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Prosecutors Request Mental Competency Evaluation for Former Sheriff Lee Baca

August 25th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


After a hearing on Wednesday to set a start date for the federal criminal trial of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca
, government prosecutors filed a motion requesting a mental competency evaluation for the man who, for sixteen years, headed the nation’s largest sheriff’s department until his abrupt announcement of his retirement in January, 2014.

“Although the government believes defendant is competent to stand trial,” the prosecution team wrote, “certain statements by defendant, his attorneys, and his experts, if taken at face value, provide reasonable cause to believe that defendant may be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense.”

Their proposed motion, stated the prosecutors, will either “ensure that the defendant’s trial proceeds in the timely fashion if he is competent.” Otherwise, it will “save resources” if Baca is found not competent to stand trial.

This rather startling development came after an edgy discussion about the issue of Baca’s mental condition as it pertained to the upcoming trial. The three-way conversation took place in court earlier on Wednesday between the government’s attorneys, defense attorney Nathan Hochman, and U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson after Hochman told the court that the defense may assert what is known as a 12.2 defense, or “mental defect” defense.

In brief, a 12.2 defense is a strategy in which the defense presents “expert evidence of a mental disease or defect” that would have prevented a defendant from possessing the mental ability required to have committed the offenses of with which he or she is charged.

At some point in the discussion, Judge Anderson asked Hochman if this meant that those who suffer from Alzheimer’s “don’t know right from wrong?”

In answer to Anderson’s terse questioning, Hochman reportedly said that, no, he was not going for an insanity defense (which is one version of a 12.2 defense). Instead he might put forth another version of the 12.2 legal tactic, which is the aforementioned “mental defect” strategy.

In the request for the competency evaluation, prosecutors Brandon Fox, Lizabeth Rhodes and Eddie Jauregui noted that, during the hearing in February in which Baca pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to federal officials, when asked if he had “recently been treated for any form of mental illness or addiction?” or if he was “currently suffering from any mental condition that would prevent him from “understanding fully the charge against” him, “or the consequences of any guilty plea” he might enter to relating to that charge, Baca answered, “no,” to each question.

The the prosecutors went on to point out that, on Aug. 1, Baca’s attorneys stated that “medical records would show Baca’s mental deterioration had already begun in April 2013, when he made the allegedly false statements to federal prosecutors.”

In their motion, the prosecutors made clear that they believe that Mr. Baca is competent to go to trial.

But they want an official determination, one way or the other.

Interestingly, in Wednesday’s hearing to finally determine the trial date, defense attorney Hochman said that he might consider filing a motion for a change in venue explaining that he was not sure that an untainted jury pool could be found, given all the publicity about the matter.

In response, Judge Anderson pointed out that it that it likely did not help matters to have attorneys holding press conferences on the courthouse steps—or words to that effect. Anderson then asked both sides to refrain from trying this case in the press.

The trial of Lee Baca for charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and lying to federal officials is set to begin on December 6, 2016.

Here’s the actual motion for a competency evaluation if you want to take a look:

Posted in LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | 10 Comments »

Lee Baca: A December Trial Date, A New Lawyer, and a Pitch for Legal $$$ – UPDATED

August 22nd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

UPDATE:

At Wednesday’s hearing, although former sheriff Lee Baca’s lawyer, Nathan Hochman, pushed for any trial to be delayed until February or March of next, after considerable debate, U.s. District Court Judge Percy Anderson set a new trial date for December 6th.


On Wednesday of this week, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca and his new lead attorney, Nathan Hochman, will meet on the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson for a “status conference” with federal prosecutors to discuss when Baca’s criminal trial will begin.

While the trial was originally set to begin in September, then moved to October 4, our sources tell us that new and hopefully final date will likely be in December of this year. (But we’ll let you know for sure on Wednesday.)

Baca, who is now 74-years-old, was arraigned on August 12, also before Judge Anderson, at which time he pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and lying to federal officials.

The former sheriff was indicted on the three charges after he pulled out of a plea deal with the government that had been crafted back in February, in which he’d agreed to plead guilty to one count of lying in an interview with the feds in 2013. In return for his plea, government prosecutors agreed to a sentencing range of 0 to 6 months.

In July, however, Anderson blew up the deal by rejecting the maximum six month sentence. In a sober-minded but scathing series of comments to those assembled in his courtroom, Anderson said that a six-month sentence would not “fairly account for the significant harm” caused “by this defendant” and “under-appreciates this defendant’s culpability.” The guidelines agreed upon, the judge said grimly, “fail to fairly measure the culpability of this defendant….and the nature and circumstances of criminal conduct,” and would “…trivialize the seriousness of his offenses, his lack of respect for the law and the gross abuse of the public trust….”

After Anderson’s rejection of the 0 to 6 month sentencing agreement, Baca withdrew from the plea deal altogether, rather than take a chance on what promised to be a sentence from Anderson that likely would have fallen somewhere between 2-5 years in a federal prison.

But, to withdraw from the deal meant that Baca would instead go to trial, and likely face added charges—which was exactly what happened.


THE ALZHEIMER’S ISSUE

Now, the gigantic wild card in the eventual trial will be the issue of Baca’s cognitive health. He has, as most readers are aware, been diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a diagnosis that was made public in late June (although WLA broke the news the month before).

On the day of his arraignment, Baca also filed for a change in his lead attorney. Through the course of his plea deal, and the withdrawal from it, Michael Zweiback, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, has represented Baca.

Now Nathan Hochman will represent Baca. Hochman is also a former federal prosecutor, and the former head of the Tax Division for the US Department of Justice. While both he and Zweiback have strong CVs, they are reputed to have different personal styles when it comes to representing a client in a criminal trial.

Hochman has made it very clear that Baca’s mental state will be a significant issue when Baca goes before a jury, and that the defense will explore whether there was any “cognitive impairment,” during the period of the summer and early fall of 2011, when the alleged actions occurred that are the basis of the obstruction of justice charges, and in 2013, of course, when Baca was interviewed by the feds, and allegedly lied.

During the arraignment, Judge Anderson, who was appointed to the federal bench in 2002 by George W. Bush, repeatedly asked defendant Baca if he understood the proceedings. Baca replied that his mind was “clear enough” but also added that he had a “cloudiness in my brain and I’ve had that for quite awhile.”

When the case goes to trial, the government is expected to have its own witnesses who suggest that, while the former sheriff may be eccentric, he cognition and memory were fully operative during the periods in question.

Both Baca’s present and past attorneys have strongly hinted (but not outright stated) that they will do what they can to have Judge Anderson removed from the former sheriff’s case, pleading that Anderson is biased against Baca.


