Courts & Rulings
Federal judge blocks key parts of California handgun law
A federal judge on Monday blocked key provisions of a California law that drastically restricts the sale of new handguns in the state, saying parts of the legislation violate the Second Amendment. A lawsuit challenging the law was filed last year by the California Rifle & Pistol Association and other gun rights supporters following a landmark 2022 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that set new standards for evaluating firearm restrictions.
US asks Supreme Court to uphold domestic violence gun law
The U.S. Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to allow a federal law stand that makes it a crime for people under domestic violence restraining orders to own firearms. In February, a three judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans declared that the ban was unconstitutional, saying it violated the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms.
Two C.A. holdings in a single case come in one opinion, another in separate opinion
Div. Five of the Court of Appeal for this district has filed an opinion in an unconventional format with the resolution of two of the issues coming in one opinion and the disposition of another issue appearing in a separate opinion by a different justice. The opinions, filed Tuesday, were not certified for publication.
Supreme Court to hear Jack Daniels' trademark arguments with dog toy company
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in a case between Jack Daniels and a company that sells a dog toy that parodies its iconic whiskey bottle. In a petition to the court, the marquee brand in Tennessee whiskey claims that VIP Products' dog toy damages the Jack Daniels brand and confuses its customer base, violating trademark law. The hearing comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit landed on the side of the toymaker in 2020.
Score one for David: Appeals court rules for pharmacies in fight with giant Optum Rx
An appeals court ruled resoundingly Wednesday in favor of an Ojai pharmacy and 21 other independent drugstores that claim massive pharmacy benefit manager Optum Rx underpays medication reimbursements in an effort to push them out of existence. A panel of judges in the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld an Alameda County Superior Court ruling denying Optum’s bid to send the complaints made by mom and pop pharmacies in a lawsuit into legal arbitration.
U.S. Court Of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit interprets Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act's restriction on Section 230 narrowly
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act1 shielded Reddit Inc. from liability under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).2 The court considered the text of a 2018 amendment to Section 230, known as the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA),3 which created a carve-out to Section 230’s broad protections by allowing victims to bring claims against platforms that aided in their trafficking.
Appeals court blocks vaccine mandate for US government workers
President Joe Biden’s order that federal employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 was blocked Thursday by a federal appeals court. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected arguments that Biden, as the nation’s chief executive, has the same authority as the CEO of a private corporation to require that employees be vaccinated. 
George Gascon
Gascón’s decision to gut Special Victims Unit is case study in incompetence
In early December, our office held its first post-pandemic “in-person” training seminar. George Gascón showed up, ostensibly to introduce us to a new class of recently hired deputies. He was late. He had a cameraman in tow (because he’s starring in a documentary about himself). No one clapped when he was introduced… except for a few members of what he calls his “executive team.” He wasn’t prepared. He mangled the names of many of the new hires.
Cost of retaliation allegations grows for D.A.
A recent judgment against District Attorney George Gascón could spell trouble for L.A. County coffers, with just the settlement costs for the complaints filed by his own prosecutors surpassing $2.5 million, and a growing list of similar concerns working their way through the system. All of the attorneys are claiming they have been retaliated against for speaking out about their concerns over Gascón’s special directives, a series of sweeping policy changes he announced the day he took office in 2020.
Gascón cancels meeting With ADDA Leaders
District Attorney George Gascón yesterday canceled a meeting set for that day with representatives of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for a discussion of the ADDA’s plea to reconsider his decision to gut the office’s program aimed at assisting victims of violent crimes. The meeting had been scheduled a week ago. A reorganization of the Victim Impact Program (“VIP”) is set to take place today.
LA County DA Gascón faces uncertain future following retaliation allegations
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón faces an uncertain future in the 2024 election, following allegations of retaliation from inside the District Attorney’s office. LA County prosecutor Shawn Randolph was awarded $1.5 million in a lawsuit against Gascón. According to the LA Times, there are more than a dozen similar civil claims.
Parolee ordered to stand trial in attack on Olympian in downtown LA
A parolee was ordered Thursday to stand trial for an allegedly unprovoked attack last summer in downtown Los Angeles on an Olympic silver medal-winning volleyball player, who testified that she had never seen him before. Superior Court Judge David Fields rejected a defense motion to dismiss the case against Semeon Tesfamariam, 52, who is charged with a felony count of assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly throwing a 10-inch metal bolt at Kimberly Glass’ face, along with an allegation that he personally inflicted great bodily injury on her.
