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

LA County Owes $1M to Jailhouse Whistleblower; Wealthy Socialite Free on Bail After Allegedly Running Over Two Children; CA's Recycling System Rifled with Fraud and Other Stories: Monday Morning Memo

Foster mother accused of murder gets bail; Gascon will let confessed child molester walk; Drug-using mothers cannot be charged with murder for stillbirths

 

January 23, 2022

Facebook

A report concluded the officers who conducted the domestic incident stop on Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie committed several "unintentional mistakes," including not citing Petito for domestic violence. Petito was soon after found murdered and Laundrie died after disappearing into the Florida wilderness before authorities could question him

Courts & Rulings

A court upheld the firing of 2 LAPD officers who ignored a robbery to play Pokémon Go

An appeals court in California has upheld the firing of two former Los Angeles Police Department officers for playing Pokémon Go rather than responding to a nearby robbery. Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell, who were fired after the 2017 incident, had argued that the city violated the law by using their police car's digital in-car video system recording as evidence and by denying them protections of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act.

NPR

Ninth Circuit considers lifting ban on two-time felons becoming EMTs in California

A three-judge Ninth Circuit panel appeared skeptical that a California law barring people convicted of multiple felonies from becoming certified as EMTs is unconstitutional. "This is the only way the state gets involved," said U.S. Circuit Judge Mark Bennet, a Donald Trump appointee, noting the Legislature indicated it wanted to prevent those convicted of at least two felonies from obtaining the certification.

Courthouse News Service

California foster mother accused of murder can leave jail pending trial, judge decides

Michelle Morris-Kerin, a former Riverside County foster home operator initially held on $1 million bail in the death of a child and lewd conduct with others in her care, was ordered released on $50,000 bond Monday, Jan. 10, by a judge who said his hands were tied. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer's release order, which included a long list of conditions, came over the strong objections of the District Attorney's Office, the mother of the late "Princess" Diane Ramirez and the Orange County family of one of the alleged victims.

Southern California News Group

Car thief properly ordered to pay victim for tarnishing of title based on the pilfering

The Court of Appeal for this district, in a 549-word opinion, yesterday affirmed an order to a car thief to pay the owner of an Audi as restitution, representing the diminished value of the automobile based on it having been stolen. A theft of a car, Justice John Shepard Wiley Jr. of Div. Eight explained, is reflected in title notes, creating a "branded" title which reduces the resale value of the vehicle - in this instance, from $18,000 to $20,000 down to $15,000.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Supreme Court blocks nationwide vaccine and testing mandate for large businesses, allows health care worker vaccine mandate to take effect

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden's vaccine and testing requirement aimed at large businesses, but it allowed a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers to go into effect nationwide. The decision is a huge hit to Biden's attempts to use the power of the federal government to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

CNN

Federal judge dismisses LAPD employees lawsuit against Covid-19 vaccine mandate

A federal judge has dismissed a civil lawsuit from 13 Los Angeles Police Department employees who protested against the city's Covid-19 vaccine mandate, testing and reporting requirements. Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti approved an ordinance in August requiring all city employees to be vaccinated by October. Exceptions to the mandate included those with a medical or religious exemption, but those employees would still be subject to weekly Covid-19 testing, according to court documents.

CNN

Panel moves to discipline California judge for allegedly hiding evidence as a prosecutor

The state Commission on Judicial Performance has launched disciplinary proceedings against an Orange County judge who failed as a prosecutor to disclose that police reports had been fabricated in a murder case involving the death of a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy. The commission on Jan. 5 alleged that Superior Court Judge Michael Murray violated disclosure laws and used the falsified CHP reports to convict a former Long Beach man for causing the traffic death of Deputy David Piquette, who was driving to work about 5 a.m. in July 2006.