THE COST OF DEFENSE & THE PITCH FOR FUNDS

Trials are, of course, very expensive, and with this in mind, the former sheriff’s wife, Carol Baca, has recently sent out fund raising emails to friends in her husband’s behalf, two versions of which WitnessLA has obtained. (The LA Times’ Joel Rubin was the first to report on the emails’ existence.)

In one of the emails, Mrs. Baca wrote in part:

“The attorney fees for this defense will be substantial, well over $1 million, in addition to the large amount of money we have already spent on Lee’s legal fees. As a result, we are reaching out to our family and friends to help Lee beat these charges. Lee is in the fight for his life given his Alzheimer’s disease, and he hopes he can count on you to help him have the resources for this fight.

“There are two ways to contribute to help Lee. Any person can donate as a gift to Lee a maximum amount of $14,000 a year tax-free. In addition, we are setting up a legal defense fund that can accept contributions without limit (more details to follow).”

On the subject of legal bills, except for Paul Tanaka, nearly all of the other 21 Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department members who have been convicted by the government in the course of the multi-year federal investigation into corruption and brutality inside the LASD, have been provided attorneys by either the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), or the Professional Peace Officers Association (PPOA).

(James Sexton was the exception among the deputies who faced federal charges, as ALADS declined to pay even a portion of his bills, for reasons that make up their own disheartening tale.)

So, would Baca be eligible for any help?

We asked PPOA president, Brian Moriguchi, what he thought about whether either union could or would pay any of Baca’s bills, and he told us that “any full-member of our association in good standing is entitled to representation or financial support, regardless of whether their rank is a deputy sheriff or the sheriff himself.”

PPOA, he said, has provided financial assistance “to all of our members who were indicted related to this matter.”

Since we called Moriguchi on Sunday, he could not easily check whether or not Baca was, in fact, a full member. But if he is, Moriguchi said, “he is entitled to the same member benefits we afford all of our members, including financial assistance.”

Paul Tanaka, he said, “did not received any financial support from PPOA because he was not a member of our association.”

For the record, Mr. Baca receives roughly $328,000 annually in pension and benefits. In 2013, his total salary plus benefits was $490,727, according to Transparent California.

In 2013, Mr. Tanaka made $598,026. He also received salary and benefits as the Mayor of Gardena, which last year was $30,938.

Posted in LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | 19 Comments »

OIG Reports New Rules for Restraints in County Jails After One Inmate Dies, and Another is “Tethered” Without Food for 32 Hours

August 18th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



A few days ago, Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman released a report
that reveals recent changes in the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s policies relating to the use of restraints on inmates in the county’s jail system. The new policies, the OIG writes, are designed to ensure that that the use of “tethering” and other restraints on inmates does not result in “a substantial risk of mental and/or physical harm,” is not used as a “punishment,” and does not break any state laws.

The new report focuses on four incidents in which prisoners were tied to a fixed object for a prolonged period of time though the use of a “restraint device”—waist chains, handcuffs, and/or a foot hobble—and the inmates were, in fact, harmed as a result.

In one January 2015 incident, a restrained inmate died when, according to the report, jail deputies who were supposed to have made regular welfare checks failed to notice evidence of distress that was later found to be visible on video.


A PUBLIC SEARCH

The first incident the report outlines occurred on August 26, 2014, in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility (TTCF), and involved an inmate who refused to be strip searched, then began physically resisting in general. In response to his recalcitrance, deputies “placed a hobble” on the inmate’s feet and “tethered the hobble to a handcuff ring on the counter of a visiting cubicle.”

The deputies then stripped the prisoner naked and conducted a search in his restrained position. The problem arose when they did so in an area that was visible “to the public.” According to the report, after the search, the inmate remained naked and restrained and visible to anyone walking by for 90 minutes or more.

(There is evidently video footage of all this, so the length of time that the naked, tethered inmate was on public view is not in dispute.)

This stripping of someone in front of other people who are not officially involved in the action appears also to be disallowed by the California penal code, section 4030, which states:

All strip, visual and physical body cavity searches shall be conducted in an area of privacy so that the search cannot be observed by persons not participating in the search.

In addition, the inmate’s 90-minute restraint—which was, according to the video, far, far longer than anyone needed to perform the necessary search—also ran contrary to the custody division’s general policy on search procedures:

“Searches are not to be used to inflict physical stress or punishment on prisoners. Prisoners shall not be required to remain in any search position for more time than is reasonable and necessary to complete a search.”


CHAINED AND INJURED

On September 2014, a week after the incident at TTCF, a prisoner who was detained in the North County Correctional Facility (NCCF) was suspected of concealing contraband in his rectum and was placed on what was called “contraband watch”—known informally as “potty watch,” which basically means that the inmate is isolated in a restricted area while deputies wait for him (or her) to use the toilet, at which point, if there is contraband, the deputies can retrieve it.

This inmate, however, was handcuffed and waist-chained for extended hours in only underpants and boxer shorts, resulting in injuries to his midsection and wrists.

The inmate mentioned in the report was reportedly one of several dozen who were similarly restrained at NCCF, according to a 2015 story by the LA Times Cindy Chang. The now-prohibited restraints-tied-to-a-fixed-object strategy during potty watch was, at the time part, of a reportedly vaguely worded policy at NCCF—a policy that was not generally used at the other jail facilities.

According to WitnessLA’s own sources, potty watch was reportedly over-used at NCCF in particular, well before 2014, to the point that inmates complained to us about being sent there after a court appearance, because they felt they might be subjected to prolonged periods of being isolated and naked, or nearly naked, even when they believed there was no indication that they were hiding contraband. Interestingly, they did not report this alleged over-use of the strategy in the county’s other jails.


DEATH IN RESTRAINTS

The third incident detailed in Huntsman’s report occurred in the High Observation Intake Housing (HOH) section of the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. This is the case in which a prisoner died while he was restrained. As with the other incidents, the inmate was attached via his handcuffs to a fixed object— his cell door—for a “prolonged period of time.”

The situation began when an inmate came back from court and began behaving strangely at the Inmate Reception Center (IRC). After having his vitals taken and seeing a psychiatrist after hours of delay, at 9:37 a.m. on January 13, 2015, the prisoner was brought into HOH where he was asked to remove his “undergarment” and put on a “safety garment.” He refused. So he was put in a cell, and tethered with his left wrist handcuffed to a waist chain that traveled through the cell door’s tray slot and then was secured to the door handle on the outside of the cell door.”

According to the report, the prisoner was kept in this restrictive position for approximately 10 hours and 25 minutes.

