Friday, December 9, 2016
street news, views and stories of justice and injustice
Follow me on Twitter

Search WitnessLA:

Recent Posts




bears and alligators

The Sanctity of Facebook Posts: A Constitutional Fight Brewing? …. and More

April 1st, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


This one’s a doozey and is shaping up to be a Constitutional battle. On one side you have the right to privacy and freedom of expression, on the other hand you have the constitutional rights of the accused.

Here’s what the case is about as the Sac Bee reports it:

[A Sacramento juror named Arturo Ramirez] posted his online remarks in a gang-beating trial last year in which five men were convicted. Before the defendants were sentenced, defense lawyers found out about his Facebook postings.

Mostly, the writings chronicled the juror’s attendance at the trial in which he later served as foreman of the panel. At one point in his writings, Ramirez said he found the evidence “boring.”

Defense attorneys asked Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny to retrieve all of the juror’s postings to see if he was biased or if he was influenced by any of his Facebook friends.

Kenny on Feb. 4 ordered Ramirez to allow Facebook to make the postings available for a private review. Facebook had opposed releasing the postings on its own, citing federal computer privacy law….

Mike Wise, the lawyer for one of the defendants in the gang case, said it is critical for his side to see what Ramirez wrote to make sure the defense clients received a fair trial. Wise on Wednesday also welcomed the state Supreme Court decision.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to resolve the issue,” he said. “I think in the end, the constitutional rights of the accused will prevail over the privacy rights of the juror.

A new hearing on the matter is expected soon.


To wit:

Thank you for your March 27 front-page story by Michael Symons, “As poverty rises, cuts target aid.” The article is one of the few that highlights the contradictions between a policy of large tax cuts, on the one hand, and cuts in services to those in the most dire conditions, on the other…..

And so on.

Nice to know that The Boss is paying attention to such things, as the US Congress doesn’t seem to be concerned.


Entertainment Weekly reports.

You may now breathe a ssssigh of relief. After escaping from a cage at the Bronx Zoo last week and going MIA, a venomous 24-inch Egyptian Cobra was found on Thursday by zoo staffers. Was it captured while slithering its way through Central Park? Catching a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden? Enjoying a quiet dinner at an Italian bistro in the Village? Nope. She was just coiled up in a dark corner of the reptile house, a mere 200 feet from her cage, and is now “resting comfortably and secure,” according to zoo officials. (Cue the singer from Survivor: The search is over/you were with me all the while…)

The snake, who insists she is a female (at least in her very popular Twitter incarnation), has launched a Facebook campaign to host Saturday Night Live.


Author Michael Walker is the latest voice to question the Huffington Post’s no-pay policy for its freelance writers. The clip below is from his LA Times Op Ed.

Should stage owners who profit from the talent appearing on those stages be obliged to pay the talent in something other than exposure?

<strongTwo labor disputes over talent and compensation, three decades apart yet eerily similar, suggest the issue remains as vexing as ever.

The more recent concerns whether the Huffington Post should pay its non-staff writers and bloggers, who supply most of the popular website’s content for free. Arianna Huffington, who sold the site she cofounded to AOL in February for $315 million, has increasingly come under fire for not paying for most of the content she runs.

Last week the Newspaper Guild called on its 26,000 members to boycott the Huffington Post in support of a “virtual picket line” until a pay schedule for writers was established.

The core of Huffington’s justification for not paying is that the Huffington Post is a showcase for writers, and that exposure there leads to paying gigs and greater visibility. Huffington merely — and generously, by her estimation — provides the stage. Mario Ruiz, the Huffington Post’s spokesman, claims that contributors are happy to write for free because they “want to be heard by the largest possible audience and understand the value that that kind of visibility can bring.”

This was precisely the argument put forth 32 years ago by Mitzi Shore, the owner of L.A.’s Comedy Store, for not paying the comedians whose performances filled her club night after night…..

Posted in American artists, bears and alligators, Courts, Economy, Free Speech | 4 Comments »

Must Read (and Watch): the Friday Edition

November 12th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


Former NY Times Pulitzer winner, Charlie Le Duff, writes about the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. But the story is about a zillion more things than the single tragedy of a little girl being killed when Detroit SWAT burst into the wrong apartment and shots for reasons that are still not adequately explained, except that the cops were busy filming a reality show, so maybe got over-hyped up on the Hollywood drama.

