Courts & Rulings
Jury unanimity not required on aggravating circumstances
The California Supreme Court yesterday rejected an attempt to make it harder to impose the death penalty, ruling in favor of the current system under which jurors need not unanimously agree on aggravating factors used to justify the punishment and need not find allegations to be true based on a reasonable doubt standard.
Judge tosses California recall lawsuit, election to continue as scheduled
A last-minute bid to disrupt the California recall collapsed on Friday as a federal judge said there was “no chance” a lone voter’s lawsuit could delay an election already underway. In swift fashion U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald denied a motion for preliminary injunction brought by an admitted support of Governor Gavin Newsom and allowed the election scheduled for Sept. 14 to continue.
Restraining order may be based on pattern of insults using foul language, C.A. Rules
A woman who repeatedly shouted insults at her neighbors, using foul language, was properly subjected to a civil restraining order, the First District Court of Appeal has held, rejecting her contention that such conduct cannot not meet the statutory requisite of causing “substantial emotional distress to the petitioner.” That requirement is set forth in Code of Civil Procedure §527.6(a)(1) - and, Justice Gabriel P. Sanchez of Div. One said in Thursday’s unpublished opinion, it was met under the facts of the case.
Ninth Circuit rejects bid to make feds rethink stance on marijuana
Despite complaints that its classification of marijuana impedes research and denies treatment to veterans, the Ninth Circuit on Monday refused to make the federal government reconsider its 49-year-old position that cannabis is a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use. Dr. Suzanne Sisley, an Arizona-based medical marijuana researcher, and three veterans who claim to suffer ongoing harm from cannabis’ status as a Schedule I drug filed a petition with the Ninth Circuit in May 2020.
California high court upholds faster mental health care transfers for unfit defendants
California defendants deemed unfit to stand trial will no longer be allowed to languish in jail for months without treatment after the California Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a previous court ruling banning the delays as unconstitutional. Joined by two California chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, five family members of defendants judged as incompetent to face trial sued the California Department of State Hospitals in July 2015.
Father may not use marijuana to kill pain though no link between use of it, violence
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday affirmed an order that the father of three young children - temporarily removed from the custody of their parents, who engage in domestic violence - be prohibited from the use of marijuana to alleviate pain, and be relegated to taking pain medications. San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles S. Crandall, serving on assignment to Div. One, wrote the unpublished opinion.
Federal appeals panel upholds ban on seizure of large items in LA public areas
A federal appeals panel Thursday affirmed a ruling prohibiting Los Angeles police and sanitation workers from seizing and tossing oversized items stashed in public places, frequently by the homeless. The split decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena upholds last year’s lower court decision that bans the city from enforcing an ordinance stopping people from keeping “bulky” items - which cannot fit into a 60-gallon container - on public walkways.
Man who, at age 22, slayed victim, sentenced to LWOP, properly denied youth hearing
There’s no equal protection denial in affording a youth offender parole hearing under Penal Code §3051 to persons sentenced to life without possibility of parole who committed their offenses before the age of 18 but not those whose felonious conduct occurred when they were between the ages of 18 and 25, Div. Two of the First District Court of Appeal has held.
Chalking tires to monitor parking is unconstitutional, appeals court rules
The Sixth Circuit ruled Wednesday that a Michigan city's policy of chalking the tires of parked cars is not covered by the Fourth Amendment's administrative search exception. Saginaw's tire-chalking practice - which involves marking the tires of a car to determine how long it stays in the same parking spot - has been debated at the Cincinnati-based appeals court on two separate occasions, the most recent of which took place last month.
Man at center of US Supreme Court decision sentenced to life
Jimcy McGirt - the Oklahoma man who’s state conviction resulted in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that led to thousands of other convicts demanding their release - was sentenced to life in federal prison Wednesday on child rape charges. U.S. District Judge John Heil in the Eastern District of Oklahoma sentenced McGirt, 72, concurrently on two counts of aggravated sexual abuse in Indian Country and one count of abusive sexual contact in Indian Country.
11th Circuit finds Fort Lauderdale limits on food sharing in parks unconstitutional
In a unanimous ruling Tuesday, a panel of the 11th Circuit found that a rule limiting food-sharing inside Fort Lauderdale parks is unconstitutional as applied to Food Not Bombs’ hosting of free vegan meals for the homeless. A three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based appeals court overturned a Florida federal court’s summary judgment in favor of the city, finding that a rule which banned the sharing of food as a social service in city parks without written permission violated Food Not Bombs’ First Amendment rights.