California police chief demands “light on crime” L.A. District Attorney file charges against armed teen who threatened school
Super-progressive and notoriously “light on crime” Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon was willing not to press any charges against a California teen who allegedly posted threats against his school on social media and was then subsequently caught by police with loaded guns, ammunition, and body armor. It took a heated phone call from the chief of the Bell Gardens Police Department to Gascon’s office demanding that the DA file the appropriate charges against the allegedly dangerous student to rectify the situation, instead of letting him off the hook with a slap on the wrist.
Ridley-Thomas corruption case built on emails: 'MRT is really trying to deliver here'
Federal prosecutors finished presenting evidence in their corruption case Friday against suspended Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, clearing the way for the powerful lawmaker’s defense to share its side of the case next week. The case centers on votes and official actions that Ridley-Thomas took as a member of L.A. County’s five-member Board of Supervisors that prosecutors allege were favorable to USC and done in exchange for benefits to his son, a former state assemblyman.
A landlord who was arrested in a murder-for-hire plot is now accused of trying to set fire to his building
A real estate developer charged in a murder-for-hire plot is facing new criminal charges in federal court, where prosecutors allege the businessman also hired someone to set fire to one of his properties in an attempt to kick out his tenants. In a federal indictment, prosecutors paint a vicious picture of Arthur Aslanian, who prosecutors allege resorted to arson and hit men to settle business disputes and avoid paying millions of dollars in debt.
California deputy faces DUI charge after car runs Navy gate
An off-duty San Diego County deputy has been arrested on suspicion of driving past security at the main gate of a California Navy base while under the influence, prompting guards to open fire and the base to be put on lockdown briefly. The San Diego Sheriff’s Department said Sgt. Michael Cruz was taken into custody late Friday after driving without stopping through the entrance of Naval Air Station North Island, part of Naval Base Coronado, near San Diego.
California Democrats kill harsher penalties for sex crimes, favor stricter punishments for high-value theft
California Republican Assembly Member Joe Patterson called out Democratic lawmakers for playing "partisan politics," after Democrats shot down a Republican bill which would increase the penalties for sex crimes. Just a day later, they approved a Democrat bill to increase the criminal penalties for theft and property damage of high-value property. Under current California law, human trafficking is defined as a "non-serious" and a "non-violent" crime.
New bill would eliminate limits on reducing old, low-level felonies to misdemeanors
Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) has introduced a bill that would eliminate the deadline to apply for reducing old low-level, non-violent felony convictions to misdemeanors. The bill would take away the limit that was approved by voters in 2014 under Proposition 47 and would enable Californians with low-level felonies to move past more than 5,000 permanent restrictions on their lives.
‘We need Congress to act’: Sen. Alex Padilla calls for ban on large-capacity magazines
United States Senator Alex Padilla spoke with Inside California Politics on what he says is an epidemic of gun violence in the United States and on the recent nomination of a former member of the Newsom administration to President Joe Biden’s cabinet. Padilla said he believes that the U.S.’s assault weapons ban, which lasted one decade and ended in 2004, was effective at reducing the number of mass shootings, and he advocates for a return to that policy.
Prosecutors and judges push for ban on 911 call analysis
Revelations that a new type of junk science known as 911 call analysis has infiltrated the justice system have triggered calls by prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys nationwide to ban the use of the technique, review past convictions in which it was used and exact sanctions against prosecutors who snuck it into court despite knowing it was inadmissible.
Los Angeles County/City
Los Angeles police accidentally release photos of undercover officers to watchdog website
In a still-unfolding drama that has reached its top ranks, the Los Angeles Police Department accidentally released the names and photos of numerous undercover officers to a watchdog group that posted them on its website. The controversy began late last week when the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition launched a searchable online database - called Watch the Watchers - of more than 9,300 city police officers' photos, complete with their names, ethnicity, rank, date of hire, division/bureau and badge numbers.