Le Duff, who has long been able to write like an angel when he wants to, (and he wants to here), has also woven into the story’s causal threads the multi-leveled miseries of Detroit, as he writes about what one tragedy can teach us about the unraveling of America’s middle class.

Look: you just need to read the thing.

Here is how it opens:

IT WAS JUST AFTER MIDNIGHT on the morning of May 16 and the neighbors say the streetlights were out on Lillibridge Street. It is like that all over Detroit, where whole blocks regularly go dark with no warning or any apparent pattern. Inside the lower unit of a duplex halfway down the gloomy street, Charles Jones, 25, was pacing, unable to sleep.

His seven-year-old daughter, Aiyana Mo’nay Stanley-Jones, slept on the couch as her grandmother watched television. Outside, Television was watching them. A half-dozen masked officers of the Special Response Team—Detroit’s version of SWAT—were at the door, guns drawn. In tow was an A&E crew filming an episode of The First 48, its true-crime program. The conceit of the show is that homicide detectives have 48 hours to crack a murder case before the trail goes cold. Thirty-four hours earlier, Je’Rean Blake Nobles, 17, had been shot outside a liquor store on nearby Mack Avenue; an informant had ID’d a man named Chauncey Owens as the shooter and provided this address.

The SWAT team tried the steel door to the building. It was unlocked. They threw a flash-bang grenade through the window of the lower unit and kicked open its wooden door, which was also unlocked. The grenade landed so close to Aiyana that it burned her blanket. Officer Joseph Weekley, the lead commando—who’d been featured before on another A&E show, Detroit SWAT—burst into the house. His weapon fired a single shot, the bullet striking Aiyana in the head and exiting her neck. It all happened in a matter of seconds.

“They had time,” a Detroit police detective told me. “You don’t go into a home around midnight. People are drinking. People are awake. Me? I would have waited until the morning when the guy went to the liquor store to buy a quart of milk. That’s how it’s supposed to be done.”

But the SWAT team didn’t wait. Maybe because the cameras were rolling, maybe because a Detroit police officer had been murdered two weeks earlier while trying to apprehend a suspect. This was the first raid on a house since his death……


This is a chronic problem that has gotten worse with the state’s budget woes, as prison dorms and cell blocks are repeatedly put on lockdown after lockdown as a way of saving money in the face of staff cuts (in addition to all the other reasons that prisons are put on lockdown, sometimes questionably, often for way too long.).

Lockdowns mean no visits from family, no phone calls, restricted movement or activities—meaning little or no yard time or anything else that might be deemed constructive or rehabilitative.

I hear about lockdowns all the time anecdotally from family of inmates or from the inmates themselves (once the lockdown is lifted). But there is virtually no reporting on the phenomenon.

So to gather information, KPCC’s Sharon McNary is putting out the word on the web to families:

If you live, work or have loved ones in a California state prison, please help our reporters understand the impact of inmate lockdowns from your perspective.

What do you know about the causes and fallout of prison lockdowns? Who is helped or harmed when the movement, phone access, visitation and other activities of thousands of inmates are restricted for weeks, sometimes months at a time?

Your responses are confidential, nothing you share here is aired or published without your permission. A reporter or producer may call or write for more information.

I look forward to the stories that will come out of this reporting.


Here is the wedding announcement issued by DB’s Tiny Brown:

Some weddings take longer to plan than others. The union of The Daily Beast and Newsweek magazine finally took place with a coffee-mug toast between all parties Tuesday evening, in a conference room atop Beast headquarters, the IAC building on Manhattan’s West 18th Street. The final details were only hammered out last night.

What does this exciting new media marriage mean? It means that The Daily Beast’s animal high spirits will now be teamed with a legendary, weekly print magazine in a joint venture, named The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, owned equally by Barry Diller’s IAC and Sidney Harman, owner (and savior) of Newsweek. As for me, I shall now be in the editor-in-chief’s chair at both The Daily Beast and Newsweek….

And so on.

As media theorist and prof Jay Rosen tweeted last night after the announcement: “Still waiting for the media reporter who would explain the logic.”

Yeah, I’m kinda there with Rosen on that matter.

Meanwhile, an amusing trending topic on Twitter Thursday night was #oddmediamergers.


As you likely know—or at least you oughta know—Jon Stewart was on the Rachel Maddow Show for nearly an hour Thursday night.