Much of the point of HOH, according to the OIG’s report, is to allow for an inmate to be closely monitored on a temporary basis. But, although deputies reportedly checked on this tethered prisoner on multiple occasions, no one noticed that the man was becoming more and more physically distressed. The video account of his time in the cell showed that the inmate stopped moving altogether at 7:30 p.m. but, according to the OIG (who reviewed the video), during a supposed 7:45 welfare check, “the deputy appeared not to look into the prisoner’s cell…” and reported no destress,

At 10:16 p.m. deputies finally actually entered the cell, and found the inmate “unresponsive.”

Rescue efforts were initiated, but it was too late. The inmate was pronounced dead “shortly thereafter.” The autopsy revealed that the prisoner died of methamphetamine toxicity.


THE 32-HOUR, NO-FOOD, NO-TOILET, TIE-DOWN

The last incident depicted in Inspector General Huntsman’s report may be the best known:

It began on June 19, 2015, when an inmate who was booked on an arson charge, was restrained after he “ripped up his t-shirt,” threatened to hurt himself, then head-butted a female deputy, injuring her.

As a result, for 32 hours he placed in a chair with his hands both cuffed behind his back and attached to waist chains, which were—in turn—attached to a bench. He remained in this restrained position for approximately thirty-two hours, during which time he received no meals, only one cup of water, and no access to a toilet.

We reported about the incident here.

In the aftermath, no one seemed to have a level-headed explanation as to why this treatment was deemed reasonable or appropriate.


CORRECTIVE ACTION

Much of the report is devoted to detailing the changes in policy that are being put into place as a result of each of the incidents, and in response to the incidents collectively. While different, the report notes, [the incidents] all share a “common link,” namely that in all four instances the inmate “was left tethered to a fixed object” for an extensive period of time “without proper care and supervision.”

These changes announced in the report have been a long time in coming, according to Peter Eliasberg, the legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, which brought the massive class action suit against the department—Rosas v. Baca—the settlement of which has measurably influenced the new policies, according to the OIG’s report.

“The fact that these incidents occurred is evidence of lousy use of force policy that did not make clear how restraints should be appropriately used,” Eliasberg told us. “And bad policy often leads to bad incidents.”

On the positive side, he said, “what the OIG is reporting is that the department has had to overhaul its use of force policies” and come up with much better ones.

In addition to having to be approved by the department, and by the Rosas monitors, the policies also have to be approved by the Department of Justice, according to their settlement agreement with the department regarding correcting abuse in the county’s jail system.

“But having good policies is just one leg of the stool,” Eliasberg continued. “You have to train to those policies, and then when incidents happen, you have to hold people to the policies that are in place.

But designing good policies for a complex agency the size of the LA County Sheriff’s Department takes time, as both Eliasberg and the report make clear.

“Change is often slow,” Eliasberg said. “But you don’t just want to get it done. You want to get it right.”

Posted in LASD | 22 Comments »

LASD Says Man Shot in Compton by Deputies Was Not Involved in Earlier Carjacking

August 10th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On July 28, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed 27-year-old Donnell Thompson, an unarmed man whom deputies mistakenly believed might be connected to a carjacking suspect who had fired shots at deputies three hours earlier.

On Tuesday, however, the sheriff’s department admitted in a statement that there was “no evidence that Mr. Thompson was in the carjacked vehicle, nor that he was involved in the assault on the deputies.”

The original incident began around 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 28, when sheriff’s deputies noticed a Honda Civic driving erratically. The deputy pulled the car over then ran the plates and determined that the car was stolen. The driver of the stolen car took off, crashing through the fence at a local elementary school driving onto school grounds to get away. As the case continued, the driver reportedly opened fire on police and eventually crashed the stolen Honda, and fled on foot. The alleged car jacker, whose name Robert Alexander was captured just before 5 a.m.

Shortly after Alexander was apprehended and arrested, deputies were alerted by a neighborhood resident that a man (Thompson) was lying in his yard. LASD Special Enforcement Bureau deputies in two armored vehicles responded to the call. The officers said Thompson was not responding to deputies’ commands. The SEB officers reportedly fired a flash bang grenade and rubber bullets at the man they viewed as a suspect. Thompson reportedly did not respond to the flash bang, but appeared to rouse in reaction to the rubber bullets, and finally stood up. Then, according to sheriff’s deputies, Thompson—who was reportedly small in stature—charged toward the deputies. A deputy fatally shot Thompson from the turret of one of the armored vehicles. That deputy has been reassigned to desk duties.

Thanks to DNA and gunshot residue testing, the department was able to make the determination that there is no evidence linkingThompson to the carjacking or the assault on the deputies involved, but department investigators are still in the process of reviewing the shooting and the events leading up to it.

Sources close to the department expressed concern to us back in July when news of this shooting surfaced. “This doesn’t add up,” one department veteran told WLA. Two weeks later, now that more information on the shooting is available, a retired department supervisor questioned why “the ‘highly trained SEB’ deputy” would shoot Thompson from “the protected turret of an armored vehicle.” (See above photo of the scene captured by ABC7.)

Friends and family members say Thompson, whom they called by the nickname “Little Bo Peep,” was kind and soft-spoken, and emotionally far younger than his 27 years. Thompson was attending classes for the mentally disabled at El Camino College, and reportedly had no criminal history.

“We just want answers as to why,” said Thompson’s sister. “We want the sheriff’s department to be held accountable for their actions.”

Thompson’s family reportedly plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the county.

“Clearly the Thompson family has some very grave concerns, and some questions that they’d like to have answers for, said LASD Captain Steven Katz in an interview with ABC7. “We believe that they’re certainly valid, and we have those same questions.”

Posted in LASD | 26 Comments »

Now That a Grand Jury Has Indicted Former Sheriff Lee Baca, Can His Trial Move Us Closer to Lasting Reform?

August 7th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

THE INDICTMENT ARRIVES

On Friday, former Sheriff Lee Baca was indicted by a federal grand jury for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. These two new charges are on top of the original charge of lying to federal officials that Baca admitted to back in February, as part of a plea deal hammered out with federal prosecutors.

The new charges were not exactly a surprise.

The grand jury indictment came about after U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson rejected Baca’s plea deal at a sentencing hearing in July, telling those in the courtroom that the 0 to 6 month sentencing range that the deal required “would trivialize the seriousness of [Baca's] offenses, his lack of respect for the law and the gross abuse of the public trust…..”

A six-month sentence, Anderson said, does not “fairly account for the significant harm” caused “by this defendant” and “under-appreciates this defendant’s culpability.” The guidelines agreed upon, the judge continued, “fail to fairly measure the culpability of this defendant….and the nature and circumstances of criminal conduct.”

Once Anderson dynamited the plea deal on July 19, at the next sentencing hearing on August 1, Baca and his attorneys had three possible ways to move forward:

Number 1: Baca could continue to plead guilty to the single charge with the understanding that the judge was going to hand down whatever sentence he saw fit, which could be as much as five years.