Members of LAPD disciplinary panels say they're excluded because of policing views
The Rev. Najuma Smith-Pollard expected to be a lot busier when she was picked to serve on the hearing panels that review discipline recommendations for Los Angeles police officers accused of serious misconduct. But after more than a year, she has yet to hear a single case. Smith-Pollard thinks she knows why. The secretive and powerful boards are picked much like a trial jury, so accused officers and their attorneys have a say in “who to invite on,” enabling them to get a more sympathetic panel, she said.
"LAPD scrambles to cover-up its cover-up"
It is disheartening trying to maintain faith in the Los Angeles Police Department considering its troubled - and ongoing - history of racism, corruption, evidence tampering and retaliation, including against this column, resulting in five-figure settlements to my attorneys and sometimes to me, with more to come. Forty-eight hours ago, this column published a story about Kristina “Kady” Kepner, a senior member of the Los Angeles Fire Department who (a) beat the crap out of her female domestic partner; (b) repeatedly threatened to kill her; (c) repeatedly threatened to kill herself; or (d) tormentingly explained why the LAPD would ignore the victim’s 911 call if she made one.
LAPD officer files suit against dept., alleging supervisors ignored sexual harassment
A Los Angeles police sergeant has sued the city, alleging she was targeted in an online harassment campaign because she reported her colleagues for sharing sexist memes. The suit also alleges that her supervisors tried to suspend and demote her after she complained. Sgt. Darcy French, who joined the LAPD in 1998, said she reported the conduct to her higher-ups in late summer 2020, hoping they would intervene after she became the subject of degrading and humiliating social media posts - presumably from other officers.
L.A. saw signs of deadly street drug xylazine 4 years ago but didn't alert public
It was at least four years ago that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials say they began finding signs of a dangerous sedative infiltrating the local drug supply. At the time, the presence of xylazine - an animal tranquilizer - was not well-known to the public, though it has since become increasingly common, especially on the East Coast.
LA County seeks review of election petition gathering, says dead people signed
County election officials Wednesday asked the state Attorney General’s Office to review alleged irregularities in the collection of petition signatures in a recent effort to recall District Attorney George Gascón and in support of a state ballot initiative, saying they found evidence that dead people were among the petition signers. According to Logan’s office, a review of the petitions submitted in a failed attempt to recall Gascón last year determined that 367 of the submitted signatures were those of people who had died before the signature-gathering period even began.
Younger Angelenos have far more negative view of police than elders, poll finds
Angelenos are split in their views of the Los Angeles Police Department, showing a sharp generational divide on how they rate the force's performance and on whether officers generally treat people of all races fairly, a new poll shows. The Suffolk University/Los Angeles Times poll also found that residents of L.A. are more supportive than those of several other large cities about shifting money away from police and using it to fund community-based approaches to public safety.
Sheriff says gun permit fraud investigation turned over to California attorney general
Six months after his predecessor announced a criminal investigation into an alleged fraud scheme involving some of the deputies responsible for issuing concealed carry licenses, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna confirmed this week that he has turned the matter over to state prosecutors. Two deputies were relieved of duty last year, and the sheriff’s department raided a Monterey Park gun store as part of an investigation that officials said stemmed from the discovery of “irregularities” in the process for issuing licenses to carry concealed weapons, also known as CCW permits.
Torrance pays $750,000 to man after police accused of painting swastika in his car
The city of Torrance has paid a Redondo Beach man $750,000 after two city police officers allegedly spray-painted a swastika inside his car in 2020. The investigation into that incident led to the discovery of a trove of racist and homophobic text exchanges among Torrance police officers. The resulting scandal prompted prosecutors to toss dozens of felony cases.
LAPD veteran makes 'karaoke comeback' 2 years after a devastating spinal cord injury
A veteran Los Angeles police officer and spinal cord injury survivor is grateful to those who contributed to his recovery. Not only did he defy all odds, but he's working to help patients just like him. On the two-year anniversary of his accident, he surprised his supporters with a karaoke comeback.
As trial determines Ridley-Thomas' fate, his son's life gets dissected
He has not been charged with a crime. But in the ongoing trial of suspended Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, his son is in the spotlight. Jurors have seen photos of Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, read his words in emails and heard about his rising debt, medical problems, education and career.
