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

Accused Sacramento Shooter Freed via Prop 57; ACLU Helps Russian Oligarchs; RVs by Ballona Wetlands Lose Lax Parking Enforcement; Police Play Copyrighted Music to Avoid Citizen Filming and Other Stories: Monday Morning Memo

SF and LA seek back millions in ADA nuisance lawsuits; Animal rights activist Paul Koretz seeks City Controller position; SF Police pull over driverless car; PG&E to pay $55 million for wildfires

 

April 22, 2022

US Air Force Facebook

Federal judge rules the armed services cannot discharge or bar from becoming an officer a service member who has tested positive for HIV

Courts & Rulings

C.A. denies Gascón's plea to limit judges' reconsiderations

The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday avoided the issue of whether a judge may reinstate dismissed special circumstances allegations and enhancements sua sponte, shunning a request by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón to declare that no such power exists absent a motion for reconsideration by the prosecution, and despite an apparent desire by the state Supreme Court that the merits be addressed.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

C.A. affirms denial of public records request for names of persons arrested for DUI

A judge properly denied a petition for a writ of mandate to compel a county to reveal the identities of three persons arrested months earlier for drunk driving, the Fifth District held yesterday, applying a 1993 decision from this district engrafting a limitation on a disclosure provision.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Prankster's police parody in Ohio argued in Sixth Circuit

A Parma, Ohio, resident arrested after he created a Facebook page parodying the city's police department urged an appeals court to reinstate his First Amendment retaliation claims against the city and several police officers that were previously granted immunity by a federal judge. Anthony Novak created a short-lived parody Facebook page at a bus stop in 2016, and used it to post several satirical "news stories" under the guise of the Parma Police Department.

Courthouse News Service

Judge clears way for San Francisco's 'public nuisance' opioid lawsuit to go to trial

A federal judge on Thursday cleared the way for San Francisco's opioid lawsuit against Walgreens and a number of pharmaceutical companies to head to trial, which is set to begin on April 25. Thousands of states, cities and counties have sued pharmaceutical companies over their role in the opioid epidemic, which is believed to have been caused by the marketing and overprescription of prescription drugs like Oxycontin.

Courthouse News Service

Lawyers could be liable for not telling of client's misdeeds

The agent's immunity rule, under which an agent cannot be held liable for conspiring with the principal, will not shield the Los Angeles law firm of Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith and one of its partners in an action brought by an investor in a joint enterprise if it is proven, as pled, that the lawyers knew of their client's fraud in connection with a similar past project and failed to disclose it, the Court of Appeal for this district held yesterday.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Los Angeles District Attorney

Grand theft auto, courtesy of George Gascón

The Yiddish word for it is chutzpah, but there are other, more prosaic terms that come to mind as well, like "obtuse," or perhaps "clueless." I refer to a recent public service announcement from George Gascón, district attorney of Los Angeles County, in which he educates the crime-weary citizens of that sprawling county on how to avoid having their cars stolen.

The Pipeline

'I'm livid': 13-year-old who stabbed girl multiple times gets probation under Gascón's policy

For nearly a year and a half, 13-year-old Elisyannah Valdez had been the victim of bullying on social media by another 13-year-old girl. "She called me ugly, fat, she talked about my grandma, said my grandma's burning in hell and 'F my dead grandma,'" Elisyannah said. Cassandra Cisneros told her daughter to ignore it. She remembers specifically saying, "You're going to have haters. She's jealous, you know, just block her or create a new account."

Fox11

George Gascón's social experiment in Los Angeles County

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón was defiant as he marked the end of his first year in office in a December 8 news conference. "I'm not going to be intimidated by political rhetoric," he said. It was an odd news conference in that Gascón surrounded himself with more than a dozen district attorneys from outside of California, as if sending the message to the people of Los Angeles that we all needed to get with the program.

Orange County Register

Los Angeles prosecutors decry disturbing results of DA George Gascon's policies

What is a rogue prosecutor? Why is Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon considered one of the most progressive prosecutors in America? How have his new policies led to a crime increase in Los Angeles? Gascon has "really completely abandoned his responsibility to the public" as district attorney, says Kathy Cady, a former Los Angeles prosecutor who now works as a victim's rights attorney.

