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Gavin Bailing, Jerry’s Guy Taping, Antonio Thinking…?

October 31st, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


Okay, Gavin Newsom has dropped out of the race
for California Governor, for “family” reasons (AKA bad polling numbers).

Meg Whitman is a rich witch [It's Halloween and that's a technical term.] who believes she can buy an election, can’t remember when she last voted and won’t show up for debates. (In terms of her chances to win the 2010 race: Ebay, shmEbay. Snowball meet hell.)

Thus far, the rest of the Republican field—Tom Campbell and Steve Poizner—ain’t strong enough to stand up to the once-and-would-be-future Gov: Jerry Brown who, even though he’s an old guy, he still has enough energy to lite several medium-sized cities and is running an excellent pre-campaign campaign, what with all his high profile nabbings of mortgage fraudsters and other nasty types.

But, then also yesterday there was the kerfuffle bannered on the front page of the SF Chronicle, about how Jerry’s press guy illegally taped a conversation with a reporter and now, as it turns out, a lot of conversations with reporters.

Quite a scoop—except that painting the taping as illegal is quite a stretch.

Federal law says that if one side knows about the taping, the other side doesn’t have to know. However, yes, California law requires that both sides must know, but only if the conversation is a “confidential communication.”

California penal code defines “confidential communication” as:

….any communication carried on in circumstances as may reasonably indicate that any party to the communication desires it to be confined to the parties thereto, but excludes a communication made in a public gathering or in any legislative, judicial, executive or administrative proceeding open to the public, or in any other circumstance in which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded.

An on-the-record interview for the purposes of later publication does not snugly fit within the covers of confidential.

On the other hand, if you are working for the state’s top cop and you do this stuff without mentioning it to those whom you are recording, and then defend yourself by saying, “you guys do it so we get to,” you look like an idiot.

A little while ago, Jerry wisely suspended the staffer, Scott Gerber.

Which brings us to…….Antonio.

I heard late on Friday afternoon that after the twinned news announcements of Gavin’s bow out, and Jerry’s guy’s Nixonian moment, there was chatter among high level staff in the Villaraigosa’s office about what a “great governor” the mayor would make.

One assumes that this is merely wishful thinking, and that Antonio and his people are not (gulp) actually contemplating such a move.

It is just wishful thinking, right Mr. Mayor?

Posted in Antonio Villaraigosa, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), elections | 28 Comments »

On Deadline LA Talking About Choosing the C.O.P

October 30th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

I’ll be on KPFK’s Deadline LA today along with the LA Times’ Joel Rubin
talking about the three finalists for LA’s Chief of Police—and who was NOT on the final list (cough–a woman or a minority candidate—cough, cough) and speculating why those names didn’t appear.

Host Howard Blume, as always, made being interviewed an easy and delightful task. (As does his co-host on the show, Barbara Osborn, who was absent today when we taped.)

The show will air from 3:30 to 4 pm Friday (today) on KPFK 90.7 FM

(The show gets archived here for later download.)

PS: While we’re on the subject of choosing the C.O.P.—Read Jan Perry’s thoughtful OpEd in the Daily News
about what she wants from the next Chief.

Posted in LAPD, radio | 15 Comments »

How 2 SCOTUS LWOP Cases May Affect California

October 30th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


The Daily Journal’s Supreme Court reporter,
Lawrence Hurley, has written a very good, very clear and very informative story about the California implications of the two upcoming SCOTUS cases as the court considers the issue of life sentences for juveniles who have not committed homicides.

The Daily Journal is behind a pay wall, but Hurley has kindly allowed me to make the text available to you here.

By the way, it turns out that California isn’t even close to the worst in terms of these juvenile LWOP cases. Florida is far worse. Out of the 109 juveniles nationwide serving life without parole for non-homicides, 77 are in Florida.

WASHINGTON – The future of four prison inmates in California could hang in the balance when the U.S. Supreme Court debates next month whether juveniles can be sentenced to life without parole for non-homicide offenses.

