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Homeboy Turns 25…..LASD Talks About Retaliation…WHAT Right to a Speedy Trial?…Feds Visiting LA Jails Tuesday…and More

April 30th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


“If you want to change the world, change the metaphor,” said Father Greg Boyle, quoting Bertrand Russell, when he delivered the final speech of the evening at Homeboy Industries’ 25th birthday celebration on Saturday night.

Twenty-five years ago, Father Greg Boyle and Homeboy Industries— before it was Homeboy Industries—changed the metaphor. Rather than demonizing young gang members, Boyle practiced compassion and what he calls kinship. He said that gangs and gang violence were symptoms of “a lethal absence of hope. So you want to infuse young people with hope, when it seems that hope is foreign.”

So Fr. Greg did—and does. And he built an organization to reflect that same sense of compassion and the belief that “we belong to each other.” Lives were changed—and not just those of the homeboys and the homegirls, but of others in the city, many of whom came to celebrate on Saturday night.

Mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel was there at the party (shown below with former homegirl, my pal, Frances Aguilar), as was Hilda Solis, Sheriff Lee Baca and other elected officials and policy makers. Eric Garcetti did not attend, but he sent his dad Gil did in his stead.

Happy 25th Birthday Homeboy!


Newly promoted custody commander Marvin Washington called a meeting on Monday of jail supervisors, including those from OSJ, to talk about the issue of retaliation.

(OSJ is the unit in which deputies Mike Rathbun and James Sexton have been working.)

Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore confirmed the meeting, saying that Sheriff Baca has long been committed to a firm no retaliation policy, “And the message is finally getting through loud and clear; that you can’t do that!”

About the Sexton/Rathbun lawsuit, Whitmore said that the department is “cooperating fully with the federal investigation,” but also reiterated what he’d earlier told the LA Times, that Sexton and Rathburn “were not retaliated against.”


Andrew Cohen at the Atlantic has a column on the topic of not-terribly-speedy trials, which are now the norm. His doorway into the topic is the matter of a case involving a 7-year wait for trial in Louisiana, which the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear, and then, this week, decided….um….maybe not.

Here’s a clip from the story:

There has been for decades now an ideological split at the United States Supreme Court over the Sixth Amendment’s right to a speedy trial — one of the most basic of due process rights. Court conservatives have successfully limited the scope of the right by justifying and forgiving unconscionable delays in bringing criminal defendants to trial. And the Court’s progressives, outnumbered now for a generation, have complained not just about the unjust results of those cases but about the indigent defense systems which have fostered trial delays in the first place.

And so it is again. On Monday, in a case styled Boyer v. Louisiana, none of the Court’s five conservative justices were willing to come to the aid of a man who had to wait seven years between his arrest and his trial because of a “funding crisis” within Louisiana’s indigent defense program. In fact, those five justices refused even to render a ruling on the merits of the matter, instead deciding after oral argument and all the briefing in the case that their earlier decision to accept the matter for review was “improvident.”

It was left to Justice Samuel Alito to defend the Court’s inaction. The long delay in bringing Jonathan Edward Boyer to trial on murder charges was not just the fault of Louisiana and its infamously underfunded and understaffed indigent defense program, Justice Alito concluded. “['T]he record shows that the single largest share of the delay in this case was the direct result of defense requests for continuances, that other defense motions caused substantial additional delay, and that much of the rest of the delay was caused by events beyond anyone’s control,” he wrote. That was enough to deny Boyer’s claims.

Read the rest.


Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Department of Justice, and the FBI are conducting a tour of Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers on Tuesday. According to the notification passed around to custody personnel, the tour is expected to last for approximately 8 hours, and the feds will be interviewing random inmates and videoing certain areas of the jails.

The tour is reportedly a part of preparations for an upcoming Civil* Grand Jury Inquiry.

LASD spokesman, Steve Whitmore, admitted he was not aware of the tour, but said that the department “welcomed” such inquiries and saw them as beneficial.

*NOTE: We took the designation “civil” grand jury from the LASD internal memo we obtained but, upon reflection, we now suspect that the word was simply incorrect verbiage that we unwittingly repeated, and that the department supervisor who wrote the memo meant the latest federal grand jury to be convened in the ongoing and ever-expanding FBI investigations. If we get further clarification, we’ll let you know.


I’m presuming you’ve seen this story, by the LA Times Joel Rubin, but just in case anyone missed it, about the 40 former LAPD officers who believe their respective cases out to be reviewed.

The news for those officers dismissed who believe their cases are wroth of review is both good and bad.

Here’s a clip that explains the situation:

In the wake of Christopher Dorner’s claim that his firing from the Los Angeles Police Department was a result of corruption and bias, more than three dozen other fired LAPD cops want department officials to review their cases.

The 40 requests, which were tallied by the union that represents rank-and-file officers, have come in the two months since Dorner sought revenge for his 2009 firing by targeting police officers and their families in a killing rampage that left four dead and others injured.

Dorner’s allegations of a department plagued by racism and special interests left Chief Charlie Beck scrambling to stem a growing chorus of others who condemned Dorner’s violence but said his complaints about the department were accurate. To assuage concerns, Beck vowed to re-examine the cases of other former officers who believed they had been wrongly expelled from the force.

Now, details of how the department plans to make good on Beck’s offer are becoming clear. And, for at least some of the disgruntled ex-officers, they will be disappointing.

In letters to those wishing to have their case reviewed, department officials explain that the city’s charter, which spells out the authority granted to various public officials, prevents the police chief from opening new disciplinary proceedings for an officer fired more than three years ago.

“Therefore the Department does not have the power to reinstate officers whose terminations occurred more than three years ago,” wrote Gerald Chaleff, the LAPD’s special assistant for constitutional policing. “You are being informed of this to forestall any misconceptions about the power of the department.”

Yep, that last would be the the bad news.

Posted in Charlie Beck, Civil Liberties, crime and punishment, FBI, Homeboy Industries, jail, LA County Jail, LAPD, LASD | 11 Comments »

BETRAYAL OF TRUST – Part 1: Two Sheriff’s Deputies, Sons of Cop Fathers, Sue LASD for Threats, Retaliation, Conspiracy & More

April 29th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


Last week two Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputies, Michael Rathbun and James Sexton—both the sons of law enforcement fathers—filed suit in federal court naming LA County, Sheriff Lee Baca, the former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, Lt. Greg Thompson, and a string of others.

The suit alleges retaliation, constitutional violations, malicious prosecution, conspiracy, harassment, direct threats—and a lot more.

It appears that Sexton and Rathbun tried every other possible route within the department to bring to light the alleged misconduct they said they witnessed, and to put a stop to the ongoing retaliation and agressive threats they reportedly experienced—but with no luck. So with much trepidation, the two brought this doozy of a lawsuit containing a laundry list of disturbing allegations, some of which we’ll cover in much more depth in the days to come.

For now here’s the overview:


To understand the whole of the 39-page lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday April 23 by attorneys Brad Gage, Terry Goldberg, and Milad Sadr, all of Goldberg and Gage, it helps to remember that Rathbun and Sexton are the two deputies who were in the news some months ago, after a case they were working inside the jails allegedly got deliberately blown by their supervisor, Lt. Greg Thompson.

Sexton and Rathbun worked for the investigative unit inside the county jails known as Operation Safe Jails—or OSJ—an elite unit that develops intelligence sources and confidential informants among the inmates in order to better predict problems among the facilities’ gang populations.

