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New Approach to Juvie Crime is Working in Red Hook….Should Taxpayers Pay the LASD’s Punitive Damages?…..Paul Tanaka Says Sheriff Baca Shut Down Narco Investigation…..Insane Justice ….and More

November 18th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



A HUMANE, COMMUNITY-ORIENTED APPROACH TO JUVIE & ADULT CRIME IS WORKING IN RED HOOK, SAYS NEW REPORT

In April 2000, a new courthouse called the Red Hook Community Justice Center opened its doors in a vacant schoolhouse in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Over the previous few decades, Red Hook had declined from a vibrant, working-class waterfront community into crime and drug-ridden place that residents fled when they could.

The Justice Center hoped to change all that by “halting the revolving door” of the traditional criminal justice system. Justice Center planners believed that “community courts foster stronger relationships between courts and communities and restore public confidence in the justice system.”

It was a bravely optimistic concept.

Yet, according to a fascinating report released last Tuesday by the National Center for State Courts, evaluating the program’s outcomes, the approach that launched 13 years ago, is working impressively well.

The report found, among other things, that juvenile defendants were 20 percent less likely to re-offend when their cases had been heard at the Justice Center—instead of at the Kings County Family Court, where cases would have normally been heard.

After reading the report, the New York Daily News described the Center as “a success for defendants and taxpayers.”

(The Center hears adult cases as well. For adults, thus far recidivism has dropped by 10 percent.)

Roxanna Asgarian of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange has more on the Justice Center-–and the report. Here’re some clips:

On a recent afternoon in a Red Hook courtroom, a disheveled young woman in a baggy blue sweatshirt was being sentenced for a drug-related offense. The judge had seen her in court before, always for arrests related to her heroin addiction.

Judge Alex Calabrese, a paternal-looking middle-aged man, asked her to approach the bench.

“Are you ready?” he asked her, looking into her eyes. “Yes,” she responded.

He reached out and took her hand.

“Are you gonna get on the bus? Are you gonna stay on the bus?” he asked, and she nodded. “Yes.”

Calabrese signed the paperwork for her to enter a mandatory detox and rehabilitation center, and she was to leave on a bus from the courtroom to the rehab facility in ten minutes.

“She got picked up last night at 6:30 p.m., and she’ll be on a bus to rehab at 3:30 today,” Calabrese said. “That’s good work.”

[SNIP]

Where in traditional courts, the defendant may meet with their public attorney just minutes before their trial, at the Justice Center, onsite social workers can meet with the defendant and come up with alternatives to incarceration, like mandated community service or treatment, before the offender meets with a judge.

For young residents of Red Hook, where 70 percent of the neighborhood lives in public housing, the chance to keep their record clean, or clear it, can make a world of difference in the opportunities they’ll have for their future.

“It’s not that complicated an idea,” said Julian Adler, the Justice Center’s director. “It’s just something that you don’t typically see in the criminal justice system.”


THE LA TIMES ASKS IF COUNTY TAXPAYERS SHOULD HAVE TO PAY FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES AGAINST THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT SUPERVISORS

In Monday’s editorial, the LA Times asks what a lot of people have been asking of late: Should Sheriff Baca and others in the department have to personally pay injured inmates?

It’s a question that has two sides to it, as the Times points out.

The arguments on indemnification can cut both ways. On the one hand, if those held liable were just doing their jobs, or if they had no way of knowing they behaved wrongly or if they were following orders, perhaps they shouldn’t have to pay. It doesn’t make sense to punish a few rank-and-file deputies if the culture of the department is what’s really to blame. Nor does it make sense to create a environment in which officers feel they must act with excessive caution….

On the other hand…..

Here’s another snip from the end of the editorial:

….at the very least, we’d like to see the county Board of Supervisors hold a public discussion and a public vote on the subject. No doubt some on the board will argue that they need to make such decisions behind closed doors, because they will require confidential advice from their lawyers as they consider whether to pay the awards and whether to appeal the verdicts. But the truth is that the supervisors routinely get legal advice in closed session on matters such as whether to transfer inmates out of the county, and then go on to hold a robust public debate on the same subject.