Four convicted felons in the state received such sentences. Life without parole for crimes not involving murder is not a common punishment for juveniles in California – not to mention the nation as a whole – but on Nov. 9 the Supreme Court will take up the issue when the justices hear arguments in two cases out of Florida.

Lawyers for the two Florida juveniles appealing their sentences say that life without parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses violates the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The cases have attracted considerable attention from legal groups, with experts predicting it could be the start of a concerted attack on the entire concept of life without parole. Some liberal activists and scholars view life without parole in a similar light as the death penalty.

California is one of eight states that have sentenced juveniles to life without parole for certain non-capital crimes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Supreme Court | No Comments »

McDonnell’s USC Visit and a Great Teacher Story

October 30th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Annenberg grad student, Kevin Grant, has this well-written report of Jim McDonnell’s Tuesday night visit to our classroom

Here’s how Kevin’s report begins:

A 28-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department told a journalism class this week that he expects to step into a very difficult budget situation if he is named police chief. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he will announce his choice Monday.

First Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell spoke to the graduate newswriting class at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism on Tuesday night, shortly after learning that the Police Commission had selected him as one of three finalists for the top job.

“It’s a tough time going in,”
McDonnell said. “When you look at the past seven years, we were fairly well resourced. We had support of the [City] Council, certainly of the mayor, to be able to do what we needed to do to drive crime down. We come to a situation now where the budget has caught up with us.”

The rest may be found at Neon Tommy.

Another Neon Tommy story well worth reading is this excellent multimedia report by grad student Julia James about a creative and dedicated Pasadena charter school teacher named Tyler Hester.

Here is the opening:

On a Saturday afternoon in early September, 26-year-old English teacher Tyler Hester finds himself in a familiar situation: building castles in the sky in outbuilding No. 2 at Blair International Baccalaureate Magnet School. The room is ordered, with tall windows stretching to a high ceiling — the kind of space that invites a wandering gaze. But Hester fixates on a single item low to the ground, almost as a point of meditation: the long and vacant gray bookshelf skirting his Pasadena classroom.

Hester faces a numbers problem. He teaches 198 seventh and eighth grade students, around 40 per class, but his classroom library contains only 100 or so novels — all purchased by him in his first year at Blair for around $500….

Read on.

Posted in LAPD | No Comments »

Owning LA’s Homelessness

October 30th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Every night, 43,000 people in LA County have no place to sleep
according to a new census released Wednesday by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Yet while that number is down 38 percent since 2007, it is still the worst in the nation.

On Wednesday, the same day that those new census numbers were announced, a group of homeless advocates, city leaders, law enforcement and clergy got together at Our Lady of Angeles Cathedral and, led by Any Bales of the Union Rescue Mission announced a ten point plan to one day eliminate homelessness in LA.

Here’s what Bales has in mind.

With your help, we are launching an initiative to reduce the population of people on the streets of Skid Row by 90% in 3 years, cut the number of people who are homeless in LA County by 50% in 7 years, and in 10 years end Los Angeles’ reign as the Homeless Capitol of the United States. We are calling this “You Are the Mission” because it’s a challenge for all of us. You are the Mission to end homelessness in Los Angeles!

Here are the one-line broad strokes. (The full ten points are here, together with action plans.)

1. Heart Change. We need to change the way we talk and think about people who are homeless.

2. We need to not make excuses for inaction based on myths.

3. No one should be evicted to the streets.

4. Solutions to homelessness should be regionalized.

5. Connect families with a mentoring team.

6. Adopt best practices in community policing.

7. Advocate for year-round shelters.

8. Support services for chronically homeless individuals.

9. Understand significant barriers that must be overcome.

10. Help with employment-related opportunities.

Interestingly, the expanded version of item six on the 10-point
list is about policing and is generally quite complementary of the LAPD’s efforts on Skid row.

Posted in Homelessness, LAPD | 1 Comment »

Andre Birotte Jr. 4 US Attorney? Please, Let it Be So!