The two, most particularly Sexton, were known for their facility at cultivating confidential informants—or CIs—who then yielded information that, in a great many cases, led to fruitful busts in the jails and, even more often, out in the street. Other units in the LASD, the LAPD and sometimes the FBI had all, at one time or another, been able to make use of Sexton and Rathbun’s information.

In the course of the investigation that would trigger the string of events leading to this lawsuit, the two had been told by a confidential informant, whom they had found in the past to be extremely reliable, that a deputy in Men’s Central Jail, whose name was Joseph Britton, was allegedly passing information—and possibly more—-to an inmate who was the primary white supremacist shot caller for the county jails. (Each racial group has its own gang hierarchy within each facility, and then an uber hierarchy in the county system as a whole.)

In return for his alleged favors for the white supremacist guy, who whose nickname is “Fritz,” Britton was allegedly getting expensive tattoo work for free by Fritz’s partner, who has a tattoo shop in the West Valley.

Sexton and Rathbun wrote up their detailed report on Britton, expecting their direct supervisor, Lt. Greg Thompson, to pass the information on to either Internal Affairs, or more likely, ICIB, the department’s internal investigative unit dealing with criminal matters, which would look into the allegations further.

Incredibly, Thompson did not pass the investigation up the line. Instead he took the un-redacted report—featuring Rathbun and Sexton’s name as investigators, and worse, the name of the confidential informant—and gave it to Britton, the deputy being investigated, plus others, thus effectively blowing the case to smithereens, and putting their CI potentially at lethal risk, since he was now in a position of being known as a snitch among Aryan Brotherhood types when he got out of jail. Being a snitch, in gang circles of any ethnicity, is traditionally a death sentence.

After Thompson leaked Sexton and Rathbun’s report, he reportedly did the thing that Sexton and Rathbun found the most unforgivable: He allegedly ordered one of his “acolyte” deputies to declassify their CI from a “K-10″ protected status, then to move him into the jail’s “general population,” meaning he was out among the masses, completely unprotected, thus his life would be immediately at risk—especially now that Lt. Thompson had liberally handed around the confidential investigative report that would unambiguously label the CI as a “snitch.” A rat.

Indeed, an attempt on the CI’s life was reportedly made almost immediately after the move: An inmate tried to shank him in the showers. The CI survived, according to Rathbun and Sexton, but only because he was larger and faster than his assailant.

The minute they heard of the CI’s exposure, Sexton and Rathbun pulled every string possible, and managed get their man back into a protected unit where they kept a close eye on him.

Stunned and furious at what they saw as their boss’s deliberate endangerment of their informant, Sexton and Rathbun went to internal affairs themselves and laid out what they knew.

That, according to the lawsuit, is when the threats and the retaliation began.

Months later, when an article about the Britton matter appeared in the LA Times, Rathbun and Sexton were subsequently called to testify in front of a federal grand jury.

After the feds entered the picture, the retaliation, the intimidation and the implicit and explicit threats became far more intense and frightening, according to the lawsuit.


Both Rathbun and Sexton are well-educated deputies, and second-generation cops, who appeared to come to the department with the idealistic view that the LASD was a place where they could make a positive contribution. Rathbun graduated from UC Santa Barbara, while Sexton began at West Point, finished up at the University of Alabama, and is now getting his master’s at USC.

Mike Rathbun is the son of 35-year LASD veteran, David Rathbun, now a reserve deputy. James Sexton is the son of Ted Sexton, the department’s newly hired Chief of Homeland Security, who left his longtime job as head of the sheriff’s department in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, to come to work for his friend, Lee Baca.

In fact, when they had reportedly exhausted all other avenues, the lawsuit also alleges that each of the deputies talked multiple times personally with Baca whom they informed of everything that now forms the basis of the 39-page complaint. Sexton and Rathbun maintain they asked Baca for help, for advice as how best to proceed and, as matters deteriorated, they expressed fears for their personal safety.

Yet, it all came to nothing, they said.

Instead, the retaliation and threats against Rathbun and Sexton continued to get worse.


Even before the matter of Lt. Thompson, and the alleged endangering of the confidential informant, the lawsuit states that Rathbun and Sexton were ordered to participate in an “operation” that they quickly realized likely involved them in a crime—namely the hiding of FBI informant, Anthony Brown.

According to the lawsuit, the matter of moving Brown from place to place, clandestinely, inside the jail system, which LASD officials have claimed was done for Brown’s safety, was explicitly for the purpose of keeping him away from his FBI handlers and anyone from the U.S. Attorney’s office. Sexton and Rathbun know this because they were part of the team tasked with an extremely elaborate scheme of allegedly hiding Brown from any FBI agents or assistant US Attorneys, so that he could be debriefed by members of the sheriff’s department, who wanted to know for themselves what Brown had seen and heard that he was going to pass along to the Feds.

The lawsuit alleges that Lt. Thompson led the operation, but that he repeatedly stated to his troops that he did so at the direction of Paul Tanaka. Sexton and Rathbun describe multiple instances where Tanaka’s oversight was verified.

The deputies also report having knowledge of Sheriff Lee Baca being briefed on the operation.


Among its many disheartening allegations, the suit maintains that certain members of OSJ—the elit investigative unit within the LA County Jail system of which Sexton and Rathbun were members—have “an inappropriate relationship” with “various inmate gangs, particularly white supremacist gangs,” and that these department members use the inmate gangsters “as proxies or agents to retaliate against other LASD deputies or inmates” against whom they have a beef or grudge.

Sexton and Rathbun reportedly know this because they’ve witnessed it, and also because, once the Britton case came apart, they began being targeted.

The lawsuit outlines a quid pro quo system in which the Aryan Brotherhood-like types get special privileges that they are “otherwise legally precluded from.” In return, the white power gangsters do dirty work for a clique of racist deputies, a group in which Rathbun and Sexton say Thompson is included. (The suit also notes that Greg Thompson is a Viking from the same era as Paul Tanaka, and is reportedly very close to Tanaka. Thompson is named multiple times for wrongdoing in the famous class action lawsuit, Thomas v. the County of Los Angeles, settled in 1996 for $9 million.)

The lawsuit also alleges incidents in which OSJ deputies working in Men’s Central Jail would beat up inmates when it suited them, in one case, repeatedly harassing and injuring one of Sexton’s other confidential informants.

When Sexton reported the issues with his informant, having first vetted the claims to his own satisfaction, nothing was done. It was just bad judgement at most, he was told. Inmates lie.


The tale of the escalating threats and retaliation against Sexton and Rathbun that the lawsuit alleges is alarming and likely worth its own harrowing narrative. Here, however, is a sampling:

**In late February 2012, Sexton was “cornered” in a department office by two OSJ deputies, who were on duty in uniform, who told him that he and Rathbun “better shut up or else,’ about the Britton case.

**Also in February, Sexton was confronted around 1 am in the jails parking lot by a uniformed deputy who warned, his manner agressive, that he and Rathbun had better keep their mouths shut about the Britton case.

**At the same time, MCJ OSJ deputies referred to Sexton and Rathbun as “snitches” and told them that in moving “Fritz,’ the white power shot caller, the two were “fucking up their program.”