The decision of whether to indemnify these defendants isn’t merely a legal matter. It’s a public policy issue that requires the supervisors to explain why taxpayers should continue to pay out millions of dollars for public officials who break the law. Perhaps declining to indemnify the deputies and the sheriff who leads the department would help reform this deeply troubled agency.

Oh, Board of Supes…? Are you listening…?


FORMER UNDERSHERIFF PAUL TANAKA ACCUSES SHERIFF LEE BACA OF SQUASHING A NARCOTICS INVESTIGATION AIMED AT BACA’S FRIEND BISHOP TURNER

On Thursday of last week, KABC-TV reported on LA County Sheriff Baca’s senior civilian aide, Bishop Edward Turner—who was making $105,000, per year plus percs—but who had recently been relieved of duty by the sheriff in response to a series of decidedly curious issues that the ABC-TV folks uncovered in their reporting.

The most startling of those issues had to do with a mystery package addressed to Turner’s church that was intercepted in 2005 by an LASD narcotics squad. After the squad’s drug-and-money sniffing dog (whose name was Jake) did everything but point a paw at the package in question, investigators opened the thing and found, among other things, more than $84,000 in shrink wrapped cash inside. The narcotics squad believed the cash was part of a drug transaction.

An investigation ensued but went nowhere, according to Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Then on Friday, former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, put out a statement saying that back in 2005, while he had personally pressed for the Turner/cash incident to be vigorously investigated, the sheriff had ordered the probe to be squashed.

“In 2005, I was made aware that detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Narcotics Bureau had intercepted a parcel package destined for Bishop Edward Turner’s church. The package contained in excess of $80,000 in cash. The detectives believed that the money was a direct result of selling and distributing illegal narcotics,” said former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka. “Although I did not have chain-of-command responsibility for Detective Division in 2005, I directed my aide to advise the detectives that they needed to conduct a full investigation, despite the fact that Bishop Turner was a Field Deputy to Sheriff Lee Baca. Subsequent to this direction, I was advised that Sheriff Baca had personally ordered the investigation terminated. This is appalling, unacceptable, and just another reason why the Sheriff’s Department needs new leadership.”

On Friday night, Tanaka appeared on KABC to reiterate these charges. However, Steve Whitmore—who was also interviewed—asked why Tanaka, as a law enforcement officer, had not made sure the investigation went forward anyway.

Reporter Marc Brown posed that very question to the former undersheriff—at which time Mr. Tanaka paused conspicuously, then phumphered something about how “you won’t last long” if you go against the sheriff.

Meanwhile, knowledgeable sources inside the department told us that someone at the LASD squashed the investigation.

There is also much speculation among department members about who might have leaked the internal LASD documents showing the existence of the narcotics investigation against Turner, to KABC, and why? (The suggestion is that there may have been a political agenda behind the leak.)

With all this competitive finger-pointing going on, one cannot help but hope that some outside law enforcement agency—like, say, the FBI—has taken an interest in the case of Bishop Turner, the mystery box-of-cash, and the possibly-aborted narcotics investigation.


SPEAKING OF THE LASD & ELECTIONS….

We reported a few weeks ago on the battle for control of the board of one of the LASD unions, PPOA. On Friday, the ballots were counted and it appears that the slate of candidates rumored to be aligned with Paul Tanaka were defeated by the incumbent board members.


INSANE JUSTICE: DO WE REALLY WANT THESE PEOPLE TO BE SERVING LIFE SENTENCES?

As we noted last week, the ACLU has released a new and devastating report about Americans serving life sentences without the possible of parole for non-serious crimes, very often drug related, nearly all people with no violent crimes in their backgrounds.

Over the weekend the New York Times published an impassioned editorial that points out the utter madness of such sentencing.

Here are some clips:

If this were happening in any other country, Americans would be aghast. A sentence of life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for trying to sell $10 of marijuana to an undercover officer? For sharing LSD at a Grateful Dead concert? For siphoning gas from a truck? The punishment is so extreme, so irrational, so wildly disproportionate to the crime that it defies explanation.