The full hour video may be found here.

I found it riveting.

A NOTE ABOUT THE ABOVE PHOTO: After spending nearly four months in a dogless household following the death of my beautiful 16 1/2 year old wolf dog this past July, I decided it was time to add a new four-footed beast to the family before I got too used to clean rugs and not having to wipe off muddy paws during the rainy season. Enter Lily-the-mini-wolf, who is 8 weeks old as of Thursday and has been residing at my house since late Saturday night.

She and her litter-mates were snatched by a rescue agency from a horrid circumstance involving idiots breeding 50-plus half-starved wolf-dogs in a single house, Lily being one of the 50. She somehow lost half of her tail in the awful place.

I fell in love with the little creature instantly.

Life—in spite of the not sleeping issue and the mistaking of the laptop cord for a chew toy issue—is decidedly better with a new puppy in the house.

(The cat’s a bit unsure about the addition. But he’s coping.)

Anyway, so there you have it. Thank you for listening.

Posted in bears and alligators, Must Reads, wolves | 78 Comments »

Coyotes in Woodland Hills, Oh My!

September 23rd, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

File this under don’t you have anything more freaking substantial to worry about?

The Daily News and several other So Cal publications have found the following to be, well, news:

Police warned today that coyotes have been seen recently in neighborhoods in Woodland Hills and West Hills.
Residents should use caution when encountering such animals….”

The story also mentioned that residents who spot such critters are asked to call the proper authorities make a “wildlife incident report.”


Yo, flatlanders. We in Topanga see coyotes daily. Not “recently.” Daily. Should we also be making “wildlife incident reports?” If so, with what frequency? If we see, say, three different coyotes in the course of a 24-hour period, should we save them up and make a single wildlife incident report? Or would you prefer we call you as they happen?


Hey, mountain lions and bears are worth a report, no doubt about it. And in West Glacier, Montana, where my family has a cabin, one is asked to call if there is a griz sighting anywhere near human habitation. Sometimes people call. Most times, they don’t. In 20 years we’ve called once. However it was a very, very big bear we saw picking serviceberries in the back yard one night. Very big. Humongous, actually. And not all that friendly-looking.

But coyotes? Really?

Last year, I had one coyote who showed up on my front porch so frequently hoping to find a bit of stray dog kibble that I considered naming him, except that I knew he had unpleasant designs on Merlin the cat.

The dog chased him off most times, until she got too deaf to notice his approach. After that, if I heard him his paws on the porch (his step was distinctive), I’d creep up to the door, a squirt bottle filled with water in my hand, and try to discourage him with a well-aimed watery steam. This was not, admittedly, a terribly dignified or effective solution. The usual weekly score was coyote 7, me 0.

Eventually, the coyote moved on of his own accord. Although I knew it was far safer for the cat, I actually sorta missed him.


Look, this isn’t a social justice issue. It is, as my tech son would describe it, an ID ten T issue—which sometimes deserves comment too. (It’s a geek joke. Substitute the numeral for the word.)

Now back to criminal justice and all that.

Posted in bears and alligators | 1 Comment »

Back in Town, Blogging Begins Tomorrow, 8/12

August 11th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


I arrived back in LA on Tuesday night after 3 days of driving from West Glacier, MT— my mind still lingering stubbornly on the banks of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Thursday morning I’ll begin blogging in earnest.

Then, Part 1 of the WitnessLA/Spot.Us LA Justice Report on LA’s gang programs, by Matt Fleischer will be appearing shortly.

Part of my mental lingering had to do with the fact that our soulful and beautiful 16-and-a-half-year-old wolf-dog, Loup-Loup, died while I was in Montana, so the trip had much intense sorrow threaded through its many joys.

Speaking purely rationally, this was no tragedy. Loup-Loup was an old dog who had lived a glorious life and, of late, her health and well-being seemed to go downhill weekly. Plus West Glacier was, I think, her favorite place. But she was also a family member and a beloved companion. Thus I was entirely undone when she vanished on the third evening after my arrival.

My son flew up from LA with his girlfriend to help me search for her, a process that was long and harrowing. We finally found her by lucky chance ten days later, 8 miles down river from our family cabin. During the days we searched, at least a dozen dog-oriented and kindly Montana neighbors told us stories about cherished old dogs of theirs who vanished similarly. The dogs had evidently decided it was time, the various Montanans said.