The Daily Signal

Why these moms of murdered sons want justice from LA's progressive district attorney

Ana Estevez should have celebrated her son Piqui's 10th birthday Feb. 19. Instead, she grieved over the five years she has awakened each day unable to say good morning to her little boy. "He was just the joy of my life," Estevez, a resident of Long Beach, California, says of Piqui. "He was everything to me. He was my only child." Piqui's father suffocated him in the back seat of a car at the end of April 2017, following a trip to Disneyland.

The Daily Signal

DA Gascon finds it's still tough to prosecute police for fatal shootings despite changes in state law

When he campaigned for Los Angeles County district attorney, reform-minded George Gascon made clear he would be a different kind of top prosecutor. A darling of the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing by Minneapolis police, Gascon blasted incumbent D.A. Jackie Lacey for not prosecuting law enforcement officers in controversial fatal shootings. In eight years in office, Lacey filed one manslaughter case in more than 340 fatal police shootings.

California Political Review

Prosecutors

Law firm accused of ADA shakedown of small businesses

Accusing law firm Potter Handy of shaking down small businesses for cash payments, the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles are seeking the return of millions of dollars the owners paid to settle thousands of groundless disability-rights lawsuits.

Courthouse News Service

Upland man arrested on indictment alleging he distributed fentanyl to victim who soon afterward died from overdose

A San Bernardino County man was arrested today on a federal grand jury indictment that alleges he sold fentanyl to a woman last year who soon afterward suffered a fatal overdose from the powerful synthetic opioid. John Biagianti, 31, of Upland, was arrested this morning at his residence by federal and local law enforcement.

Department of Justice Press Release

The view from the ground: The practical problems caused by a rogue prosecutor's policies (Video)

Rogue prosecutors are implementing radical, pro-criminal policies across the country that result in lawlessness and lost lives. Learn how devastating these policies really are from those impacted most - law enforcement officers, line prosecutors, and the families of crime victims.

The Heritage Foundation

Policy/Legal

Law reduced prison time for man tied to Sacramento shooting

A suspect arrested in connection with last weekend's mass shooting outside bars in Sacramento served less than half his 10-year sentence because of voter-approved changes to state law that lessened the punishment for his felony convictions and provided a chance for earlier release. Smiley Allen Martin was freed in February after serving time for punching a girlfriend, dragging her from her home by her hair and whipping her with a belt, according to court and prison records.

AP

LASD deputy union files new legal action in COVID-19 vaccine discipline dispute

The union representing Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies has filed a second legal action in its dispute with the Board of Supervisors concerning who has legal authority to suspend or fire deputies for noncompliance with the county's mandatory coronavirus vaccination order. The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs originally sued Los Angeles County on Dec. 3 regarding the board's establishment last August of a mandatory vaccination policy requiring all county workers, including those employed by the sheriff's department, to be fully vaccinated.

City News Service

Amid legal battle over secret recordings, confidentiality, Aryan Brotherhood defendants transferred out of Sacramento jail

Before a federal judge could rule whether the Sacramento jail was violating the constitutional rights of a half-dozen men accused of crimes on behalf of the Aryan Brotherhood, the defendants were whisked away in the middle of the night and taken to other facilities, including a nearby prison. The moves prompted U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremy Peterson to drop the case.

Bay Area News Group

ACLU helped defeat plan to seize Russian oligarchs' funds for Ukraine

The American Civil Liberties Union helped scuttle a bill this week that would have enabled the Biden administration to liquidate Russian oligarchs' assets and turn the proceeds over to Ukraine. ACLU officials told lawmakers Tuesday that the legislation could run afoul of due-process protections in the U.S. Constitution because it does not allow its targets to challenge the government's actions in court, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private talks.

Washington Post

Public input sought as state prisons consider shortening sentences for good behavior

State prison officials are considering changes that would allow them to potentially shave years off inmate sentences, a proposal that San Diego's top prosecutor opposes but reform advocates say provides incentive for good behavior in custody. District Attorney Summer Stephan issued a statement Thursday asking for people to voice their thoughts on the proposal, which would make permanent a policy started last year as an emergency measure to reduce the prison population during the COVID-19 pandemic.

