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

Gascon Recall Gets Court Help; Two California Prisons to Close Due to Budget Cuts; Mark Ridley-Thomas, Awaiting Trial, Gets Salary Reinstated and Other Stories: Monday Morning Memo

Killer of Gas Station Attendant Won't Get Charged with Murder; CHP Officers get overpaid; Court filings have Declined over the past decade

 

December 16, 2022

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Singer Kelly Clarkson is asking the police to look into a secret admirer who has been leaving unwanted gifts at her $5.4 million home

California Supreme Court tosses gang murder conspiracy case: The California Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the conspiracy-to-murder conviction of a gang member who used social media to applaud the killing of rivals during a San Diego gang war. "Being a cheerleader" isn't enough to show that Nicholas Hoskins conspired in the murders, the court said in an unusual and unanimous opinion. The court overturned Hoskins' sentence of 25 years to life and sent the case back to the appellate court that had upheld his conviction.

AP--Tentative ruling grants Gascón recall supporters greater access to voter records

A tentative court ruling issued Monday grants supporters of the recall of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón greater access to some voter records as part of their review of signatures on their recall petition. Supporters hope to find enough that were improperly invalidated to reverse the decision by Dean Logan, L.A. County's Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, to rule their effort failed to qualify for the ballot.

LAist--CJP says it has power to sanction a judge for pre-bench Brady violation as DDA

The Commission on Judicial Performance declared yesterday that it has the authority to discipline a judge who, before going on the bench, failed as a prosecutor to turn over exculpatory information to the defense, but found that Orange Superior Court Judge Michael F. Murray has not been shown to have committed such misconduct.

Youthful slayer did not knowingly waive Miranda rights

Div. Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, in an opinion that was certified for publication on Friday, has reversed a second-degree murder conviction because of the circumstances under which the defendant made an admission to police, including his being cloaked in a paper gown, without socks, after his clothes were taken the day before for a forensic examination.

Ticket quotas, Rose Bowl duty let CHP officers claim full shifts for few hours work

Write 25 traffic tickets as a California Highway Patrol Officer, and you could head home and get paid for a full shift regardless of how long it took. Make two arrests for driving under the influence as part of a DUI overtime enforcement program? You are good to go home with full pay for the assignment. Work the Christmas or July 4th parades? You get paid for the full shift even if the parades last only a few hours.

Sacramento Bee: C.A. reverses denial of restraining order by LASC judge who cut hearing short

The Court of Appeal for this district has held that a Los Angeles Superior Court judge abused his discretion in denying a petition for a civil restraining order without permitting cross-examination of the defendant and without hearing from the plaintiff's witnesses, declaring that if such questioning had taken place, it is "reasonably probable" that a basis for relief would have been shown.

Deputy must answer questions about alleged banditos on-duty crime: Judge

A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who sued the county - alleging he was pressured to quit his job or leave the East Los Angeles Station by members of a clique of mostly Latino deputies known as the Banditos - must answer deposition questions from county lawyers about an on-duty crime he alleges he saw a Banditos member commit, a judge ruled today.

City News Service--Sixth District Court of Appeal confers anonymity on rapist

The Sixth District Court of Appeal yesterday held that a rapist/robber serving a sentence of 79 years and four months in prison is entitled to a new sentencing hearing despite the secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's withdrawal of her recommendation that such a proceeding take place, with the court opting, without explanation, to withhold the identity of the inmate.

Another victory for the City of Santa Ana and the SAPD against their police union

The City of Santa Ana continues to win in court against frivolous lawsuits brought by the Santa Ana Police Officers Association. Last week, Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald Bauer granted motions filed by the City of Santa Ana and Police Chief David Valentin attacking the complaint filed against them by plaintiffs Santa Ana Police Officers Association (SAPOA) and Doe Officers.