Whether it happened by choice or by accident, my son and I decided our sweet wolf-dog’s death had its own harsh dignity, as much as it grieved us. We buried her under the cottonwoods between our cabin and the river and cried to the point of wailing.

With all of the above in mind, it was somehow cheering to learn that—in addition to the spectacular news about Proposition 8— the other big and newsworthy court decision by a federal judge last week was when U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, MT, reinstated federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. (The matter will next likely come to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.)

This put a stop to planned wolf hunts in all three states, which made hunters groups furious. Bummer.

After last fall’s hunting season, there were about 500 wolves in Montana and 835 in Idaho. Hunters deemed that too many. (I don’t pretend to be anything resembling neutral on this issue. I take it personally when my dog’s relatives are hunted—especially in the areas of the lower 48 states where they were hunted to extinction for so many decades.)

In truth, Montana has had a fairly sensible policy of wolf management until the wolves got delisted too soon to guarantee a stable population.

Matt Volz for the AP did a good, even-handed piece on the matter that the LA Times LA Unleashed blog ran.

And here’s what Discover Magazine had to say.

Glad to be back. I missed y’all. See you tomorrow.

Posted in bears and alligators, Life in general | 20 Comments »

Rescuing the Miracle Dog – Part 3

July 6th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Okay, now we return to the adventures of our intrepid attorney/dog rescuer Elie Miller,
her trusty co-rescuer Beebee (who says that years ago he worked on a U.S. nuclear submarine, but now is an LA homeless guy), and Milagro, the abandoned, nearly-collar-strangled but smart and personable dog.

(If you haven’t done so already, first read Chapters One and Two.)

When we last left our three friends, Elie had managed to clip off the horrible collar that was gouging a sore into Milagro’s neck, and he seemed to be getting better.

There were ups and downs. Once Milagro’s wound split open again and an infection flared up.

Then on March 28, Elie arrived to find that Milagro wouldn’t eat, his eyes were running, and he acted as if he’d been poisoned. Elie and Beebee—together with one of the vet consultants whom Elie occasionally called for help and advice—determined that the dog had most likely been pepper sprayed by transit police. The next day, however, Milagro seemed to bounce back.


On March 30, Milagro arrived at the vacant lot with a girlfriend,
a smaller black female dog that Elie thought might be part Basenji. When the girlfriend dog stuck around for a week or two, Elie named her Novia.

Now she was feeding two dogs.

Novia was at first stand offish. But shortly she was competing with Milagro for treats and for Elie’s affection, rolling over to have her belly rubbed after meals. And she was playful. It had taken weeks for Elie to get Milagro to play with the tennis balls she would toss for him. “He doesn’t know how to play,” she said. However, Novia played with Elie and the tennis balls nearly from the beginning. Watching her, Milagro too began to chase and play.

Near the end of April, Milagro got injured. His neck opened up and there was a puncture wound in his paw. Elie began dosing him with antibiotics again. She realized she had to make plans to get both dogs away from the lot and to a vet—and then hopefully into new homes.

It was time.

A friend told Elie about a special harness collar he thought might work for the upcoming Milagro capture, since a normal collar and leash would rub intolerably at the dog’s still sore neck. Elie found the harness online and ordered it immediately.

The harness came in the mail on June 1st. Six days later Elie decided it was CD Day—capture the dogs day. The night of the capture she emailed me:

I put the harness around Milagro’s neck, buckled it around his legs, and leashed him up. Novia was easier to leash. I tugged & pulled Milagro to my truck, coaxing him with milk, and literally lifted & pushed him inside after Novia jumped in.

Elie drove both dogs to an animal hospital where the vet had agree to treat the animals for a slightly reduced rate.

“Although the vet muzzled them when he examined them” she wrote me, “they were gentle. Even while I lifted and pushed Milagro each step of the way from my truck to the door of the animal hospital, he never once snapped at me.

Milagro had a round of surgery during which time he was neutered and his neck was cleaned and sutured. It turned out that Novia was already spayed. After Milagro’s was snipped and stitched, both dogs got flea baths and a full compliment of vaccinations.

According to the vet, Milagro is a 68 lb. Shepherd/Rottweiller mix.

Novia is a 41 lb. Jindo or Basenji (she can bark) with some Chow likely mixed in. Both dogs appear to be a year or year-and-half old.