Number 2: Baca and his attorneys could work with the prosecutors to come up with a new deal that might please Anderson, which turned out to be nearly impossible.

Number 3: Baca could withdraw from the plea deal altogether, meaning that the only option left was to go to trial. This last option all but guaranteed additional charges, since the government had maintained in the negotiations for the plea that it could hit the sheriff with more counts, hence the motivation to plead to the single charge of lying to the feds.

On August 1, Baca went with Door Number 3, the go-to-trial option.

If Baca is convicted on the two obstruction counts, plus original count of lying to the feds, he could face as much as 20 years in a federal prison.

But that kind of lengthy a term is considered unlikely, especially since Baca’s second in command, Paul Tanaka, received a sentenced of five years—although he was, in the eyes of many, the person responsible for the day-to-day control of the operation that has thus far resulted in seven obstruction of justice convictions, on top of his own, with the sentencing of a ninth, former LASD Captain Tom Carey—who took a plea deal—still to come.

Yet, however one spins things, when it comes to the actions that have resulted in a string of convictions of LA Sheriff’s Department members in the last two years, some for obstruction of justice, others for corruption and brutality, all of that criminal misconduct—and far more, frankly—was allowed to occur on Lee Baca’s watch, which seemed to be much of Judge Anderson’s point.


DIMINISHED CAPACITY?

The former sheriff’s defense is expected to make Baca’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease a significant issue in the trial. His attorneys, Michael Zweiback and a new member of the team, Nathan Hochman, have already suggested that, in the summer of 2011—the period when the actions took place that make up the heart of the obstruction charges—the former sheriff “delegated more than he should have,” due to his condition. In other words, some kind of claim of diminished capacity may be in the offing.

On the government’s side, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brandon Fox, Lizabeth Rhodes and Eddie Jauregui, wrote that Baca was “well aware of the accusations of rampant abuse,” in the jails, particularly in Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers Correctional Facility. There were the ever-worsening ACLU reports. Then there were things like the “allegations about LASD deputies who worked on the 300 floor of MCJ” and called themselves “the 3000 boys,” who “exhibited gang-like and violent behavior, who “used excessive force on inmates, “and “falsified reports to cover up wrongdoing.”

In the indictment, the prosecutors also hinted that they have witnesses waiting in the wings who will testify that they told Baca about brutality in the jails, and that he still made no effort to curb the problem.

As for the actual obstruction charges, the 15-page indictment of Baca is not as long or detailed as the 20 pages written by federal prosecutors in their final indictment of Paul Tanaka. For example, there are no dramatic moments when a witness describes the defendant shouting “Fuck the FBI!” as was the case in Tanaka’s indictment.

Yet, there is the mention of Baca approving an expensive bunch of overtime so that a rotating team of deputies could guard federal informant Anthony Brown round the clock, after he’d had his name changed and was moved to an out-of-the-way sheriff’s station in San Dimas, allegedly in order to allegedly keep him away from his FBI handlers. There are accounts of a meeting where Baca was reportedly present for discussions of approaching FBI agent Leah Marx and threatening her in order to obtain information. And there is the letter from Baca to then US Attorney Andre Birotte, threatening to “end the LASD’s participation in federal task forces” if Birotte didn’t yank his support for the FBI’s investigation of the jails—and so on.


A “VASTLY DIFFERENT” TRIAL

According to Baca’s attorneys, however, when it comes to the obstruction charges, the feds have themselves admitted that their case against the former sheriff is not particularly strong.

They point to passages in the prosecution’s sentencing memo, which was designed to persuade Judge Anderson that a six-month sentence for Baca was appropriate:

Indeed, there are lines in the memo such as the following: “Baca’s involvement in the obstruction is not as clear as the others,” and “may be more limited…” and “During the obstructive conduct, records show Baca was rarely in contact with any of those involved in the obstruction, with the exception of Tanaka. Tanaka himself was routinely in contact with the others.”

On the other hand, when the plea deal was first announced back in February, the government indicated that, if Baca changed his mind and the deal fell apart, they were willing and able to go to trial.

According to the feds, they laid the going-to-trial-with-additional-charges gun on the table when bargaining with Baca’s attorneys to achieve the plea. And they were fully prepared to fire that metaphorical pistol, if it became necessary.

Meanwhile, the former sheriff’s attorneys continue to express confidence.

In a text to WitnessLA, Hochman said that the new obstruction charges “represent punishment” by the feds for their client’s decision to go to trial. He also reiterated the defense’s point that the prosecutors had “admitted in court the weakness of its obstruction case” against Baca.

“This trial will be vastly different than the others,” Hochman wrote.

Well, one thing is certain: the upcoming trial of the man who led the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for fifteen years presents an opportunity like no other to shine a light on what went so catastrophically wrong in the LASD, and what still needs to be done to fix it.

The trial of Lee Baca is, at present, scheduled for September of this year.

Here’s the text of the Baca indictment



THE NEXT CHAPTER IN THE BACA SAGA & THE NEED FOR REFORM

Rhetoric aside, whether Baca or the federal prosecutors do or do not actually want to go to trial, it has come to pass that, barring something wildly unforeseen, the former sheriff will in fact be on trial after all—even though for several years, the likelihood of such an event occurring appeared all but impossible.

Now the trial of Lee Baca suddenly feels weirdly fated.

Given the disturbing display of departmental arrogance and wrongdoing that the previous LASD trials have have illuminated, it seems fitting that the guy at the top should also get his chance to face a jury—whatever the outcome.

After all, the whole obstruction of justice mess came about because the feds were covertly investigating accounts of brutal and corrupt behavior by deputies toward jail inmates (and, it seems, their visitors) that department higher-ups had aggressively refused to address, no matter how many awful reports of abuse were brought to their attention.

Unfortunately, based on our own investigations over the last six years, along with those of the LA Times, ABC7, the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence, and others, the problems forced into public view by a raft of federal indictments are indicative of a larger toxicity that was allowed to spread unchecked in the department, both in the jails and elsewhere in the LASD.

Yet, despite what has been brought to light by two years of federal trials, and the many positive steps taken by Sheriff Jim McDonnell, the path to lasting reform still seems to be littered with obstacles.

It was heartening to note that, in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, the editorial board wrote about the fact that, while it’s a good thing that Baca will be on trial, the need for departmental reform is bigger, wider, deeper than the various prosecutions can reasonably accomplish.

Here are some clips from their essay:

Consider, for example, McDonnell’s continuing attempts to weed out of the department those deputies who have shown themselves to be unsuited to carry weapons and to wear the badge and the tan and green uniform.