New Santa Ana--Ninth Circuit answers question high court sidestepped

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared yesterday that California's First District Court of Appeal did not fail to apply clearly established federal law by affirming a conviction notwithstanding a judge having neglected to render the standard instruction to the jury not to infer guilt from a defendant's decision not to testify. In so holding, it did what the U.S. Supreme Court declined to do in its 1981 decision in Carter v. Kentucky.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Court cases in California have plummeted. Here's why the state's chief justice says it's a very troubling sign

Most people, other than lawyers, would usually prefer to keep their distance from the courts. But California's chief justice says a substantial decline in filings with the state's courts, for more than a decade, is a sign of trouble for the legal system and the people it serves. Since 2010, filings of all types of cases in the state's courts have dropped from about 10 million a year to 3.5 million, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said last week in her last annual meeting with reporters before her retirement in January.

San Francisco Chronicle

California Supreme Court rules in favor of policyholders: what we learn from Yahoo! Inc. v. National Fire Insurance

Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court, in Yahoo Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Supreme Court of California No. S253593, ruled in favor of Yahoo, Inc. (Yahoo!), a policyholder seeking insurance coverage for Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) claims. The case came to the California Supreme Court as a certified question of law from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Reed Smith

Prosecutors--DA's former chief of staff the latest to sue county over claim of retaliation

A formerly high-ranking member of the L.A. County District Attorney's Office is suing L.A. County, claiming she was "banished onto an island where she has no meaningful work to perform" in retaliation for pointing out ethical and legal concerns she raised to the DA regarding his policy directives. The lawsuit filed Tuesday by Victoria "Vicki" Adams, assistant district attorney of special projects, labels the office an environment of chaos and a "dysfunctional organization with no rules and no interest in public safety."

The Signal--Los Angeles County DA Gascon issues directives to avoid 'adverse immigration consequences'

Prosecutors in Los Angeles County will now have to weigh the effects charging decisions will have on the immigration status of suspects and are encouraged to seek diversion programs to help avoid deportations, according to a new directive. The policy from District Attorney George Gascon is another in a long list of progressive measures to overhaul how justice is sought in the nation's largest district attorney's office.

Fox News--LA County DA Gascón defends new policy aimed at avoiding 'adverse immigration consequences'

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón responded to criticism of a new policy that formally updates how the DA's office handles crimes involving immigrants. "This is not about a special treatment," Gascón said in an interview with ABC7. "To the contrary. this is about equal protection under the law." The new "special directive" was sent to the county's deputy district attorneys on Tuesday. The nine-page memo says the policy is an attempt to "avoid additional immigration impact on all parties, both victims and defendants."

ABC7

Indictment is unsealed in murder of UCLA grad student at Hancock Park furniture store

A new indictment was unsealed in court Monday against a transient who was already charged with the stabbing murder of UCLA graduate student Brianna Kupfer, who was attacked in January while working in a furniture store on La Brea Boulevard in Hancock Park. Shawn Laval Smith, 32, also faces the special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and the special allegation of use of a knife, according to the superseding indictment, filed Nov. 15 and made public Monday, that replaces earlier charges.

NBC4

Deputy DA says John Legend got VIP treatment in L.A. grand theft auto

Despite claims of being an "Ordinary person," John (checks notes) Legend received preferential treatment from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office in his grand theft auto case, one deputy of recall-magnet D.A. George Gascón is claiming. Legend, who has been a long-time Gascón supporter, allegedly got the VIP touch from the D.A., who he backed in the 2020 election, when his Porsche was stolen outside of a recording studio, according to KTLA.

Los Angeles Magazine

Inside the saga of LA District Attorney George Gascon, set to take another turn

It's been three months since District Attorney George Gascon beat a bipartisan recall effort in Los Angeles, but for several dozen volunteers, the election is far from over. Three days a week, they enter an office at the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder office to begin a tedious six-hour stint poring over records bearing the names and addresses of voters who wanted to remove the beleaguered prosecutor from office.