Los Angeles District Attorney
Cooley raps Gascón over his amicus brief in Supreme Court in support of defendant
Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, whose office in 2004 obtained a death sentence for double-murderer Donte McDaniel, has taken to task the county’s present chief prosecutor, George Gascón, for joining in an amicus curiae brief in support of that inmate, whose novel legal proposition, spurned last week by the California Supreme Court, would have resulted in the sentences of about 700 persons being upset.
San Diego County’s District Attorney Summer Stephan calls out false claim by LA DA regarding Sirhan Sirhan’s parole hearing
Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 in Los Angeles, has been recommended for parole on his 16th attempt, during a hearing that was absent any representation from the agency that prosecuted him - the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. The decision does not automatically mean the 77-year-old Sirhan, who is imprisoned at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa in San Diego County, will be released.
City Council to vote on 'no confidence' in DA Gascon
At its next meeting the Monrovia City Council will consider a vote of "no confidence" in LA County District Attorney George Gascon, essentially for his adopting a policy of dismissing many different criminal charges out of hand, including such charges such as "making criminal threats, trespass and resisting arrest." Approximately 25 other cities have passed such a resolution.
Trujillo puts his job over his constituents
Dear Editor: Since being elected, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has abandoned crime victims and their families. Gascón has disregarded the rule of law and weakened lawful sentencing requirements for the most violent criminals, including murderers, armed robbers and rapists. Gascón’s new policies treat career and repeat violent offenders as if they had never committed a crime, ignoring public safety laws approved by the people.
3 out of 4 women released on $0 bail after allegedly stealing $10K in merchandise
Glendale Police have arrested four women for allegedly stealing over $10,000 of merchandise from various stores at the Americana at Brand, authorities said Monday. The thefts were reported on Aug. 21 around 5 p.m. Patrol officers located a vehicle matching the suspect vehicle description in the area of Central Ave. and Lexington Dr. and initiated a traffic stop, but the vehicle fled initiating a pursuit.
2 LA County Sheriff’s deputies allegedly filed false reports to cover up excessive force after 2018 pursuit ended in deadly gun battle
Two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies face charges of filing a false report to cover up the alleged use of excessive force during their response to a deadly deputy-involved shooting in 2018. Woodrow Kim, 39, and Jonathan Miramontes, 30, were each charged Wednesday with one count of felony filing of a false report. Kim also faces a felony count of assault under the color of authority.
Torrance officer charged with excessive force for 2018 police shooting
A Torrance police officer is being charged with excessive force in connection with a non-fatal police shooting that occurred in 2018, the Los Angeles County District Attorney said in a statement Friday. The incident occurred on Aug. 27, 2018 when David Chandler Jr. and other officers responded to the call of a woman who said her grandson had broken a rear sliding glass door at her residence.
LA District Attorney announces man with intellectual disability re-sentenced from death penalty to life without parole
A man who was sentenced to death for a 1985 double murder was resentenced this week to life in prison without the possibility of parole after it was determined the defendant is ineligible for the death penalty because of an intellectual disability, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney. Stanley Bernard Davis, 59, was convicted in the 1985 murder of students Michelle Boyd, 18, and Brian Harris, 20, after a carjacking.
Three charged with staging auto accidents on local freeways
Three people who allegedly purposely caused accidents on Los Angeles County freeways - including some in which motorists were severely injured - to collect money from insurance companies were charged Monday with assault with a deadly weapon and insurance fraud. Eduardo Retana, 25, Ausencio Gomez, 46, and Victor Valle-Diaz, 55, all of Los Angeles, are set to be arraigned Tuesday in a San Fernando courtroom, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
US won't seek death penalty in California synagogue shooting
Federal prosecutors said they will not seek the death penalty for a 22-year-old former nursing student charged in a deadly shooting at a Southern California synagogue on the last day of Passover. The decision was disclosed Monday in a one-sentence court filing in federal court in San Diego. It comes less than two months after U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland halted federal executions while the Justice Department conducts a review of its policies and procedures.
Fugitive couple on the run after conviction in $18 million COVID-19 relief fraud case
A fugitive Southern California couple awaiting sentencing after their conviction in an $21 million COVID-19 relief fraud case allegedly cut their ankle monitoring bracelets and went on the run, according to the FBI. Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and Marietta Terabelian, 37, were found guilty in June of scheming to submit fraudulent loan applications under which they and others obtained more than $21 million in Paycheck Protection and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program funds they used to put down payments on luxury homes in Tarzana, Glendale and Palm Desert and purchase jewelry and other high-end items.
