the nearly two-year-old lawsuit filed by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, 57.

Courthouse News Service

Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy to take over in Q3

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will leave his post later this year, turning the helm over to the company's top cloud executive, Andy Jassy, according to an announcement Tuesday. Bezos will transition to executive chairman of Amazon's board. Bezos, 57, founded Amazon in 1994 and has since morphed the one-time online bookstore into a mega-retailer with global reach in a slew of different categories from gadgets to groceries to streaming.

CNBC

As Gov. Newsom's approval rating craters, would-be candidates line up to replace him

With a new UC Berkeley poll showing that more than a third of registered California voters support recalling Gavin Newsom, and as even some powerful Democrats blame him for California's COVID-19 response, there seems to be no good news for the embattled Governor. Now, several gubernatorial wannabes are hoping it stays that way if the recall movement succeeds. Most of the self-proclaimed contenders are talking about challenging Newsom if recall petitioners are able to gather 1.5 million Californians' signatures by March 17.

Los Angeles Magazine

Pension

California state worker pay database updated with 2020 wages, overtime

Facebook

Bruce Davis was convicted of killing Donald Shea in 1969 as part of the Manson family; last denied parole in 2014

The Sacramento Bee's state worker pay database has been updated with data from 2020. Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature reduced most state workers' pay halfway through the year, when projections showed a budget deficit of $54 billion due to anticipated economic effects of the coronavirus. The state instead ended up with a budget surplus for the year ahead, and Newsom has said his administration could restore state workers' pay by July of this year.

Sacramento Bee

Defined benefit pensions crucial for economic health

As Americans confront the effects of a K-shaped recovery that is further enriching the wealthy even as low- and-middle income workers struggle to stay afloat, the chasm between Wall Street and Main Street has never seemed wider. Finding ways to bridge that chasm and better spread the wealth that derives from investment earnings so that it creates broad public benefits remains one of this nation's greatest economic challenges.

Capitol Weekly

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