Courts & Rulings
Gascón loses retaliation case, a grim omen for the L.A. County D.A.
An L.A. County prosecutor on Monday was awarded $1.5 million in a retaliation lawsuit against Dist. Atty. George Gascón, who faces more than a dozen similar civil claims that could prove equally costly. Shawn Randolph, the former head of the juvenile division of the district attorney's office, claimed she was shuttled off to the parole division for pushing back against some of Gascón's shifts to the handling of criminal cases involving minors, including his blanket ban on trying juveniles as adults.
All murders-by-poison are not in the first degree
The California Supreme Court held yesterday, in a unanimous opinion, that, despite the wording of Penal Code §189, a murder-by-poison is not necessarily in the first degree. Justice Joshua P. Groban wrote the opinion. It reverses the first-degree murder conviction of Heather Rose Brown whose five-day-old daughter died on Nov. 3, 2014 from poison: the morphine and methamphetamine in the mother’s milk fed to her infant.
California Supreme Court overturns Shasta County first degree murder conviction
Last week, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously in a case surrounding the death of a Shasta County infant. In 2017, Heather Rose Brown was convicted of first-degree murder in Shasta County Court for the death of her five-day-old daughter, as the infant had been poisoned with morphine and methamphetamine through the mother’s breast milk. The case reached the third district court of appeals in 2019, and they upheld the Shasta County court’s ruling.
Feds dodge Twitter appeal in First Amendment case over user info disclosure
A Ninth Circuit panel on Monday upheld summary judgment for the feds in Twitter's case over its desire to release its self-described "transparency report" without redactions the government said were necessary to protect national security. In 2014, Twitter sued the Justice Department, FBI and others claiming the agencies violated its First Amendment rights by forbidding publication of information on government surveillance.
Defense impliedly consented to mistrial through silence
A defendant on trial for a double murder impliedly consented to a judge’s declaration of a mistrial by virtue of his lawyer not objecting, and his conviction at a second trial was therefore not in contravention of his right against double jeopardy, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has determined - reaching the same conclusion that the state Court of Appeal for this district did in 2012 and which another panel embraced in 2016.
Supreme Court declines to hear Florida prayer vigil dispute
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider making it harder for people to challenge what they allege is the unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. The court turned away a dispute over a vigil held by uniformed police officers in Florida that included Christian prayers after a local shooting spree, with conservative justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas both writing opinions suggesting they believe the court should take up a similar case in future.
Twitter may be barred from disclosing FBI demands
The government did not intrude upon Twitter’s exercise of its First Amendment rights by barring it from revealing publicly the number of Federal Bureau of Investigation administrative subpoenas and orders during a six-month period requiring that information be divulged concerning users, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held yesterday. Circuit Judge Daniel A. Bress authored the majority opinion which Senior Circuit Judge Carlos T. Bea signed. Circuit Judge Lawrence VanDyke wrote a concurring opinion.
LA DA Gascon hit again with ethics violation allegations
Lightning rod Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon has yet again been accused of a serious ethical lapse. At a recent press conference regarding the arrest of Carlos Medina for the murder of Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, Gascon stated Medina confessed to the crime, that he “admitted that he had done the killing.”
Opening statements in Mark Ridley-Thomas trial (Video)
The trial against former LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas began with opening statements. Eric Leonard reports for NBC4’s I-Team on March 8, 2023.
ADDA accuses Gascón of breaching ethics, office policy
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys yesterday lambasted District Attorney George Gascón for violating legal ethics as well as a provision in the office’s policy manual by publicly announcing that the man accused of murdering a Catholic auxiliary bishop had confessed. A statement by the Board of Directors of the association, which has a membership exceeding 500 persons, asserts that Gascón on Feb. 22 “violated the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Legal Policy Manual when discussing the case of the man arrested for the murder of Bishop David O’Connell.
'Misgender' this, copper
At the outset of a trial, the opposing parties often enter into stipulations in which both sides agree on certain facts. This is done to streamline the process and relieve jurors from hearing testimony about issues that are not in dispute. We have reached a pretty pass when, in some criminal trials, the parties cannot even stipulate to the sex of the defendant. And we have truly entered Bizarro World when a prosecutor can be punished for failing to share a male defendant’s deluded fantasy that he, the defendant, is a woman.
Man charged in sexual assaults of Burbank High School students
A 22-year-old man has been charged with sexually assaulting teenage girls after sneaking into Burbank High School. Patrick Nazarian was charged with felony sexual battery by restraint and child molesting and battery, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said. Nazarian, a Glendale resident and graduate of the school, gained entry to the campus Tuesday morning through an unlocked gate in the student parking lot, according to police.