Southern California News Group

Five DDAs, one private lawyer eye Superior Court seats

Three Los Angeles Superior Court judges - John P. Doyle, Randall F. Pacheco, and Bruce Marrs - have decided not to seek reelection this year and their open seats have been staked out by deputy district attorneys. Taking out petitions on which to gather signatures in lieu of filing fees are prosecutors Abby Baron, who wants to succeed Doyle in Office No. 60; Ryan Dibble and Fernanda Maria Barreto, both seeking Office No. 67, held by Pacheco; and Leslie Gutierrez, aspiring to capture Marrs's Office No. 90.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

2 Oklahoma inmates ask federal judge for firing squad option in executions

A federal judge in Oklahoma said Monday that he aims make a decision by the end of this week on a petition filed by two Oklahoma death row inmates requesting their executions be by firing squad rather than lethal injection. Lori Gray, courtroom deputy for US District Judge Stephen Friot, confirmed to CNN that at a hearing Judge Friot told the parties that he would work to have a ruling by the end of this week.

CNN

Defendant who answered 'yeah' intelligently waived jury

The Court of Appeal for this district, in a 2-1 decision, yesterday declined to accede to the Office of Attorney General's concession of reversible error, holding that an attempted rapist "knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily" waived the right to be tried by a jury. In a dissent, Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of Div. Six questioned whether the defendant, Billy Patton (identified as "B.P"), actually did understand what was transpiring in the courtroom, given his mental problems.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Ex-LA councilman loses bid to trim massive federal racketeering case

A federal judge rejected former Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar's request to cut down the massive racketeering case in which he's accused of running a criminal enterprise that collected at least $1.5 million in bribes from real estate developers to facilitate their projects in downtown LA.

Courthouse News Service

'Almost insane': Judge criticizes call for recusal in handling Amazon case

A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit filed by Amazon, and who recently disclosed his wife held stock in the company, said claims he should recuse due to a conflict of interest are "almost insane" and "100% flawed." U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady disclosed earlier this month that, following a Wall Street Journal investigation, he learned his wife held $22,000 of stock in Amazon in a brokerage account while he was assigned to a suit Amazon brought against a Colorado real estate developer and a former Amazon employee alleging a kickback scheme.

National Law Journal

Newsom's budget proposal gives generously to California courts

California's courts would see a sizable funding boost as part of Governor Gavin Newsom's $4.9 billion judicial branch budget package that reflects a commitment to cybersecurity and other tech investments. The proposal includes $34.7 million for electronic filing, digitizing records and updating case management software in fiscal year 2022-23, with plans to increase that amount to $40.3 million in fiscal year 2025-26.

Courthouse News Service

Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor amends general order to extend deadlines for preliminary hearings as LA County sets COVID case record

Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor today utilized the authority granted by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye under Government Code section 68115 to issue an amended General Order to extend statutory deadlines for preliminary hearings as a result of the continued and unprecedented rise in COVID's community transmission throughout Los Angeles County.

L.A. Court News Release

Harvard won't have to pay prof's legal tab in China case

Harvard University doesn't have to pony up for the criminal defense of a professor convicted of lying about his ties to China, Massachusetts' top court found Monday. Charles Lieber is awaiting sentencing after a federal jury in December found him guilty of accepting U.S. grant money without telling the U.S. Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health that he was also accepting money to do research for China as part of that country's Thousand Talents Program.

Law 360

PG&E can't duck potential liability for century-old gas plant pollution

Pacific Gas and Electric could be liable for contamination from a defunct gas plant that operated more than 100 years ago, a federal judge has ruled, because evidence suggests its predecessor dumped hazardous waste at or near the San Francisco site in 1903. "This is an important day for the health of San Francisco and the bay," plaintiffs' attorney Stuart Gross said in a statement Wednesday.

Courthouse News Service

10th Circuit sides with BNSF, blocks Oklahoma fines for blocked railroad crossings

Oklahoma cannot fine train operators for blocking roads, a 10th Circuit panel ruled Tuesday, since the power to regulate train operations rests solely with the Surface Transportation Board under federal law. "The plain language is clear: the Surface Transportation Board has exclusive jurisdiction over the operation of sidetracks in Oklahoma. Because the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act is unambiguous, we need not look outside it to divine Congress' intent," U.S. Circuit Judge Joel Carson wrote for the panel in a 13-page opinion.