A couple of days after Milagro’s surgery,
Elie drove by the vacant lot to say hi to Beebee. She found that the holes in the fence surrounding the lot—holes that had allowed Milagro and Novia, and Elie, if we are to be truthful, to go in and out of the lot at will—had been patched. Elie couldn’t believe it. Entry to the vacant lot was completely and thoroughly blocked.

This meant that, had she delayed moving the dogs by a few days, Milagro might have found himself trapped on the lot, been seen by the workers or others, and subsequently rounded up by animal control and euthanized. Or, alternately, finding himself shut out of his hiding places and home—he and Novia might simply have vanished.

But by luck or serendipity, no such calamity occurred.


Almost is the operative word here since both dogs need permanent homes.

Elie is providing a temporary foster home for Novia. And Milagro has been going through a couple of weeks of training with a dog whisperer type who said he would help socialize the once wild dog further.

But now they need permanent homes. Elie already has three dogs, and can’t really take a fourth. I too have a full house of animals, as it is.

However, I’ve met both Milagro and Novia and can attest that they’re winning creatures.

So if you’d like to adopt a delightful, smart, soulful dog (or two), Elie has just the critters for you.

Soon would be good.

Elie may be reached at:

Please spread the word.

PS: July 6 was Beebee’s birthday. He thinks he just turned 55. Elie visited him and gave him updates on the dogs, as always, since their rescue has always been, emotionally anyway, a joint affair.

After the update, Beebee told Elie that he can’t remember such unusual weather on his birthday in a long time.

Posted in bears and alligators | 3 Comments »

Rescuing the Miracle Dog – Part 2

June 17th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Milagro is the name that former public defender Elie Miller
gave to the injured stray dog she was attempting to rescue. [PART 1 HERE] The dog is large-ish black and tan creature who is part German Shepherd, part Rottweiler, part who-knows-what?

When she first encountered Milagro at the end of December, 2009, he lived on a large vacant lot that is situated between the Homeboy Industries offices, where Elie now works, and Men’s Central Jail where she often goes to meet with clients. He caught Elie’s attention because he was so obviously sick and hurting. It turned out the source of the problem was the collar he was wearing that must have been strapped on him when he was puppy, before he was lost or abandoned. Now that he was an adult dog, the over-small collar remained on and had grown into his skin and was literally strangling him. It was also causing an open, infected wound that circled his neck.

Elie began coming to the lot twice a day— at first to feed the dog and then, once he began to trust her, to slip medication into his food.

Her unlikely partner in the rescue was BeeBee (BB), a dread-locked, 50-something homeless man who camped at the edge of the vacant lot and claimed he had long-ago served in the navy on a nuclear submarine.

Before Elie’s arrival, BeeBee never tried to touch Milagro. However, he shared his food with the dog, hoping at least to keep him alive.

Ideally, the animal needed to go to a vet, but Elie worried that any official agency would likely put the sick stray down.

As if to prove the point, shortly after Elie began visiting Milagro, a kindly woman postal inspector who worked nearby and often stopped to bring BeeBee food, had also taken an interest in the dog. Observing Milagro’s obvious distress she told BeeBee she thought the authorities should be called.

“He’s in such pain,” she said. “Maybe he should be euthanized.”

BeeBee shook his head when he told Elie about the exchange. “Don’t we all live our lives in some pain?” he said.

A few days later, Elie found at first one tiny metal cross, sans its chain, in the dirt where she fed Milagro. A couple of days after that, she found two more.

She chose to take the discoveries as a sign—or at the very least a friendly blessing.

“I decided that one was for me, one for BeeBee, one for Milagro.”


The afternoon before Valentines day, Elie decided the moment had come to attempt to snip off the embedded collar that was continuing to gouge an open sore into Milagro’s neck.

She had been told by well-meaning experts that the task was impossible without tranquilizing the dog. But she was determined to try. She’d given him a long a course of antibiotics and it seemed to bring the infection down at least a little, but the wound was still open and horribly raw.

Elie’s planned strategy was to put small bits of food down on a plate for Milagro, a little at a time, and then snip at the collar while he was eating. More food, more snipping.

It worked—at least for a while. The dog had come to trust Elie to the degree that he seemed unalarmed at her ministrations. After about a half hour of feeding and snipping, she decided she had pushed Milagro far enough for one day.