**In March 2012, Sexton conducted an audio-taped interview with a suspect in an unrelated case, in the custody facilities. Bizarrely, the audio was subsequently leaked and posted on YouTube. “Sexton’s ID was thus exposed, and his well-being placed in jeopardy.” Sexton asked Lt. Thompson to investigate the matter, but Thompson reportedly declined telling Sexton to ‘forget about it.”

**In April 2012, Rathbun, who had been struggling with drinking to cope with increasing job stress, had a bad night in which he drank a lot, and got into a “fender bender,” and was charged with a misdemeanor DUI. The video of the arrest, was anonymously posted on the LASD’s intranet network.

**“White power” literature was left on the front porch at Rathbun’s home in a manner that was seen as a threat. At the same time, white power inmates in MCJ began referring to Rathbun and Sexton as “race traitors.”

**The lawsuit reports several similar and aggressive warnings of “you better…or else” from OSJ deputies, including Lt. Thompson’s son, Matt Thompson.

**In April 2012, right before Sexton was due to be interviewed by Internal affairs about the Britton incident. Lt. Thompson himself called Sexton at home and asked if he was going to talk to IA and ICIB. Sexton said he was. Thompson then reportedly abruptly hung up.

**The threats continued, and included awkward meetings with Thompson who demanded to know what Sexton and Rathbun had told LASD personnel in this or that interview.

**In May, Thompson called Sexton into his office. “Have you been calling your dad back home about this?” he wanted to know. Yes, sir, said Sexton. “If I were you I’d quit telling your dad war stories about what’s going on in this jail.”

**Often now, according to the lawsuit, the threats came with explicit mentions of bodily harm.

** After Sexton and Rathbun were subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury, and indeed testified, two deputies cornered Sexton, one of them, Lt. Greg Thompson’s son, Matt Thompson, wanting to know what they’d talked about at the grand jury.

**In June, after Thompson was removed from the unit, two deputies announced at a unit party that whomever caused “the boss” to be transfered would “answer” for their actions.

**Sexton has allegedly been subject to frivolous retaliatory investigations by Internal Affairs, each time coming to nothing.

**And then there is the matter of Rathbun’s DUI, which was quietly upped to a felony, which would have likely meant prison time, although, according to the lawsuit, there was no factual basis whatsoever for the escalation of charges. The suit alleges that the charges were raised at the behest of LASD supervisors.

**Rathbun’s car was vandalized on LASD property.

**Sexton found men in an unmarked car across the street from his house, watching his home, attempting to take pictures. When Sexton approached them, they claimed to be “insurance inspectors,” but reportedly sped away when he asked for ID.

**In the summer of 2012, Rathbun was suspended without pay for the DUI, but assured by Baca that he would be able to return with no harm to his career.

**In September 2012 Sexton needed to make a work-related visit to the department’s Temple Station, where Thompson had been transferred after an LA Times article precipitated the opening of an IA investigation into his actions regarding the Britton matter. Upon arriving, however, Sexton was intercepted by Temple station’s Sgt. Larry Mead, who reportedly relayed a message from Thompson that Sexton should leave the premises, “to prevent an incident.”

**In late 2012, a high-ranking supervisor expressed concern that Sexton and Rathbun’s lives might be in danger.

**in late 2012, “Rathbun discovered that LASD personnel, including Detective Perkins,” were the ones responsible for escalating his DUI misdemeanor to a felony. (The charge was eventually dropped again by the DA to a misdemeanor, and the case settled.)

**In March of 2013,” reports the lawsuit, “Michael Rathbun was recommended for termination,” although the DUI was his first infraction, and according to a document obtained by WLA, at least 5 other LASD deputies and 4 non-sworn LASD staff members also got DUI’s in the first two quarters of last year, for which they received only 15 to 30-day suspensions.

BETRAYAL OF TRUST, Part 2 coming soon.


Posted in jail, LA County Jail, LASD, race, Sheriff Lee Baca | 37 Comments »

Miranda and Dzhokhar Tsarnaeve….Apologies in Criminal Law….More on the Koch-Bros & the LAT

April 26th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


Of course we want the feds to have gotten everything possible our of Dzhokar Tsarnaev before he started clamming up. But is that merely an emotional position or a legally justifiable one? (Do remember, that the rights we give away in exceptionally moments often tend to stay given away.)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev talked for 16 hours before he was read his rights. Emily Bazelon of Slate thinks that’s too long. Here’s a clip from her discussion-provoking essay on the matter.

According to the AP, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev answered questions for 16 hours before he was read the Miranda warning that he could remain silent and could ask for a lawyer. Once Tsarnaev was told that, he stopped talking. (So much for the idea that everyone has heard Miranda warnings so many times on TV that they have become an empty ritual.) The AP also reports that the investigators questioning him were “surprised when a magistrate judge and a representative from the U.S. Attorney’s office entered the hospital room.” The investigators “had planned to keep questioning him.”

Wow. That’s bad no matter your point of view. If you think Tsarnaev doesn’t deserve the normal protections American law affords criminal suspects, then you’d want the FBI to keep at him as long as they chose. Or if, like me, you’re worried about how far the Obama administration’s Justice Department has stretched the limited “public safety” exception the Supreme Court has allowed for questioning suspects about ongoing danger without Miranda warnings, 16 hours sounds expansive.

It’s true that Miranda offers protection only after the fact. Technically, the rule is violated not when investigators fail to give the warnings, but when they try to introduce in court a confession or other facts a suspect revealed before he was read his rights. It’s also true that given the mountain of evidence against Tsarneav, he could be convicted without his own statements. But that may not be true with the next terrorist suspect—or the next hated man for whom the government decides to stretch the public safety exception. The Justice Department is setting a precedent here. And how does that precedent directly involve public safety, when all of law enforcement reassured the public that safety had been restored once Tsarnaev was captured Friday night, and that the authorities strongly believed he and his brother, Tamerlan, had acted alone?

Read on. There’s a lot more.


This research paper on the value of—and legal difficulty with—apologies by defendants in criminal court, by Professor Michael Jones of the Phoenix School of Law, covers an interesting question.

Here’s the abstract:

This paper is written for the purpose of addressing the power and possibility of early apologies in the criminal justice system. As constructed, our criminal justice system rewards defendants that learn early in their case to remain silent, and punishes those that talk. Defendants that may want to offer an apology or allocution for the harm they’ve caused are often required to wait until a sentencing hearing, which may come months, or even years after the event in question. This paper proposes that the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure be modified to provide an exception for apology to criminal defendants. Apologies can play an invaluable role in the healing process for victims, defendants, family members and others tied together by the unfortunate events of a criminal prosecution. This paper seeks to further the comprehensive law movement approach that promotes a healing process for those involved in the criminal justice system.

An here’s the full paper if you’d like to take a look.

(A thank you, once again, to the excellent Doug Berman of Sentencing, Law & Policy, for flagging this paper.)


Now that the shock of the Koch duo’s possible purchase of the LA Times and other Tribune Corp papers is nearly a week old, a whole second wave of reactions has been surfacing, some of them….odd.

Take, for example, this somewhat untethered column by the Washington Post’s Steve Perlstein in which Perlstein breathlessly suggests that he knows a sure fire way that the LAT employees can save the paper from the marauding Koch-sters.


Everyone should quit. (Right, Steve. That’d show ‘em.)

“If the Times journalists,” he writes…

….”….decide collectively to walk out the door one day, the readers and advertisers are almost certain to follow.