Under the Los Angeles County system, fired deputies can be, and indeed have been, reinstated by a civil service commission that has no expertise in law enforcement or public safety and that makes its decisions based in part on the precedent set by previous sheriffs and commissions. So as McDonnell is attempting to raise standards of performance, the commission is judging deputies based on previous, lower standards. McDonnell then is compelled to take back — and to keep paying — deputies he and his command staff have deemed unfit for their jobs, completely undermining his power to set high standards of performance. It is an untenable system that has nevertheless become the envy of law enforcement officers in other agencies who would like to enjoy similar leniency…..

….The county Board of Supervisors voted this year to establish an oversight commission to keep tabs on sheriff reforms, but the panel has yet to be appointed or to convene. The board agreed to consider asking voters to grant that commission subpoena power, but with deadlines approaching to put measures on the Nov. 8 ballot, there has been no move forward on that issue….

….Switching out the man at the top was a solid step but it will not be enough to correct the Sheriff’s Department, and Los Angeles cannot rely on criminal prosecution of sheriffs, command staff and deputies as a substitute for oversight. Baca’s failed plea deal and his looming trial may be among the more compelling chapters in the story of the Sheriff’s Department, but the most important pages are those that lay out how we make sure that a similar meltdown does not occur again — and those pages haven’t yet been written.

Posted in LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | 42 Comments »

Ninth Circuit Denies Appeal for 7 LA Sheriff’s Department Members Convicted of Obstruction of Justice

August 4th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

In a ruling handed down on Thursday, August 4, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld convictions for charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice against seven former members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. The seven had been convicted in two separate trials for their part in a series of actions allegedly designed to disrupt a federal investigation into brutality and corruption inside the LA County jail system. The various actions—which came to be known unofficially as Operation Pandora’s Box—included hiding a jail inmate/federal informant from his FBI handlers, falsely threatening an FBI agent with arrest, and attempting to dissuade possible witnesses to wrongdoing in the jails from talking to the feds.

The ruling comes a few days after Sheriff Lee Baca withdrew from the plea deal with the federal government and decided to go to trial rather than risk a prison sentence in excess of six months. The sentences for the seven former members who got bad news on Thursday, range from 18 months in a federal prison to 48 months, ostensibly for following orders handed down from the top of the organization.

The actual Ninth Circuit opinion, which you can find here—NinthCircuitOpinion—was written by the most veteran of the justices on the panel, Judge Ferdinand Fernandez, and it is an interesting read.

Although there were some compelling points brought up in the July hearing before the three judge panel—issues like the editing of former deputy James Sexton’s grand jury testimony, and the possibly questionable dismissal of a juror by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson in the trial of the other six department members who were part of the appeal (for details see our previous story)—the panel did not really address most of those topics at all in their ruling.

Instead Fernandez laid out an argument that suggested that those disputed issues-–and other points brought up in the appeal, most specifically a series of claims of wrongly presented jury instructions—didn’t really matter, because in the panel’s opinion, the defendants did what they did, and the dispute was mainly about “why they did it.” Ultimately, concluded Fernandez, the two juries [Sexton was tried separately] “accepted the government’s position” on which narrative was the right one.

Posted in LASD | 28 Comments »

After Sentencing Negotiations Fall Apart, Baca Says He Wants to Go to Trial to Set the Record Straight

August 2nd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


THE DEAL CRUMBLES

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca returned to the court of U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, August 1, where his attorneys made one last ditch effort to save the plea deal that Baca agreed to in February, and that Judge Anderson dynamited two weeks before at the former sheriff’s first sentencing hearing, instead of sentencing Baca to six months in federal prison, and thus concluding his case.

Now at just after 1:30 p.m. after five hours of sidebars, out-of-court negotiations, and several lengthy recesses, Attorney Michael Zweiback, stood up, walked to the attorneys’ podium to address the court, Baca beside him, and announced the decision that had likely been in the cards since everyone assembled in the courtroom five hours earlier.

“Your honor,” Zweiback said “….unfortunately we have failed to reach any kind of resolution that could be acceptable to the court,” despite the fact that both parties “tried diligently.”

Therefore, “we request that our plea be withdrawn, and we be allowed to proceed to trial.”

Anderson asked Baca if he was in agreement. “Yes, your honor,” Baca replied. He appeared ready for this outcome.

The judge, who has a reputation for liking to move is calendar along at a brisk clip, announced that he was going to set a date for trial.

Voire dire—jury selection—would begin September 20, 2016, at 8:30 a.m., Anderson said, with the last pre-trial hearing scheduled for September 12, at 3 p.m. (Obviously Anderson planned ahead for this eventuality.)

Zweiback said he almost certainly intended to petition for more time, since the prosecution had given them “a terabyte worth of data…”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox countered saying that, the giant pile of data notwithstanding, this would be a fairly “straightforward” case, with multiple previous trials that have already laid out the issues.


THE CIRCUITOUS ROUTE TO TRIAL

Monday’s sentencing hearing came about because, two weeks ago, at the first sentencing hearing, on Monday July 18, Percy Anderson surprised court watchers by firmly rejecting Baca’s plea deal, which specified that when Anderson selected a sentence for Baca, he remain within the constraints of a 0 to 6 month term in federal prison.

Instead, Anderson informed the former sheriff, along with attorneys for the prosecution and the defense, that a six-month maximum sentence “would trivialize the seriousness of [Baca's] offenses, his lack of respect for the law and the gross abuse of the public trust….”

Anderson’s rejection of the plea deal meant Baca had the choice of accepting whatever sentence Anderson decided to impose, which could go as high as five years, or working with the prosecution to come up with a new deal that both parties could live with, and that Anderson hopefully might accept.

Option three was that Baca and company could withdraw altogether from the plea deal, meaning that the former sheriff would take his chances in a full-scale, high profile trial. Of course, if Baca decided to go to trial, it was virtually guaranteed that the government would add some new charges on top of the single count of lying to federal officials, which had consituted the plea.

The new charges would almost certainly be obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Eight department members had already been convicted of those two charges, all with Anderson presiding at their trials, including the former under sheriff, Paul Tanaka, whom Anderson sentenced to five years in a federal prison.

(For more on the back story on the plea deal, and Anderson’s rejection of it, go here and here.)


“HISTORIC MOMENT”

After court adjourned on Monday afternoon, Lee Baca and his legal team, met with reporters on the steps of the federal courthouse, where the former sheriff addressed everyone briefly, and then read from a prepared statement.

“I want to first of all thank the thousands of people who I’ve come across since I retired,” Baca told those assembled, “people who have come to me on their own initiative to say how much I have done, and how much the sheriff’s department has done to make their communities safer,”

“Go to trial and die in jail!” hissed a heckler who suddenly turned up in the photo-journo mob, but who was quickly yanked out of the way,

“This is a very historic moment in my life, obviously,” Baca continued. Then he announced that he would read his statement, after which he would take no questions.

