Wednesday, October 26, 2016
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Baca’s Motion to Recuse Federal Judge is Denied….& Tanaka’s Appeal Keeps Him Out of Prison (For Now)

October 14th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright, II, denied the motion filed by attorneys for former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to recuse federal Judge Percy Anderson from presiding over Baca’s trial, which is due to begin on December 6.

Late last month, Baca’s legal team led by attorney Nathan Hochman, filed three dramatic pre-trial motions, one of which was to try to force the recusal of Judge Anderson, whom the defense argued could not be an objective jurist.

Hochman’s argument for recusing Anderson centered around statements that Anderson made when he rejected Baca’s plea deal. The defense argued that those statements indicated that “the Court predetermined that Mr. Baca is guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice,” even though, at the time, Hochman pointed out, the former sheriff had yet to be indicted on those charges.

Mr. Baca, if you’ll remember, pleaded guilty in February to one count of lying to federal officials. In return for his plea, he was to receive a sentence of between 0 and 6 months in prison.

Judge Anderson rejected the plea because of the low sentencing range, saying it trivialized the harm that Baca had done to the department and to the community at large.

“It’s one thing to lie to an AUSA,” Anderson told Baca. “It’s another thing entirely, as the evidence has shown, where the chief law enforcement officer of the County of Los Angeles is involved in a wide-ranging conspiracy to cover up abuse and corruption occurring in the Men’s Central Jail.”

Anderson was, of course, also the judge who presided over the trial of the six former department members who were previously convicted of obstruction of justice for allegedly getting in the way of the FBI’s investigation into abuse and corruption in the jails, plus the two different trials of former LASD deputy James Sexton, who was convicted of the same charges. Perhaps, most significantly, Anderson presided over the trial of Paul Tanaka, where the part that Lee Baca did or did not play in allegedly trying to derail a federal investigation repeatedly came up in testimony.

Baca and company argued that given the various statements Anderson made during the sentencing hearings, the judge should not remain. “Even if the Court were to offer that it could put these predeterminations aside,” wrote attorney Hochman, “the standard for recusal is whether the Court’s appearance of impartiality may be reasonably questioned, not whether the Court is actually biased against Mr. Baca.”

But in an 11-page ruling, Judge Wright disagreed.

“In order to prevail on a disqualification motion based on bias,” Wright wrote, “the defendant must provide facts which ‘must give fair support to the charge of a bent of mind that may prevent or impede impartiality of judgment.’ Judge Anderson’s remarks do not even approach the category of expressions of dissatisfaction or annoyance or anger directed at either the defendant or defense counsel which the Court has found permissible, much less an indication of a ‘bent of mind that may prevent or impede impartiality of judgment.’”

In the final analysis, Wright continued, “Baca has failed to offer facts which would lend supportfor the claim that disqualification of Judge Anderson is warranted in this matter.”

(Interestingly, Wright, who was appointed to the federal bench in 2007 by George W. Bush, served as a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department from 1969 to 1980, by which time he’d graduated from law school and was ready for his legal career.)

Wright’s denial of the motion to get rid of Anderson may or may not bode well for the other two significant motions that Baca’s team filed last month.

Specifically, defense attorney Hochman also filed a motion asking for Baca’s trial to be moved to another part of the state of California, claiming that, due to the “constant, inflammatory, and far-reaching media coverage surrounding this matter,a trial within the Central District of California, particularly within Los Angeles County, will violate Mr. Baca’s due process rights.”

And in another interesting move, Baca and company asked for lead government prosecutor Brandon Fox to be removed from the prosecution’s team, claiming that the defense needs to call Fox as a crucial witness.

On Monday, October 31, the not-recused Judge Percy Anderson will hear the motions to move the trial out of LA County, and to recuse prosecutor Fox.

So stay tuned.


Back in late September, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson ruled that the fact that Paul Tanaka, the former second in command of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, was appealing his conviction didn’t mean he could stay stay out of prison while he waited around to see what the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals would do.

Instead, Tanaka was ordered to report on October 7, either to the low-security federal prison camp in Englewood, Colorado, or to the U.S. Marshals office in downtown Los Angeles, to begin his five year sentence—appeal or no appeal.

But, Anderson’s ruling is only part of the dance between the courts and Mr. Tanaka’s attorneys, Dean Steward and Jerome Haig, who—following Anderson’s ruling—quickly filed their appeal with the Ninth, which automatically stopped the clock anyway when it came to their client’s report-for-prison day.

This means Tanaka can stay out of prison until the Ninth Circuit decides whether or not it will hear the former undersheriff’s appeal. The appeals court could say no, but that is unlikely.

Then, presuming the Ninth Circuit agrees to hear Tanaka’s appeal, the clock is further stopped until the hearing, and then until the ruling. If Tanaka loses his appeal before a three-judge panel at the Ninth, then he and his attorneys can still ask to appeal en banc, which means to the court as a whole, which again stops the clock….and so on.

The former undersheriff of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice pertaining to allegations that Tanaka personally directed and oversaw deliberate efforts to upend the FBI’s investigation into a culture of brutality and corruption inside the LA County jails, which began in 2010.

Seven of the other former department members who were also convicted of obstruction of justice charges filed appeals with the Ninth Circuit and, after hearings early this summer, lost their appeal. Six of the seven have requested to be heard en banc. The seventh, former deputy James Sexton elected not to continue to try to avoid prison. Instead, he left the en banc appeal behind, and arranged to turn himself in on August 31, to begin his 18-month sentence. He will try a U.S. Supreme Court appeal when he gets out.

Former LASD Captain Tom Carey, was originally charged with the same obstruction charges but, in a deal made with the government, pleaded guilty to lying on the witness stand during the 2014 trial of James Sexton, and is due to be sentenced in January.


The retaliation case involving former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy Ban Nguyen, who is suing the sheriff’s department along with former undersheriff Paul Tanaka and others, is due to begin trial on October 19.

UPDATE: We just learned today, that the trial has now been moved to January.

In early 2015, Nguyen filed a civil lawsuit alleging that he was retaliated against when he refused to falsify paperwork for certain unsuitable job candidates favored by department higher ups, particularly those candidates supported by former undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

The retaliation got worse, Nguyen alleges, when he was asked to raise money for Tanaka’s 2013 campaign to become LA County Sheriff, and he refused, explaining that he didn’t favor Mr. Tanaka for that post.

After being what he describes as forced into retirement, Nguyen decided to sue the former undersheriff, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, for alleged violations of his civil rights along with violations of the state labor code and more. Nguyen also names in his lawsuit two LASD captains, and two department sergeants. (Kevin Hebert and Judy Gerhardt, are the captains named, although both have since been promoted to commander.)

Many of issues outlined in Nguyen’s civil complaint suggest that this trial will be an intriguing one.

More as we know it.

Posted in LASD, Pandora's Box | 20 Comments »

CA and TX Law Enforcement Agencies Failed to Report Hundreds of Fatal Uses-of-Force

October 14th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

Over a 10-year period, law enforcement agencies across Texas and California failed to report hundreds of fatal officer-involved shootings, according to research out of Texas State University in San Marcos.