Courthouse News Service

Los Angeles District Attorney

DA denies sheriff's accusation that office refused to enhance charges in LAPD officer murder

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office denied Friday it had been asked to consider filing criminal charges in the robbery and murder of off-duty LAPD Officer Fernando Arroyos, who was shot to death during a gunfight with alleged gang members Monday in a South Los Angeles neighborhood. The DA's Office said in a email that it was never consulted on potential criminal charges before the LA County Sheriff's Department, which investigated the murder, presented its evidence to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which announced Thursday the four people arrested in the case would face federal racketeering allegations which could lead to death sentences.

NBC4

Confessed child molester could serve little or no time; prosecutors furious at LA County DA

It happened on New Year's Day 2014. James Tubbs walked into a woman's restroom at Denny's in Palmdale and hid in a stall. When a 10-year-old girl walked in by herself, he grabbed her and sexually molested her. "The assault went on until someone walked into the restroom and scared him off. He fled from the restaurant, and he went unidentified for several years until a cold DNA hit identified him as someone who was arrested in the state of Idaho," said LA County Deputy District Attorney John McKinney.

Fox11

Slain banking exec's family wants L.A. district attorney to upgrade charges

The family of murdered Bank of America executive Michelle Avan are demanding that Los Angeles County's lead prosecutor press more serious charges against her suspected killer. District Attorney George Gascón, who has weathered considerable criticism in California for a perceived progressive stance on crime during his short stint in office, is under fire regarding the severity of charges filed against Avan's ex-boyfriend and accused killer, Anthony Duwyane Turner.

Oxygen.com

Kendall Jenner alleged trespasser arrested near home, released without charges

Kendall Jenner has a brand-new issue with a man trying to get onto her residential or commercial property, and while he was jailed ... he's currently back on the roads, as it's coming to be a growing number of difficult for cops to keep individuals risk-free. Law enforcement sources inform TMZ 31- year-old Arnold Babcock was quit within Kendall's gated neighborhood previously today by protection.

News Flavor

Prosecutors

Four charged federally in killing of LAPD officer who was shot while house-hunting

Three men and a woman suspected of taking part in the robbery and murder of an off-duty Los Angeles police officer have been charged with federal racketeering counts, prosecutors said Thursday. The four are charged with violent crime in aid of racketeering in the killing of Officer Fernando Arroyos, who was fatally shot Monday, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Central California said.

NBC News

California AG: Don't file murder charges in stillbirths

Prosecutors should not charge women with murder when a fetus dies, even if their behavior may have contributed to the death, California's top law enforcement official said Thursday. Attorney General Rob Bonta acted after prosecutors in the San Joaquin Valley's Kings County twice charged women with "fetal murder," alleging their drug use led to stillbirths. He issued a statewide alert intended to advise law enforcement officials on how to interpret state law.

AP

District attorneys want to block early-release rule for some California felons

Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko is among more than two dozen California DAs aiming to block new rules that would allow early release of certain felons from state prison. Late last month, the 28 DAs won a temporary restraining order that, for now, keeps the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation from boosting good conduct credits for inmates serving time for a so-called "second strike" offense.

Ventura County Star

5 charged with smash-and-grab robberies in Upland, Chino Hills

Five men have been charged in connection with one or more smash-and-grab robberies of jewelry stores in San Bernardino County in late 2021. Prosecutors say the men are all Los Angeles gang members. The robberies took place at the Uptown Jewelry Mart in Upland and Diamond & Design at the Commons at Chino Hills Shopping Center.

Riverside Press-Enterprise

Three charged in supermarket shooting that left six wounded on New Year's Eve

A woman and two men were charged Monday in connection with a New Year's Eve shooting that wounded six people at a supermarket in South Los Angeles. Beverly Surratt, 28; Juwann Keaire Williams, 18; and Marquae Yoakum, 20, face one felony count each of conspiracy to commit murder, two counts of attempted murder and six counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

City News Service

LA socialite Rebecca Grossman appears in court with her NEW attorney after her last one dropped out due to illness

Wealthy Los Angeles socialite and philanthropist Rebecca Grossman appeared in court on Friday as part of a hearing into her case in which she is accused of running over and killing two young brothers while allegedly racing in her Mercedes. Despite having six scheduled hearings over the past year, the case has been postponed numerous times, leaving the parents of 11-year-old Mark and 9-year-old Jacob Iskander in agony as Grossman continues to remain free on $2 million bail.