Baca’s prepared statement was as follows:

For the peace of my family, to avoid a lengthy and expensive trial, and to minimize the court drama associated with this case, several months ago I entered a guilty plea to the one charged filed against me.

“Be very clear—one charge!” Baca said with emphasis, breaking for a moment from the prepared script.

“I am withdrawing my guilty plea today and will seek a trial. I have made this decision due to the untruthful comments about my actions made by the Court, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, that are contradicted by the evidence in this case.

“While my future and my ability to defend myself depend on my Alzheimer’s disease I need to set the record straight about me and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on the misleading aspects of the Federal investigation..while I am capable of doing this.

“I want to thank my friends and family for encouraging me to stand up for what is right. My spirits are high and my love for all people is God’s gift to me…”

And with that, federal marshall’s escorted him to a friends vehicle that was waiting at the curb, and Baca was gone.


DIMINISHED CAPACITY?

Once Baca had been ushered away, his attorneys, Michael Zweiback, and a new addition to the team, Nathan Hochman, said that due to Baca’s “catastrophic illeness,” and the uncertainty of Judge Anderson’s sentencing intentions, they had to choice but to go to trial.

Zweiback also said their team didn’t believe the government could prove their case and, when asked if the trial wasn’t a big risk for the defense, Zweiback said that the prosecution has “the biggest risk” with its case. “They now have the burden of proof.”

Hochman when further. “I think the prosecution would like this to be an open and shut case,” he said. “But I think the prosecution is going to be a bit surprised.”

Zweiback and Hochman said that Baca’s illness will definitely come into the trial. For one thing they said, they have evidence that “the arc of the disease started” while Baca was still the sheriff.

When asked whether Baca’s health had impeded his ability to function as sheriff during the time in which the alleged obstruction occurred, Zweiback said, “Well, he was certainly delegating more responsibility in those days….”

And so the drama continues.

Posted in LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | 19 Comments »

Man with Dementia Found Dead After Release from LASD Custody, Risk Assessment for Pre-Trial Release in SF, and a Parent-Led Campaign Against Gun Violence

August 2nd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

CALLING TO MIND THE MITRICE RICHARDSON CASE, A 71-YEAR-OLD WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES IS FOUND DEAD THREE DAYS AFTER RELEASE FROM LASD CUSTODY

On Monday, the body of Gerald Sakamoto, a 71-year-old suffering from bipolar disorder and possible dementia, was found in a maintenance yard in downtown Los Angeles.

California Highway Patrol officers reportedly arrested Gerry Sakamotoin the wee hours of Friday morning on suspicion of driving under the influence. The septuagenarian had left his home late Thursday night, and likely had not taken his medication, his daughter, Mindy Brink, told ABC7. Family members had been searching for him when they received a call from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, notifying them of Sakamoto’s arrest.

When Sakamoto’s wife called the county jail, she was told to wait and call back six to eight hours later.

Despite reportedly being informed by Sakamoto’s family about the state of his mental health, the aging man was released from the downtown Inmate Reception Center around 7:30p.m. on Friday evening without any money or a cell phone, according to City News Service.

Everyone who is released from LASD custody is “offered the opportunity to stay in custody up to 16 hours, or until daylight hours, to arrange transportation or to contact service providers,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement. But Sakamoto reportedly did not want to stay, and officers did not identify the man as needing any special assistance. Gerald Sakamoto’s body was found three days later.

Some are comparing Sakamoto’s story to that of 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson who disappeared in 2009 after she was released in the middle of the night from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Malibu/Lost Hill’s station.

Richardson was released far from home, in an area unfamiliar to her, without her cell phone, her purse, her car or any other practical form of transportation. A year later, in 2010, the young woman’s partially decomposed body (and pieces of her clothing 100 feet away) was discovered by park rangers in an out-of-the-way area of the Santa Monica Mountains known as Dark Canyon. In February, six years after Richardson’s remains were found, the Office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris agreed to launch a formal investigation into the way the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department handled the case.

“That Gerald Sakamoto met the same fate as Mitrice Richardson is incomprehensible,” said Ronda Hampton, a clinical psychologist and friend of the Richardson family, who has been calling for justice in Mitrice’s death. “How many people who are suffering a mental health episode have to die before things are truly changed with regards to releasing inmates?”

ABC7′s Eileen Frere and City News Service have more on the the story about Mr. Sakamoto’s disappearance and death.


SAN FRANCISCO TESTING OUT RACE AND GENDER-NEUTRAL PRE-TRIAL RISK ASSESSMENT

Since May, San Francisco has been experimenting with pre-trial risk assessment tool developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to helps judges determine how likely a person awaiting trial is to skip court or reoffend. Using factors such as a defendant’s prior offenses, whether the defendant has been incarcerated before, the pending charge(s), and the defendant’s record of showing up to court, the computer algorithm—called the Public Safety Assessment—produces a recommendation either for or against the individual’s release. Then, judges have the option of following the recommendation or rejecting it.

The risk assessment tool that San Francisco is testing out—thanks largely to the efforts of SF District Attorney George Gascon—is unique in that it does not consider other, potentially discriminatory factors such as race, gender, education level, employment, and neighborhood, unlike many other risk assessment algorithms that are often used in sentencing and to determine eligibility for early release and rehabilitative programs.

San Francisco isn’t the only jurisdiction using the Arnold Foundation’s PSA model. More than 20 cities and states have adopted or are piloting the program, including Santa Cruz, CA.

The cash bail punishment-until-proven-innocent system has a disproportionately negative impact on poor and minority Americans, and contributes to overcrowding in jails. (John Oliver has an excellent segment on the horrors of the cash bail system, if you are unfamiliar.)

The SF Chronicle’s Vivian Ho has the story. Here’s a clip:

Basing bail decisions on a cold assessment of risk brings the system back to its original purpose, proponents say — keeping those who could be dangerous off the streets, regardless of their ability to post bail. Still, the rollout of the algorithm hasn’t been without tension, and some are frustrated with what they are seeing in San Francisco.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys say they have encountered results from the assessment they do not agree with. Meanwhile, they say, some judges are often refusing to follow the release recommendations.

“I think it has the potential to be a move in the right direction, but when it is watered down or misunderstood or rejected unreasonably, then it’s not clear what good it will do,” said Deputy Public Defender Danielle Harris. “We were excited about having more research and more data being brought into decision-making, but we’ve been disappointed.”

She said prosecutors sometimes ask for high bail or no release despite the tool’s recommendations and District Attorney George Gascón’s support of the algorithm.


