Courts & Rulings
Deal or no deal? A corruption case spins out of control with a judge's last-minute change of heart
For more than a decade, tax consultant Ramin Salari fought charges that he had bribed former Los Angeles County assessor John Noguez in a pay-for-play conspiracy. Then, last week, Salari reversed course, agreeing to a deal with prosecutors that called for him to plead guilty to a single charge and pay more than $9 million in penalties in exchange for a sentence that spared him from time in prison.
Judge denies city new trial in $4 million LAPD nude-photo case
A judge has denied the city of Los Angeles a new trial in a lawsuit in which a jury in 2022 awarded a veteran LAPD captain $4 million over the internal distribution of a topless photo that was falsely purported to be the plaintiff. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bruce G. Iwasaki heard arguments on Jan. 12 regarding the city's motions for either a new trial or for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. He took the case under submission and ruled Tuesday.
Order against online harassment didn’t constitute prior restraint, C.A. declares
A provision of an anti-harassment order prohibiting a woman from posting disparaging matter online concerning a man she previously dated did not constitute an unconstitutional prior restraint, Div. Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal has held. Justice Maurice Sanchez authored the unpublished opinion, filed Tuesday. It affirms an amended domestic violence restraining order issued by Orange Superior Court Judge Michael E. Perez in an action by Tomas Czodor against Xingfei Luo.
Documentary firm settles access dispute over Bryant crash video
A documentary production company and attorneys for Los Angeles County have settled the firm’s legal efforts to obtain video through the California Public Records Act regarding the 2020 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, it was announced Wednesday. Real World Media LLC - which conducts investigative news reporting on transportation safety - alleged in a Los Angeles Superior Court petition filed Oct. 7 against the county and then-Sheriff Alex Villanueva that the defendants were wrongfully denying access to the information requested.
Judge refuses to block California from sharing gun owner data with researchers
A federal judge has declined a request to temporarily block a California law that allows the state to share personal information about gun owners with gun violence researchers. Assembly Bill 173 amended California firearms laws to authorize the state attorney general to disclose gun owners’ personal information to the California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis, Stanford University, and any other “bona fide research institution” meeting certain requirements who study firearm-related crime, suicide and accidents.
UC’s correspondence with employee is ‘public record’
Correspondence between a state university and an assistant professor concerning allegations that four articles of hers that had been published by scholarly journals contained plagiarized material are public records that must be produced in response to a request, Div. Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal held Friday. Acting Presiding Justice Thomas M. Goethals wrote the opinion which affirms an order of the Orange Superior Court denying a preliminary injunction sought by plaintiff Constance Iloh.
Judge grants BLM protesters’ bid for 2nd Lacey deposition
Attorneys for Black Lives Matter demonstrators confronted at gunpoint by the late husband of former Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey in 2020 can have a second deposition of the county’s former top prosecutor under certain limitations, a judge has ruled. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Theresa M. Traber heard arguments from both sides on Friday, then took the case under submission and ruled Tuesday.
Full autopsy report must be bared for independent probe
Div. Three of the First District Court of Appeal held yesterday that a trial judge erred in declining to release the full autopsy report prepared by a coroner’s office for use by an independent certified forensic pathologist in attempting to determine whether a police officer who supposedly hanged himself actually committed suicide, as officially declared, or was murdered.
Court orders officials to reconsider mentally ill homeless man’s application for SSI benefits
Thirty-one-year-old Darryl Finney has been homeless since age 19, living on the streets, occasionally in shelters and jail cells, in Oakland and Berkeley. He has held a few jobs, but not for long, because of what his lawyer describes as severe mental illness, including bipolar disorder and depression. He tried to kill himself when he was 11 and again at 13, according to court filings.
U.S. Supreme Court accepts 8 new cases
The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider what employers must do to accommodate religious employees, among eight new cases it added. The cases are expected to be argued in April. In one involving a former postal employee, the justices will consider what accommodations employers must make for religious employees. The case comes when religious plaintiffs have generally fared well at the court, which is dominated 6-3 by conservative justices.
California utilities can be forced to pay higher property taxes than others, court rules
A state appeals court has overturned a ruling that could have cut property taxes on utility companies in California by $900 million a year, a tax burden that would have been mostly shifted to homeowners. The dispute involves property taxes on the debts faced by utilities for the funds they obtain from local revenue bonds. Proposition 13, the 1978 ballot initiative, limited annual property taxes to 1% of a property’s value, but the limit did not apply to taxes on bond debt, which is often used to fund construction of physical assets.