Daily Mail

Criminal charges dropped against LA County man with autism shot and left paralyzed by deputies

Isaias Cervantes was shot and left paralyzed by deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in March last year after his family called 911 asking for help. Cervantes has autism and is mostly deaf. His family said he has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old. His sister told the 911 operator that he was having "a mental health crisis" and that he had pushed their mom. Cervantes' mom, Rosa Padilla, told deputies outside her home that night that her son was upset because he didn't get a snack.

ABC7

U.S. willing to dismiss Ghislaine Maxwell perjury case if sex abuse conviction stands

The U.S. government is willing to dismiss two perjury charges against Ghislaine Maxwell if her conviction for her role in recruiting and grooming teenage girls to be sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein is allowed to stand, prosecutors have said. The offer was put forward Monday in a joint letter prosecutors and Maxwell's defense team delivered to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan.

NBC News

Baltimore state's attorney indicted on perjury charges

A Maryland grand jury on Thursday indicted Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby on two counts of perjury and two counts of filing false mortgage applications. Mosby faces a hearing at an unscheduled date in the U.S. District Court of Maryland in Baltimore. If convicted on the charges, Mosby faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for each count of filing a false mortgage application and up to five years in prison for each perjury charge.

The Hill

Policy/Legal

Two new CA Assembly bills take aim at Prop. 47 as retail robberies continue

This week California legislators have introduced new Assembly bills in an effort to crack down on rampant retail theft. They're seeking harsher penalties for such crimes, often classified as misdemeanors under California's voter-approved proposition 47. One, authored by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) would lower the threshold for felony theft of goods to $400. Right now, it's considered a misdemeanor for any amount up to $950 worth of stolen goods.

KTVU

California assault weapon owners face registration deadline

California gun owners starting Thursday are getting a second chance to register and keep a type of firearm that is now illegal to buy under the state's expanded definition of assault weapons. The registration period is for those who legally bought so-called bullet-button assault weapons. The bullet buttons allow users to rapidly exchange ammunition magazines by using a small tool or the tip of a bullet. California lawmakers outlawed weapons with that feature in 2016. But those who bought them before the law took effect on Jan. 1, 2017, are still allowed to own them if they register the weapons with the state.

AP

Law enforcement agencies, families call for tougher penalties against fentanyl dealers

Rows of photographs lined a conference room and outdoor patio at the Riverside County District Attorney's Office on Wednesday, depicting people from all walks of life who shared one thing in common: they all died of fentanyl overdoses. Surviving family members of some of those men and women gathered for a news conference aimed at increasing public awareness of the fentanyl epidemic that is killing thousands of people at an alarming rate and to promote laws allowing drug dealers, especially fentanyl dealers, to be charged with murder.

San Bernardino Sun

Los Angeles County/City

WATCH: Officers rescue pilot from crashed plane seconds before train collision (Video)

Video shows the dramatic rescue of a pilot who crash landed onto train tracks, just four seconds before a train obliterated the small plane. As the pilot recovers in the hospital, officers say he's "a very lucky man" and "should buy a lottery ticket."

NBC News

LA County asks judge to hold Sheriff Villanueva in contempt for ignoring subpoenas

The county of Los Angeles asked a judge to hold Sheriff Alex Villanueva in contempt for ignoring three subpoenas issued by the Civilian Oversight Commission last fall, in a court filing on Wednesday. The commission ordered Sheriff Villanueva to testify on two different topics: a unit within the sheriff's department set up, according to the Los Angeles Times, to investigate critics of the department; and the department's policy regarding gangs, or "deputy cliques," amongst sheriff's deputies.

Courthouse News Service

Black LA residents lack access to guns as wealthy rush to buy firearms amid crime wave: Activists

Los Angeles crimes have seeped into the wealthiest of neighborhoods, rocking residents and being compared to dystopian movie franchise "The Purge." Residents have flocked to Beverly Hill's only gun store in response, arming themselves as a last-ditch effort for protection even though the city has a long track record of supporting liberal policies and gun control.