SOCAL PARENTS PUSH FOR END TO GENERATIONAL VIOLENCE

Approximately 800 LA-area parents—mostly mothers—came together last weekend at the California Science Center as part of a parent-led campaign (in partnership with more than 30 organizations) to reduce gun violence by having important conversations with their children, by working to reduce domestic violence, and by promoting positive parenting, among other efforts.

KPCC’s Dorian Merina has the story. Here’s a clip:

By starting at the family level – and by focusing on the welfare of young children – participants hope to spur a change that can then expand to the neighborhood.

“With this program, with these workshops, with these trainings, [families are] starting those conversations that haven’t been started in the past,” said Bedolla.

Maribel Cepeda said she joined after her child’s bout with chemotherapy treatments spurred her to find ways to support his recovery and find healthy alternatives for the youth in her neighborhood.

“Sometimes, when children go out from the house, there’s so much violence,” said Cepeda, 45, in Spanish. “That’s what we’re dealing with now.”

At home, that can be complicated by a reluctance to talk openly about violence.

“A lot of times, we don’t say anything, we remain quiet,” she said. “Sometimes even in our own families, we endure it and we don’t even realize it.”

She soon became one of the parent leaders that met weekly at Richardson Park. Like most of the other participants, Cepeda is a Spanish-speaking mother with an immigrant background. Like others, she also lives in neighborhoods that, according to LAPD statistics, chart more violent crime than other areas of the city. She spoke on the sidelines of Saturday’s event, which at one point, featured a scripted performance by parents that depicted a peaceful resolution to domestic violence and ended by girls walking into the crowd to hand out roses to the parents.

Posted in LASD | 1 Comment »

Baca Sentencing: Round 2 – Negotiations Fall Apart, Baca Is Going to Trial

August 1st, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

UPDATE: When Lee Baca, his defense lawyers, and the prosecution team returned from recess at 1:30 p.m., Baca’s attorneys announced to Judge Percy Anderson that they would be withdrawing from the plea deal, and felt there was no choice but to go to trial. The trial for the former sheriff is now set to begin on September 20.

Details to follow.



SEARCHING FOR AGREEMENT

When former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca returned to the court of U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, August 1, his attorneys made one last effort to save the plea deal that Anderson dynamited two weeks before at a previous hearing. If Baca walks away from the deal, then he will assuredly be indicted by the government and proceed to trial.

The defense team’s Hail Mary was the notion of what is called a “settlement judge,” a kind of outside mediator within the federal system who can help parties save plea deals that have become stuck.

But after a cluster of sidebars with the judge and the prosecution, plus a half-hour recess, there was no resolution, and the settlement judge idea in particular was deemed a non starter. (It turned out that the prosecution has its own rules on the matter that preclude it from joining in such a strategy.)

“All sides are trying” added Zweiback. “But right now there’s a good likelihood that we’re going to trial.”

The other wild card in the mix, said the attorney, is the fact that “Mr. Baca’s disease has progressed.” (But we’ll get to all that in a minute.)

Finally, around 10 a.m., Judge Anderson agreed to one more recess asking all the players to return to court after lunch at 1:30 p.m.


JUDICIAL CONCERNS

Anderson too appeared to want a resolution, but he also reportedly reiterated in the sidebars the concerns that caused him to reject Baca’s plea deal in the first place two weeks ago. Unlike more conventional plea deals, this particular federal deal has built constraints that allow only for a sentence within the range of 0 to 6 months in federal prison. Thus the deal precluded the judge from handing down a prison term of more than six months.

Those following the Baca sentencing saga may remember that, at the previous sentencing hearing on Monday, July 18, Anderson’s tone was flinty as he informed the former sheriff, along with attorneys for the prosecution and the defense, that a six-month sentence “would trivialize the seriousness of [Baca's] offenses, his lack of respect for the law and the gross abuse of the public trust….”

But Anderson did not say what sentence would be acceptable to him, leaving the defense and prosecution with a guessing game as they tried negotiate with each other to craft a new and mutually acceptable deal that, most crucially, Judge Anderson would also accept.

Were it not for the constraints of the plea deal, under federal sentencing guidelines Anderson could sentence the former sheriff to as much as 5 years in a federal prison. Thus if the defense knew for sure that Anderson was leaning toward, say somewhere between one year and 18 months, rather than between three and five years, perhaps he and his attorneys would keep the deal in place and go ahead with sentencing, rather than taking a chance on a trial. Yet, if Anderson believed only the upper ranges were appropriate, then the trial option becomes more attractive.

On Monday, August 1, however, the judge explained that he felt he couldn’t legally tip his hand and let the defense know what kind of sentence he felt was fair, because it would be deemed an interference in the plea-making process according to Rule 11, of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.


GO TO TRIAL, GET MORE CHARGES

To remind you how everyone arrived at this quandary, here—again—is the backstory: In February of this year, the former sheriff pleaded guilty to one count of lying to federal officials having to do with an FBI investigation into corruption and brutality by deputies inside the sheriff’s department-run LA County jail system—an investigation that, according to the government, Baca, his former undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, and others attempted to thwart.

Specifically, Baca admitted that he lied to the FBI and members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office during a round of questioning on April 12, 2013. At that time, among other denials by Baca, the former sheriff falsely claimed ignorance of the fact that, in 2011, two LASD sergeants were going to approach FBI special agent, Leah Marx, and threaten her with arrest, hoping to get information about the feds’ rapidly expanding investigation.

If all efforts fail to find a resolution to the plea deal standoff, then a trial becomes the only option. And that will mean additional charges, according to Zweiback, who said that the prosecutors had indicated that they would definitely add a charge of obstruction of justice and likely conspiracy to obstruct justice, the same two charges of which former LA County undersheriff Paul Tanaka was convicted. Anderson also presided over that trial, and sentenced Tanaka to five years in a federal prison. (Tanaka’s conviction has been appealed to the Ninth Circuit, thus he remains out of prison at this time)

Zweiback, a former assistant U.S. attorney has been with his client through the lengthy plea process.

On Monday, however, in advance of a possible trial, he was joined by a new team member, attorney Nathan Hochman, who was the Assistant Attorney General for the US Department of Justice’s Tax Division, and also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Criminal Division of the Central District of California.


BACA’S WORSENING HEALTH

As mentioned above, Monday’s negotiations have been further complicated by the fact that, according to his attorneys, Baca’s health has worsened. Specifically, Zweiback said, the former sheriff’s Alzheimer’s has progressed. “He had early stage Alzheimer’s,” the attorney told reporters. Now it has progressed to “normalized dementia”

When asked if Baca understood all that was going on in Monday’s hearing, Zweiback was firm. “He very much understands the significance of what is going on and has been intimately involved in every phase of this process.