“Those are the only two states that have required reporting to a central authority—in both cases, the Attorney General’s Office,” Howard Williams, one of the report’s authors, said in an interview on WNYC’s The Takeaway. Williams is a Texas State University professor (and former San Marcos police chief). Williams, along with a TX State colleague, Scott Bowman, and another co-author Jordan Taylor Jung, gathered data on killings by law enforcement officers in both states from news stories, press releases from police departments, and other outlets.

The researchers found that California was missing about 440 (30%) of the total officer-involved fatal shootings between 2005-2015. Agencies in Texas failed to report around 220 deaths.

Brenda Gonzalez, the California Attorney General’s Office press secretary, acknowledged that “discrepancies” were found, and that the AG’s office is “following up with the appropriate agencies.

Between the two states, the LA County Sheriff’s Department was the agency with the largest number of un-reported fatalities.

The LASD’s spokeswoman, Nicole Nishida, told the Houston Chronicle’s Lise Olsen (who broke the story) that many of the department’s 34 missing fatalities were due to a “clerical error” caused by a switch in reporting forms. Four deaths between 2013-2014 were reportedly not connected to that administrative error, however.

Following the LASD, the Fresno Police Department had 24 deaths that were not reported to the AG’s Office between 2005-2015. After that, the Los Angeles Police Department failed to report 21 fatalities, the Houston PD missed 16 deaths, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and Harris County Sheriff’s Department (in TX) each left out 12 officer-involved deaths.

The rest of the departments had fewer than 10 missing cases each.

Here’s a clip from the Houston Chron story:

Failure to report hundreds of deaths – because police officials ignored or misunderstood the reporting laws – has effectively undermined ongoing efforts to identify the causes of fatal police shootings and identify potential reforms, experts said.

“We’re not really blaming anyone – this is an incredibly complex problem,” said Williams, who began his research after retiring as police chief in San Marcos last year. “But it’s really hard for us to go back and change policy, improve training or purchase new equipment “when you simply lack the data to even know what’s going on.”


In addition to requiring reports on use-of-force and in-custody death, both California and Texas also recently passed new laws requiring departments to report all shooting incidents, whether those shot survive or die. In Texas, the new police shooting law took effect in 2015 and the attorney general’s office has contacted all departments and tried to boost compliance with both laws, said Kayleigh Lovvorn, an office spokeswoman. But enforcement falls to individual district attorney’s offices.

The Texas State study cited a dozen fatalities unreported by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. One of those involved the 2015 death of a 24-year-old shot by an off-duty deputy outside the Chapa nightclub in northwest Houston.

A sheriff’s spokesman, Ryan Sullivan, said the homicide happened in Houston and was investigated by HPD. But under Texas law, the officer’s employer generally files a custodial death report and the sheriff’s office did not do so. Sullivan said that was the only report that had not been filed under Sheriff Ron Hickman, who took office in May 2015.

Brenda Gonzalez, a spokesman for the California Attorney General’s Office, said via email that the office already has been asking police agencies to file missing reports as part of a new OpenJustice data portal initiative, but she emphasized that California’s custodial death law has “no explicit enforcement mechanism.”

In all, 180 California different police agencies failed to file reports on citizens shot and killed by police. Fresno Deputy Chief Robert Nevarez pledged that his department would belatedly provide missing custodial death reports for 24 deaths. He said analysts in his agency unintentionally misinterpreted state law for years, wrongly assuming it applied only to jail deaths and not officer-involved shootings.

“At this time, it doesn’t look like anything intentional or malicious – it was an interpretation of what should have been reported,” Nevarez said.

Posted in LAPD, LASD, law enforcement | 1 Comment »

LASD and Community Mourn the Loss of Well-Liked Sgt. Steve Owen—UPDATED

October 6th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

UPDATE: The man accused of shooting Sgt. Steve Owen has been identified as 27-year-old Trenton Trevon Lovell.

Lovell has been charged with capital murder, attempted murder of the second responding sheriff’s deputy, as well as being a felon in possession of a gun, and two counts each of first-degree residential robbery and false imprisonment.

On Wednesday, a county-wide outpouring of grief and gratitude followed the news of the murder of Sergeant Steven Owen of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Just after 12:00p.m. on Wednesday, Sgt. Owen was shot in the face while responding to a call about a residential burglary taking place in Lancaster.

Sgt. Owen, 53, was the first of two responders to make it to the home, which was in the 3200 block of W. Avenue J-7. Owen moved to the rear of the residence in order to try to contain the suspected burglar, identified as a local parolee.

The man reportedly then confronted Owen and opened fire, shooting him in the face. The second responding deputy ran from the front of the house to the back after hearing the gunshots. According to the sheriff’s department, the suspect then hopped in Owen’s patrol car and slammed it into the second deputy’s vehicle, at which point the deputy fired at and hit the suspect in the upper torso. Despite suffering a gunshot wound, the man was able to escape on foot.

The shooter was ultimately captured by deputies after he broke into another home—this one occupied by two teenagers. As the man exited the second house, the sheriff’s department’s Special Enforcement Bureau used less than lethal devices to keep him from re-entering the home, and the teens were then rescued. The suspect was taken into custody by deputies from the Lancaster station. Officers reportedly recovered a weapon at the scene.

Owen was taken to the hospital, where he later died from his wounds. Owen’s wife, sons, and mom were able to be with him in the hospital when he died.

Owen’s death was a shocking blow to the sheriff’s department and the community he served for 29 years before being killed in the line of duty.

“The tragedy of a deputy sheriff such as Sergeant Steve Owen making the ultimate sacrifice has a massive impact on the whole law enforcement family,” said LASD Sheriff Jim McDonnell. “We all mourn together and our hearts go out especially to Steve’s immediate family Tania, a detective at Arson/Explosives Detail, his two adult sons Brandon and Chad, a step-daughter Shannon and his mother Millie.”

Owen was well-respected by those he worked with and went “above and beyond with respect to youth activities and community involvement,” according to LASD Executive Officer Neal Tyler who characterized the horrific shooting as “the thing we all dread.”

Many of Owen’s fellow law enforcement officers expressed deep sorrow over his death. “Steve was a 29-year vet still working out on the street,” a retired sheriff’s department member who worked with Owen told WitnessLA. “Most folks with that amount of time aren’t suiting up anymore. It’s a testament to him and the quality of man he was.”

Owen received a Meritorious Conduct Medal for his role in safely rescuing a man who was being held hostage by an armed suspect wearing a bulletproof vest, without use of lethal force.

The sergeant was also one of three sheriff’s department members who, last July, found and rescued a 13-month-old girl who had been left alone in a shed by a pimp who had allegedly abducted the baby from a woman whom he had reportedly been abusing and commercially exploiting.

“Emotions are very high within the LASD,” said another source close to the department, who also noted that the sergeant was “only a couple of years from retirement.”