Fox News

FBI informant who reported abuse in LA jails getting $1M payout

A convicted bank robber-turned-FBI informant who reported abuse in Los Angeles County jails will receive a payout of $1 million from the county, the Los Angeles Times reported. Informant Anthony Brown's reports to the FBI resulted in a federal investigation into the L.A. County sheriff's office, culminating in the convictions of 22 sheriff's deputies and a number of other high-ranking officials. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the settlement with Brown on Tuesday.

The Hill

Artesia Council Tony Lima, Monica Manalo, former City Manager and City Clerk named in felony search warrant

A felony search warrant has been issued by the LA County Sheriff's asking for all texts and computer and electronic devices belonging to former Artesia manager Bil Rawlings and communications between him and Artesia City Clerk Ernesto Sanchez, and Councilmembers Tony Lima and Monica Manalo. The warrant was obtained by the Press-Telegram.

Hews Media Group

The LAFD expedites its training program during staffing shortage (Video)

The LAFD is speeding up training for firefighters still in the academy due to pandemic-related staffing shortages. Eric Leonard reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday Jan. 7, 2022.

NBC4

Hundreds died in L.A. traffic crashes in 2021. Is Vision Zero a failure?

Mayor Eric Garcetti's goal of ending traffic deaths by 2025 looks increasingly unattainable following another year of rising fatalities and injuries caused by motorists. According to Los Angeles Police Department data through Dec. 25, 289 people were killed in traffic collisions last year, 21% more than the same period in 2020 and 19% over the same period in 2019. A total of 1,465 people were severely injured, a 30% increase over the same period in 2020. The LAPD defines severely injured as needing to be transported from the collision.

Los Angeles Times

Crime/Public Safety

LA County says crime has spiked near RV encampments, proposes crackdown

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to take steps to break up RV encampments that have proven to be hot spots for crime and provide safe overnight parking alternatives. Supervisor Holly Mitchell recommended updating data on locations where crime has increased around RV encampments and also encampments within 500 feet of schools. The last comprehensive county report was completed in 2018.

Fox11

Violent crime in the U.S. is surging. But we know what to do about it

Nationally, police data suggests homicides rose seven percent in 2021. And while many Americans know that 2020 was a particularly bloody year - with homicides surging 29 percent, with 77 percent of them involving firearms - few realize that gun violence has been rising across this country since 2014. Fatal shootings have increased by roughly 80 percent in the largest U.S. cities since then.

Time

Protecting public safety with Los Angeles Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides (Video)

Cities across the country are grappling with a surge in violent crime. As part of our continuing Protecting Public Safety series, Emada Tingirides, deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and a member of the Council on Criminal Justice Violent Crime Working Group, joined Washington Post Live on Wednesday, Jan. 12 to discuss new recommendations on how to respond and what is contributing to the spike including in her city.

Washington Post

Brothers arrested for organized retail theft in Ventura County: Sheriff's office

Two brothers from Los Angeles County were arrested last week after perpetuating a series of coordinated thefts from retail outlets in Southern California, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday. The brothers, 30-year-old Vardan Gevorgyan of North Hollywood and 37-year-old Raphael Gevorgyan of Van Nuys, "were engaged in an ongoing organized retail theft spree throughout Southern California, over the past several months," the Sheriff's Office said in a news release.

KTLA

Recycling fraud costing Californians up to $200 million annually, report says

California's recycling system is rampant with fraud, potentially costing consumers as much as $200 million a year in stolen nickel and dime deposits, a new study alleges. The "Cash For Trash" report from Consumer Watchdog says past investigations by the State Auditor and a local news outlet show $40 million to $200 million dollars in deposit money is stolen each year from California's beverage container recycling program through padded loads, falsified weights tickets and other tactics.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Son mourns father who was slain at Taco Bell as police announce arrest in murder

The man believed to have shot and killed a Taco Bell employee is in custody. LAPD detectives arrested 39-year-old Jonathan Madden at his South Los Angeles home Monday. News of the arrest came at candle vigil to remember the victim. Dozens of family members and friends gathered at the Taco Bell where 41-year-old Alejandro Garcia worked, and was tragically killed. The night started with a major announcement from LAPD Chief Michel Moore.