“A new owner, of course, could hire new journalists, and certainly there are plenty of them out there looking for a job. But it would take time to attract them, get them working as a team and weed out the inevitable clunkers…

“And in the meantime, competing news organizations would be quick to pick up Tribune’s stars and use them to lure away readers and advertisers at a time when circulation and revenue are already under pressure. Hell, in the age of the Internet, the rebellious journalists could easily start their own news organizations and grab a good chunk of their old readership within weeks.
This is a rare moment for Tribune’s beleaguered journalists. For the first time in a long time, they actually have leverage. They’d be crazy not to use it….”

This is, of course, quite nuts.

But read the rest anyway.


Washington Post columnist Herold Meyerson spent years as a political journalist in LA, so it’s understandable that he would feel moved to weigh in on the possibility of the Koch brothers as buyers for the LA Times, and about the necessity of remembering that a newspaper isn’t just a business; it’s also a civic trust.

Here’s a couple of clips:

On May 21, Los Angeles voters will go to the polls to select a new mayor. Who will govern Los Angeles, however, is only the second-most important local question in the city today. The most important, by far, is who will buy the Los Angeles Times.

The Times is one of the eight daily newspapers now owned by the creditors who took control of the Tribune Co. after real estate wheeler-dealer Sam Zell drove it into bankruptcy. Others include the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel and the Hartford Courant. The Tribune board members whom the creditors selected want to unload the papers in favor of more money-making ventures.
Fans of newspapers are a jumpy lot these days. And in the past couple of weeks, their apprehension has gone through the roof with word that right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch are looking to buy all eight papers.


Being human beings, all newspaper owners have politics of their own. Since the 19th century, however, most haven’t gone into business primarily to advance a political perspective. Profit, professional and civic pride, and recognition have largely motivated them. It’s hard to see how any of these factored into the Koch brothers’ calculations.

In their very brief no-comment on the sale rumors, the Kochs took care to note, “We respect the independence of the journalistic institutions” owned by Tribune, but the staffs at those papers fear that, once Kochified, the papers would quickly turn into print versions of Fox News. A recent informal poll that one L.A. Times writer conducted of his colleagues showed that almost all planned to exit if the Kochs took control (and that included sports writers and arts writers). Those who stayed would have to grapple with how to cover politics and elections in which their paper’s owners played a leading role. It’s also unclear who in Los Angeles, one of the nation’s most liberal cities, would actually want to read such a paper, but then the Kochs don’t appear to view this as a money-making venture.

Though slimmed down from its glory days, the L.A. Times remains a great newspaper, as its recent stories on increasing employer surveillance of blue-collar workers illustrate. But the paper that, under the reign of publisher-owner Otis Chandler in the 1960s and ’70s, moved to the apex of American journalism has suffered a string of indifferent-to-godawful owners, ranging from Mr. Chandler’s cousins to Mr. Zell — that rare journalism mogul who actively hated journalism and journalists….

MEANWHILE…Marcelle Pacatte writing for Crains Chicago Business urges his fellow Chicagoans not to be afraid of the “big, bad Koch Brothers.”

Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Contemplating Crime & Consequence, criminal justice, journalism, Los Angeles Times | 5 Comments »

Progress on New Bill Re: Kids in Solitary…..How School Suspensions Backfire….Despair and Hunger Strikes at Git’mo….

April 25th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


SB 61, a bill that defines and limits the use of solitary confinement for kids locked up in state and county juvenile facilities passed out of the Senate Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. The bill, authored by Senator Leland Yee, (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) is something that youth advocates have been pushing.

A statement from Yee’s office outlined the following points:

**Nationally, over half of the youth who committed suicide while in a correctional facility were in solitary confinement and 62 percent had a history of being placed in solitary confinement.

***Research also shows that individuals who were forced into solitary confinement had much higher rates of recidivism as well as developing psychopathologies.

**“The use of solitary confinement on a child is wrong and should be used only in the most extreme situations,” said Yee, who is a child psychologist. “The studies are clear – holding juveniles in solitary increases recidivism rates, exacerbates existing mental illness, and makes youth more likely to attempt suicide. The overuse of solitary confinement with children destroys young lives.”

“Solitary confinement is an archaic way of dealing with incarcerated children” said Yee. “Clearly, solitary confinement does not benefit society in the long run and actually makes our communities more dangerous. If we embrace scientific evidence over the status quo, we can work to rebuild broken lives and keep California safer.”

Dr. Laura Abrams of UCLA testified on behalf of SB 61, saying, “The mission of the juvenile justice system is to offer youth an opportunity for rehabilitation while also promoting public safety. The use of solitary confinement is counter to these goals. Not only does solitary confinement undermine rehabilitation efforts, but also as the potential to return a young person to society with exacerbated trauma and mental illness that can manifest in violence toward self or others.”

We’re watching this bill and are heartened by this first step toward passage!


This run-of-the-mill yet heartbreaking story of the everyday manner in which the use of a school suspension fairls to serve either the student or the safety of the school, is all too common. It is by Sally Lee writing for the Huffington Post. Here’s a representative clip:

Working in the Bronx, as she writes in the Suspensions Stories blog, E.E.M. is a history teacher who helped develop a “Moot Court” project that has become one of the seminal academic experiences of upperclassmen at her school. Student teams research real First and Fourth Amendment Supreme Court cases and then develop arguments and present in front of guest “justices.” Each year students are highly engaged in this project, and one year four of them, a crew of friends who had known each other since childhood, were working hard to prepare for their presentation. But just weeks before the case presentations, three of the young men were involved in an altercation (involving many people from multiple schools in the building) that was the result of an out-of-school turf tension related to the two sets of housing projects near the school. The three young men were given a 60-day out-of-school suspension. The effect? The students never got to stand tall and present their cases in front of peers and impressed guests. Instead, one student transferred to a school that didn’t match his needs or interests, another moved out of state, one returned to the school with little trust for faculty, and the fourth, who wasn’t involved in the fights, grew listless after the destruction of what had been a positive and supportive team for him: his friends. What could have been for these young men had the school system intervened earlier and responded differently? For E.E.M. and her colleagues, stories like these are common, and they are heartbreaking. Educators see so much promise in their students, but what is their fate when time and again they are demoralized and alienated by schools without adequate and supportive resources?


We don’t usually stray into issues that relate to national security, but for those of us concerned about humane and constitutional incarceration policies, this situation is of grave concern. The New York Times’ Charlie Savage has written a painful and shameful story about the dispair that has spread among the prisoners at Guantanamo, resulting in a mass hunger strike that is now threatening lives.

Here’s a clip from Savage’s excellent and disturbing story:

In the early afternoon quiet, guards in camouflage fatigues walked the two-tiered cellblocks of Camp Six, where the most cooperative of the 166 terrorism suspects held in the military prison here are housed. From a darkened control room, other guards watched banks of surveillance monitors showing prisoners in white clothing — pacing, sleeping or reading — in their cells.

But the relative calm on display to visiting reporters last week was deceiving. Days earlier, guards had raided Camp Six and locked down protesting prisoners who had blocked security cameras, forbidding them to congregate in a communal area. A hunger strike is now in its third month, with 93 prisoners considered to be participating — more than half the inmates and twice the number before the raid.

“They are not done yet, and they will not be done until there is more than one death,” said a Muslim adviser to the military, identified as “Zak” for security reasons, who fears there may be suicides. Only one thing, he predicted, will satisfy the detainees: if someone is allowed to leave.