Back at the office, Elie wrote me:

I was able to snip 3/4 of Milagro’s collar. Besides being difficult to cut (there are metal grommets on [the leather] spaced about every 1/2 inch), Milagro kept turning his head to snap at flies that are eating away at him. But I did it without tranquilizing or sedating him. All he time, he was eating near me with his head down, allowing me to touch his collar!

After she finished her bout of snipping, Elie lingered for a while longer to talk to BeeBee, she said.

I asked him how long he has been living on the streets. He said, “all my life.”

He listens to a radio station on his headphones. He says it’s 1280, a gospel station which promotes end of world beginning May 2011 & lasting 5 months.

I suspect BeeBee needs to be rescued too, but he’s been on the street so long….


On Sunday, Valentines Day, Elie was ready to try again in the hope of getting the rest of the collar off—namely the part that was embedded in the dog’s skin.

She found the work was much slower going than the day before. “I nearly gave up,” she wrote me later. Plus the flies on the oozing wound were, if anything, worse, making the dog and Elie both crazy.

She worked as carefully as she could trying not to snip any flesh. Finally, amazingly, the collar came free. The leather strap dropped away.

Seeing his tormentor on the ground, Milagro at first sniffed the thing, then grabbed the offending collar in his jaws and trotted around with it for a while, a victory lap of sorts.

Finally, he allowed Elie to take the leather strip away and he skittered to a hole near the vacant lot’s edge where he often goes to hide when there’s a threat.

After Milagro hit out, Elie left to catch up on some work for a while, then came back to the vacant lot, around 4 p.m.

Seeing her approach, Milagro trotted out of his hole to greet her.

“He is like a different dog,” she wrote me, “much more confident. He walks with his tail up! He actually looks happy. BB is amazed.”

Most importantly, she said, Milagro could finally swallow water like a normal dog—without strangling.

At home that night, Elie measured the choking collar. It was 13 inches long. Elie has three dogs of her own. The most recent addition to the group is a Chihuahua she rescued whom she named Pee-Wee. Pee-Wee weighs 11 lbs and his collar measures 10 1/2 inches. How, she wondered, had Milagro survived strapped into a collar a bare 2 1/2 inches larger than that of a Chihuahua?

“My next goal is to see that neck wound heal,” she wrote. “I’ve given him 2 weeks of antibiotics and that is the limit. Someone gave me a saline solution to clean his neck, but that has to wait until I can get him to let me wash/clean it.” Still the wound was looking better, she thought. She hoped so, anyway.

FEB 16

Over the next week, the dog continued to slowly improve.

I went to feed Milagro this morning,” Elie wrote, “and he was standing out in the empty lot; when he saw me, he stared. I walked closer to him and he started jumping around, in a playful manner. He barked too. Then he started to make that funny howling noise my dog Amy makes. What a greeting I got!”

Two days later she had a more colorful report.

Milagro is doing so well that now he is able to run after a cat in the lot & make it climb a utility pole. BB says he also started barking at people walking on the sidewalk. We agreed he’s tough only because a chainlink fence separates them.

I feel like BB & I are Milagro’s parents.

A day later still she wrote:

“Making progress in trying to get Milagro to come to me so I can pet him without enticing him with treats,” Elie wrote. “So far it’s working.”

As for what to do next, now that the collar was gone, her goal, Elie wrote to me, was to get Milagro well enough to move him out of the lot and into an adoptive home by the summer.


Note: if you have an interest in adopting or foster parenting either Milagro and/or his girl friend Novia (more about Novia later), Elie may be reached at:

Posted in bears and alligators, Life in general | 1 Comment »

Rescuing the Miracle Dog – Part 1

June 15th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

The dogs above are both creatures who need homes.
(For contact information, scroll to the end.)

But first, I need to tell you their collective story.

We’ll go back to the messy problems of the city and the county and the nation tomorrow.

For now, get comfortable. This may take a while.


It all started during the very last days of December when my friend Elie-the-attorney noticed a very sick dog at a vacant lot near Men’s Central Jail.

FYI: Elie Miller is a former hot shot alternate public defender who quit her nice, secure county job to take a giant pay cut as the in-house lawyer for Homeboy Industries.

What you also need to know is that, in addition to being someone who feels called to defend clients that others would prefer to reject (like, say, homeboys and homegirls with criminal records), Elie is a hardcore rescuer of critters.