Messages in envelope addressed to lawyer not privileged
The Sixth District Court of Appeal has held that messages scrawled in small letters on bits of paper and placed by a jail inmate, awaiting trial, in an envelope addressed to his lawyer are not protected by the attorney-client privilege where the defendant failed to establish that the communications are of a confidential nature, thus requiring that discovery be allowed the prosecution.
Prosecutors sought 33 years to life, but Mongols biker who killed cop may be freed by March
David Martinez, a member of the Mongols motorcycle gang, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday after pleading no contest in November to charges of voluntary manslaughter for killing a Pomona police officer during a 2014 raid. Martinez has already been tried twice for the killing, and his lawyers were hoping he could be immediately freed, since he has spent more than eight years behind bars.
Wife twice sought protection from man accused of killing California cop
Jesse C. Navarro, the man who the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said fatally shot Deputy Darnell Calhoun, was described in court documents as a violent methamphetamine addict who records show was once ordered to turn in his gun. It’s unclear whether Navarro complied with that order or whether he used the same weapon to kill Calhoun, 30, who was gunned down as he arrived at a domestic violence call on Hilldale Lane on Jan. 13 in the unincorporated Lakeland Village community near Lake Elsinore.
California MS-13 member accused of 10-year-old’s torture and murder is in US illegally: source
A suspected MS-13 gang member set to go on trial next week for the horrific 2018 slaying of his California girlfriend’s 10-year-old son is a native of El Salvador and living in the U.S. illegally, according to a law enforcement source. Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 37, and his American girlfriend Heather Maxine Barron, 33, are both charged with murder and torture in the death of her son, Anthony Avalos, as well as child abuse against two other children in the home, court records show.
Man charged with murder in Christmas day street takeover
A motorist allegedly responsible for fatally injuring a 24-year-old woman at a South Los Angeles street takeover on Christmas Day has been charged with murder and hit-and-run driving resulting in death, prosecutors announced Wednesday. Dante Terrel Chapple-Young - who was arrested last Friday in Albuquerque, New Mexico - has waived extradition, but no court date has been set, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Alec Baldwin to be charged with involuntary manslaughter in ‘Rust’ movie set shooting
Alec Baldwin will be criminally charged by New Mexico prosecutors for the 2021 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film “Rust,” authorities said Thursday. Baldwin, the Emmy-winning star of “30 Rock” and dozens of films including “The Hunt for Red October,” shot the bullet that killed Hutchins. Baldwin said he “didn’t pull the trigger” in an ABC interview.
Prosecutors drop charges against NYPD officer accused of acting as foreign agent for China
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn moved to dismiss charges against a New York Police Department officer who had been accused of acting as a foreign agent on behalf of the Chinese government. Baimadajie Angwang was charged in September 2020 with acting as a foreign agent for China without notifying American authorities, wire fraud, making false statements and obstruction of an official proceeding, according to court documents.
Deputy will seek to unseat D.A. Gascón in 2024 election
Maria Ramirez, a veteran deputy district attorney who is suing the County of Los Angeles over the demotion of her by District Attorney George Gascón, allegedly in retaliation for opposing policies of his which she says are unlawful, has launched a campaign for the post he now holds. A “kickoff fundraiser” is slated for Jan. 22 at the home of her co-plaintiff in that Los Angeles Superior Court suit, Deputy District Attorney Victor Rodriguez. Hers is the first election challenge to emerge.
Prosecutor: California casino murder defendants saw 84-year-old woman ‘as a target’
Riverside County Senior Deputy District Attorney Marcus Garrett on Wednesday, Jan. 11, stood before the jurors hearing the trial of two women accused of killing and robbing an elderly woman at the Pechanga Resort Casino near Temecula in 2019. Garrett clasped his left arm with his right hand to simulate Long Beach resident Afaf Assad carrying a large, pale pink Coach purse as she entered the casino that Aug. 31.
LA police union says officers not at fault in recent deadly arrests
After more than a week of silence, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, is defending the officers involved in three deadly arrests earlier this month. "This is not a video game, this is not where you get nine lives. You're out there, this is your one life," said LAPPL representative Debbie Thomas, referring to officers who respond to calls involving violent people.
When de-escalation kills
There are occasions when content in the Los Angeles Times is indistinguishable from some screed on Reddit or a leaflet one might see handed out on the quad at some ultra-woke college campus. The latest example is an editorial that appeared in Friday’s edition, in which it lamented the recent deaths of three men who, the editors allege, would be alive but for the bungling of the Los Angeles Police Department.