Policy/Legal Issues
The man who murdered my father doesn’t deserve parole
I never met my father. When Sirhan Sirhan murdered him in the kitchen hallway of the Ambassador Hotel in front of scores of witnesses, my mother was three months pregnant with me. Of my 10 older brothers and sisters, Kathleen, the eldest, was 16, and Douglas, the youngest, was little more than 1. I was born six months after my father’s death.
Between defund and defend, L.A. tries new tactics, bigger budget for cops
At one point, protesters chanted “defund police” outside Mayor Eric Garcetti’s home, prompting him to backtrack from a planned increase in the police budget. Instead, he cut department funding by $150 million and invested much of the money in communities of color, including the intervention program in which Cagle participates. “In L.A., I think we’d already had a very strong movement around police reform, and around public safety reform,” said Council Member Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents Cagle’s neighborhood.
LA makes progress on mental health response (Video)
The city’s program on helping out those mental health issues has been stuck at City Hall. Here’s an update. Eric Leonard reports for the NBC4 News on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
Are we really going to free an assassin?
California parole commissioners have recommended political assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, for parole after serving 50 years in prison. As a society we should be outraged… yet there is little heard about this not-so-surprising turn of events. The decision is now up to Governor Gavin Newsom to either accept or reverse their finding. Sirhan, a Palestinian militant and Jordanian citizen who lived in California, was actively fighting against U.S. support of Israel in the 1960s.
New San Francisco initiative to pay individuals not to shoot others
A new program in San Francisco will pay people at high risk of shooting someone not to pull the trigger to help alleviate rising gun violence in the city. The Dream Keeper Fellowship is set to launch in October and pay 10 individuals $300 each month to not be involved in shootings, Sheryl Davis, executive director of the Human Rights Commission, told Newsweek in an interview Tuesday.
L.A. City Council moves to limit protests outside private residences
For a year and a half, protesters on both the left and the right have targeted public officials at their homes in Los Angeles, demonstrating at all hours to express their grievances over mask mandates, rent forgiveness and other issues. Now, the City Council is seeking to tighten the rules around such protests. The council, on a 13-1 vote, ordered city attorneys on Tuesday to draft a law that would bar protesters from coming within 300 feet of a target’s home.
Los Angeles County/City
Tackling crime in Los Angeles (Video)
Laura Ingraham meets up with the Los Angeles Police Department on 'The Ingraham Angle’
Two suspects arrested after LA County Sheriff's Deputy shot in Lynwood
Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials have arrested two suspects, after a Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputy was was wounded in a gunfight while responding to an armed robbery call in the Lynwood area Monday night. The shooting happened around 7:15 p.m. near Lorraine Street and 112th Street in Lynwood. Officers approached the suspects of a black pickup truck allegedly wanted for robbery.
Eric Strong is the newest entry to the growing list of people who hope to unseat LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
This week, a new candidate named Eric Strong launched his campaign to become the next Los Angeles County Sheriff, raising the number of people who hope to unseat Sheriff Alex Villanueva to seven, with an eighth rumored to leap in soon. For those who are happy with the job Sheriff Villanueva is doing, the choice will be simple when they mark their ballots in the June 2022 primary election.
Widows of LAPD employees killed by COVID-19 encourage vaccination
Even after her husband and colleague Raymond Guerrero of the Los Angeles Police Department died of COVID-19 in January, Debra Guerrero wasn’t entirely sure about getting vaccinated. She also had the virus, and she was very sick, but she wanted to see more tests for the vaccine before getting the one. Then their two daughters, who had just lost their 51-year-old father, changed their minds.
Crime/Public Safety
L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy arrested for alleged sexual abuse
A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who lives in San Bernardino County has been arrested for allegedly sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl in Rancho Cucamonga, authorities said today. Antonio Heriberto Galindo, 41, was arrested Saturday and booked on suspicion of contact with a minor with intent for sex, oral copulation with a person under 18, and sexual penetration against the victim's will by force, violence, duress, menace or fear, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.
Will LAPD hand off traffic enforcement? Patience for promised study wears thin
More than a year after the Los Angeles City Council raised the prospect of removing armed police officers from traffic enforcement, and more than six months since it ordered the city transportation department to produce a report on alternatives, the work has yet to begin. Transportation officials blamed the delay in part on “constrained resources” amid the COVID-19 pandemic but say they are now making progress - soliciting contractors interested in conducting the work last week.
Man poses as custodian; breaches LAX Airport security
Authorities on Monday circulated security images of a man who posed as a custodian to get past Los Angeles International Airport security and enter the airfield. The breach occurred in the early morning hours of May 18, according to the Los Angeles Police Department's LAX Crime Task Force. The man entered a restricted area of the airport at about 1:10 a.m. and managed to get to the airfield before someone called him out.