The spark for the protest is disputed. Detainees, through their lawyers, say that when guards conducted a search of their cells on Feb. 6, they handled their Korans in a disrespectful way. Prison officials dispute that.

But both military officials and lawyers for the detainees agree about the underlying cause of the turmoil: a growing sense among many prisoners, some of whom have been held without trial for more than 11 years, that they will never go home.


Jail guards as inmates’ babymamas plus a thriving drug biz behind bars and more. Rochelle Ritchie of CBS reports this story (and so has nearly everyone else). Here’s a clip in case you missed the sad and jaw-dropping saga of one of Baltimore’s jail:

Twenty-five people, 13 of those female correction officers, are now behind bars facing federal charges of racketeering, money laundering and possession of drugs with the intent to distribute. Investigators say the women helped White and other gang members smuggle cell phones, marijuana, prescription pills and cigarettes into the Baltimore City Detention Center.

“It’s pretty much its own city. The guards aren’t running the jail; prisoners really run the jail,” said one former inmate.

The illegal operation isn’t surprising to former inmates.

“I was in there before. Everywhere you look, people lighting up marijuana joints, tobacco…we even get alcohol in there,” said a former inmate.

And here’s a clip from a story by Dan Rodricks for the Baltimore Sun:

I have lots of questions about the Black Guerrilla Family case, starting with this: Was the warden of the Baltimore City Detention Center asked to approve maternity leave for any of the female correctional officers allegedly impregnated by inmate Tavon “Bulldog” White?

I thought it was a pretty good question.

A taxpayer’s question.

According to the U.S. attorney’s office, White got four of his jailers pregnant. (Do you think these women knew what was going on before the indictment came down? Do you think they all got along and attended Lamaze class together?)

If the indictment is correct, if female prison guards fraternized with an inmate to the point of pregnancy — a couple of them had White’s name tattooed on their bodies, the feds say — then I don’t want to hear that they asked for paid maternity leave.

Don’t tell us that.

Bad enough that White pretty much ran the jail, according to the indictment.

If his baby mamas — excuse me, his alleged baby mamas — had the chutzpah to ask for paid maternity leave, that would add insult to injury….

Posted in Guantanamo, jail, juvenile justice, Los Angeles County, Probation, solitary | No Comments »

Unlikely Friends: A Film About Brutal Crime & Radical Forgiveness – in a Special LA Benefit Screening Saturday, 5 pm

April 24th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

When I woke up from surgery, as I was laying in ICU, I started to hate the man who shot me. I hated him with a passion. I hated him so much. Every breath of air I took was to hate him. He was sentenced to life in prison. But I wasn’t satisfied with that. I wanted him dead. He should be dead for what he did to me. I didn’t care if the state of Wyoming killed him, or another inmate killed him, I wanted him dead.

-Wyoming Highway Patrolman, Steve Watt

Before he was shot five times— once in the eye, and four times in the lower back—-Steve Watt was, in his own words, a pro-gun Republican who believed “if you’re not a cop or a family member of a cop, you’re a dirtbag.”

After Watt was gunned down by an armed bank robber whose car Watt unwittingly stopped when the robber was on his way out of the county, the injured patrolman, once a man who depended on his physical strength, struggled miserably with recovery. He was in pain every day, due to the damage caused by the bullets. In the winter, the eyelid covering his artificial eye would freeze to the fake eye and had to be repeatedly unstuck.

His emotional state was no better. Even on the best days, Watt felt he was being eaten alive by the rage and hatred that had forcibly commandeered his psyche, post shooting.

“I finally couldn’t take anymore,” he said. “I couldn’t hate any more. I couldn’t be angry and bitter at him any more.”

But Watt didn’t know what to do instead. In desperation he did something that, at the time, struck him as crazy: he sat down and wrote a letter the man who shot him, his enemy, the object of his hatred. His assailant wrote him back. And, for the first time since he got out of the hospital, something new began to happen for Watt.

Victims of violent crime (and their wounded families, also victims)—have well-funded political lobbying organizations. But many find little in the way of effective emotional help as they try, painfully, to reweave functional lives out of the shattering that a terrible crime produces.

Unlikely Friends,” a documentary by award winning filmmaker Leslie Neale—which has a special benefit screening this Saturday [see below]—profiles crime victims who take an unusual path to healing that is gaining increasing currency under the heading of restorative justice , an approach which postulates that the harm done by crime cannot be repaired merely through punishing the perpetrators.

Neale said she got the idea for this film years ago when working on another film, Road to Return a documentary about a unique prison reentry program. In the course of filming, she met victims who were struggling painfully with the after effects of crime. She also met perpetrators who wanted to face up to what they’d done and make some kind of amends, but had no clue how to do so. One such dyad Neale encountered, like Watt and his shooter, ended up meeting. Over the years, Neale heard many more accounts of healing for victims emerging out of confronting—and ultimately forgiving—the person who caused them harm.

Neale (who is married to former Doors drummer, John Densmore) has produced and directed a string of highly regarded documentaries that have strong social justice components. I met her when she was just finishing up “Juvies” a deeply affecting film about kids tried as adults in California, narrated by Mark Wahlberg. I have been a fan ever since. Thus I was not surprised that this new film of Neale’s packs such a wallop.

In some cases the victims Neale met could not talk to their perpetrators; the prison wouldn’t allow it. Or they found that their perpetrators were the angry ones, blaming everyone but themselves for the wreckage their actions had created. So the victims instead talked to others like their attackers, or their loved ones’ attackers. In the film, a mother of a murdered son talks to a room full of murderers, most of whom will never get out of prison. The surrogate process we witness, while not curative—for some wounds nothing is curative—is nonetheless visibly powerful and mysteriously salving .

Unlikely Friends, which I strongly urge you to see, is not any kind of feel good movie. It is not about forgiving and forgetting. It’s not about not holding people accountable.

It is, however, about a more radical accounting that—according to the victims who have experienced it— contains within it the seeds of healing that retribution alone does not.

Watching the film is an emotional experience that has its own healing effect.

Anyway, see Unlikely Friends. Then tell me what you think.


A special benefit screening of “Unlikely Friends,” is being held at the Barnsdall theater. It’s $25 for the screening and a reception that, I promise, will feature an interesting and varied crowd of people.

Click here to RSVP if you wish to attend.

All money raised from the screening will go to the Amity Foundation.


As pressure is put on Jerry Brown to further cut the state’s prison population, county probation chiefs push back—LA County Probation Chief Jerry Powers among them.

KPPC’s Rina Palta has the story. Here’s a clip:

California has about a week and a half to come up with a plan for lowering its prison population by about 9,000 additional inmates by the end of the year.

L.A. County Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers wants to be clear that one option is not on the table.

“Under no circumstances are counties interested in expanding the current realignment population,” Powers said.

Powers, appearing before the L.A. Board of Supervisors Tuesday, said he was just back from a meeting in Sacramento with officials from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Powers said he and officials from other counties made it clear they’re not willing to take on any more new offenders.


Fox News Latino has the story. here’s a clip:

The city of Los Angeles reached a $4.2 million settlement on injury claims brought against the police department by two women who were hurt when police mistakenly opened fire on them during the manhunt for disgruntled ex-cop Christopher Dorner, an official said Tuesday.