California trans child molester's dad denies murder allegations, defends jailhouse calls
A convicted trans California child molester is awaiting trial on unrelated murder charges, but his father denies those allegations, saying the victim was "suicidal" prior to his death and that jailhouse phone calls discussing the case and lenient punishment have been taken out of context. Hannah Tubbs gained infamy last year after Los Angeles prosecutors brought child molestation crimes in connection with a 2014 sex assault in a Denny's bathroom.
Prosecutors allege $572,020 burglary at Ventura County Fair involved an insider
Four Los Angeles County men have been arrested in connection with the theft of more than $500,000 at the Ventura County Fair in August. The arrests, announced Friday afternoon, took place Thursday during an operation at multiple sites in LA county, said officials with the California Highway Patrol and Ventura County District Attorney's Office. The burglary was carried out at the fairgrounds on Aug. 10 as the 12-day event was underway.
Leaked memo: DA Pamela Price to shorten prison sentences, lean into probation
Barring "extraordinary circumstances" and approval by District Attorney Pamela Price herself, the penalty for most crimes in Alameda County will soon be restricted to probation or the lowest-level prison term. Price announced the news in a memo to her office Wednesday afternoon and it quickly made its way to the media. "This directive reduces reliance on sentencing enhancements and allegations as an effort to bring balance back to sentencing and reduce recidivism," Price wrote.
California lawmakers block bills on gun violence, homeless encampments, inmate release transparency
California lawmakers in the Democratic-led Assembly Public Safety Committee blocked several bills backed by Republican lawmakers that would have enhanced consequences for violent criminals, banned homeless encampments near schools and provided more transparency on how the state determines who is released from prison early. The bills rejected on Tuesday fall into a pile of proposals the committee has rejected since it began meeting in February.
District attorneys seek unsealing of clemency files [Updated]
Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom asked the Supreme Court to allow him to commute five long prison sentences, including four of life without the possibility of parole. (Related: “Newsom grants clemency, but freedom isn’t certain.”) The state constitution requires a governor to get an affirmative court recommendation before granting clemency to anyone who has been “twice convicted of a felony.”
Rising crime and what can be done about it, Northstate officials react
Chico’s Columbus Ave. was home to multiple shootings in 2022 and locals say violent crime is a part of everyday life. The sentiments read true given data showing rising crime in the Northstate, in California and across the nation. Butte County law-enforcement, and policymakers, have an idea about what can be done. “We’re not saying, ‘just lock everybody up.' But, there has to be accountability for crime,” said California Republican Assembly Leader James Gallagher. Gallagher represents much of the Northstate, from Yuba City to Tehama County.
Legislation introduced to revise Prop 47 to address rising crime in San Francisco, other California cities
With burglary and other theft crimes still on par with last year in San Francisco and many other California cities, lawmakers have scheduled a hearling later this week for new legislation to overturn Proposition 47, the California law that lessens criminal penalties. The bill, AB 335, was introduced by newly elected District 22 Assemblymember Juan Alanis, R-Modesto, a longtime Stanislaus County Sheriff’s sergeant.
He’s filed more than 2,000 disability lawsuits in California. This case could set precedent
It all started with a parking spot. On a breezy afternoon in September 2017, Chris Langer couldn’t find one that would accommodate his van and the ramp he uses for his wheelchair behind a San Diego lobster shop. What transpired next has been the subject of arguments before two federal courts and opened a wide door to more federal disability lawsuits in California, home to more of these lawsuits in the last litigious decade than any other state.
Los Angeles City/County
3 LAPD officers wounded in shooting with parolee
Three Los Angeles police officers were shot and injured on Wednesday evening in the Lincoln Heights area and a suspect was temporarily barricaded in a shed, police said. Police Chief Michel Moore later said all three officers were hospitalized and were reported to be stable; and LAPD officials said the suspect was eventually confirmed to be dead. LAPD Officer Norma Eisenman confirmed the suspect, a male, had been barricaded. SWAT resources were called to the scene in LAPD's Hollenbeck area in northeast Los Angeles.
Another LAFD scandal and City Hall still lacks proactive transparency
Back in October, The Guss Report broke the story about a sexual harassment investigation at the LAFD in which its likely next chief, Armando Hogan, was accused by at least one high-profile civilian colleague of misconduct. City Hall politicians and their media flacks stonewalled my questions, to the detriment of their ever-eroding credibility. In January, both the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Magazine credited my accuracy and timeliness.