Washington Examiner

LAPD took highly unusual action after its handling of CBS sex scandal was questioned

Days after an internal investigation was launched into whether a former Los Angeles police captain led a cover-up of sexual assault allegations against former CBS chief Leslie Moonves, the detective who handled the case years ago took an unusual step. Last month, LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division Det. Oscar Gamino showed up at the district attorney's office in downtown Los Angeles to present his investigation on the 2017 case, according to the DA's office.

Los Angeles Times

Suspect charged in connection with large drug seizure in Compton

A 32-year-old man was charged Thursday in connection with a massive drug seizure at a Compton home that included six kilograms of suspected powder fentanyl and more than 250,000 suspected fentanyl pills. In addition to the fentanyl, more than 5.5 pounds of tar heroin, 10 kilograms of powder cocaine and 6,000 suspected ecstasy pills containing fentanyl were seized on Tuesday at a residence in the 100 block of South Willow Avenue, between Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue, near Compton Boulevard, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon announced.

City News Service

A California clerk was fatally shot by a robbery suspect, authorities say. The suspect won't be charged with murder.

A robber fatally shot a Northern California gas station clerk but won't be charged with murder because the victim wrongly chased and opened fire on the gunman, prosecutors said Thursday. Ronald Jackson Jr., 20, was initially booked on suspicion of armed robbery and homicide in connection to the slaying of James Williams, 36, early Saturday at a Chevron station in Antioch, police said Wednesday.

NBC News

Father charged after police find the body of a 1-year-old girl in a Calif. river

Authorities arrested the father of a baby girl found dead in the Los Angeles River after she was reported missing by her grandmother, according to multiple outlets. Citing Inglewood police, KTLA-TV reports 22-year-old Jayveyon Burley has been charged with murder in connection to the death of his daughter, 1-year-old Leilani Dream Burley. His bail has been set at $215,000, jail records show.

People

In this court, prosecutors seek to give homeless defendants a fresh start

Travis McIntosh sits in a metal folding chair to the right of his attorney as a judge calls his case."Are we ready?" Judge Laurie Behar asks, her image filling a large television monitor in the front of the room. The prosecutor and his public defender have already worked behind the scenes on an agreement to dismiss the charge against McIntosh, a misdemeanor for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Long Beach Post

Convictions/Sentences/Pleas

Man charged with shooting Lady Gaga's dog walker sentenced to 21 years in prison

The man involved in the shooting of Lady Gaga's dog walker during a robbery last year was sentenced Monday to 21 years in prison, officials said. James Howard Jackson, 20, pleaded no contest to the attempted murder charge and was immediately sentenced to prison, NBC Los Angeles reported. In August, almost four months after he was mistakenly freed from custody in Los Angeles, Jackson was captured and arrested in Palmdale, a city north of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

NBC4

Michael Avenatti sentenced to 14 years in prison for defrauding clients

Disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti was sentenced Monday to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $11 million in restitution for embezzling millions of dollars from four of his clients and obstruction. Avenatti pleaded guilty earlier this year to four counts of wire fraud for each client he stole from and one count of endeavoring to obstruct the administration of the Internal Revenue Code.

CNN

Jury finds Trump organization guilty of tax fraud scheme

A Manhattan jury has found two Trump Organization companies guilty on multiple charges of criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records connected to a 15-year scheme to defraud tax authorities by failing to report and pay taxes on compensation for top executives. The Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. were found guilty on all charges they faced.

CNN

Former Simi Valley coach convicted of sex crimes on dozens of underage victims

A former Simi Valley high school teacher and coach pleaded no contest Tuesday to committing sex crimes on dozens of underage students, with 28 identified victims so far. Authorities say Bijan Nickroo, 35, was working at Simi Valley High School when he allegedly set up a fake social media profile and "catfished" a large number of teenage boys, soliciting pornographic photos and videos.

KTLA

Policy/Legal/Political

LA County election official defends Gascon recall signature invalidations

Los Angeles County registrar officials have filed court papers disputing allegations that they improperly invalidated signatures on petitions seeking to force a recall election against District Attorney George Gascón, a process that ultimately killed the high-profile campaign. Monica Flores, acting assistant registrar-recorder for the county's Candidate and Voter Services Bureau, said in a 186-page sworn declaration filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court that her office followed proper protocols in reviewing the signatures in August.