She happened on this particular dog– a black and tan shepherd and rottweiler mix—while she was walking from the Homeboy office on Bruno and Alameda to meet a client for a conference at Men’s Central Jail. In order to get there she took a shortcut through a humongous vacant lot littered by cracked cement slabs where factory buildings had once stood. Midway across the lot she spotted a male dog who was clearly in a state of high distress.

He was being nearly strangled by a leather collar that was strapped so tightly to his neck that it had cut a circle of sores into his skin that were badly infected. To make matters worse, the collar was constricting his throat in such a way that it made it difficult for him to swallow.

Elie guessed that the dog had been abandoned as a puppy with a puppy-sized collar that remained on his neck as he grew to adulthood.

Appalled at the animal’s condition, and hoping for more information, she cautiously approached a dread-locked homeless man who was watching her watch the dog. The man appeared to live in a sort of lean-to he had erected at the edge of the vacant lot. Not sure if he would talk to her, and if he did, what kind of sense he might or might not be able to make, Elie asked the dread-locked man if he knew anything about the sad creature.

The man, who introduced himself as Beebee, was surprisingly forthcoming and articulate. He figured, he said, the animal had been abandoned by some other homeless people who might have been arrested or simply moved on. Or maybe somebody else dumped him. Beebee had been jittery about approaching the suffering dog, he said, but he’d been setting out some of his own food for the animal daily in hoping to at least keep the dog alive.

Elie told Beebee she would be back later with some provisions.

After thinking things over, Elie decided not to call Animal Control. She worried that they would euthanize the dog as he was obviously in such lousy shape. Better, she thought, to try to do a little ad hoc dog nursing herself. When and if the animal got healthier, she could rethink where to go from there.

Elie named the dog Milagro—miracle—because that’s what she figured she would need to make this work.

She came back that night. And the next day and the next night, and every day and night after that. She brought with her a water bowl, high protein food and even a doorless dog crate shelter of sorts, that a friend gave her. Maybe he’d use it on the days that it rained, she thought. Every day she laid food out in such a way that she gradually lured the hurting dog ever closer to her until finally Milagro got up the courage to snatch hot dogs and other treats from her hand.

Always he ate with desperation, fighting to be able to get the food past the choking collar and down his throat,.

After Milagro was willing to consistently take food while Elie watched, she began a two-week course of antibiotics that she pushed into his nightly meal.

In between her visits, Beebee would watch the dog, giving Elie reports of what had occurred during the day, how the dog was doing, if he seemed to have a set back, or was doing marginally better.

And so began an unlikely rescue operation by an attorney and homeless guy. Beebee told Elie that he was a former navel man who had once worked on a nuclear sub. Elie told Beebee that she was a lawyer and he began calling her “Mrs. Perry Mason.”

Eventually, however, if Milagro was to survive she would have to find a way to get that strangling, ingrown collar off of him.


Note: if you have an interest in adopting or foster parenting either Milagro and/or his girl friend Novia (more about Novia tomorrow), Elie may be reached at:

Posted in bears and alligators, Life in general | No Comments »

Finishing a Project…..and Eagles

May 20th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Posting later today.

In the meantime, watch the eagles of Hornby Island on the real time eagle cam here. They’re wildly cool. The baby is now a lot bigger than the creature in the photo. And very hungry.

And speaking of creatures, a blanket of oil has begun to reach Louisiana’s wetlands, affecting hundreds of species. Here’s what the Wall Street Journal reports.

Back soon.

Posted in bears and alligators, blogging | No Comments »

Deadlines, Lost Dogs, Book Launches & Many, Many Student Papers

March 10th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


The combination of the above has reduced me to a quivering puddle of exhaustion.
(Particularly the lost, elderly wolf-dog—now thankfully found—who had me frantically hiking through neighbors’ backyards with a flashlight Tuesday Monday* night, then driving around the area until 4:30 in the morning. The neighbors were nice enough not to shoot at me when I was prowling on foot, which I genuinely appreciated. At daybreak Loup-Loup emerged from a hiding place a mile away, wet, disoriented and shivering. A kind person saw her, read her tag and called me. Poor dog. Poor me. All better now.)

As a consequence, I’ll post later in the day.

In the meantime listen to Father Greg on on Patt Morrison’s show.

Back soon.