CA’s largest police org says DOJ racial profiling report is all wrong
The largest police organization in California has released a scathing response to the state’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board’s 2023 annual report, which accuses law enforcement agencies of being twice as likely to use force against people who cops perceive as being Black.
LACo drops bid for order directing Villanueva to cooperate in gang probe
Los Angeles County has dropped a petition demanding that former Sheriff Alex Villanueva cooperate with the Office of the Inspector General’s ongoing investigation into alleged internal LASD gangs. In its court papers filed July 7, the county stated that although a new OIG ordinance makes clear that the sheriff must cooperate with the OIG and provide documents and information in the manner requested, Villanueva had “refused to cooperate with the OIG’s requests for access to critical records and record systems.”
New cameras promise better views of LAPD traffic stops
The Los Angeles Police Department has begun to install new higher-definition video cameras in its patrol cars, part of an effort to vastly improve the clarity of the images and sounds recorded during officers' encounters with the community. “The public in this day and age expects police departments to have cameras, it expects its police department to be transparent," explained Deputy Chief John J. McMahon, who oversees the Information Technology Bureau.
LAPD chief bans ‘Thin Blue Line’ flag from police station lobbies, patrol vehicles and uniforms
Over the last few years, you might have noticed a growing concentration of “Thin Blue Line” flags in law enforcement spaces, on the back of patrol cars, or on police officers' uniforms. Last week, LAPD Chief Michel Moore issued an internal memo that prohibits displaying the flag in station lobbies. A spokesperson for the department said the policy extends to LAPD officers’ uniforms and city-issued vehicles.
State Bar files five new charges against Obagi, trial to come
The State Bar of California filed five new charges Dec. 29 against Redondo Beach City Councilman Zein Obagi, Jr., for actions stemming from a financial dealing with a former client, and the subsequent malpractice suit Obagi filed against his attorney in the matter. The State Bar first put forth a misconduct complaint with seven charges against Obagi in 2021. “This is just allegations, more allegations by frankly, a bad prosecutor,” said the District Four city representative. “But the court will decide that soon enough.”
Clemency probe fails to exonerate Kevin Cooper in quadruple Chino Hills murders
A fresh analysis of DNA evidence conducted as part of a clemency bid for Kevin Cooper has failed to exonerate the death row inmate, who made national headlines for the 1983 slaying of three members of a Chino Hills family and a neighbor boy, according to a report released Friday, Jan. 13
S.F. is being forced to permit concealed guns. But it hasn’t issued a single permit as fight continues
The first time private investigator Andrew Solow applied for a permit to carry a concealed gun in public, some 30 years ago, he thought he had a strong case: He’d been attacked by gang members with baseball bats not far from his home in the Mission District, and only survived, he said, thanks to two cans of pepper spray. But his application was denied. A few years later, he tried again, with the same result. His experience is hardly unique.
Did you hear the one about 2 guys who told jokes about the cops? They landed in jail.
When it comes to internet humor, not everyone gets the joke. Fortunately, the consequences of being momentarily fooled by an Onion or Babylon Bee article are usually minimal, aside from personal embarrassment. But when police officers don’t get the joke, the results can be more dire. Humorless government agents have recently inflicted unlawful retaliation against harmless pranksters, and courts have shielded those agents from accountability.
Judge blasts James Dolan’s facial recognition bans from MSG: ‘Stupidest thing ever’
A powerful judge blasted James Dolan’s bizarre ban on his legal enemies from Knicks games as “totally crazy” and “the stupidest thing ever,” but the billionaire nevertheless stepped up the controversial clampdown just days later, court papers reveal. The mercurial media mogul - who reportedly has used creepy facial-recognition software to bar unwelcome attorneys and critics from entering Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall - took heat in early November over the high-tech tactics from Delaware Chancery Court Judge Kathaleen McCormick, according to little-noticed court papers.
Former LA City Councilman José Huizar agrees to plead guilty to racketeering conspiracy, tax evasion
Former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar will plead guilty to federal charges that outline a City Hall-based bribery and money laundering scheme in which he took more than $1.5 million in cash, gambling trips and escorts in exchange for his support of a planned downtown hotel project, according to court papers obtained Thursday by City News Service. Huizar's plea agreement to racketeering conspiracy and tax evasion was signed Wednesday and filed in Los Angeles federal court Thursday afternoon.