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich announced the sum to KNBC-TV Los Angeles, and an attorney representing the women has confirmed the amount to The Associated Press.

The settlement means the women cannot pursue any future injury claims against the city.
The agreement is in addition to a $40,000 settlement reached earlier for the loss of the women’s pickup truck.

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice | No Comments »

Secretly Painting Fr. Greg…..and The Benefits of Judges Shouting at Gov. Jerry

April 23rd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

The May issue of Los Angeles Magazine contains a profile of Father Greg Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries. (And, yes, we’ll link to the profile the moment that it’s out.) Under most circumstances, such a story would be illustrated by a photo portrait. But LA Mag decided to go another way and commissioned a painting of Fr. Greg by Boyle Heights artist, Fabian Deborah, a former gang member and drug addict who now heads Homeboy’s drug and alcohol program.

The painting-as-illustration idea was not so unusual, but Fabian did the thing in secret without telling the priest that he was fashioning his portrait.

I’ve known Fabian for nearly 2 decades, and some other day, we’ll tell the full story of how a near-miraculous art moment, along with Fr. Greg, saved Fabian’s life—and how art kept pulling Fabian back from the brink until he could finally and truly save himself.

For now, here are a few clips of LA Mag’s interview with Fabian Deborah about his secret Boyle-related painting project.

You painted a portrait of Father Boyle for the first time for our profile. Tell us about the artwork.

The painting took me approximately seven days to create and is acrylic paint on a standard 30-inch-by-40-inch canvas. Father Boyle is my father, my teacher, my mentor, and my friend. It’s nice to paint a portrait of your mentor, although it has to be done in the proper manner. I wanted to make sure it was up to par. I wanted to be able to connect him to his roots—the Mission and the housing projects. The [painting represents] the progression of his vision. He doesn’t like to be glorified, but it was an honor for me. I had many wonderful memories as I was placing the paint onto the canvas. I’m just waiting to see his reaction—it’s a surprise he doesn’t know about yet.

Was it hard for you to keep him in the dark?
Oh yes, it was very hard. I felt like going to him many times to get his approval, but I had to go around him and ask coworkers about his likeness with the painting. The responses were great, so that helped me go through with the painting.

How do you hope Father Boyle responds?

I hope he feels the importance of his action when he inspired me to create art back when I was ten years old. Like, “Wow, now he painted me after all these years. I am now a part of his works of art.


What does your art say about Boyle Heights?

I think it shines light. As a representative of Boyle Heights, I’m trying to invite the audience to see the beauty within my community, without the stereotypes and the stigma that it has had because of the gangs and violence. There’s a lot of richness and culture as well as the individual. The homie is a human being. When I paint the homie, it’s not to glorify his actions, it’s to return him to humanity. It’s about redemption. It’s a way of healing for me.


Two weeks ago Thursday, a very angry three-judge panel spent a lot of time shouting at—or at least talking harshly to—- the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, about how Brown hadn’t reduced California’s prison population as far as the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling has demanded. There was some mention of throwing Jerry Brown into jail for contempt if he didn’t come up with a plan to get with the program.

All this judicial shouting occurred amidst the ongoing and seemingly constant drumbeat of furious criticism aimed Brown and his AB109 prison realignment plan, which has managed to reduce the prison population by more than 30,000 inmates, by mandating—among other things—-that certain short-term incarcerations be served at a county level, in jail, not in state prison.

The bulk of those serving time in jail, rather than prison, under realignment are drug offenders. In fact a look at the most recent report released by the California Department of Corrections shows that at the end of 2010, about 24,889 inmates convicted of drug crimes were residing in California prisons. By the end of 2012, that number had fallen by nearly half, to 12,364.

Realignment—the policy that, among other changes, shifts certain lower has been blamed for nearly every bad news violent crime or crime rate hiccup, that has occurred since its inception, no matter that, in most cases, there is no factual causal connection. (Some critics have actually suggested the the governor be indicted for some of the crimes committed during realignment.)

A slew of bills have been introduced in the state legislature, all hoping to tweak AB109 in ways that will put more people back in prison.

However, Thomas Elias writing for the Daily News points out how the being snarled at by a trio federal judges may not be the worst thing in the world for Brown as he deals with those who are demanding that he roll back AB109 in order to lock more people up for longer again.

Here’s a clip:

Normally, it’s uncomfortable to hear a federal judge — let alone a panel of three jurists — thunder criticism at one from the bench.

But as usual, Gov. Jerry Brown is different. Prison realignment has drawn more criticism than any other single thing he has done in his second incarnation as governor, even. But the judges’ tirade now provides Brown a convenient scapegoat, one on which he can pin blame for the entire prisoner-release program, and with complete accuracy.

“At no point over the past several months have defendants indicated any willingness to comply, or made any attempt to comply, with the orders of this court,” said the panel of judges, referring to Brown and his administration. “In fact, they have blatantly defied (court orders). ”

The three jurists gave Brown 21 days to submit a plan for meeting their prison population target by the end of this year. If Brown doesn’t simultaneously begin complying with the court order, the judges said, he risks being cited for contempt. So the governor said he would ready a plan to release 10,000 more prisoners in case his appeals fail.

Read the rest here.

(NOTE: a thank you to Elias for writing factually and unhysterically on this issue.)

Posted in Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Gangs, Homeboy Industries, prison policy, Realignment, Reentry | 1 Comment »

Jittery Talk at LAT Book Fest About Koch Bros. Bidding for LA Times…How CA Can Get Back Control of its Prisons….and More News

April 22nd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


On Sunday the USC Campus was gloriously packed with tens of thousands of Lit Lovers as the yearly LA Times Festival of Books entered its second event-jammed day.

However in the “green room” area where author/panelists and LA Times staffers gathered before and after their respective events, amid the upbeat book chatter there were grim conversations about the report by Amy Chozick in the NY Times that politically conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch may be the front runners among suitors to buy the LA Times.

The article suggested that the Koch brothers may have an edge on some of the other would-be buyers like, say, Austin Beutner, who only want to buy the Los Angeles Times and not the rest of the Tribune Corp’s stable of newspapers, whereas the Koches will reportedly bid on the whole shebang. This could be crucial, as the Tribune Corp would reportedly prefer to sell the whole bunch, not piecemeal, paper by paper.

In March the Hilel Aron of the LA Weekly broke the story that the Koch siblings were strongly rumored to be potential bidders.

Here’s a clip from the NY Times story:

Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of which Charles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.

By early May, the Tribune Company is expected to send financial data to serious suitors in what will be among the largest sales of newspapers by circulation in the country. Koch Industries is among those interested, said several people with direct knowledge of the sale who spoke on the condition they not be named. Tribune emerged from bankruptcy on Dec. 31 and has hired JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partners to sell its print properties.

The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion.

Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country, and The Tribune is No. 9, and others are in several battleground states, including two of the largest newspapers in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. A deal could include Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, which speaks to the pivotal Hispanic demographic.

One person who attended the Aspen seminar who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the strategy as follows: “It was never ‘How do we destroy the other side?’ ”

“It was ‘How do we make sure our voice is being heard?’ ”


“So far, they haven’t seemed to be particularly enthusiastic about the role of the free press,” Ms. Mayer said in an e-mail, “but hopefully, if they become newspaper publishers, they’ll embrace it with a bit more enthusiasm.”