“All of our ALADS members will be grieving the loss of Sergeant Owen who was well respected by his colleagues,” the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs said in a statement. “Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs put their lives at risk every time they put on the uniform. This horrible tragedy is another reminder of the dangers and sacrifice law enforcement personnel face protecting the county’s citizens and businesses.”

The Professional Peace Officers Association (PPOA), the union to which Owen belonged as a department supervisor, also sent out a statement of grief and remembrance. “Sheriff’s Sergeant Steve Owen represented the best among us,” wrote PPOA President Brian Moriguchi. “He loved helping others and made the Antelope Valley a better place to live. Steve risked his life every day to make the community safer.”

California Governor Jerry Brown announced that the state capitol’s flags would be flown at half-staff.

LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who knew Sgt. Owen, called him an “outstanding law enforcement professional,” and said that the loss of Owen “leaves a significant void” for everyone who knew him.

“Steve was one of the bravest, hardest working street cops I’ve ever met,” the department retiree told WLA. “He was an LASD legend.”

Posted in LASD, Obits | 28 Comments »

Many Mourn Respected LA Sheriff’s Sergeant Steven Owen, Slain in Lancaster

October 5th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

Like many in Los Angeles County, we are devastated at the news of the fatal shooting of highly-respected Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sergeant Steven Owen, 53,
who died on Wednesday after being shot by a suspect while responding to a call about a residential burglary in Lancaster.

We will have a full story about Sergeant Owen late tonight. In the meantime, our thoughts go out to Sergeant Owen’s wife, his two grown sons, his step-daughter, extended family and friends, and the many members of the Los Angeles County law enforcement community who knew Steve Owens as a friend and colleague, plus the members of the wider LA County community, many of whom also knew and valued him, and whom he protected and served for 29 years.

Posted in LASD, Life in general, Uncategorized | No Comments »

LA Jail Visitor Beating: Jury Acquits Sixth Deputy on Two Charges, Deadlocks on Third Count – UPDATED

September 30th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On Wednesday, a jury acquitted Byron Dredd, an LA County sheriff’s deputy indicted for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to cover up of a brutal beating of a handcuffed visitor to Men’s Central Jail, Gabriel Carrillo, by falsifying official reports, thus causing Carrillo to be criminally charged as the aggressor. The charges could have resulted in a fourteen year prison sentence for Carrillo. (Backstory: here.)

Dredd was acquitted on two counts—one of writing a false report, and one of conspiracy to violate Carrillo’s civil rights. Jurors deadlocked on a third count of lying to the FBI.

In December 2013, five LA County Sheriff’s department members were indicted for the Carrillo beating and cover-up. Three of the men involved were convicted, and two struck plea deals (these two deputies later testified against Dredd). Dredd is the sixth LASD member to be tried. Dredd testified in his own defense, saying that his written report was manipulated by his boss.

U.S. District Judge George King set a Monday deadline for prosecutors to decide whether they will retry Dredd on the third count.

UPDATE: On Monday, government prosecutors announced that they would indeed retry Dredd on the third count that caused the jury to deadlock. If convicted of the charge of lying to FBI agents, Dredd could face as much as five years in federal prison. The new trial is set to begin on October 25.

Dredd is on paid leave from the department and reportedly employed at FedEx, and according to one of Dredd’s family members, likely does not wish to return to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

LA Times’ Joel Rubin has more on the story. Here’s a clip:

The verdict marks a rare loss for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, which has won a string of abuse and obstruction cases against deputies and higher-ranking sheriff’s officials following an FBI investigation into county jails.


Carrillo and his girlfriend were handcuffed and taken into custody after deputies said they found them carrying cellphones, which is against state law. After Carrillo reportedly mouthed off repeatedly to the deputies in a secluded room, he was punched, kicked and pepper-sprayed in the face.

After the beating, which left Carrillo bloody and bruised, the deputies and their supervisor claimed in reports that when one of Carrillo’s hands was uncuffed for fingerprinting, he attacked deputies and tried to escape.

Based on those reports, Carrillo was brought up on criminal charges. After Carrillo’s attorney brought to light photographs showing injuries to both of Carrillo’s wrists, corroborating his assertion that he was handcuffed during the beating, prosecutors from the county district attorney’s office dropped the charges.

Posted in LA County Jail, LASD | 5 Comments »

Door-to-Door Deputies, the Hunt for the Next Probation Chief, Women with Locked-up Loved Ones, and More

September 20th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


Over the weekend, more than 100 members of the LA County Sheriff’s Department walked through Willowbrook—a South LA neighborhood adjacent to Compton—going door to door to listen to residents’ concerns about quality of life issues and crime in their community. The event was held as a means of improving relationships between the LASD and underserved communities that often feel both neglected and targeted by law enforcement.

Willowbrook residents talked with deputies about gang violence, drugs, and rough treatment from officers. The most common complaints were about less serious issues like speeding down neighborhood streets and noise from parties.

Deputies met with and surveyed more than 500 people. The Century Sheriff’s Station will schedule a Town Hall meeting in the coming months to discuss the information gathered during the survey.

KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on the event. Here’s a clip:

One 24-year-old woman who lives with her parents down the street and who declined to give her name described to deputies rough treatment by their colleagues during a recent stop in front of her house.

“They took me out, shoved me into the police car,” she said. “When I tried to record, they told me I couldn’t record, so they took my phone away.”

It turned out it was a case of mistaken identity, she said.

“It might have been an honest mistake, but they could have been more professional,” she said. “I’ll think about it twice before calling them now.”

The deputies politely listened.

“I appreciate you sharing that story with us,” one deputy said. “That’s why we are doing this survey.”

He then asked her if she’d like deputies to keep an eye on her parents’ house when the family is ever out of town. She thought about it, and nodded her head yes.

Other residents expressed concerns about gang violence. It’s down from a decade ago, but persists along with drug dealing.

But more pedestrian problems came up more often, including speeding, parking and loud parties.

Deputies interviewed more than 500 people in this area of about 1,200 homes, Perry said. They plan to conduct a town hall with the survey results in a couple of months, then tackle the problems people are most concerned about.

People seemed genuinely glad to see deputies swarming their neighborhood for something other than a shooting.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Sal Jamarillo, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than forty years. “We only see them come when there’s trouble.”


Unless there is an LA County Probation Chief candidate with a “magic touch” who can effectively right persistent wrongs within the probation department, the “LA Times editorial board says the LA County Board of Supervisors should hold off on selecting a new chief until after the election, when two new board members will be in place, and after current studies into issues plaguing the department are completed.

Earlier this month, we wrote about the five candidates up for consideration to head a department that has run through five probation chiefs in a little over ten years. The new chief—whom the Times says could be “the most important department leader” selected by the Supes—will inherit all the problems on both the juvenile side and adult side that have been left unsolved by past department leaders.

Today (Tuesday), the Supes are slated to consider “candidate(s) for the position of Chief Probation Officer” in a closed session. We’ll let you know when we know more.