LAPD arrests suspect in stabbing of anti-vaccination protester
Los Angeles police have arrested a suspect on suspicion of attempted murder in the stabbing of an anti-vaccination protester in downtown Los Angeles last month, according to the LAPD. An investigation into a second stabbing, of a counterprotester at the same event, remains ongoing, police said. Eric Cohen, 30, of Long Beach was arrested Wednesday night after police served "multiple search warrants" in L.A. and Orange counties, and was being held on $1-million bail, the department said.
California Democrats want to expand sanctuary state law, but police unions are pushing back
California Democrats want to make more immigrants eligible for protection under the so-called sanctuary state law by closing exemptions that allow local law enforcement agencies to participate in the deportation of people accused of certain crimes. Four years ago, the Legislature approved a law that limited when California authorities could help Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detain and transfer immigrants into federal custody.
Capitol police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt speaks (but shouldn't have)
At last he speaks. We now know what has long been an open secret, that it was Lt. Michael Byrd of the U.S. Capitol Police who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt on Jan. 6. In his interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Byrd was inconsistent in his grasp of the facts, self-contradictory, and ill-informed on the law governing police use of force.
Dominion Voting Systems sues Santa Clara County to block release of public records
Dominion Voting Systems claims they were forced to submit private financial information to Santa Clara County when applying for a contract to supply voting systems. That information is now at risk of being disclosed through the Freedom of Information Act and the California Privacy Rights Act.
California homicide rise becomes recall rallying cry, but experts question Newsom’s role
An image of crime tape flashes across the screen. A woman says, “We don’t feel safe anymore,” adding that “crime is surging” in California. The solution, the ad paid for by a Republican group argues, is to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. Republicans looking to replace Newsom in next month’s election say the governor is “soft on crime” and to blame for the state’s increase in violent crime, pointing to a rise in homicides as a reason voters should approve the recall.
Why scapegoating Sheriff Smith for jail problems is wrong
In Santa Clara County, like the rest of California, there are more mentally ill people in jails and prisons than in hospitals. Jails and prisons have become California’s 21st Century mental hospitals. That is not the fault or the responsibility of California’s 58 elected sheriffs. It is the result of policies and decisions made by legislators, judges and prosecutors, not sheriffs.
Alameda County jail’s mental health care would be overhauled under proposed lawsuit settlement
Alameda County has agreed to a massive reform program that will remake how mental health care is provided in Santa Rita Jail in order to settle a class action lawsuit filed three years ago on behalf of jail detainees. The terms of the 110-page proposed settlement were made public in court filings last week. Under the settlement, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office will be required to revamp its policies and procedures, hire new staff at the jail, build a new “therapeutic housing unit,” and put new oversight structures in place.
Unresponsive lawyer for Jan. 6 defendants leaves cases at a standstill, prosecutors say
The Justice Department on Monday alerted several federal judges that an outspoken attorney representing at least 17 alleged rioters charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is reportedly hospitalized and possibly incapacitated after testing positive for COVID-19, leaving the bulk of his cases effectively at a "standstill" and his clients "without counsel."
Gavin Newsom’s flawed death penalty moratorium
Anthony Avalos should have celebrated his 13th birthday. Instead, his family members are in mourning. “I miss him so much,” Anthony’s aunt, Maria Barron, said at a public memorial in May. “I wish he could be here today.” More than three years after the Lancaster boy was brutally tortured and murdered, Anthony’s family remains without justice.
Gang member convicted in killings of Whitter police officer, relative
A gang member who killed a man in East Los Angeles in 2017 then opened fire on two Whittier police officers, killing one and wounding the other, was convicted today of murder and other counts. Jurors deliberated for less than two hours Tuesday before reaching their verdict in the trial of Michael Christopher Mejia, 30. The verdict was read Wednesday morning, with the panel convicting Mejia of two counts of first-degree murder and single counts of attempted murder, carjacking and possession of a firearm by a felon.
South LA man pleads guilty in fireworks explosion case (Video)
A South LA man whose fireworks were detonated by police, leading to a massive explosion that destroyed a specially designed containment vehicle, damaged a neighborhood and injured 17 people, pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge. Eric Leonard reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 30, 2021.
Former Chairman gets prison for stealing $11M from LA church
The former chairman of the board of a Los Angeles church was sentenced Monday to nearly 11 years in federal prison for stealing more than $11 million in church funds, prosecutors said. Charles Thomas Sebesta, 56, pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud and bank fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release. He's been in federal custody since his arrest in August 2019.