San Diego Union-Tribune

Los Angeles County/City

L.A. County sheriff watchdog probing whether Villanueva lied about violent detention by deputy

The independent watchdog for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is investigating allegations Sheriff Alex Villanueva lied about his knowledge of an incident in which a deputy kneeled on a handcuffed inmate's head. Inspector General Max Huntsman issued a subpoena Thursday evening ordering Villanueva to either testify or turn over records by April 22 about the kneeling incident and how the investigation into it was handled.

Los Angeles Times

Times sues for records on LAFD chief deputy who was reportedly drunk during a major fire

The Times has filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles that seeks to force Mayor Eric Garcetti's office and the Fire Department to release numerous internal records in the case of a high-ranking fire official who was reported to be drunk on duty during a major blaze but faced no discipline and retired with a $1.4-million payout.

Los Angeles Times

I-Team uncovers new information on firefighter's death (Video)

An LA County firefighter died while battling flames that ripped through a home in Palos Verdes. But the NBC 4 I-Team is learning new information about the circumstances that led to his death. Eric Leonard reports for the NBC 4 News at 5.

NBC4

Villanueva threatens to quit Metro security if not given full control

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Wednesday threatened his department would quit patrolling Metro's transit system unless the agency's board gives the him full control over security on the sprawling network of trains and buses. Villanueva made the demand as the current contract - under which the Sheriff's Department splits law enforcement responsibilities with the Los Angeles and Long Beach police departments - is set to expire this summer.

Los Angeles Times

Owners with RVs parked by Ballona Wetlands will soon be asked to relocate

A serene and peaceful feel. That's what people who live near the Ballona Wetlands and Marsh say they're supposed to experience walking the trails and seeking out the wildlife that lives here. Instead that kind of view in nature area north of LAX, there are no less than 30 RVs and other vehicles lined up along Jefferson Boulevard near Lincoln Boulevard. There are many that haven't moved in months and trash - piles of it.

NBC4

L.A. cannot risk having animal activist Paul Koretz as City Controller

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz has used his political influence to gain passage of widely publicized animal-related measures and gain media attention and the approval and camaraderie of some of the nation's largest and most affluent charitable organizations. But suddenly any mention of these formerly touted milestones in his political career is absent from his Wikipedia, Linked-in and Facebook profiles, as he pursues his bid for election as Controller of the City of Los Angeles.

CityWatch

Inspector general hired to monitor LADWP, amid FBI corruption probe

Nearly three years after the FBI raided the offices of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power as part of a corruption investigation, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday, April 11, announced the hiring of an inspector general to lead an office that will investigate and audit the department's activities.

Los Angeles Daily News

LAPD wants landlords to help it with recruiting

The Los Angeles Police Department is having such a difficult time attracting recruits that leaders plan to seek help from the business community. Specifically, L.A.'s landlords will be asked to voluntarily subsidize apartments for police recruits for two years. That way, those incoming officers can afford to live in the city as they go through their six-month training and then get rooted in their career. "A housing initiative is what we're forming," Police Chief Michel Moore said.

Los Angeles Business Journal

LA County frontline union workers demand 'more compensation to fight inflation' at press conference near Shell gas station

Frontline workers from various public sector unions throughout LA County - including SEIU 721 - demanded cost-of-living increases to fight inflation at a press conference today held outside a Shell gas station in Chinatown near downtown LA., where prices at the pump were as high as $6.94 a gallon.

SEIU 721

27 LAPD employees have long COVID, chief says

At least 27 Los Angeles Police Department employees have long COVID, the chief of police said Tuesday. Chief Michel Moore told the Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday that all of those employees, who included sworn officers and civilian staff, were still suffering COVID-19 symptoms after first being infected with the virus "weeks or months ago." He said all would continue to be considered "long-term COVID recoveries" until they're able to come back to work.

Los Angeles Daily News

In string of LAPD shootings, officers fired bullets and 'less lethal' rounds at same time

Margarito Lopez Jr. had been threatening suicide with a butcher knife to his neck for nearly 10 minutes when he suddenly stood and took a few steps toward the line of Los Angeles police officers in front of him. The officers had been trying to calm the troubled man in bursts of English and Spanish, according to police video from the encounter. They kept their distance while trying to talk Lopez out of harming himself.