Here’s a clip from the editorial:

…in February, the supervisors called for a separate study to review the department’s many challenges, including inadequate data expertise, problems with its workforce, spotty fiscal controls and difficulties in its relationship with community-based contractors. That review, too, is still in progress.

The supervisors have their own vision of the department, embodied on the juvenile side in an “L.A. model” of individual care and closely monitored outcomes rather than punishment, and they have invested millions in remodeling a youth camp into a campus that will accommodate and enhance that approach. It’s the right one.

Yet they remain dogged by a reality in which probation officers are caught on camera abusing their young wards, and many employees have offered, at best, a lukewarm embrace of the new model. And on the adult side of the operation, criminal justice reforms have given the department increasing responsibilities but not always resources to match.

Befuddled by the many problems that beset the department, the board has a quandary: Should it hire, as quickly as possible, a talented chief probation officer to right the ship while answering the many questions they have posed? Or should they answer those questions first, and turn over the department to a leader ready to implement their vision?


Gina Clayton, a former public defender with a loved one behind bars, founded the Essie Justice Group to connect women who have incarcerated family members in order to provide empowerment and community for a group of women who often bear the burdens of loved ones’ incarceration alone. Nearly one in four women have a family member in prison, according to a study from Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.

In an interview with the Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney, Clayton talks about the stigma of having an incarcerated loved one, and the need for a support network and advocacy platform like Essie for women with a husband, child, sibling, parent, or other family member behind bars.

Here are some clips:

One of the biggest challenges was, you can’t just look on the internet and find women with incarcerated loved ones. It’s not a thing. Well, of course, it is a thing, it’s a thing that millions of women live, but it hadn’t been a defined group. At the time we started Essie, even formerly incarcerated people were a defined group, while women with incarcerated loved ones weren’t. There were no numbers, there was no data. There was no identification with this identity among the people that were living this experience.

Secondly, there is tremendous stigma. No one’s gonna raise their hand and say, “Oh, this is me.” There is shame and humiliation that comes with having someone you love in prison or jail or an immigration detention center. It’s something that you hide away, you shield yourself from all of the blame, and women will oftentimes incur a tremendous amount of isolation as a result.


These women so deeply love their partners, they love their sons and daughters who are incarcerated, but they aren’t allowed to say so. In our community, they’re allowed to love. They’re allowed to be proud, and to celebrate the small and large victories. Ordinarily, the conversation would begin and end with, “Well, he’s in prison, so why are we even talking about the fact that got his GED?” That’s not even allowed to be part of the conversation. In this community, it can be shared. That revolutionary love infrastructure that we’re creating is incredibly important, and it starts with a nomination.


We know that one in four women has a family member in prison, but it doesn’t begin to describe what those numbers really look like. What does that number look like when you take into account jails (rather than just prisons), and when you take into account unmarried partners?

I also think that data would show a connection between supporting women and public safety, that supporting these women is in everybody’s best interest. Because women are the actual prison reentry system in this country ― they’re the ones who are visiting incarcerated people, talking them through what to expect when they come home, preparing the home, making sure things are ready in a physical way, in an emotional, spiritual way. Women are doing the reentry work. And a woman who is stable, strong and supported, who has a community like the one that we’re providing ― when her loved one comes out of prison, she is prepared. That family’s experience that is much more likely to end up successfully, and for the family to stay whole. But when she is stressed out, when she’s depressed, when she feels burdened, when she feels unsupported, that reentry experience is, I believe, much less likely to go well. So we want to understand the connection between that and recidivism outcomes.


The LAPD is conducting an internal investigation into the wrongful arrest and 17-day lock-up of 45-year-old Guillermo Torres, a man mistakenly identified as a suspect in a murder case from 2000. Torres was arrested because of a tip from a citizen who saw a photo on the LAPD website’s “Most Wanted” page that the citizen believed to be Torres.

Through DNA testing, Torres was found to be innocent and was freed. Police Commission President Matt Johnson asked for a report back from Internal Affairs and called the situation “disturbing for all of us to hear about.”

City News Service has the story. Here’s a clip:

Torres — whose eyes welled up outside court after the hearing — spent more than two weeks in custody following a tip to police about a photo someone spotted in the “Most Wanted” section of the Los Angeles Police Department’s website seeking the public’s assistance in finding Calvario.

“For an innocent man, it was really a nightmare. It continues to be,” Torres’ attorney, Leonard Levine, told CNS outside court after the hearing. “He’s grateful that he is free and that the matter was cleared up … It was clearly established that he was not the person sought.”

Authorities ended up comparing Torres’ DNA to DNA collected from Calvario’s child and determining that Torres was not the man police were seeking, attorneys said.

One of Torres’ employers, Joanne Weinoe, said she and another of his employers sought legal help for the 45-year-old man, who was initially detained by police July 19 in connection with the killing. He was arrested six days later and initially held in lieu of $2 million bail, then was released Aug. 10 on electronic monitoring — an unusual step in a murder case.

“We said, ‘This is crazy. This is not him,’ ” Weinoe said of Torres, who has worked for her for 24 years and is the married father of an adult son. “You don’t turn your back on somebody like that … We weren’t going to just let him sit there and rot. We just knew it wasn’t him.”

She said the case shook her faith in the justice system.

“This is so wrong,” Weinoe said.

She noted that some attorneys said they would take the case, though they believed Torres was probably guilty, but that Levine quickly grew to believe Torres had been arrested in a case of mistaken identity.

Posted in LASD | 7 Comments »

Case Going to Trial of LA Sheriff’s Investigator Claiming Retaliation for Refusing to Falsify Job Apps & to Raise Big $$ for Tanaka

September 19th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


In early 2015, former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy Ban Nguyen filed a civil lawsuit alleging that he was retaliated against when he refused to falsify paperwork for certain unsuitable job candidates favored by department higher ups, particularly those candidates supported by former undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

The retaliation got worse, Nguyen alleges in his lawsuit, when he was asked to raise money for Tanaka’s campaign to become sheriff, and he refused, explaining that he didn’t favor Mr. Tanaka for that post.

(If you remember, Tanaka was in the running from mid-2013 through November 2014 for the job that Sheriff Jim McDonnell holds today.)

After being what he describes as forced into retirement, Nguyen is suing the former undersheriff, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for alleged violations of his civil rights along with violations of the state labor code and more. Nguyen also names in his lawsuit two LASD captains, and two department sergeants. (Kevin Hebert and Judy Gerhardt, are the captains named, although both have since been promoted to commander.)

According to court documents filed late last week, the defendants attempted with reams of paperwork to get a summary judgement without going to trial. But it appears that the case is going to trial anyway.**

“For Ban it isn’t about the money,” sources close to the case told us. At this point, say the sources, Nguyen wants to “expose the corruption” he alleges, in open court.

Indeed, given some of the witness already deposed, the trial, which is expected to begin in mid October, will be well worth watching.


Ban Nguyen, 51, has an interesting background. He was born in what was then Saigon, and emigrated with his family to the United States in 1974, when he was approximately nine-years-old, and the writing was on the wall about where the war in Vietnam was headed. (Saigon fell—or was liberated, depending upon your political perspective—on April 30, 1975.) In 1985, eleven years after his arrival, Nguyen became a U.S. citizen.