Orange County Register

Marin DA's office in turmoil amid lawsuits, staff attrition, case backlog

Two former employees have filed discrimination lawsuits against the Marin County District Attorney's Office, bringing more turmoil to an organization beset by serious staff attrition and a relentless case backlog exacerbated by the pandemic. The lawsuits against District Attorney Lori Frugoli and key staffers could cost millions of dollars in damages or settlements.

Marin Independent Journal

Tricky measure allows release of violent felons

Six years ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown tricked California voters into passing a ballot measure that, he said, would make it easier for non-violent felons to earn paroles and thus ease the state prison system's severe overcrowding. Brown and other supporters of Proposition 57 spent millions of dollars on the campaign. "All of us learn. I've learned in 40 years," Brown said, "I think prisoners can learn." The initiative, Brown argued, "orients the prison toward rehabilitation, and I think that's a good thing."

CalMatters

Walmart CEO: 'Stores will close' if theft at retailer doesn't slow down

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon issued a stark warning Tuesday: If theft does not slow down, the retailer will close stores across the country. "Theft is an issue," he told CNBC. "It is higher than what it has historically been." He added: "If that's not corrected over time, prices will be higher, and/or stores will close." McMillon did not say during the interview how much money Walmart has lost in stolen items this year. Walmart did not immediately reply to an Insider request for that number.

Business Insider

California court decision ups the odds for passing school parcel taxes

Last month, 52.7% of the 438 school district voters in the unincorporated low-income Central Valley farm communities of Cutler and Orosi voted in favor of a parcel tax. But as also happened four years earlier, that wasn't enough. Supporters fell several dozen votes shy of the two-thirds majority they needed to pass a $48 per property tax to fund staff for summer youth sports.

EdSource

Justice Department tried to hide report warning that private border wall in Texas could collapse

A private border wall built along the Rio Grande in South Texas could collapse during extreme flooding, according to a federally commissioned inspection report that the government sought to keep secret for more than a year. The 404-page report, produced by the global engineering firm Arcadis, confirms previous reporting from ProPublica and The Texas Tribune.

Texas Tribune & ProPublica

Whistleblower hopes Supreme Court will curb DOJ dismissal power

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear a whistleblower argue that his False Claims Act suit should be revived because the Justice Department - which sought and won dismissal - didn't intervene in the case in time. Jesse Polansky, who sued Executive Health Resources Inc. alleging Medicare fraud, says the government lost the right to seek dismissal of his case when it initially declined to get involved.

Bloomberg Law

Threat in answer to settlement demand wasn't extortion

An attorney's letter in response to the threat of litigation against his client, a contractor, in which he pointed to the prospect of the would-be plaintiff's employer learning of the employee's criminal conduct if the dispute were not settled did not amount to extortion, the Court of Appeal for this district held yesterday. Accordingly, Justice Elizabeth A. Grimes of Div. Eight said, the conduct does not preclude the granting of the attorney's anti-SLAPP motion in an action against him for civil extortion and violation of the Ralph Civil Rights Act.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

"Nothing they can do about it": Homeless, shoplifters blamed for Big Lots closing in Citrus Heights

Big Lots is raising big concerns in Citrus Heights as word got out that the store is closing up shop. "What's going to fill the spot? It's just going to go downhill from here, I guess," said Todd Chapman. Chapman shops there every week, but his last visit got him so upset he posted about it on Nextdoor and received dozens of responses. Chapman said an employee told him the growing homeless population in the parking lot, coupled with rampant shoplifting, is forcing them to shut down.

CBS Sacramento

California turned a constitutional shield into a government sword

California citizens who sue the government for violating their rights had better watch out: under a bizarre state law called "Anti-SLAPP," they risk being sued by the government for doing so, on the theory that they're violating the government's own constitutional rights. You read that right: California courts have ruled that government itself has a right to free speech, and therefore that anyone who goes to court to challenge the legality of something the government does risks being punished for trespassing on itsexpressive freedom.