NBC4

California/National

Manhattan DA: 'I don't understand the pushback' to lighter punishment for violent criminals

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg appeared with Rev. Al Sharpton Saturday at the National Action Network Rally in New York to talk about his plans to reduce incarceration through lowered prison sentences and fewer arrests. "We said we were going to marry fairness and safety, and we laid out a specific plan," Bragg declared. "We put it on the website. We put it in print. And this week, after Jan. 1, we got down to work, and we are doing what we said we would do."

Fox News

Conflict quickly emerges between top prosecutor and police commissioner

New York City's new police commissioner has expressed severe dissatisfaction with the policies of the new Manhattan district attorney, sending an email to all officers late on Friday that suggests a potential rupture between City Hall and the prosecutor over their approaches to public safety. The email from Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said she was deeply troubled by policies outlined by Alvin Bragg, the district attorney, in a 10-page memo that Mr. Bragg sent to his staff on Monday.

New York Times

Investigation completed in Petito, Laundrie domestic incident in Utah

An investigation into a domestic violence incident involving Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie in Utah back in August is now complete. The 102-page report, made by independent law enforcement agency, found that the Moab City Police officers who responded to the incident on August 12, made several "unintentional mistakes," including not citing Petito for domestic violence. During that altercation, officers were called to reports of disorderly conduct and encountered Laundrie and Petito, along with a witness.

ABC7

Consumer

A case over the sale of counterfeits on Amazon may have implications for fashion

Last month a noteworthy case came to a close - one that did not exactly involve fashion or luxury goods, but that nonetheless, could have interesting implications for the industry, as it involved Amazon's ability to sidestep liability for the goods offered up on its sweeping third-party marketplace.

The Fashion Law

CISA, FBI, and NSA release cybersecurity advisory on Russian cyber threats to U.S. critical infrastructure

CISA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA) have released a joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA) that provides an overview of Russian state-sponsored cyber operations, including commonly observed tactics, techniques, and procedures. The CSA also provides detection actions, incident response guidance, and mitigations. CISA, the FBI, and NSA are releasing the joint CSA to help the cybersecurity community reduce the risk presented by Russian state-sponsored cyber threats.

CISA Advisory

Convictions/Sentences/Pleas

Former Los Angeles city attorney's official in charge of civil litigation agrees to plead guilty to extortion charge

A former senior official at the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge for threatening to fire a plaintiffs' attorney from a lucrative special counsel job with the city unless the attorney paid a substantial extortion demand from a former employee who was threatening to expose the city's collusive litigation over its faulty water-and-power billing system, the Justice Department announced today.

Department of Justice Press Release

Ex-San Diego deputy pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter in shooting of man he said was escaping patrol car

A former San Diego County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty Friday to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting of a man he saw escape from a patrol car, authorities said. The San Diego County District Attorney's Office said Aaron Russell, 25, entered the plea under an agreement and faces up to 11 years in prison. Russell originally was charged with second-degree murder and pleaded not guilty.

AP

Neo-Nazi leader sentenced to 7 years for plot to intimidate Jews, journalists

A Neo-Nazi leader convicted in a plot to intimidate Jews and journalists has been sentenced to seven years in prison. The man, Kaleb Cole, 25, the former leader of the Neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, was convicted in September of conspiracy, mailing threatening communications and interfering with a federally protected activity, the Justice Department said in a statement Tuesday. "The group focused primarily on those who are Jewish or journalists of color," the Justice Department said.

NBC News

Tustin man, 80, pleads guilty in girlfriend's mercy killing, gets 5 years probation

An 80-year-old Tustin man who pleaded guilty to killing his girlfriend following what a prosecutor called a mercy killing and botched suicide attempt was placed on five years probation, a prosecutor said Tuesday, Jan. 11. Charles Bennett Stockwell was charged Sept. 20 with murder, but he accepted a plea bargain Monday, admitting a felony count of voluntary manslaughter, according to court records.