*I’m clearly having trouble telling the days apart. Sad. Very sad.

Posted in bears and alligators | 6 Comments »

Social Justice Roundup

February 9th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon



The best research (and my own anecdotal observation) suggests that one of the essential components to transforming one’s life away from gangs and/or a similar law-breaking past requires that one face squarely the harm that one has caused and then give back in some way to one’s community.

Here’s a story from the Fresno Bee about women who are taking a step in that direction.

They’ve robbed. They’ve stolen. They’ve murdered.

But despite their past crimes, nearly 100 women gathered in a prison gym Wednesday to hear how they can help victims of serious crimes. Some wanted to know how they could help the very people they hurt.

The inmates are part of a club at Valley State Prison for Women that focuses on raising money for charitable groups and, as they describe it, repay their debt to society. One of the women in the club, called the Long Termers Organization, sent a three-page letter in August to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board — a state agency that distributes about $100 million a year in funds to crime victims in need of health care, therapy or other services as a result of the crimes committed against them. The inmate, Crystal Potter, wanted to know whether the board would be willing to let her club know how they could help.

“We may never gain the trust or the forgiveness of our victims, but to do now what we should have been doing from the very beginning in providing community services would teach us further the morals and values so necessary as a productive member of society,” Potter wrote.

Read the rest.


Much was made last week over the early release of a 22-year-old man named Kevin Peterson from Sacramento County Jail. Peterson was supposed to serve a four month sentence for whacking a family member in the face with a broom. Instead he was released 18 days early as part of the budget-cutting measures that California counties have put into place since January 1st. (Many counties, however, most notably Los Angeles County, had been shaving time of short jail sentences for the last several years in order to reduce overcrowding at a county level.)

Anyway, within hours after his release, Petersen allegedly attacked a female counselor and attempted to rape her.

And within minutes of Peterson’s rearrest, commentators and partisans were shrieking about the crime wave to come that he represented.

However one enterprising TV station—FOX40 News—bothered to look a little deeper into the story. Most notably, they interviewed Peterson in jail. And guess what? Even Peterson admitted he should be locked up—but not in a jail. He needs to be in a psychiatric facility, he said..

(On the right side of this page, you’ll find a longer version of the video.)

A confused Peterson says he doesn’t remember attacking anyone. He does however remember hearing voices.

“I’m a paranoid schizophrenic,” he said to the TV reporter.
. He was hoping to get taken to the Sacramento Mental Health Evaluation Center so that he could get some help. He should be off the street, he said—but in a mental institution, not in jail.

Bottom line: Peterson’s alleged near rape has everything to do with the inadequate mental health screening and treatment inmates receive in county jails.

…But exactly zero to do with the issue of early release.

PS: On the issue of prison population reduction, the Press-Enterprise had a remarkably sane Op Ed on the matter.


Annenberg grad student Chris Pisar of Neon Tommy reports that the much ridiculed rush last year by the LA City Council to pass a cat declawing ordinance wasn’t so ridiculous after all. The rush had to do with getting the damn thing passed before a brand new state law went into effect that would have prevented cities and counties from passing their own such regulations.

The California Veterinary Medical Association, which provided the main opposition to the LA ordinance, still wants to do away with the ban. Critics say the vets opposition to the ban is for monetary reasons not for moral ones. (Declawing is a pricey procedure.)

Here’s the rest.


In Tuesday’s New York Times Adam Liptak has a story of a mediocre bank robber
who, during his decade in prison, made good use of the prison library and transformed himself into a stellar jail house lawyer.

Here’s how it begins:

Shon R. Hopwood was not a particularly sophisticated bank robber.

“We would walk into a bank with firearms, tell people to get down, take the money and run,” he said the other day, recalling five robberies in rural Nebraska in 1997 and 1998 that yielded some $200,000 and more than a decade in federal prison.

Mr. Hopwood spent much of that time in the prison law library, and it turned out he was better at understanding the law than breaking it. He transformed himself into something rare at the top levels of the American bar, and unheard of behind bars: an accomplished Supreme Court practitioner.

Read the rest.


Try Jane Mayer’s excellent article on the controversy in next week’s New Yorker.

Photo of jailhouse lawyer Shon Hopwood by Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

Posted in bears and alligators, jail, prison policy, Social Justice Shorts | 6 Comments »

« Previous Entries Next Entries »