LAPD officer convicted of perjury, filing false report; faces more than four years in prison
A Los Angeles Police Department officer has been convicted for filing a false report and perjury relating to a traffic stop that occurred in Hollywood more than three years ago. Alejandro Castillo, a 15-year veteran of the LAPD, was found guilty on two felony counts by jurors on Monday, a statement from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said.
Man sentenced to 6 years in prison for multiple 7-Eleven robberies
A Los Angeles County man was sentenced today to 77 months behind bars for committing multiple armed robberies of 7-Eleven stores and another business during a two-week crime spree in 2021. Colin Lacey, 29, of the Hyde Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty in August to one federal count of conspiracy to commit interference with commerce by robbery, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Former Bureau of Prisons corrections officer sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for sexually assaulting inmate in Los Angeles jail
A former corrections officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) who sexually assaulted a woman in custody was sentenced today to 120 months in federal prison. Jose Viera, 49, of Monterey Park, was sentenced by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, who ordered Viera immediately remanded into custody. Judge Wright also scheduled a June 20 restitution hearing in this case.
Civil lawsuit alleges sexual assault by former Northern California police chief
A federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Eureka accuses former Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich of sexually assaulting a Mendocino County woman in her home last summer. The woman is identified only as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit, which was lodged by a Los Angeles law firm. The alleged victim is widely known, however, in Mendocino County law enforcement circles as a supporter of police and military and is a friend of many high-ranking local officers.
The great abdication
On August 15, 2022, an intersection in South Central Los Angeles fell prey to a particularly Southern Californian form of anarchy. Parked vehicles blocked the crossroad to through traffic, while inside the blockade, cars sped in tight circles, their burning tires emitting acrid smoke. Just after midnight, spectators to this “street takeover” stormed into a nearby 7-Eleven. An hour earlier, a teenager had been fatally shot during a nearby street takeover.
CNN team robbed while working on San Francisco street crime story
CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah and a senior producer were robbed in San Francisco while working on a story about “rampant street crime.” “Got robbed again,” Lah tweeted Friday afternoon. Lah said she and CNN’s Jason Kravarik were inside City Hall when thieves smashed their way into a car being watched by security guards and made off with items including her passport.
New York district attorney rejects former President Donald Trump's attempt to 'intimidate'
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said he would not be intimidated by former President Donald Trump's call for protest as he considers whether to make Trump the first former President to face criminal charges, ABC News reported. "We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York," Bragg said in an email to staff obtained by ABC News.
Police didn't get defunded but many large departments are shrinking
During the George Floyd protests of 2020, many people called for the defunding of traditional police. That didn't happen, for the most part. But almost three years on, some police departments are shrinking anyway. A new criminology study of 14 large police departments found most have had an "excess" loss of sworn, full-time officers since 2020, a trend verified in core-city agencies such as the New Orleans Police Department.
Hawaii police officers charged over car chase
Four Hawaii Police Department Officers have been charged for their involvement - or rather their lack of involvement - in a September 2021 car crash on Oahu that injured six people, two of them severely. The Department of the Prosecuting Attorney filed felony charges against the officers on Thursday, 19 months after the incident.
The FBI raided a notable journalist's home. Rolling Stone didn't tell readers why
Last Oct. 18, Rolling Stone served up a foreboding scoop: The FBI had raided the home of a renowned journalist at the top of his game months earlier, and he had disappeared from public view. It should have been a coup. Instead, acrimony inside the newsroom over how that scoop was edited led to accusations that the magazine's brash leader pulled punches in overseeing coverage of someone he knew.
Violence against Black women in L.A. remains high, even as serious crime drops
Even as the rate of serious crime in Los Angeles trends downward, Black women and girls remain at higher risk of victimization than any other demographic, according to a report by the city’s civil rights department. At the same time, the report said, their deaths and disappearances receive far less attention from law enforcement and the news media than other races.
FBI Hate Crime Report shows 1,700+ incidents in CA
The FBI recorded nearly 10,500 hate crime incidents in 2021, including 1,765 in the Golden State, according to an updated report released by the agency on Monday. The updated report is a reversal of a previous incomplete report from the agency that appeared to show a drop but was missing data from some of the nation’s largest cities, including New York and Los Angeles.