LA is locking up more mentally ill people, despite diversion efforts
In 2015, Los Angeles County created an Office of Diversion and Reentry to keep people with mental and physical health needs out of the county’s jails. Upon creating the program - which connects people with mental health needs to supportive services instead of jail - county officials trumpeted it as a new era for justice in the most populated county in the United States.
Wrong man arrested in carjacking and baby kidnapping outside Starbucks (Video)
The real criminal responsible is still on the run. Court records now show police had the wrong man. Eric Leonard reports March 7, 2023.
3 councilmembers want to codify LA's immigrant sanctuary policies into law
Three Los Angeles City councilmembers want a "sanctuary city" ordinance for L.A. to do what a 2017 mayoral directive did not: enshrine policies that protect immigrants into law. Los Angeles already has policies on the books intended to safeguard the rights of immigrants and protect people from deportation, including immigrants without legal status. So why go further? City officials say these policies do not carry the same weight as laws.
L.A. County probation chief fired by Board of Supervisors
Los Angeles County leaders unanimously voted to fire Probation Department Chief Adolfo Gonzales on Tuesday, pledging it would be the first step in an overhaul of one of the county’s most troubled departments. The vote brings an abrupt end to Gonzales' tumultuous two-year term, in which the department careened from one crisis to the next. During his time at the helm, the department was faced with a dire staffing shortage, troubling findings from a state oversight body and allegations of officer misconduct.
Walmart set to close all stores in Portland amid record-breaking retail theft
Walmart announced its plan to close its final two locations in Portland, Ore., at the end of March following underwhelming financial results. “We have nearly 5,000 stores across the U.S. and unfortunately some do not meet our financial expectations,” the corporation said in a statement according to KPTV. “While our underlying business is strong, these specific stores haven’t performed as well as we hoped.”
Grossly inappropriate behavior’: Transcripts of assistant DA show her refusing over a dozen gun cases on Mardi Gras
Newly obtained transcripts detail the courtroom conversations had between Assistant District Attorney Emily Maw and over a dozen people suspected of illegally carrying firearms on Mardi Gras. “I mean it was throw me something mister and she was throwing ‘get out of jail free’ cards 15 times to gun cases,” says Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “These transcripts prove that she committed prosecutorial misconduct in my opinion."
California prostitution crisis: Police chief calls for repeal of law as teens caught up in sex trafficking
San Diego’s police chief blasted a controversial new California law that cops blame for sparking brazen prostitution on the streets of cities across the Golden State. The law that went into effect last month allows people to loiter with the intent of engaging in prostitution, Chief Dave Nisleit said - and that includes traffickers, sex buyers and sex workers. "New state laws make recovering trafficking victims more difficult while emboldening their traffickers,' Nisleit told reporters at a Tuesday news conference.
5 people shot in altercation near gun buyback event at Los Angeles beach
Five people were injured in a shooting at a Los Angeles beach, just a few miles from where city officials had hosted a gun buyback event earlier in the day. According to the Los Angeles Police Department and City Councilmember Tim McOsker, the LAPD’s Harbor Division responded to a radio call of a shooting at Royal Palms Beach around 5:45 p.m. Saturday. The LAPD said in a statement on Sunday that ‘five male Hispanic victims were at a barbeque, at the beach, with a group of approximately 10-20 people.’”
U.S. consumers face injury and death from fraudulent Li-ion batteries
Lithium-ion "Li-ion" batteries power many common daily use devices, including phones, power tools, laptops, electric bikes, children's toys and of course, electric vehicles. Seven-thousand individual 18650 Li-ion cells power Tesla automobiles. Consumers unwittingly fall victim to injuries and tragic accidents from improper use or simply purchasing fraudulent batteries.
Smash-and-grab burglars hit 3 small businesses in Hollywood and Koreatown
Smash-and-grab burglars were at large after targeting three small businesses in the Hollywood and Koreatown areas of Los Angeles early Tuesday morning, authorities said. The locations included Hae Jang Chon, a popular Korean barbecue restaurant in the 3800 block of Sixth Street, Sally Beauty Supply in the 5800 block of Santa Monica Boulevard, and Sweet Corner Coffee and Cake in the 5100 block of Melrose Avenue, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
UCLA staff member robbed at gunpoint on campus
Authorities Monday sought the public's help to find two men who robbed a UCLA staff member at gunpoint near the campus. The crime occurred about 5:45 a.m. Sunday in the 1100 block of Westwood Boulevard, according to UCLA police. The victim, who was not injured, was walking in the area when a vehicle pulled up to the curb and a male suspect wearing a black ski mask got out "brandishing a gray handgun," police said.