Former California mayor agrees to plead guilty for marijuana-related bribery
Former Adelanto Mayor Richard Kerr will plead guilty to one federal wire fraud charge for accepting more than $57,000 in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for handing out licenses and permits for commercial marijuana activities. Kerr served as mayor of Adelanto, a small high-desert city in Southern California, from 2015 to 2018. After California legalized marijuana in 2016, Kerr was an enthusiastic supporter of the selling and growing of pot in the most commercially friendly way possible.
Former top official in Orange County’s Democratic Party agrees to plead guilty to attempted wire fraud and admits to bribery scheme
The former executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County has agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge for attempting to defraud one of her political consultancy firm’s clients. She further admitted in court documents that she agreed to bribe two members of the Irvine City Council - both on cannabis-related matters. Melahat Rafiei, 45, of Anaheim, agreed to plead guilty to one count of attempted wire fraud.
Former Democrat fundraiser pleads guilty to embezzling money from shuttered LA anti-poverty group
The ex-director of a shuttered Los Angeles anti-poverty nonprofit, and a well-known Democrat fundraiser pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling money from the nonprofit, which received federal funding, prosecutors announced. Prosecutors charged Howard Dixon Slingerland with embezzling and misappropriating thousands of dollars from the federally-funded Youth Policy Institute, which provided education, job training and other services to reduce youth poverty in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles City/County
Traffic deaths in LA hit a 20-year high and 53% were pedestrians and cyclists
Traffic fatalities climbed above 300 last year in Los Angeles, the first time in 20 years the city has reached such a grim milestone, according to a report released Wednesday. A record 309 traffic deaths were fueled mostly by pedestrian fatalities, which rose 19% over 2021, and cyclist deaths, increasing by 24% over last year, concluded the nonprofit Streets Are For Everyone in its report: “Dying on the Streets of Los Angeles: 2022 Traffic Fatalities, Why and What Needs to Change.”
Several Torrance police officers linked to racist text scandal no longer employed by city
Several Torrance police officers linked to a racist text messaging scandal - including two who shot and killed a Black man in a controversial 2018 incident - are no longer employed by the troubled law enforcement agency, records show. Eight of the 12 Torrance police officers whom The Times has publicly identified as taking part in the horrific text exchanges were not listed on the department's active roster as of last November, records show.
The future of LAPD and Police Chief Moore (Video)
The LAPD will be holding a special meeting to hear from the public about whether the police chief, Michel Moore, should get a second term in office. Eric Leonard reports for the NBC4’s I-Team on Jan. 17, 2023.
Faced with shrinking ranks, LAPD looks to rehire retired officers
The Los Angeles Police Department is making a simple but unusual pitch to its retired officers: Come back. Please. Faced with a flood of departures and a trickle of recruits entering its training academy that have led to dwindling staffing levels, LAPD officials have drawn up plans that call for as many as 200 retired police officers to be rehired. On the campaign trail in her recent race for mayor, Karen Bass pledged to rebuild the department's ranks to 9,700 officers as the city confronts violent crime rates that remain above pre-pandemic levels.
Kanye West was mentioned in 19,155 emails sent and received by Los Angeles police over a 2-year period
The Los Angeles Police Department sent and received so many emails referring to Kanye West and his secretive private school in the last two years that they exceeded the maximum number of gigabytes their computers could search. Between January 1, 2022 and November 4, 2022 - when Insider submitted a public records request - there were 19,155 emails that mentioned "Kanye West" or "Donda Academy" in the in-and-outboxes of LAPD employees, an LAPD records analyst told Insider.
California deputy public defender slain on Mexican vacation: Officials
An attorney working for the Orange County Public Defender’s office was killed on Saturday while celebrating his first wedding anniversary with his wife in Mexico, California officials said. Elliot D. Blair, a 33-year-old assistant public defender, died in Rosarito Beach, a popular resort town close to Mexico’s northern border, county Public Defender Martin Schwarz said in a statement given to The Orange County Register.
6 people, including a baby, were killed in a ‘cartel-style execution,’ California sheriff’s office says
At least six people, including a mother and her 6-month-old baby, are dead after an “early morning massacre” Monday that authorities in Goshen, California, said may be related to cartel activity. Deputies who responded to reports of gunfire after 3:30 a.m. Monday found six victims, including two who were in the street and one who was in the doorway of the home where the gunfire erupted, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told reporters at the scene.