Man and 16-year-old boy found shot to death next to swimming pool in Santa Clarita
A man and a 16-year-old boy were found shot to death next to a swimming pool in Santa Clarita on Saturday morning, authorities said. When Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene in the 23700 block of Silverado Street around 11 a.m., they found the victims, who both had been shot in the chest, the Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.
Police catch unrelated burglar, squatter at the same time
Officers responding to a burglary in Simi Valley on Saturday morning were able to not only apprehend the burglary suspect, but an unrelated squatter in the same building, police said. Officers from the Simi Valley Police Department received a call of a burglary at a Papa John’s Pizza on Tapo Street around 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning after a security guard noticed the front window to the store was broken.
Carjacker tries to escape cops on skateboard after ditching stolen truck
Forget a getaway car. A man wanted for carjacking tried to flee from police on a skateboard in Los Angeles last month. In footage released by police Friday, Pedro Villalobos can be seen abruptly jumping out of a stolen pick-up truck holding a skateboard after losing control of the vehicle in a police chase.
U.S. travelers warned about counterfeit pills containing fentanyl in Mexico pharmacies
Traveling in Mexico? Use caution when buying medications there, cautions the U.S. State Department. The warning was issued in response to concerns about counterfeit pills containing fentanyl being sold at pharmacies in tourist areas and border regions. “Counterfeit pills are readily advertised on social media and can be purchased at small, non-chain pharmacies in Mexico along the border and in tourist areas,” it said.
Articles of Interest
New bill would turn on cameras at Supreme Court arguments
A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that takes another shot at putting cameras in the Supreme Court. Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin was joined by his Republican colleague Chuck Grassley to introduce the Cameras in the Courtroom Act - an effort to televise Supreme Court hearings. Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal co-sponsored the legislation.
Trump loses last bid to keep key evidence out of rape trial
Former President Donald Trump’s effort to keep key evidence out of his civil rape trial next month was rejected by a federal judge Monday. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in Manhattan ruled that key witnesses will be allowed to testify, and misogynistic remarks Trump made about women in 2005 when he apparently didn’t realize he was being recorded can be played for a jury that will hear quarter-century-old rape allegations made by a former magazine columnist.
Fox News producer accuses network lawyers of ‘coercive’ coaching in Dominion case
A Fox News producer who worked on Tucker Carlson’s flagship show has claimed in a pair of lawsuits that network lawyers “coached” and “intimidated” her into giving misleading testimony in the $1.6bn Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit. Abby Grossberg, a senior producer and head of booking for Tucker Carlson who has also worked on Maria Bartiromo’s show, alleged that the network attempted to pin the blame for Fox News’ airing of voting conspiracies on her and Bartiromo - an effort that Grossberg says was part of a broader culture of sexism and misogyny at Fox News.
Former US Marine may have been 'lured' from China before arrest, lawyer says
A former U.S. Marine Corps pilot may have been "lured" from China to Australia by security agencies before his arrest, his lawyer said outside court on Monday after an extradition hearing in Sydney. Daniel Duggan, 54, is facing extradition to the United States on charges of breaking U.S. law by training Chinese military pilots to land on aircraft carriers.
Gavin Newsom moves to ‘transform’ San Quentin as California prison population shrinks
California’s most high-profile prison will be reorganized as a rehabilitation center under a plan the governor announced Friday - a move hailed as revolutionary by some prison reform advocates but derided by prison abolitionists as mere window dressing in place of the more dramatic changes they want.
CalPERS to pay $800 million settlement over claims it misled retirees on costs of long-term care insurance
CalPERS is preparing to pay out roughly $800 million to settle claims that it misled retirees when it began offering long-term care insurance in the late 1990s and pledged it wouldn’t substantially raise rates on certain plans. The nation’s largest public pension fund in the 1990s and early 2000s sold long-term care insurance with so-called inflation-protection that members believed would shield them from dramatic spikes in premiums.
Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff draws $512K in combined pension, salary
After Jim Fryhoff was elected last year as Ventura County sheriff, he officially retired from his job as a sheriff’s office commander before taking his new post leading the department. That allowed him to start drawing a $180,000 per year county pension in addition to his sheriff’s salary of $332,000. The move is legal, and Ventura County’s taxpayer watchdog group says it isn’t improper.
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