Nguyen joined the LA County Sheriff’s department in 1996, when he was in his early 30s. For the first ten years of his career as a deputy, according to court documents, things went well. Nguyen, who has a BS in Biology and and MA in Public Administration, did not try to promote past the rank of deputy. He comes from a high achieving family and reportedly had—and still has—other business interests of his own, and thus additional sources of income. As a consequence, he had no real desire to advance up the promotion ladder. He simply liked the work of being an LASD deputy.

After working in various other parts of the department, Nguyen was transferred in 2008 to the personnel division’s “Pre-Employment Unit,” where for four years he recruited deputy candidates and oversaw and reviewed parts of their application process, a job he liked and at which he seemed to excel.

In 2012, however, according to Nguyen’s court filings, he was transferred to personnel’s “Administrative/Reserve” team, where a healthy portion of his duty was to handle the job applications of “sensitive” deputy or reserve candidates, meaning those who, for one reason or another, were important to someone or other on the LASD’s command staff, most often, allegedly, the then-undersheriff, Paul Tanaka.

Applicants for deputy sheriff training (DST)—as opposed to applicants for “non-sworn” positions—are required to complete an 11-page application that includes questions on work history, education, family, references, along with questions designed to reveal any potential problem areas such as drug use, arrests and the like. After that, an investigator checks out references and does other probing. The candidate must also make it past such hurdles as a psych evaluation, and a polygraph test.

Once he began working on personnel’s Administration/Reserve team, according to Nguyen, he became aware that there was a practice of not only giving the “sensitive” candidates a leg up, but also the team was expected to whitewash the applications of favored candidates when necessary.

For instance, in one alleged situation, a candidate whose father was a friend of the former undersheriff failed the required polygraph test six separate times, specifically around questions relating to drug use and some other problematic issues. When Nguyen declined to recommend that the candidate be accepted for deputy training anyway, the applicant’s case was allegedly yanked from Nguyen and given to another, presumably more agreeable investigator, at which time the polygraph-challenged candidate magically passed the poly the seventh time around.

In other cases, according to court filings, Nguyen and colleagues were given a negative background report on a pet candidate, and told to rewrite the report, in effect ‘sanitizing” it, until it was shiny and clean enough to get the applicant through the gate.

Sometimes the alleged sanitization involved finding a more compliant psychologist to redo the psych evaluation, if “there were negative psychological or psychiatric issues” that had previously prevented the candidate from passing. Or, as with the earlier alleged example, Nguyen and his colleagues would be ordered to redo polygraphs, modifying or leaving out questions that produced problems.

When Nguyen refused to whitewash an application, reportedly stating to his immediate boss, Sergeant Ismael Chavez, that the practice of shoehorning “unqualified” candidates onto the force was both wrong and a potentially dangerous strategy, Chavez allegedly “berated and screamed” at him, according to court documents.

Nguyen states that he went over Chavez’s head to request to the appropriate lieutenant that the matter be investigated, but the lieutenant allegedly declined to look into the matter.


The 2012 job transfer also coincided, according to Nguyen, with the discovery by the captain of personnel division at the time, Kevin Hebert, now a department commander, that Nguyen had experience and expertise with political fundraising. For instance, in 2010, he had reportedly been helpful in helping Sandra Hutchens get elected to the position of Orange County Sheriff-Coroner. (Hutchens, who was originally with the LA Sheriff’s Department, before moving to Orange County, served first as the interim sheriff after former sheriff Mike Corona resigned in the face of federal indictments.)

One day at work in mid-November 2012, according to Nguyen, his boss, Sgt. Chavez took him to see then-captain Hebert, who Chavez said wanted to talk to Nguyen. Hebert then allegedly asked Nguyen what his experience was with raising money, and how one went about raising big bucks for a political campaign, or words to that effect. Nguyen states that he told of his involvement in previous political campaigns, and explained, in general, how one goes about raising $100,000 in political funds.

A few days later, according to Nguyen, he was again brought to meet with Hebert during the work day, at which time Hebert asked if he’d like to raise money for Paul Tanaka, who was planning to run for sheriff. Would he be on the team? Hebert allegedly asked.

Nguyen says he declined multiple requests.

(For the record, Hebert has stated in a deposition that he never met with Nguyen, much less pressured him to become involved in Tanaka’s campaign.)

Near the end of 2013, according to the lawsuit, Nguyen told then Sheriff Lee Baca about the demand to “lie about or conceal damaging background information concerning Tanaka connected applicants,” and the retaliation that occurred when he would’t comply, or support Tanaka’s political campaign. Rather than helping matters, Nguyen alleges that, after he went to Baca the retaliation—which had begun after his various failures to cooperate with what he believed was wrongdoing—got worse. Hebert was no longer captain of personnel, but his successor, then-captiain Judy Gerhardt, allegedly told Nguyen “he was not allowed to go beyond the chain of command again with his complaint.”

Interestingly, when Nguyen went to meet with then Sheriff Baca, which he did more than once, a retired LASD commander who had been Nguyen’s mentor in earlier years, came with him to help bolster his case. The retired commander was Robert Lindsey, a man with his own personal story about refusing what he believed were illegal (or at the very least corrupt) orders coming from Paul Tanaka.

According to the signed declaration Lindsey made for this case, when Lindsey was still with the department, Chief Tanaka told him to make it possible for certain chosen favorites to advance up the ranks by giving these favored few the answers to the lieutenants’ exam. Additionally, according to Lindsey, Tanaka asked him to give certain applicants-for-promotion credit for non-right test answers that Tanaka allegedly claimed were “close enough.” Lindsey alleges that when he declined to facilitate Tanaka’s orders to…well….cheat, Tanaka told him that he would “live to regret it,” and that his career was over, and then allegedly triggered an internal affairs investigation against Lindsey.

(Lindsey also alleges that, years later, Tanaka took out his still existing fury on Lindsey’s LASD deputy son by ginning up a criminal case against Robert Lindsey Jr. But that’s another upcoming civil lawsuit for another day.)

Nguyen describes an increasingly hostile work environment, then a transfer to an “entry level position” in what was known as the Civilian Investigative Unit. When he tried to transfer to what he believed was a more appropriate job, he was moved to a desk job under then-Captain Gerhardt, which he alleges involved “no real duties.” At the same time, he was told that an anonymous complaint had been filed against him, and that he was being “investigated,” although according to Nguyen he was never told anything about the investigation, or whether it was criminal or administrative in nature.

Nguyen states that, around this point, his health and state of mind began to suffer.

In September 2014, he was put on sick leave. In November 2015, Nguyen retired. In between he filed his lawsuit, now slated to go to court in October.


In court, the defendants will of course tell a very different story—or more accurately multiple different stories—than that which plaintiff Nguyen and his attorney, Richard A. Love, have told through court documents.