City News Service

Corrections & Parole

Robert F. Kennedy assassin, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, denied parole by California governor

California Gov. Gavin Newsom denied parole Thursday for Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. A two-person panel found Sirhan suitable for parole in August. The California Parole Board's staff had 120 days to review the decision, and the governor had 30 more days to approve, deny or modify it. Newsom explained his decision to overrule the parole board's recommendation in an editorial published by the Los Angeles Times.

NBC News

California prison officials suspend in-person visits after spike in COVID-19 cases

California prison officials are suspending in-person and family visits to inmates starting Saturday because of increasing COVID-19 cases among staff and inmates, officials announced Friday. The halt is effective for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation facilities statewide for 15 days. "This temporary measure is meant to limit movement between and throughout institutions (and) is a necessary step to curb transmissions," CDCR said.

Sacramento Bee

Justice Department declines to extend PG&E probation

The Justice Department will not seek an extension of Pacific Gas and Electric's federal probation before it ends later this month, despite pressure from public interest groups urging it to do so. "Based on the unique history and circumstances of this case, the United States does not intend to seek an extension of PG&E's probationary term or imposition of a new one," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey Schenk and Noah Stern wrote in a 3-page status report.

Courthouse News Service

High Desert State Prison officials investigating the death of an incarcerated person as a homicide

Investigators at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) are investigating the Jan. 8, 2022, death of Benjy S. Wade as an alleged homicide. Wade was found unresponsive in his cell by officers on Jan. 8, 2022, at 4:59 p.m. Life-saving measures were implemented; however, Wade succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at 5:15 p.m. His next of kin has been notified. Wade, 40, was admitted from Colusa County on Aug. 11, 2021, to serve 13 years for second-degree robbery with use of a firearm.

CDCR News Release

Articles of Interest

Robert Durst, convicted murderer and subject of HBO's 'The Jinx,' has died

Robert Durst, the eccentric millionaire who fascinated viewers as the subject of HBO's documentary series "The Jinx" before being convicted last year of murder, has died in a California prison hospital, according to his longtime attorney Dick DeGuerin. He was 78. Durst, who had been housed at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton, died of natural causes at 6:44 a.m. on Monday, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

CNN

Boston bomber has not paid any of $101M restitution, despite sending family $2K for 'gifts': Feds

Federal officials in Massachusetts have called for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to hand over the $1,400 COVID relief money and any other funds in his inmate trust account, to be put toward the more than $101 million he owes his victims. The motion, filed Wednesday by Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell for the District of Massachusetts, urges the court to allow the Bureau of Prisons to move all funds from Tsarnaev's inmate trust account "as payment towards his outstanding criminal monetary penalties, including unpaid special assessment and restitution," court records state.

Fox News

US orders private insurers to start covering at-home Covid tests

Most Americans with private or group health insurance will have the cost of at-home Covid-19 tests covered by their providers starting Jan. 15. Health and Human Services announced the move Monday as retailers struggle to keep up with demand for at-home tests sold over the counter in pharmacies during what has been a weekslong spike in coronavirus cases caused by the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Courthouse News Service

New book details how California prosecutors took down sex trafficking site Backpage

Governor Newsom denied parole to Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted of assassinating Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Kennedy is pictured here.

Maggy Krell knew it wasn't going to be just another case. The former California state prosecutor was going after one of the largest sex trafficking websites in the world. It was called Backpage, and in large part because of Krell's effort, it's been shut down since 2018. She tells the story of that remarkable case in a new book called "Taking Down Backpage: Fighting The World's Largest Sex Trafficker."

NPR

Pensions

California would kick in CalPERS debt payments ahead of schedule under Newsom proposal

California will whittle down its long-term debt in the fiscal year ahead with a supplemental pension payment of $3.5 billion, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom's budget proposal. The state will pay the money to the California Public Employees' Retirement System on top of a regular $8.4 billion payment toward the pensions of state workers and retirees, according to the proposal. Newsom highlighted the pension payments in a Monday press conference on his estimated $286.4 billion budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Sacramento Bee

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