October 29th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


All morning emails have been flying about the fact that, Wednesday night, Scott Glover of the LA Times reported that Andre Birotte Jr.
is the likely nominee to be the next U.S. Attorney for Los Angeles, replacing Thomas P. O’Brien, who resigned in September.

If Birotte is indeed the nominee, this is wildly cheering news.

Birotte has been serving as the Inspector General for the LAPD, reporting directly to the police commission. As such, Birotte has no real power. (He can only make suggestions. He cannot enforce them.) Yet, because of the intelligence, savvy and even-handedness with which he has gone about his work, he has succeeded in exerting a great deal of very positive influence on the department and is widely respected by a broad spectrum of those in and around law enforcement and city government.

(Plus, he’s a really good guy and very, very bright. And, yes, he has a good sense of humor. Mandatory in this business, I think.)

One of Birotte’s best qualities—among many good qualities— is that he seeks to understand any problem before him at a deeper and more nuanced level than what the surface presents. This is further demonstrated by the way in which, in addition to working to understand the multi-shaded complexity of the LAPD, Birotte has reached out liberal-leaning law enforcement watchers like me—not to garner press attention or advance any agenda—but simply to talk about issues.

Here’s how former federal prosecutor Bruce Riordan put it in one of this morning’s emails. (Riordan is now the director of anti-gang operations in the City Attorney’s office, and a former assistant to the U.S. Attorney.)

Well, here is some “good news.” In my humble opinion!

I have known Andre for more than a decade and worked with him as both a federal prosecutor and as Inspector General. He was an outstanding federal prosecutor and as Inspector General, he has been one of the unsung heroes in leading the successful turnaround and revitalization of the storied Los Angeles Police Department. If nominated and confirmed, I have no doubt that he will serve the country and the district with great distinction.

Yep, yep, yep.

As Riordan said in a subsequent email, (and I am paraphrasing here) the distance that the LAPD has come in transforming itself in recent years is important to all of us who care about this city. “Andre was a big part of that.”

Let’s hope his next new direction will be into the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Posted in LAPD, law enforcement | 7 Comments »

Tom Hayden on Alex Sanchez & the Power of Judges

October 29th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


Tom Hayden opens his latest column
in The Nation magazine as follows:

I never expected to write anything like this, but the federal judge in the Alex Sanchez case, Manuel Real, is even worse than Judge Julius Hoffman, who presided over the 1969 Chicago conspiracy trial in which I was a defendant.

Such a judgment, I realize, disqualifies me from being taken seriously as a reporter in some circles, but somebody has to say it. Alex Sanchez simply has zero chance of either bail or a fair trial as long as his case is before Judge Real. The evidence follows.

If you are interested in the Alex Sanchez case at all, wherever you stand on it, it is very much worth reading the rest of Hayden’s piece.

I was at that same hearing. And I didn’t come away with quite the same apocalyptic perspective as did Tom.
But, then, unlike me, Tom has read and reread the whole of the transcripts of the FBI’s four wiretap conversations that are presumed to be the center of the government’s case. He has also been privy to other pieces of information that I have not.

In any case, this account is filled with facts and insights
that are important to consider. I don’t agree with all of his interpretations of events. Yet his step-by-step description of what went on the courtroom during Alex Sanchez’s last bail hearing reflects what I witnessed.

Please read on.

Also, for an opposing view, keep reading Tom Diaz’s coverage of the Sanchez case. Diaz and I assuredly disagree on many points as he leans very strongly toward the prosecution’s side of things. Yet he is very knowledgeable and knows some of the players involved, such as Det. Frank Flores. Most importantly, despite the deliberately provocative nature of his posts, he has an open mind about the matter and, in the end, really just wants to get to the truth.

Also, like me, Diaz thinks that—beyond our respective personal leanings— this is an important case, which points beyond itself to many issues of consequence.

As to why the LA Times seems to find the case of Alex Sanchez beneath their interest…You got me. I don’t get it.

PS: Last week, Alex Sanchez’s lawyer appealed Judge Real’s verdict to the 9th Circuit.