“What my client wants is a degree of certainty.” said Zweiback. “He wants this very much to be over. He wants it to be over for his family. And he wants it to be over for the members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, especially—and for himself, to be able to move on.’

But to agree to a situation “where he has no idea what he’s walking into, said Zweiback, “he has no alternative but to fight for his life and go to trial.

Thus far, however, the certainty all parties appear to seek has been elusive.

Posted in LASD | 30 Comments »

Former LASD Commander Discusses Baca Leadership….Treating Locked-Up Kids Like Adults…LAPD Chief and the Game Anti-Violence Campaign….Reseda Church Holds Police-Community Town Hall

July 22nd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

FOLLOWING FED JUDGE’S REJECTION OF BACA’S PLEA DEAL, FORMER LASD COMMANDER IN CHARGE OF MEN’S CENTRAL JAIL DISCUSSES BACA’S FAILURE TO MANAGE HIS UNDERLINGS

In an interview with KTLA’s Kareen Wynter, former L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Cmdr. Ralph G. Ornelas, says former Sheriff Lee Baca did not properly supervise the actions of his number two in command, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

“[Baca] didn’t do the one thing that was extremely paramount, was to manage the people below him,” said Ornelas, who was in command of Men’s Central Jail from March of 2011 until mid-2013.

At a sentencing hearing for Baca last week, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson dynamited Baca’s plea deal (a sentencing range of 0-6 months in prison). Now, Baca and his lawyers can either come back with a deal Anderson is more likely to accept, or withdraw the plea and go to trial.

Paul Tanaka was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison for the dual crimes of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice while a federal investigation into brutality and corruption in the county jail system was taking place.

Ornelas, who testified against Tanaka, said Baca’s sentence needs to send a message. “It’s bigger than Baca,” he said.


LIZ RYAN: YOUTH DETENTION PRACTICES TOO SIMILAR TO ADULT PRISONS

A growing body of research on teenagers’ still-developing brains (notably the areas of the brain governing impulse control, critical thinking, and consideration of consequences), has led to major juvenile justice reforms at the local, state, and federal levels. Yet, the majority of juvenile lock-ups don’t reflect the fact that kids and teens are fundamentally different from adults.

Writing for Medium, youth justice advocate and CEO of No Kids in Prison, Liz Ryan, points out some of the ways that juvenile detention centers mimic adult prisons, and why the similarities—like solitary confinement, a focus on punishment, dehumanizing treatment, and rampant violence and victimization—are especially harmful to children. Of course, not every youth facility subjects kids to these injustices, but most do.

In California, it’s taken many years to improve conditions for locked up kids. In 2003, the nonprofit Prison Law Office sued the state of California over huge problems in the California Youth Authority facilities. In order to settle the case in 2005, the state agreed to “provide wards with adequate and effective care, treatment and rehabilitation services, including reducing violence and the use of force, improving medical and mental health care, reducing the use of lock-ups and providing better education programs.” It took the state more than a decade to implement the necessary reforms and end the lawsuit (like reducing use of force, overhauling education, and implementing evidence-based rehabilitation programs).

Here’s a clip:

Focus on punishment, not rehabilitation

Youth prisons were designed to serve as an alternative to adult prisons by having a more rehabilitative focus. It hasn’t turned out this way in many instances, even when the purpose of the juvenile facility is defined in a state’s statute to rehabilitate youth.

For example, in Connecticut, the Department of Children & Families (DCF) states that the mission of Connecticut’s youth prison, the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS), “is to provide a safe, secure and therapeutic environment while providing opportunity for growth and success.”

This mission statement which promotes a rehabilitative approach is not consistent with the report and videotapes released by the Office of the Child Advocate last year documenting youth being brutalized by staff. These actions appear to be more about punishment than rehabilitation.


LAPD CHIEF AND RAPPER THE GAME TEAM UP TO CALL FOR AN END TO VIOLENCE IN LOS ANGELES

In a video released Wednesday, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and rapper the Game announced they would be partnering on a new anti-violence campaign.

The duo called for an end to bloodshed in the city. Chief Beck pointed out that of the nearly 1,000 people shot in 2015, close to 300 died, and 80% of both victims and shooters were young men of color.

“We have to stop killing one another,” the Game said.

Snoop Dogg and the Game led a peaceful march to LAPD headquarters earlier in July, and joined LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti for a press conference.


BRINGING COPS AND THE COMMUNITY TOGETHER TO TALK ABOUT POLICING

On Thursday night, the Reseda Church of Christ hosted a town hall for community members, city officials, police, and clergy to discuss race and policing to “facilitate healing and reconciliation” between law enforcement and communities of color.

The predominantly black congregation has lost two members to violent encounters with officers.

“For us to make progress, we’ve got to focus on the reduction of overall violence in these communities,” said LAPD Deputy Chief Bob Green, who spoke at the meeting.

LA Daily News’ Brenda Gazzar has more on the town hall. Here’s a clip:

In 1982, congregant James Mincey, 20, died after he was put in a chokehold by a Los Angeles police officer during a struggle in Lake View Terrace. The public outcry that resulted from the Pacoima man’s death prompted limitations on the use of the controversial technique by the LAPD.

On May 16, 2013, another congregant, Christian Eaddy, 25, was fatally shot during an encounter with Los Angeles police in Pacoima. His cousin had called 911, reporting that Eaddy was sticking himself with syringes and was armed with two knives. Police said Eaddy refused commands to drop the knives and continued to approach the officers before one used a stun gun on him and another shot him. Another cousin, however, said Eaddy was 3 feet away from officers when he dropped the knives and was shot, according to prosecutors who investigated the case.

Winrow said Eaddy had the mental capacity of a 10-year-old. No criminal charges were filed and the case is in civil litigation, he said.

The 63-year-old minister, who lives in Granada Hills, believes that more community policing as well as having more officers from the communities they patrol would help reduce such incidents.

“Sometimes we view people not in the same way that we view our own, and we become more likely to make mistakes of judgement,” Winrow said. “Those kinds of mistakes … can cost people their lives.”

MORE ON THE ISSUE OF POLICE-COMMUNITY RELATIONS

On KPCC’S Take Two, host Alex Cohen spoke with Jerry Hoffman, co-chair of the community police advisory board for the LAPD’s Northeast division, and Ruben Arellano, Sergeant at the Northeast division, discussed how to get involved and improve police-community relations through open dialogue and other tools. Sgt. Arellano suggests attending the community advisory board’s meetings and attending the LAPD’s community citizen’s academy—where, one night a week for 10 weeks, participants get special lessons on policing issues. Attendees learn about everything from traffic stops and chases, to how Internal Affairs works. Go take a listen.

Posted in LASD | 11 Comments »

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