Yet, whichever side ultimately prevails in this lawsuit, many of the issues underlying Nguyen’s civil complaint call out loudly for better examination.

For years there have been credible reports of certain people in the LASD’s personnel division being asked to shave the dice, so to speak, for either unsuitable job applicants, or candidates for promotion who didn’t manage to make the grade on their own.

Perhaps this lawsuit will trigger a long overdue closer look at those stories of corruption.

**NOTE: We originally wrote that there was talk of a settlement of the case, which Ban Nguyen declined. Whether true or not, the most recent court documents pertain to a “Summary Judgement,” which is basically a kind of appeal from the defendants to dismiss the case.

Posted in LASD | 55 Comments »

Case Against LASD Deputy Dismissed…Different Views on Capital Punishment in CA…Jobs for Foster Youth

September 9th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Wednesday, LA Superior Court Judge C.H. Rehm dismissed a criminal case against Gregory Rodriguez, an LA County Sheriff’s deputy accused of perjury and of filing a false police report justifying the arrest of Christopher Gray by claiming that the man attempted to free people who were in police custody. Following a week-long trial that ended in a deadlocked jury (eight of twelve jurors voted not guilty), prosecutors from the LA County DA’s Justice System Integrity Division announced on Wednesday that they could not proceed and would drop the charges against Rodriguez.

The trial, which started July 29, included video evidence that prosecutors said proved Rodriguez lied about Gray’s actions leading up to the arrest. In the video, Gray appears to be calmly watching deputies make an arrest before Rodriguez confronted him and arrested him. (You can watch clips from the video footage here.) In an interview with NBC LA, Roger Clark, a police procedures consultant and former LASD lieutenant called the false reporting intentional, saying, “This should have been caught early, early on.”

Gray, who reportedly sustained a serious shoulder injury during the arrest and lost his job while he spent five days in jail on a felony charge, settled with the sheriff’s department for around $550,000. The LA County Board of Supervisors still has to approve the settlement amount.

If Rodriguez had been convicted, the (former) deputy would have faced up to four years and eight months behind bars.


In November, California voters will decide between two competing ballot initiatives—one to abolish the death penalty in the state, and the other to speed up the appeals process for those sentenced to death.

The two measures have created considerable buzz. Critics of Proposition 66 argue that truncating the appeals process could lead to the execution of innocent people.

In an op-ed for the San Diego Union Tribune, co-founder of the California Innocence Project, Justin Brooks, tells the cautionary story of Bill Richards, a former death row inmate who was exonerated after 23 years. The decades it took to prove that Richards did not kill his wife and to free him from death row is not unusual, either. Seven of the last ten death row exonerations nationwide occurred after inmates had been on death row for more than 25 years. And more than 150 people have been declared innocent after a death sentence in the United States. Here’s a clip:

The jury in the third and final trial relied on highly questionable evidence: a thread allegedly found under the victim’s fingernail that matched Bill’s shirt; unscientific blood splatter evidence; and testimony by an expert that an alleged bite mark on Pamela’s body matched Bill.

After years of litigation, the California Innocence Project was finally able to get access to and testing of all of the crime scene evidence. Based on photos taken during the autopsy, there was substantial evidence that the blue fiber from Bill’s shirt was planted under Pamela’s fingernails. DNA testing of hair found under Pamela’s fingernails proved it did not match her nor Bill. Male DNA found on the murder weapon also did not match Bill. Finally, the actual prosecution expert who testified at trial that Bill’s teeth matched the bite mark recanted his trial testimony and admitted it was false.

After a lengthy habeas hearing, where all of this evidence was presented, a judge who was a former tough-on-crime prosecutor reversed Bill’s conviction. That was nine years ago. Shortly thereafter, the reversal was reversed with the California Supreme Court ruling that expert testimony cannot be deemed false, even when the expert himself admits it was false. Bill remained in prison for nine more years, battling cancer, while the California Innocence Project and others fought to change the law which finally resulted in Bill’s release this past June — after 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

The same opportunity to prove innocence in California may not be available to defendants sentenced to death in the future if Proposition 66 passes this November. Under Proposition 66, arbitrary timelines will be established and there may not be time within those timelines to prove innocence. The initiative would also require inexperienced attorneys to represent individuals facing the death penalty, even though ineffective assistance of counsel is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions.

Another example of alleged prosecutorial misconduct leading to questionable convictions is the scandal-plagued Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Read the latest in that saga: here.

Gary Tyler, a black man who was wrongfully convicted at 16 in 1974 of murdering a white high school cheerleader, supports Prop. 62—the bill to get rid of the death penalty. The Supreme Court overturned Tyler’s death sentence within two years, but Tyler spent more than four decades in prison with a life sentence before he was exonerated. Listen to Tyler speak out in support of Prop. 62 on Midday Edition.

For the most part, the death row reform bill has the support of law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and other justice system groups.

But some inmates used to death row after spending decades behind bars, are anxious about the potential of rejoining the general population of prisoners, the LA Times’ Paige St. John reports. Here’s a clip:

Perry’s worries include being moved from San Quentin, where he has struck up friendships with a college professor and a poet who visit and mentor him in theology and prose. How, he wonders, does that happen if you are a lifer locked away in the north woods at Crescent City’s Pelican Bay?

And he worries that men, “after being here chained up like monkeys and animals in a cage,” will have trouble adjusting to yards where violence is frequent.

“I’ll have to hurt someone,” was the immediate reaction of James Thompson, 64, grizzled and sitting in a tennis-court-size exercise yard. A guard stood overhead with a loaded rifle while a line of aging, heavily tattooed men in white boxer shorts paced in military precision.

On a new yard he will have to “re-establish” himself. After 20 years, Thompson is “comfortable” on East Block.

He is experienced in the differences between death row and ordinary prison. Before he robbed and killed a man in California, Thompson served a long stretch locked up in Texas, also for murder. What rubs him about California is the 20 years his appeal has been in limbo. He agrees with other condemned inmates who favor the ballot proposal to keep the death penalty but speed appeals.

“If you are going to execute me, execute me,” Thompson said. “But if you are going to let me go, let me go.”

Death row experts said states that have repealed the death penalty have successfully absorbed the condemned into their general populations, though in Connecticut, two killers had to be sent to Pennsylvania to ensure their safety.


Under a new House bill employers would be eligible to receive annual tax credits for hiring current and former foster youth.

The Improved Employment Outcomes for Foster Youth Act, introduced Thursday, would grant federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit up to $2,400 per year for employers who hire people between the ages of 18 and 27 who were in foster care on their sixteenth birthday.

If an employer kept a hire from the time the employee was 18 through 26, a total of $21,600 in credits could be claimed.

The bipartisan-supported bill, which was introduced by five members of the House Ways and Means Committee, was inspired by a partnership in California between a non-profit, iFoster, and Raley’s, a grocery chain, which has grown to include a manufacturing company called Mondelez International and Starbucks.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s John Kelly has more on the bill. Here’s a clip:

“We pursued this path and the creation of this bill because when we talked to employers, they were not interested in the subsidized work internships or subsidized employment,” said Serita Cox, the co-founder and executive director of iFoster, who has helped develop the legislation. “Instead, they felt strongly about the tax credit offered to veterans.”