Amazon denies liability for illegally imported products
Amazon argued before a federal appeals court Friday that it is not responsible for third-party sellers importing illegal products into the United States. Chief Administrative Law Judge Channing D. Strother granted summary judgment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2021 after finding Amazon liable for aiding and abetting illegal imports in violation of the Animal Health Protection Act and Plant Protection Act. That decision spurred Amazon's appeal to the D.C. Circuit.
ATM thieves use glue and 'tap' function to drain accounts at Chase Bank; here's how to avoid getting scammed
ATMs provide great convenience - but they're also longtime targets of thieves. Some use skimmers to steal your account number, or stand nearby to rob customers. Now there's a new kind of ATM fraud - and a warning to watch out if you use the "tap" function on your debit card. The tap feature uses radio waves to access your account - no need to insert your card. But some Chase Bank customers say thieves used the tap feature plus some ordinary glue to steal their money.
Phone scams: Don't answer phone calls from these area codes
The most common type of scams include one-ring scams, traffic-pumping scams, and package delivery scams. Phone scams are the most common. According to the Federal Communications Commission, around 60 million Americans reported a phone scam in 2021. Officials are reminding you to never return a phone call from a number you don't recognize unless you've done the research first and identified it as a legitimate one.
Mother of Anthony Avalos and her boyfriend found guilty in Lancaster boy's murder
The mother of Anthony Avalos and her boyfriend have been found guilty in the torture-murder of the 10-year-old Lancaster boy. Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta announced his verdict Tuesday after hearing the trial of Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, with closing arguments wrapping up Feb. 22. Both sides had waived their right to having the case heard by a jury.
Ex-LASD deputy sentenced to 100 hours of community service for Lancaster shooting hoax
A former sheriff's deputy who falsely claimed that he had been shot outside the Lancaster sheriff's station was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and one year of probation Friday, and was ordered to pay nearly $543,000 in restitution to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for its massive response to the hoax.
Former NBC personality sentenced to probation for asking child for naked pictures
A man who once served as NBC’s chief on-air medical correspondent in Los Angeles pleaded no contest Monday to charges he solicited nude pictures from a child, after apologizing to the victim’s family and hugging her father inside a downtown courtroom. Dr. Bruce Hensel, 74, pleaded no contest to one count of contacting a minor with the intent to commit a crime and was immediately ordered to register as a sex offender and sentenced to two years of probation.
Articles of Interest
500 days of litigation: Delay caused by Calif. officials doesn't doom False Claims Act case
Defendants facing accusations they defrauded California's workers' compensation system through medical insurance fraud can't take an exit ramp to dismissal after the case failed to proceed to trial within five years. That's because, the state's Second Appellate District ruled Feb. 27, plaintiff Anna Maria Christina Sills was forced to wait more than 900 days while state agencies determined whether they wanted to join her qui tam case.
Fourth Circuit grapples with role of airport security staff
A Fourth Circuit panel heard arguments Tuesday to determine whether Transportation Security Administration screeners count as investigative or law enforcement officers for the purposes of federal tort claims. The case at issue was brought by a woman who claims she was assaulted during a TSA screening in North Carolina in 2019. According to her brief filed with the Richmond-based appeals court, the screener forced her to spread her legs and made direct contact with her genitals, while commenting on her attire and "warning her that the sexual assault would be repeated" if she resisted.
‘Community policing’ is fueled by diversity, equity and inclusion
While police work is naturally tied to the idea of reducing criminal activity, being a successful law enforcement officer in 2023 requires a broader set of skills stretching beyond the ability to simply knock crime numbers down. It involves structured and disciplined “community policing,” which allows agencies to work more closely with members of the public.
Ninth Circuit hands off issues in detainee-pay case
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday took an action rendering it probable that the Supreme Court of Washington will, in essence, decide whether inmates at an immigration detention facility in California are to be paid for their labor in accordance with this state’s minimum-wage statute. Circuit judges certified three questions to Washington’s top court. Should it agree to answer those questions, the responses will shape the Ninth Circuit’s decision, one apt to affect not only controversies within the circuit but influence those beyond its borders.
California faces hefty court fines for lagging efforts to prevent prisoner suicides
A federal judge said this week that she will begin fining California potentially tens of thousands of dollars daily after more than 200 prison inmates killed themselves during eight years in which state corrections officials failed to complete court-ordered suicide prevention measures. Addressing a chronic tragedy that has plagued the state for decades, Chief U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller said she will start the fines April 1 - $1,000 a day for each of 15 unmet safeguards until all the state’s 34 adult prisons are in full compliance.
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