Los Angeles Times

Crime/Public Safety

17 L.A. gangs have sent out crews to follow and rob city's wealthiest, LAPD says

More than a dozen Los Angeles gangs are targeting some of the city's wealthiest residents in a new and aggressive manner, sending out crews in multiple cars to find, follow and rob people driving high-end vehicles or wearing expensive jewelry, according to police. In many cases, they're making off with designer handbags, diamond-studded watches and other items worth tens of thousands of dollars - if not more - and then peddling them to black-market buyers who are willing to turn a blind eye to the underlying violence, police said.

Los Angeles Times

LA's crime surge migrates to wealthy, whiter zip codes of boldface names

On March 22, in the broad daylight of a typically gorgeous day in Beverly Hills, thieves in hoodies and sunglasses took a sledgehammer to the plate glass window of Peter Sedghi's boutique and furiously rummaged through the shards. In less than 90 seconds, the robbers stole more than $3 million worth of jewels. Two days later, in response to a wave of high-end robberies, the Los Angeles Police Department announced there would be no arrests.

Real Clear Investigations

L.A. County Sheriff's deputy arrested for allegedly molesting child

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy was arrested Friday as part of an internal investigation into allegations that he sexually molested a child. Deputy Sean Essex was arrested Friday and booked into jail. He awaits charges for lewd acts and oral copulation with a child under the age of 14, officials said. The investigation began following a report from the Los Angeles County Suspected Child Abuse Report system.

KTLA

Video: Driverless car pulled over by San Francisco police

San Francisco police made an unusual traffic stop recently when an officer pulled over a driverless car. The San Francisco Police Department confirmed the incident happened April 1 on Clement Street in the city's Richmond neighborhood. Officers initially pulled the self-driving Cruise vehicle over for not having its headlights on while driving after 10 p.m. Video obtained by KTVU shows an officer walking to what would be the driver-side window of a Cruise car only to find that no one was at the steering wheel.

KTVU Fox2

Santa Ana police try skirting public accountability using copyright infringement

Santa Ana City Councilmember Johnathan Ryan Hernandez was at his home in the Artesia Pilar neighborhood last Monday night past 10 p.m., getting ready for bed, until police started blasting music in an effort to prevent video from being uploaded to Youtube. The move is raising questions about police officers skirting accountability by using copyright infringement laws. "There's no way I'm hearing Disney music outside right now," he recalled in a Thursday phone interview.

Voice of OC

Cities try to turn the tide on police traffic stops

Los Angeles is overhauling its traffic policing, aiming to stop pulling over cars - frequently with Black drivers - for trivial infractions like broken taillights or expired tags as a pretext to search for drugs or guns. "We want to fish with a hook, not a net," Police Chief Michel Moore said. Los Angeles last month became the biggest city to restrict the policing of minor violations. In Philadelphia, a ban on such stops has just taken effect.

New York Times

California/National

Republican reps. hold press conference calling for end to CA's early release policies

Republican assembly members, law enforcement representatives, and victim advocates gathered in front of the state capitol on Thursday, calling for stiffer sentences and an end to California's early release policies. The news conference follows the mass shooting in Sacramento that happened not too far from where this conference was held. One of the suspected gunmen was released in February after only serving about a third of his sentence.

KRCR

Biden aims at 'ghost gun' violence with new federal rule

President Joe Biden on Monday took fresh aim at ghost guns, the privately made firearms without serial numbers that are increasingly cropping up in violent crimes, as he struggles to break past gun-control opposition to address firearm deaths. Speaking at the White House, Biden highlighted the Justice Department's work to finalize new regulations to crack down on ghost guns, and announced the nomination of Steve Dettelbach, who served as a U.S. attorney in Ohio from 2009 to 2016, to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

AP

NYS Sheriffs' Association: Bail reform changes not enough

Although the governor and state lawmakers reached an agreement on reforms to bail reform at the end of the state budget process, a group of County Sheriffs asked for much more Monday. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro spearheaded the call on lawmakers to make more revisions to the bail and discovery laws they amended during the budget. Molinaro criticized their adjustments to bail reform as extremely modest, saying they had gone after low hanging fruit.