The iFoster program worked with transition-age, kinship and crossover youth ages 16 to 24 in a seven-step program that involves a screening and interview process. iFoster completes a pre-employment phase with a cohort of potential employees before they interview and start working at the company.

“The caliber of the youths and the success they’re having on the job has been tremendous,” said iFoster co-founder Reid Cox. “One of the key issues here is that none of this is trying to offset that these kids are bad employees. It’s just to level the playing field.”

Sean Hughes, a child welfare consultant who helped develop the legislation, said “at least” 100,000 youths and young adults who spent time in foster care would be WOTC eligible. The number might be far higher, based on federal foster care data from 2014.

There were 22,392 exited foster care due to “emancipation” in fiscal 2014, according to federal data. Assuming that is about average, approximately 201,000 workers would be eligible in any year.

Posted in LASD, Uncategorized | 23 Comments »

LASD Moves to Decriminalize Homelessness, an Interview with “Ghettoside” Author Jill Leovy, a Bill to Address Problems in Juvenile Court Schools, and More Commutations

August 31st, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Tuesday evening, LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced that sheriff’s deputies will be instructed to refrain from arresting homeless people for minor crimes related to homelessness. Instead, the goal for deputies will be to connect homeless people with much-needed services. The department’s decriminalization initiative is expected to go into effect at the beginning of next year, after deputies receive training.

The initiative was discussed during a public forum held with the LA County Fire Department, and the LA Homeless Services Authority. Sheriff McDonnell said he is also “trying to get the funding to provide, across our department, crisis intervention training, so that we have the ability to give the tools necessary to our deputies, to our personnel throughout the organization.”

Decriminalization of the county’s homeless was one of 47 recommendations in a $100 million comprehensive interagency plan to combat homelessness, which was approved by the LA County Board of Supervisors Back in February.

“It’s going to take an active holistic effort from you, our non-profits, our churches, private and public entities to address this challenge,” LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said, addressing the audience.

Meanwhile, the county supervisors are still urging lawmakers to call on Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency over the homelessness crisis in California, in order to drum up $500 million in state funds for cities and counties grappling with serious homelessness.

The supes voted back in June to urge Sacramento to declare homelessness a state of emergency. The next day, Gov. Brown announced that he would not make the move. The governor’s press secretary said the issue of addressing homelessness is a task for local governments. Since then, the state Assembly, local officials throughout California, and more than 25,000 petitioners have joined the call for the governor to act.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas urges the state Senate to join the push, and for Brown to take action. “If [Brown] can declare a state of emergency over a fruit fly infestation, doing the same for homelessness should be a no-brainer,” said the supervisor.

Ridley-Thomas also notes that while a governor declaring a state of emergency over homelessness is rare, it has been done before. “Hawaii did it last year and again this year, with a homeless population of 7,000—less than one-tenth of those in California,” Ridley-Thomas said.


Jill Leovy, discusses the complex problem-–spotlighted in her 2015 book, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America—of both under-policing and over-policing black communities in an interview with Vox’s German Lopez.

In Ghettoside, Leovy writes about the disproportionate number of black men who are murdered in Los Angeles and across the nation—most of them killed by other black men—and the fact that most of those murders go unsolved by law enforcement. Yet people of color are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement and overrepresented in the justice system.

Leovy explained the issue in the context of a school playground: “…bullies beat you up every day on the playground. But the only time the playground supervisor comes around, he or she says, ‘Don’t chew gum on the playground.’ In this way, Leovy says, the playground supervisor is ignoring the much larger issue of the physical harm inflicted on the student. “You would cease to believe in the system,” Leovy said in the interview with Lopez.

Part of the problem, according to Leovy, is that we ask too much of law enforcement officers above their duty to protect the public from violence and other dangers and enforce the law. Police focus their time and resources dealing with mental illness, substance abuse, and classroom discipline, rather than public safety. Here’s a clip from the interview:

In fact, you’d probably cease to believe that it’s just the bullies picking on you, but rather that the system is a bully in and of itself. Pulling back to the criminal justice system, this is how Leovy described the situation in her book: “Like the schoolyard bully, our criminal justice system harasses people on small pretexts but is exposed as a coward before murder. It hauls masses of black men through its machinery but fails to protect them from bodily injury and death. It is at once oppressive and inadequate.”

The result, Leovy argues, is more violence. The fundamental basis of the law has long been to help people settle disputes without violence and through some sort of legal system instead. White communities have lived with this comfort, based on the higher number of crimes solved in those communities, for generations. Black communities — where people are often trapped due to severe residential segregation — have not, and that helps explain why they suffer from high homicide and general violent crime rates.

As Leovy writes, “Take a bunch of teenage boys from the whitest, safest suburb in America and plunk them down in a place where their friends are murdered and they are constantly attacked and threatened. Signal that no one cares, and fail to solve murders. Limit their options for escape. Then see what happens.”

It’s not just homicide. The clearance rate for other violent crimes, such as robbery and assault, are generally even lower: FBI data shows that in the murder clearance rate in 2014 was about 64.5 percent in 2014, but 47.4 percent for violent crime overall — and just 29.6 percent for robbery. And these rates are much lower in minority communities.

“Ghettoside has been accused of being too reductive by hanging so much on the narrow issue of homicide clearances, which is a fair criticism,” Leovy told me. “I’m not arguing that you can hang everything on homicide clearances, or that [more clearances] alone would resolve the disparities in death rates in homicide on racial lines. But I do think it’s a big deal. And homicide is an indicator; it’s actually used by a lot of criminologists as an indicator of crime, where the numbers are thought to be relatively accurate.”

Homicide also shows the vicious cycle involved. Police need witnesses and cooperation from the community to solve crimes, including murders, and therefore build legitimacy that can help prevent future crimes. But if communities feel distrustful as a result of being both overpoliced for low-level crimes and underpoliced for serious crimes, they are going to be less likely to cooperate with cops.

So most murders will go unsolved, and those unsolved murders lead to more distrust. That leads to more murders, which will subsequently go mostly unsolved. And so on.

This is why so much of the work on policing reform, such as President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, focuses largely on rebuilding trust between the police and minority communities.


A bill to help more justice-system involved California kids graduate high school on time has passed out of the state Senate and Assembly, and now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for a final signature.

The bill, AB 2306, would exempt kids locked up in county juvenile detention facilities from having to complete locally required coursework (like health and language courses) beyond what the state requires for graduation. Other high-needs student groups—homeless and foster youth—are already exempt from having to complete additional coursework.

The Redding Record Searchlight’s Nathan Solis has more on the bill and the ongoing problems with the juvenile court schools in California. Here’s a clip:

As the system works now, students who transition from the Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility after finishing their sentences to local high schools can fall behind in their classes as they work to meet local graduation requirements such as health or language classes. Hartman said there is not enough time to fit all the necessary course work to meet both state and local requirements while a student is at the facility.