A Democratic political operative who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he admired how over decades the brothers have assembled a complex political infrastructure that supports their agenda. A media company seems like a logical next step.

This person said, “If they get some bad press that Darth Vader is buying Tribune, they don’t care.”

Alarming X a zillion.


The NY Times also reports on the issue of whether or not the State of California has done enough to justify taking the state’s prisons out of federal receivership. Near the end of the story, criminal Justice expert Barry Krisberg explains what he thinks it will take.

Here’s the relevant clip from Norimitsu Onishi’s story:

Barry Krisberg, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert on California’s prisons who testified in the 2011 Supreme Court case, said it was unlikely the state would succeed in its appeals because of that 2011 ruling.

“He can’t win these cases,” Mr. Krisberg said, referring to the governor. “In my view, it’s nearly impossible to go to the same Supreme Court and within a year ask them the same question.”

Instead of looking only to realignment, Mr. Krisberg said, the state must consider the politically difficult option of shortening sentences for good behavior, a policy that previous governors have carried out without an increase in crime.

“If they were to restore good-time credits for the people who are doing everything we’re asking of them in prison, they could get these numbers,” he said, referring to the 137.5 percent goal.


This story is a small but sweet one. (And we could use sweet stories right now.)

TMZ reports:

Beck did a cameo for “Southland” recently … and got a check for more than a grand. The Chief could have spent the cash on scores of donuts … but decided there was a worthier cause — he’s donating the money to Homeboy Industries…..

Turns out Beck has another cause celeb … he and some of his boys in blue are lobbying for the return of “Southland” — which is currently on the bubble.

NOTE TO TMZ: We are grateful to you for nosing out this cool little story, but we could have done without the condescending donut cliché. (Just sayin’.)


Here’s a clip from the story by the LA Times Catherine Saillant:

As he campaigns to become the city’s next controller, Councilman Dennis Zine said his first job in office would be to audit the Los Angeles Police Department’s risk management division to find out why so many officers are involved in lawsuits.

The city has spent as much as $50 million on legal settlements in recent years on cases it could have avoided if commanders did a better job supervising officers, says Zine, a former LAPD motorcycle officer who faces lawyer Ron Galperin in a May 21 runoff election.

What Zine doesn’t mention is a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a female officer claiming that as a police sergeant he made inappropriate sexual advances during a 1997 business trip to Canada. Zine said that the two were dating and that the officer made up or exaggerated her claims….

Whatever the situation with Zine’s own lawsuit, an audit of this nature never hurts, and needn’t be adversarial. In fact, we’d like to see one for the LASD as well.


This happened last week, but it bears mentioning. The Daily News’ Eric Hartley has the story. Here’s a clip:

A jury acquitted a Los Angeles police officer and a fired former officer Friday of charges they lied under oath about witnessing a drunken driver.

Lawyers for Craig Allen and Phil Walters admitted the two were wrong when they said they had seen a woman blow through two stop signs and pulled her over. In fact, other LAPD officers had stopped the woman, then called Allen and Walters to the scene to administer sobriety tests.

But the defense attorneys said the two officers made honest mistakes and had no reason to risk their careers by lying about a routine traffic stop.

“We’re all extremely relieved that this nightmare is over,” Walters’ lawyer, Joel Isaacson, said Friday afternoon. “Officer Walters had faith in the system, but it’s a scary situation to go through. ”

The two were charged with perjury and filing a false report, both felonies.

The LAPD fired Allen, now 40, before criminal charges were filed. His lawyer, Bill Seki, said Allen is “praying that he gets his job back” and will ask the department to reconsider the firing.

Walters, 58 and a 23-year veteran, still faces a departmental trial called a Board of Rights that could result in his being cleared, punished or fired. He has been relieved of his police powers and is not being paid, an LAPD spokesman said.

Here’s the back story (scroll to the bottom of the post).

Posted in CDCR, Charlie Beck, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Future of Journalism, Homeboy Industries, LAPD, LASD, Los Angeles Times, media, prison | 14 Comments »

It’s LA Times Festival of Books Weekend: Be There! (My “Guns in America” Panel Is Sunday)

April 19th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

The LA Times Festival of Books is this weekend—Saturday and Sunday—on the USC campus. If you’re a book person of any kind, this is the happiest of events—and it’s all free.

At 10:30 am on Sunday, you can see me moderate a panel on Guns in America with three stellar authors: Adam Winkler, who wrote Gun Fight: the Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, and Paul Barrett who wrote GLock: the Rise of America’s Gun, and Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of UC Irvine’s law school, Constitutional scholar, and the author of The Conservative Assault on the Constitution.

These are all very bright people with a lot to say on the topic, and I promise we will have a lively and informative time.

But there’s something for absolutely everyone at this two day event.

There are panels featuring fiction writers, political writers of al leanings, poets, wildly funny book authors, deadly serious noirish mystery writers, graphic novelists…..and so on.

There’s even a panel at 12:30 on Sunday about why you should care about the mayor’s race.

It’s hard to go wrong.

For instance, there are back-to-back panels on Sunday in Mudd hall at 1:30 and 3 pm. One features such persons as my pal Tod Goldberg, plus the wildly talented authors Hector Tober, Laila Lalami, and Nina Revoyr. (Rule of thumb for the LAT FOB, if the panel has Tod Goldberg on it, you should automatically go. It doesn’t matter the topic, just go. Trust me on this. Otherwise it will be the panel you wish you’d seen.)

The other panel is moderated by David Ulin, who—along with Patt Morrison is the absolute best at the whole moderater thingy, and features my pal Tom Bissell, who is one of the smartest people I know and a great prose stylist and he designs video games. With them is D.T. Max, author of the riveting and heartbreaking book about David Foster Wallace, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, and deliciously talented travel writer and essayist, Pico Iyer.

But these are just two of many. Right after our Sunday 10:30 a.m. Guns panel at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, Henry Wienstein is moderating a panel called Today’s Dangerous World, that includes terrorism expert, Brian Michael Jenkins (who in his photos has an impressively intense stare), Pulitzer winner, Mark Mazzetti, who writes about the CIA (and not comfortingly), and Jess Bravin, whose book “Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay, is not calming either. In short, the panel sounds like it will be terrific!

The schedule is here. And if you happen to attend my Sunday panel, stop by and say hi.

But if you’re a reader at all, go to the festival. Just go.

Posted in American artists, American voices, Los Angeles Times, writers and writing | No Comments »

G-Dog Movie Opens in Selected Theaters, April 22

April 19th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

This documentary about Father Greg Boyle and his Homeboy Industries, directed by Academy Award winner, Frieda Mock,
is opening in theaters next week.

Then it will shortly be available for purchase or download, but it’s one of those films that it’s satisfying to see in the theater, as a shared experience.

To be honest, if you live in this city, you should see this movie. If you’re a youth worker or a teacher, or a member of law enforcement, a prosecutor, a public defender, or a judge, you should definitely see this movie.

If you just plain want to feel more hopeful about the race to which we all claim membership, you should see this movie.

Here’s where you can see G-Dog thus far.