Orange County Register

Crime

27 in OC arrested for getting fix-it tickets signed off fraudulently by LA man, authorities say

More than two dozen people associated with street racing or sideshows were arrested in a sweep this week after California Highway Patrol officers found they had their fix-it tickets fraudulently signed off to avoid vehicle repair bills that could have gone into the thousands of dollars, authorities said. Investigators took 27 Orange County residents into custody on Tuesday, Dec. 6, months after arresting Angel Zahid Sanchez-Peralta, 21, of Los Angeles, who is accused of forging the signatures of retired and current CHP officers on the tickets.

Southern California News Group

Woman, children robbed at gunpoint in Long Beach apartment invasion

A woman and her three children were held up at gunpoint in their Long Beach apartment, authorities said Monday. The robbery occurred just after 11 p.m. Sunday in the 2000 block of Beverly Plaza, according to Long Beach police Lt. Jose Flores. One man entered the residence with a gun. "The suspect held the adult victim at gunpoint while two additional male adult suspects ransacked the residence," Flores said, adding the suspects left the apartment with property.

MyNewsLA

Kelly Clarkson files a police report about an unknown man that has repeatedly come to her home

Kelly Clarkson's security has filed a report with the Los Angeles Police Department, after a man repeatedly dropped off miscellaneous items at her home. After receiving numerous unwanted gifts from an unknown man at her $5.4 million mansion in Toluca Lake, the Breakaway singer, 40, informed law enforcement about her potential stalker.

Daily Mail UK

LAPD arrests 18 suspected in organized retail-store thefts valued at $23,000

Police arrested 18 suspects in connection with four organized retail clothing thefts valued at about $23,000, authorities said Saturday. The suspects, between the ages of 15 and 20, faced charges of organized retail theft and grand theft, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The suspects live throughout the city and county of Los Angeles.

City News Service

Los Angeles City/County

LAPD officer training death lawsuit (Video)

The mother of an LAPD officer who died during a training exercise has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of LA. Eric Leonard reports for the NBC4 News on Dec. 8, 2022.

NBC4

The strange days of the Karen Bass transition period

Karen Bass just survived what may be the weirdest Los Angeles mayoral election ever. Having a pair of non-City Hall figures in the runoff was something completely different, but things hit another level when her opponent, mall master Rick Caruso, obliterated spending records by dropping approximately $109 million. Everything got further tricked up by the outta-left-field secret recording scandal that erupted in the final weeks of the campaign.

Los Angeles Magazine

Nearly 27% of new LAPD officers are women, new figures show. But progress could be fleeting.

The Los Angeles Police Department hired a greater share of women than ever over the last two years, according to figures presented to the Police Commission on Tuesday, putting the department close to a goal it sought to complete by 2030. After a surge in hiring delayed by the pandemic, more than one-quarter of LAPD's lowest ranked police officers are women, commanders said.

Los Angeles Daily News

LAPD's broken internal affairs division. Cronyism, nepotism, favoritism

It has been well established within the Los Angeles police department that if a request for an investigation surrounding a complaint on a sworn member of LAPD whose rank is lieutenant or above (Command Staff) the outcome may be far more favorable than that of a Rank and File member. In fact, when a Command Staff member has many complaints filed against them and a request for an Internal Affairs Investigation has been submitted in writing, or if they are named in a civil law suit it is common practice within LAPD for them to just receive a promotion.

CityWatch LA

John Stamos helps LA sheriff's recruits injured in wrong-way crash

John Stamos knows the importance of giving back to the community. Growing up in Southern California, the "Full House" star knew he had to help the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department following the Nov. 16 wrong-way crash when 25 recruits were injured after a vehicle plowed into the group during a morning exercise in Whittier, Calif. "If you're not helping out the community, what are you doing right? You know, it's my community," Stamos exclusively told Fox News Digital.