Serious road rage crimes in LA increase by 70% (Video)
New end-of-year crime data we looked at shows the number of road rage crime reports in LA have increased by 70% since 2020, and nearly half of the reports involve serious assaults with injuries, including beatings and shootings. Eric Leonard reports for the NBC4 I-Team on Jan. 13, 2023.
Law enforcement app SweepWizard leaks data on crime suspects
SweepWizard, an obscure app apparently created by ODIN Intelligence and used by more than 60 law enforcement departments, has a flaw: According to an ethical hacker, a misconfiguration in the app's API (application programming interface) caused it to unintentionally leak to the open internet a trove of very sensitive data on police sweeping operations, including details about the officers involved in them and the suspects, several of whom were juveniles at the time of sweep.
Family of Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy killed in line of duty in Lake Elsinore speaks out
The family of a Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy who was killed in the line duty in Lake Elsinore last week is speaking out. Deputy Darnell Calhoun, 30, was shot Jan. 13 while responding to a call involving domestic violence and a child custody issue, Sheriff Chad Bianco said at last week’s press conference. The shooting occurred just before 5 p.m. in the 18500 block of Hilldale Lane.
TSA finds large, undeclared 84mm weapon in checked luggage
The TSA says Tuesday a passenger who brought a large-caliber weapon to the San Antonio International Airport and checked it on a flight did declare the weapon with the airline officials but that they were not told about the weapon. The TSA said that out of an abundance of caution the agents wouldn't allow the weapon through baggage screening. The TSA said Monday that officers working at the San Antonio International Airport reported finding an undeclared weapon in checked baggage.
California says it will dismantle death row. The move brings cheers and anger
California this week pushed ahead with controversial efforts to dismantle the largest death row system in America. Under Gov. Gavin Newsom, the state is moving to make the transfer of condemned inmates permanent and mandatory after what the state's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) calls a successful pilot program that voluntarily moved 101 inmates off death row into general population prisons across the state.
DOJ survey finds vast majority have positive interactions with cops, contradicts defund the police ‘narrative'
Data from the Department of Justice found nearly overwhelming positive response from Americans regarding their contacts with police, while 3 percent reported use of force and even fewer described that as misconduct. However, neither the government nor the media seem interested in highlighting this information that challenges the narrative of politicians and activists, says Michael Letts, CEO and founder of In-Vest USA, a nonprofit law enforcement advocacy group that provides bulletproof vests for police departments.
Articles of Interest
Californians approved billions for new water storage. Why hasn't it gotten built?
In 2014, during the throes of last decade’s drought, California voters approved billions of dollars for infrastructure that would catch and store much-needed water from winter storms. The hope was to amass water in wet times and save it for dry times. Nearly 10 years later, none of the major storage projects, which include new and expanded reservoirs, has gotten off the ground.
Ex-Fox execs face bribery claims at FIFA trial
Two former Fox executives are facing criminal charges linked to the corruption scandal that swept FIFA and took down international officials, including the international soccer governing body’s president, among more than two dozen public guilty pleas. Trial kicked off Tuesday against Hernan Lopez, former CEO of Fox International Channels and Carlos Martinez, president of Latin America for the Twenty-First Century Fox subsidiary.
Mistrial denied in Proud Boys insurrection case
A federal judge refused Tuesday to declare a mistrial in the case against Enrique Tarrio, leader of the far-right Proud Boys organization, and four of his lieutenants who are accused of seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. The tumult erupted over video evidence that shows a confrontation between police and rioters in a tunnel on the west side of the Capitol building as members of Congress were holding a ceremony to certify that Joe Biden won the 2020 election.
Kern Valley State Prison officials investigating the death of an incarcerated person as a homicide
Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) officials are investigating the death of Louis J. Bachicha as a homicide after he was attacked by three other incarcerated persons on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. At approximately 6:29 p.m., officers responded when incarcerated persons Victor M. Madero, Ricardo Nava and Edgar A. Castillo were attacking Bachicha in a dayroom. Staff quickly quelled the incident.
San Diego must pay $75M upfront plus $11M a year through 2042 to unwind failed Proposition B pension cuts
San Diego must pay $75 million upfront and $11 million each year for the next two decades as penalties for its unsuccessful attempt a decade ago to eliminate pensions for most city workers. The plan for penalty payouts, which got unanimous approval Friday from the city’s pension board, comes less than a week after San Diego found out its annual pension payment is slated to rise back above $400 million this summer.
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