Arizona Phoenix/Scottsdale – Harkins Shea-Scottsdale

California Encino – Laemmle Town Center
Los Angeles – Laemmle Claremont
Los Angeles – Laemmle Monica*
Los Angeles – Laemmle NoHo
Palm Desert – Cinémas Palme d’Or
Pasadena – Laemmle Playhouse
San Diego – Media Arts Center

Connecticut Hartford – Cinema City at the Palace

New Haven – Criterion Cinemas @ Movieland

Montana Helena – Myrna Loy Center

New York Manhattan – Cinema Village
Ithaca – Cinemapolis
Ohio Cleveland – Cedar Lee
Columbus – Gateway Film Center

Pennsylvania Pittsburgh – Southside Works

Texas Austin – Alamo Drafthouse Village
Austin – Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane
San Antonio – Alamo Drafthouse Park North

Virginia Richmond – Criterion Cinemas @ Movieland

NOTE: Father Greg Boyle will participate in a Q&A following the 7:30 PM premiere screening on Thursday, April 25 at Laemmle Santa Monica.

Posted in American voices, art and culture, Gangs, Homeboy Industries | No Comments »

Two High-Level LASD Supervisors Demoted Over Charity Foot Race Cheating Scandal – UPDATED**

April 18th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

While it doesn’t rise to the seriousness of illegal juicing for the Tour de France,
cheating on the once-a-year, 120-mile charity foot race known as Baker to Vegas, a competition open solely to law enforcement agencies from all over the country, is considered to be something approaching a sacrilege.

So when it was found that a Baker to Vegas team from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department may have put an especially skilled ringer in as one of their runners, all hell deservedly broke loose.

The discovery of the alleged cheating resulted in an internal affairs investigation and, as of this week, disciplinary action is being taken against at least four LASD members, including the demotion of a captain and one commander—-both of whom work for the Transit Policing Services Bureau (TSB), which is one of the bureaus that the LASD is contracted to run.**

To demote multiple command staff members at once is close to unprecedented, said department insiders.

“It’s an A bomb!” one department source told us.

According to several department sources in a position to know, the two demoted command staffers are Captain Holly Perez and Commander Pat Jordan.

**EDITOR’S UPDATE: A second captain, Matthew Rodriguez, was originally slated for discipline, but after his case was revisted, it is our understanding that any discipline was fully rescinded. To date, Rodriguez has retired at the rank of captain. [Updated: Aug. 1. 2013]

An emergency meeting was reportedly held on Wednesday afternoon at Transit Policing Services to discuss the startling turn of affairs, which left staffers reeling.

The popular charity event known as the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Race, or B2V, is a competitive foot race through the Mohave Desert that has been in existance since 1985, and has grown to include law enforcement teams made up of probation officers and district attorneys along with the traditional police and sheriffs competitors. B2V is held each year on a weekend in March or April. (For instance, this year’s race was last weekend, on Saturday, April 13.)

The course begins 25 miles north of Baker CA. on Highway 127 and finishes inside the Hilton Hotel Convention Room in Las Vegas. It is run as a relay, with approximately 20 runners on a team, each running a leg, plus support team members to track and aid their runners with follow cars.

The highly festive event is a favorite of both the LAPD and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which each fields several teams every year.

The team from Men’s Central Jail won several years in a row from 2007 to 2011. Then for 2012 and 2012, the winning baton passed to the LAPD’s Elite team of runners.

Sources tell us that last year’s Transit team substituted a “ringer” for one of their officially listed runners. The alleged substitute runner was reportedly the son of a department member who did not himself work for the department, and thus was entirely ineligible to run. The ringer reportedly turned in one of the best times for any leg of the race.

When news of the alleged deception and the subsequent demotions surfaced, members of other law enforcement agencies expressed surprise and dismay.

“How freaking stupid can you be to do something like that?” an LAPD source wrote to WLA in an email.

According to department spokesman Steve Whitmore, the disciplinary action was made solely by Sheriff Lee Baca, although newly hired Homeland Security Chief Ted Sexton, who oversees the Transit Police along with Aero Bureau and other LASD units, was fully briefed on all stages of the decision making.

“The Sheriff takes matters like this one very seriously, and he acted accordingly,” said Whitmore, who also said he was prevented by the Peace Officers Bill of Rights from confirming any names or ranks of those disciplined.

EDITOR’S NOTE: While it’s commendable that the department took swift action on The Great Foot Race Cheating Scandal, we cannot help but note that it has seemingly been in no hurry to come to a conclusion on far more serious matters like, say, this one, which began in February of 2012, more than a year ago.


Although a 2012 civil grand jury in Monterey County was critical of the county’s handling of the additional inmates coming to the county’s jail, most of the county’s other stakeholders approved of the way Monterey’s sheriffs, DA, probation, public defender, and others, have effectively used methods such as own-recognizance release, pretrial screening and involuntary home detention, as well as pending plans to transfer inmates to other counties, according to a report by Jim Johnson of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Here’s a clip:

Monterey County’s already overcrowded jail is not more packed than usual due to realignment of state prison inmates to local control, contrary to a county civil grand jury’s findings.

The efforts of local law enforcement officials to use alternatives to locking up inmates have helped keep it that way.

But the county jail is facing the prospect of a growing inmate population because of realignment in the near future until the effects of treatment and rehabilitation programs are fully realized.

That is the main message the Board of Supervisors indicated Tuesday it wanted to send to the 2012 civil grand jury in response to its findings and recommendations. The supervisors approved a modified response to the grand jury’s suggestion the jail was suffering from “gross overcrowding” largely because of the “increased incarceration of serious offenders and the additional population resulting from the implementation” of AB 109, the state legislation that transferred responsibility for a large percentage of state prison inmates to local oversight.

Supervisor Jane Parker asked county staff to include a list of efforts local law enforcement officials have undertaken to manage the jail population. She noted the jail has been stretched beyond its capacity for years, long before realignment, and could have been a bigger problem without management efforts.

“They’ve done a lot of work setting up” alternative methods, Parker said. “They’d be even more overcrowded
under AB 109 without those efforts.”


City Attorney candidate Mike Feuer will hold a press conference Thursday at 2 pm with leaders of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, along with victims of gun violence, to discuss his plan to reduce gun violence as L.A.’s next City Attorney.

The press conferences is, in part, in response to the blocking by the US Senate, on Wednesday, of the assault weapon ban legislation.

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times has a story on the Senate’s action. Here’s a clip:

A wrenching national search for solutions to the violence that left 20 children dead in Newtown, Conn., all but ended Wednesday after the Senate defeated several measures to expand gun control.

In rapid succession, a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks for gun buyers, a ban on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity gun magazines all failed to get the 60 votes needed under an agreement between both parties. Senators also turned back Republican proposals to expand permission to carry concealed weapons and to focus law enforcement efforts on prosecuting gun crimes.

Sitting in the Senate gallery with other survivors of recent mass shootings and their family members, Lori Haas, whose daughter was shot at Virginia Tech, and Patricia Maisch, a survivor of the mass shooting in Arizona, shouted together, “Shame on you.”

President Obama, speaking at the White House after the votes, echoed the cry, calling Wednesday “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”

Opponents of gun control from both parties said that they made their decisions based on logic, and that passions had no place in the making of momentous policy.

“Criminals do not submit to background checks now,” said Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. “They will not submit to expanded background checks.”

It was a striking defeat for one of Mr. Obama’s highest priorities, on an issue that has consumed much of the country since Adam Lanza opened fire with an assault weapon in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.

Jeremy Peters of the NY Times reports here about the feelings of personal defeat felt by Senator Dianne Feinstein when she watched helplessly as her bill went down in flames, despite her efforts.

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