December 2019
Volume 4, Issue 12
Dear Friends:
My heart goes out to the families of 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell and 15-year-old Gracie Muehlberger and all those affected by last month’s deadly attack at Saugus High School.

Mass shootings have become too frequent across our great nation.
Conviction Review Unit
Exonerates Wrongfully Convicted Man
Thanks to the dedication and hard work of the District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, Ruben Martinez Jr. is now a free man after spending 11 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.

His case marks the first time an inmate who was not represented by an attorney has been exonerated using the conviction review process established by District Attorney Jackie Lacey in 2015. Martinez is the third person cleared by the unit.

“This case is a powerful example of why we need dedicated conviction review units,” District Attorney Lacey said, during a Nov. 12 news conference.

With nowhere left to turn, Martinez and his wife, Maria, filed a claim of actual innocence with the Conviction Review Unit. His was one of more than 1,900 such claims filed with the office over the past four years.

Deputy district attorneys closely examined the evidence and found that his claim of innocence had merit. Then, district attorney investigators re-opened the case.

They painstakingly tracked down his former co-workers and supervisors, even traveling out of state, and uncovered employment records and paystubs to confirm Martinez was at work at the time and could not have committed two of the robberies.

At the request of the District Attorney's Office, a judge released Martinez from custody on Nov. 5 and later found him factually innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted.

“People do make mistakes,” Martinez said. “But what touches me is when the D.A. got behind me ... and proved me innocent.”

Click here to watch District Attorney Lacey’s news conference with Mr. Martinez and his wife.
LADA Files First Case
Using Genetic Genealogy
The District Attorney’s new Cold Case Unit filed its first murder case using genetic genealogy last month against a 64-year-old man accused of killing two young women in the 1980s.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey stood with the families of the two victims – Mary Duggan, 22, and Selena Keough, 20 – while announcing the charges against Horace Van Vaultz Jr.

In 2006, using the most advanced DNA technology at the time, the Burbank Police Department linked the forensic evidence from Duggan’s 1986 crime scene to evidence in the case of Keough, who was killed five years earlier in the city of Montclair in San Bernardino County.

But it did not identify the suspect.

More recently, deputy district attorneys assisted Burbank detectives in matching the DNA evidence from the crime scenes to genetic evidence linking Vaultz to the crimes. They also reviewed investigative material and provided tactical and legal advice to detectives.

Last month, District Attorney Lacey assigned two experienced deputy district attorneys to work full-time with law enforcement agencies to solve cold cases.

“Thanks to advances in technology and forensics, we are now able to virtually reach back in time and find those responsible for these vicious crimes,” District Attorney Lacey said, at the Nov. 15 news conference.

She said she hopes that solving these cases will bring peace of mind to the families of victims.

“With dedicated resources and advancing technology, we can unmask the cowardly murderers who have remained hidden in our community and bring justice to the grief-stricken families who have waited too long for answers.”

Click here to watch District Attorney Lacey’s news conference on this case.
Fraud Alert
  Significant Cases
Travelers should avoid using public USB power charging stations in airports, hotels and other locations because they may contain dangerous malware.

Click  here  to read the Fraud Alert and view the video.
  • Two East Hollywood women known as the “Discount Bitcoin Bandits” were convicted in a string of robberies. Learn how they used the cryptocurrency to lure victims.

  • A West Covina couple was ordered to pay more than $1.7 million in restitution to the Chinese nationals they scammed. Read about this immigration fraud scheme.

  • A 25-year-old transient was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing five people in a Westlake District building fire. Find out what led to the deadly crime.
LADA Sues JUUL for
Illegally Selling to Children
District Attorney Jackie Lacey joined with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Los Angeles County officials last month in suing the nation’s largest vape brand for allegedly targeting young people.

The lawsuit also alleges the company failed to give warnings about health risks posed by using e-cigarettes with nicotine.

“JUUL and other nicotine product makers must be held accountable when they knowingly fail to take the necessary protective measures and allow the sale of nicotine products to underage buyers,” District Attorney Lacey said, at the Nov. 18 news conference.

Her office’s Consumer Protection Division litigates criminal and civil business regulation cases in which consumers are victimized. Since its creation in 1972, the division has obtained more than $100 million in victim restitution and civil and criminal penalties.

The JUUL lawsuit alleges that the company violated state law by failing to check the names and birthdates of online purchasers, shipping products to fake addresses and post office boxes and violating minors’ privacy rights.

The lawsuit demands that JUUL pay for the prevention of underage tobacco use and the costs of treating underage addiction. It also asks a judge to require the company to change its business practices to prevent the sale of vape products to underage buyers in the future.

Deputy district attorneys have worked with the state Attorney General’s Office on numerous cases, including lawsuits against a car donation company that barely gave any money to charities, a national debt collection company accused of making harassing telephone calls and a banking giant that did not reveal it was recording customer phone calls.
40th Annual Jemison Awards
Seated, from left, Deputy District Attorney Patrick Frey, who was presented with the 12 th  annual Ken Lamb Distinguished Achievement Award; Victim Services Representative Rebecca Archer, who received the 19 th  annual Michael P. Noyes Humanitarian Award; Senior Paralegal Santalia Carter and Senior Investigator Cheryl Overstreet, who won the Jemison Awards for excellence. Standing, from left, Assistant District Attorneys Sergio Gonzalez and Victoria Adams, District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Assistant District Attorney Pamela Booth and Chief John Neu.
Did You Know...?
The office’s Hearing Officer Program began in April 1976 as an alternative to filing criminal charges in neighborhood and family disputes, trespassing and other minor matters. More than 40 years later, its successor, the Pre-Filing Diversion Program, continues to resolve misdemeanor and low-level nonviolent felony offenses without criminal court intervention.
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office | (213) 974-3512 | info@da.lacounty.gov

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