Santa Monica man to plead guilty in case involving arson at sushi restaurant
A West Hills man accused of starting a fire that caused substantial damage to a Santa Monica sushi restaurant during a night of civil unrest last year is expected to plead guilty Thursday to a federal charge. Micah Tillmon, 20, has agreed to enter his plea to a charge of possession of an unregistered destructive device, in particular an incendiary device. The charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Ex-CEO of Long Beach substance abuse program sentenced to 7 years in prison for fraud
The CEO of a Long Beach substance abuse treatment program for youth was sentenced to seven years in prison on Thursday, Sept. 2, after pleading guilty to participating in an insurance fraud scheme. Richard Mark Ciampa, 67, of Commerce, admitted to the scheme in which fraudulent claims were submitted to the state’s Medi-Cal program for alcohol and drug treatment for high school and middle school students, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
Corrections & Parole
Judge allows sexually violent predator to be placed in Antelope Valley
Despite the pleas of thousands of residents, a judge has ruled that a convicted sex offender can be released into the Antelope Valley community of Littlerock. Superior Court Judge James Bianco on Wednesday ordered 66-year-old Calvin Lynn Grassmier to be placed at a four-bedroom home at 10320 East Ave. Q-10 on or before Oct. 1. Grassmier will be under surveillance 24 hours a day and will be required to wear a GPS ankle monitor.
Sex offender in Marin County will be turned out on streets; unlikely allies say that’s not safe
A 68-year-old registered sex offender has no time left on his stay at a Marin County hotel and his case manager is making an unusual plea for someone to house his client so that he doesn’t have to sleep in a tent under a freeway. "The day I get released, I’m supposed to be on the street with diabetes," said Socorro de Jesus Mayen Alvarado, whose first language is Spanish. He is a registered sex offender who served three years in prison after being convicted for molesting his girlfriend’s nieces more than a decade ago.
Articles of Interest
OCDA Spitzer claims his opponent is guilty of adultery and resigned from the Marines in lieu of a court martial
Criminal attorney Pete Hardin was charged with adultery by the Marines, among other charges, and was eventually allowed to resign in lieu of a court martial according to military corruption whistleblowers. The claims about Hardin first appeared in a military corruption news site on May 6, 2021. At that time, the author explicitly gave Hardin the opportunity to respond to the claims and offered to correct the record if any of the information was inaccurate.
Backpage kingpins go on trial - and sex workers may pay the price
Three years after the most popular place to advertise “adult services” was seized by the U.S. government, its founders will stand trial Wednesday in an Arizona courtroom, in a case that could have lasting repercussions for the future of online sex work. The defendants, alt-weekly titans Michael Lacey and James Larkin, claim their website,, was a utopia for free expression, a place where “unpopular” speech was allowed to flourish and thrive.
Theranos: Holmes claims ex-lover and co-accused abused, coerced her
Days before Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is to go on trial for alleged felony fraud in San Jose, the judge on Saturday released redacted documents showing she will claim her former lover and the company’s president Sunny Balwani abused and coerced her. “For over a decade, Ms. Holmes and Mr. Balwani had an abusive intimate-partner relationship, in which Mr. Balwani exercised psychological, emotional, and (redacted) over Ms. Holmes,” a filing from Holmes’ legal team claims.
Saying the wrong thing
I’m not an expert in trial strategy, but it seems to me there are some things that lawyers shouldn’t do. This is from a recent Indiana Supreme Court attorney discipline ruling: “(H)e repeatedly attacked the Commission for incompetence and corruption, including calling the Commission’s Executive Director a ‘buffoon’ and ‘playground weakling’ and the Commission’s staff attorney an ‘errand boy.’
Killer's parole win divides Kennedys
Gov. Gavin Newsom is seen to have the last word in determining whether the man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 should be paroled. Sirhan Sirhan - who was 24 when he shot and killed the former U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate at a Los Angeles hotel in 1968 - was deemed suitable for release by a two-person parole panel Friday afternoon. Sirhan, now 77, later admitted to the killing and has been in prison for 53 years.
MyPillow guy’s conspiracy videos put Capitol rioter back in jail
A Capitol rioter caught watching conspiracy videos in his garage not even a month after a judge let him go home must return to jail, the court ruled Thursday. “I ordered these conditions because of the role that internet conspiracies played in his conduct - conduct that is alleged to be violent and serious,” U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said of Douglas Austin Jensen this morning during a hearing in Washington.
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