CBS6 Albany

Convictions/Sentences/Pleas

Ed Buck sentenced to 30 years in prison in meth overdose case

Former Democratic donor Ed Buck was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in federal prison in connection with the overdose deaths of two men at his West Hollywood apartment. Buck was found guilty last year of supplying methamphetamine to Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean, who died in separate incidents in July 2017 and January 2019, respectively.

ABC7

SoCal woman charged with NY hotel hate crime pleads guilty

A Southern California woman who falsely accused a Black teen of stealing her cell phone at a hotel in New York pleaded guilty on Monday. Miya Ponsetto, a 23-year-old from Ventura County, pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment in the second degree as a hate crime after she accused Keyon Harrold Jr. of stealing her cell phone, and then attacked him at the Arlo Soho Hotel in December 2020.

ABC7

California utility to pay $55 million for massive wildfires

Pacific Gas & Electric, the nation's largest utility, has agreed to pay more than $55 million to avoid criminal prosecution for two major wildfires sparked by its aging Northern California power lines and submit to five years of oversight in an attempt to prevent more deadly blazes. The company didn't acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement announced Monday with prosecutors in six counties ravaged by last year's Dixie Fire and the 2019 Kincade Fire.

AP

Guilty plea part of ongoing US probe into Caltrans bribery

A former contract manager for California's transportation agency pleaded guilty Monday in what federal prosecutors said is an ongoing investigation into a bid rigging and bribery scam involving millions of dollars worth of contracts. Choon Foo "Keith" Yong agreed to cooperate with the investigation into what prosecutors said was a conspiracy to rig the competitive bidding process for improvement and repair contracts at California Department of Transportation facilities.

AP

Corrections & Parole

California prison officials investigating spike in drug overdoses during 10-day span

Officials at Salinas Valley State Prison are investigating a spike in drug overdoses during a 10-day period in late March, as well as a recent fatality believed to be related. From March 19 to 29, the prison's Facility A saw an "increased number of drug-related overdoses," and four days later, an incarcerated man died from a suspected drug overdose.

Bay Area News Group

State says OC jail food 'fit for human consumption' after complaints

A surprise inspection by state investigators could not find any proof to back up allegations that the Orange County Jail served cold, moldy and rotten food to inmates, the county Sheriff's Department announced Monday. Officials from the California Board of State and Community Corrections found the Orange County Jail's "food storage systems are appropriate and that items being served are fit for human consumption," according to an April 6 memo from the agency sent to the Sheriff's Department.

Orange County Patch

Articles of Interest

First Circuit poised to approve interstate marijuana investment

The First Circuit gave strong indications Thursday that it would strike down a Maine law that says only in-state residents can own for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries. Maine's defense of the law hinges on marijuana's continued status as illegal at the federal level, saying this means there can be no national market for cannabis. The law was challenged as discriminatory, protectionist legislation that violates the Commerce Clause.

Courthouse News Service

Judge rules US military can't discharge HIV-positive troops

Facebook

Political megadonor Ed Buck was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in overdose deaths of 2 men in his West Hollywood apartment

U.S. service members who are HIV-positive cannot be discharged or barred from becoming an officer solely because they're infected with the virus, a federal judge in Virginia ruled. Advocates say it's one of the strongest rulings in years for people living with HIV. The cases involved two service members that the Air Force attempted to discharge, as well as Sgt. Nick Harrison of the D.C. Army National Guard, who was denied a position in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.

AP

Anonymous leaks massive trove of Kremlin files and vows to continue hacking Russia until the country ends its 'aggression' against Ukraine

The notorious hacking group Anonymous has leaked a massive trove of Kremlin files, as it vowed to keep targeting Russia until the country ends its 'aggression' against Ukraine. Government institutions and Russian companies were breached in the cyber attack, with the data dump including more than 200,000 emails from the Russian Ministry of Culture, a body which has oversight over censorship, archives and art.

Daily Mail

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