Posted in Arresting Alex Sanchez, Courts, crime and punishment, criminal justice, LAPD | 10 Comments »

Tonight: “Which Way LA?” plus KNBC’s “The Filter”

October 28th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

I’m on Which Way LA? tonight ( Wednesday night) at 7 p.m.
I’ll be discussing the three finalists for the post of Los Angeles Chief of Police.

That’s on KCRW 89.9 FM. Later on, you’ll also be able to find it online here.

(My segment is a ten minute news insert that will air around the 7:30 p.m. mark—7:28 to be exact.)

I’ll also be on The Filter with Fred Roggin, KNBC’s new experimental local news show, which airs at 7:30 sharp on NBC Digital 4.2 and online right here at that same time.

We’ll talk about whether or not parents should have input in terms of determining the curriculum for some of LAUSD’s failing schools, about those loathsome, battling McCourts, about medical marijuana…..and more.

So come on down.

Posted in media | No Comments »

Picking the Chief: 3 Finalists Named & 1 Comes to Class

October 28th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


The timing was perfect.

Three weeks ago, when LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell agreed to speak to my Tuesday night class of Annenberg grad students about policing in general and about the job of LAPD Chief in particular, none of us had any idea that the short list of candidates to succeed Bill Bratton would be announced five minutes after McDonnell was scheduled to arrive in our USC classroom at 5 p.m..

In other words, Chief McDonnell himself would have gotten the fateful thumbs up or thumbs down telephone call right about the time he would leaving his office on the 10th floor of the new police headquarters to come to us. Or worse, maybe the mayor would call McDonnell when he was somewhere en route from Spring Street to campus in in his black Yukon.

For the sake of all concerned, my class and I really, really hoped that our scheduled guest was going to be on the commission’s list of three.

Jim McDonnell was always considered to be one of the front runners. But city politics can be quirky. And one never knew. I spent much of the morning Tuesday, on the phone with people from the police commission and the mayor’s office, getting updates as the commission continued to dither and ran late with it’s decision. I wanted to get a definitive read from somebody about whether our classroom guest was going to be sad or happy when he arrived.

Of course, as we now all know McDonnell was on the list—along with Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, and Deputy Chief Michel Moore, who oversees department’s Valley Bureau. (Just before I passed the field where the USC marching band was practicing on my way to the building that houses my classroom, I got the needed message, “The answer is ‘happy,’” my informant told me.)

According to what was billed as leaked insider information reported by KNX radio and a local TV station, McDonnell was first on the commission’s list, with Beck and Moore following after, in that order.

So, as luck would have it, the journalism class got what I believe was the first full length interview with any of the candidates since the selection process began, and certainly the first since since the finalists were named. We were all pretty excited.

Chief McDonnell talked with the students for more than an hour, answering their questions press-conference style. On a day as significantly eventful as Tuesday, another man might have canceled, but instead McDonnell graciously seemed to delight in the opportunity to talk with a bunch of smart journalism students.

He spoke about topics as varied as why he thought he’d make a good chief, about the way helicopters are best used in policing, about the different elements that must be present if we are to lessen LA’s gang violence, about California’s prisoner reentry problem, about how to create better relations with LA’s urban communities—and about the single principle that most guides him.

There was more. The group of young reporters asked an array of skillful questions and McDonnell gave thoughtful and informative answers. But the class members are each writing up news stories based on the interview, so I’d prefer to wait for their insights rather than muddying the water with my own.

The mayor told the candidates he will interview each of them over the next three days (Beck, Wednesday, McDonnell, Thursday, Moore, Friday) and make his decision by Monday.

In the meantime, we’ll be watching and waiting (and analyzing and handicapping).

Stay tuned.

Posted in Bill Bratton, LAPD | 11 Comments »

Picking the Chief of Police: And the 3 Are…….

October 27th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

As any avid LAPD watcher knows by now, the short list of three is: First Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, Deputy Chief Charlie Beck and Deputy Chief Michael Moore

Much more soon after I get back from USC.

Posted in Bill Bratton, LAPD | 1 Comment »

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