“Simply put there were so many holes in their educational path,” Hartman said.

With the proposed law, juvenile court students who complete their second year of high school would be placed in the same category as foster care and homeless students who are exempt from local requirements.

According to Frazier, the bill would “remove barriers experienced by at-risk students when making the transition” to public high schools.


On Tuesday, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of another large group of federal inmates—including several in California—serving outdated sentences for cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and other drug-related offenses.

With Tuesday’s 111 commutations, and 214 petitions granted earlier this month, Obama appears to be ramping up his clemency efforts as he nears the end of his second and final term as president. Obama has granted more commutations just in August than any president in an entire year in approximately 100 years. Tuesday’s clemency move brings Obama’s total number of commutations to 673.

Posted in Homelessness, LASD | 16 Comments »

BEGGING TO GO TO PRISON: Former LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Wants to Begin His Federal Prison Term Right Away—If He Can Get Past the Bureaucratic Obstacles

August 29th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

On August 31, former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy James Sexton
will turn himself in to federal marshals in order to begin his eighteen month sentence in federal prison.

Weirdly, Sexton’s choice to get on with his prison term has not been a simple matter to achieve.

Sexton is the first and only former department member indicted for obstructing a federal investigation who has elected to go ahead and begin his prison time. Everyone else—including Paul Tanaka, the former undersheriff of the LASD—is still fighting their respective convictions. And former sheriff Lee Baca has yet to go to trial. But surrendering one’s self to the feds, it turns out, isn’t quite as simple as it seems.

As most readers remember, the obstruction indictments brought by the government against a total of 10 former LA County Sheriff’s Department members pertained to the alleged hiding of federal informant Anthony Brown from his FBI handlers, falsely threatening an FBI agent, interfering with potential federal witnesses, and generally attempting to get in the way of an undercover FBI investigation into allegations of civil rights violations, brutality, and corruption on the part of deputies inside the county’s troubled jail system.

Sexton is the lowest person on the departmental food chain to be convicted of the obstruction charges, and sentenced to federal lock-up. Although the government does not suggest he had anything to do with the threatening of FBI agents, or interfering with witnesses, he was involved in hiding federal informant Brown, based on orders coming from several layers of supervisors, including—according to federal prosecutors—the two people running the department.

Among the other defendants already convicted are former LASD deputies Mickey Manzo and Gerard Smith, former sergeants Maricela Long and Scott Craig, and former lieutenants Gregory Thompson and Stephen Leavins, who were tried as a group and whose sentences in a federal lock-up range from 21 months to 41 months.

Paul Tanaka, the notorious former second in command of the department, was himself convicted of the dual charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice for his role as the shot caller of the obstruction actions, and was subsequently sentenced to five years behind bars.

Tanaka has appealed to the 9th Circuit for relief thus he is able to stay out of prison until his appeal is settled.

The six—Manzo, Smith, Scott, Craig, Thompson and Leavins—-appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and lost with a ruling from a three-judge panel. Now they are appealing to the entire 9th Circuit for their collective case to be reheard, so they too are not yet packing for incarceration.

Former LASD captain Tom Carey, who made a plea deal with the government, has yet to be sentenced.

And of course, there is former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca who, according to the government, gave the orders that set the whole obstruction circus in motion, with Tanaka doing the micromanagement.

Baca originally agreed to a plea deal for which he expected to do somewhere between no time at all, and six months. He backed out of the deal in early August, after it became evident that U.S. District Court Judge Percy intended to go with a sentence that could be substantively longer than the maximum six months that his agreement with the feds prescribed. (It should be noted former deputy Sexton’s sentence was three times higher that the highest end of Baca’s proposed sentence 0 to 6 months.)

Now Baca is going to trial, beginning in early December, and his attorney, Nathan Hochman has indicated he will likely have experts and witnesses explain to the jury that the former sheriff was too compromised by his oncoming Alzheimer’s disease to have knowledgably committed the three crimes of which he is charged by the federal government.

(Mr. Baca has been indicted for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, along with the original charge of lying to federal officials that Baca admitted to back in February, as part of his now dynamited plea deal.)


Sexton, who is 31, has been fighting his case for the last three years, and through the whole of his three-year marriage, and says he wants to pay whatever debt he owes so that he can begin to plan a new future.

“Out of respect for the jurors who sat for my two trials,” he wrote to WitnessLA in a text, “I’m going to continue the appellate process while serving time in an effort to move on with my life…..I am grateful for the people in my life, especially my wife, family, and friends who supported me exercising my Constitutional Rights.” But now he is ready to move on, he said.

(Sexton refers to “two trials” because he was tried twice, with the first proceeding ending in a mistrial due to a hung jury that was “hopelessly divided” with six for conviction, and six against. Also, although Sexton says he has stopped fighting his prison term, he is not completely giving up on his right to appeal in the future.)

When Sexton decided to move forward with serving his time, however, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the 9th Circuit and the rest of the federal bureaucratic machinery was not ready to take him, although he was sentenced on September 16, 2014, and his appeal to the 9th—along with that of the six—was rejected on August 4 of this year.

He could turn himself in if he wanted, but the BOP has nowhere to put him. Former law enforcement officials are generally incarcerated in facilities where the BOP is better able to keep them safe from inmates who may wish to harm cops. However, they didn’t have such a facility ready. So, he might languish in a less secure private lock-up for an indefinite time.

Concerned at where his client might wind up, Sexton’s lawyer, former U.S. Attorney, Tom O’Brien, attempted to blast through the logjam by filing a urgent motion with the 9th Circuit to pull Sexton out of the appeals queue, where he had landed automatically when the six decided to re-appeal, even though Sexton had not himself asked for a second appeal.

“In order to move forward with his life,” O’Brien wrote to the 9th, “Mr. Sexton now seeks to begin serving his sentence as expeditiously as possible. To do so, he respectfully requests, and the Government does not oppose this request, that the mandate should be issued as to him as quickly as possible.”

Once the 9th Circuit gave up their dominion over Sexton, O’Brian submitted a petition to Judge Anderson, in whose court Sexton was convicted and sentenced.

At first it was not clear that the various motions would shove the slow-moving governmental cogs. But finally, late on Friday Judge Anderson signed the necessary stipulation, which went then to Sexton’s probation officer and then to the US Marshals immediately. Sexton hopes the BOP will be ready for him by his wished for turn-in date of August 31. It remains to be seen what prison will be his home for the next year and a half.

“Still, I think we’re prepared now,” Sexton’s wife, Keely Sexton told WLA. “We’ve come to a peace with it. Yeah, it’s scary. I respect him for going in. But it’s scary. It is. I’m scared of coming home to an empty house, and scared of not knowing what’s going on with him, and scared of not being able to talk to him for a while. We’ve gotten to go through a lot of things that people who have been married for 30 years had never gone through. And it’s made us stronger. I wouldn’t trade any of that. Now it’s time to get on with it.”

Posted in LASD | 13 Comments »

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