Fox News

LA Sheriff Luna restores inspector general's access

After Inspector General Max Huntsman issued a report critical of then-Sheriff Alex Villanueva in 2019, Villanueva cut off Huntsman's access to the department's personnel management system - a key tool used by the IG to oversee how the agency is working. In October, Villanueva told Huntsman he would no longer be allowed inside department facilities.

LAist

In new L.A. City Council twist, Mark Ridley-Thomas has his salary reinstated

Mark Ridley-Thomas is in the fight of his life. The political powerhouse, who has spent more than three decades in elected office, is awaiting a federal trial next year on charges of bribery and conspiracy while he was serving on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Yet even with the full weight of the U.S. Department of Justice bearing down on him, Ridley-Thomas just scored a huge win - albeit against city leaders and not the federal government.

Los Angeles Magazine

Consumer

What you need to know BEFORE you buy on Amazon

Amazon's free-flowing marketplace enables unvetted third-party global sellers, and Amazon as a direct seller, to flood the consumer market with an inexhaustible supply of counterfeit, fraudulent, pirated, and replica merchandise, books, medical devices, and OTC drugs boosted by deceptive endorsements and accompanying phony product reviews. Consumers are easily deceived into spending good money on bad products, while Amazon takes its transaction fee for each item sold.

Counterfeit Report

New California law turns up the heat on the Sunshine Act: California physicians and surgeons must provide notice to patients about the CMS open payments database

Effective January 1, 2023, California Assembly Bill 1278 requires California-licensed physicians and surgeons, including physicians and surgeons licensed under the Medical Practice Act or the Osteopathic Act (but excluding physicians and surgeons working in a hospital emergency room), to provide each patient at the initial office visit a written or electronic notice of the Open Payments database.

JD Supra

California/National

California announces plans to close 2 prisons, deactivate facilities at 6 others

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on Tuesday, Dec. 6, announced it will close two prisons - one in Blythe and another in Kern County that is the state's last privately run prison - and deactivate facilities at six other prisons due to budget cuts and an inmate population reduction plan. Affected prison staff will have the option of transferring to other prisons with vacancies within and outside of impacted counties, according to the CDCR.

San Bernardino Sun

Former Cal Fire division chief resigns from new job, employer says criminal charges loom

Mark Lawson, a former Cal Fire division chief in Merced County, has resigned from his job as the newly-hired fire chief in Sparks, Nevada after city officials there said they've become aware of "serious criminal charges" expected to be filed against him. Lawson was hired by the City of Sparks on Nov. 28 after a 30-plus year career in the fire service, including serving as assistant chief/division chief of operations for the Cal Fire Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit.

Sacramento Bee

FBI reward: Suspect wanted for killing man in L.A. bar in 2006

The FBI announced a $5,000 reward Tuesday for information leading to the arrest of a convicted felon accused of killing a man in a Los Angeles bar in 2006. Carlos Vasquez Serrano is suspected of shooting a man to death in a Los Angeles bar on Feb. 1, 2006. Serrano allegedly then broke into the bar's office and stole video-recording equipment, according to the FBI, then allegedly kidnapped a woman and fled to Mexico with her.

CBS LA

Articles of Interest

Trump digs deeper hole with Constitution comments

Facebook

New Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has hired only one staff member so far

Former President Trump keeps digging a deeper hole for himself in just the first few weeks of his latest bid for the White House. Trump, who last week drew condemnation from several high-profile conservatives for dining with a white nationalist, found himself in hot water again over the weekend when he claimed fresh talk of Twitter's handling of a controversial story about Hunter Biden meant parts of the Constitution should be disregarded so he could return to the White House.

The Hill

Pensions

How secure public pensions are in California

Public employee pension systems are some of the largest financial liabilities on state government balance sheets. The 50 states have over $4.5 trillion in cumulative pension liabilities combined, roughly double the amount all 50 states spent in fiscal 2020. For years, state pension systems were woefully underfunded in much of the country, but according to a recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, this trend may be reversing.

24/7 Wall St.

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