And yet this is happening every day in federal and state courts across the United States. Judges, bound by mandatory sentencing laws that they openly denounce, are sending people away for the rest of their lives for committing nonviolent drug and property crimes. In nearly 20 percent of cases, it was the person’s first offense.

As of 2012, there were 3,278 prisoners serving sentences of life without parole for such crimes, according to an extensive and astonishing report issued Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. And that number is conservative. It doesn’t include inmates serving sentences of, say, 350 years for a series of nonviolent drug sales. Nor does it include those in prison for crimes legally classified as “violent” even though they did not involve actual violence, like failing to report to a halfway house or trying to steal an unoccupied car.

The report relies on data from the federal prison system and nine states. Four out of five prisoners were sentenced for drug crimes like possessing a crack pipe or acting as a go-between in a street drug sale. Most of the rest were sentenced for property crimes like trying to cash a stolen check or shoplifting. In more than 83 percent of the cases, the judge had no choice: federal or state law mandated a sentence of life without parole, usually under a mandatory-minimum or habitual offender statute.

[SNIP]]

It is difficult to find anyone who defends such sentencing. Even Burl Cain, the longtime warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, which holds the most nonviolent lifers in the country, calls these sentences “ridiculous.” “Everybody forgets what corrections means. It means to correct deviant behavior,” Mr. Cain told the A.C.L.U. “If this person can go back and be a productive citizen and not commit crimes again,” he asked, why spend the money to keep him in prison? “I need to keep predators in these big old prisons, not dying old men…..”

There are two bills before congress that, if passed, would give judges a bit more discretion.

But as the NY Times notes, this gesture toward reform isn’t close to enough—either on a federal or a state level.

Let us remember, we incarcerate more of our fellow Americans per capita than any other country in the world. No one else even comes close. These kind of sentencing policies are a large part of why.


THE U.S. CONSTITUTION, THE SUPREME COURT, & LOCKING UP THE INNOCENT

Michael Kirkland, UPI’s Senior Legal Affairs Writer takes a look at the U.S. Supreme Court’s complicated and often troubling relationship with the concept of innocence.

Here’s how his report opens:

The case of Ryan Ferguson, the Missouri man freed after spending 10 years behind bars for a murder he says he didn’t commit, shows the nation’s justice system, one of the fairest in the world, occasionally convicts the innocent, puts them in prison and throws away the key.
Does the U.S. Supreme Court give a damn?

Ferguson improbably was convicted on the “repressed memories” of a friend for the 2001 killing of Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune Sports editor Kent Heitholt in the newspaper parking lot as Heitholt was leaving work early in the morning.

The friend recanted at trial and another witness putting Ferguson at the scene also recanted. He was not connected to fingerprints, bloody footprints and hair found at the crime scene.

Ferguson, now 29, was sentenced to 40 years. He was finally freed last week.

So far the Innocence Project has freed more than 300 people based on DNA evidence, Kirkland notes.

Still other people have been freed by the dogged work of attorneys who believed that an injustice had been done, and find the evidence to prove it.

But in some of those cases, even when new evidence surfaces that indicates those convicted are likely factually innocent, lower courts fail to act. At those times, SCOTUS is split about whether innocence is a legal reason for the high court to wade in.

Here’s what Kirkland writes:

On one side, Roberts and his fellow conservatives warn at some point, judicial proceedings have to be final, and opening the floodgates of judicial review might return the justice system to the days when death row inmates and others delayed their sentences for decades with claim after claim, despite the overwhelming evidence that convicted them.

After all, Congress, fed up with endless federal appeals, enacted the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996 to limit habeas review.

On the other side, Stevens and his fellow liberals made the practical argument: If a DNA test or rape kit test can make a conviction even more certain, or expose a miscarriage of justice, why not do it?

Such divisions probably will continue. How do you effectively punish the great mass of the guilty without damning the innocent few?


And then Kirkland notes this statement from Antonin Scalia who said in his dissent in a 2009 case
in which the majority of the Supremes granted a new evidence hearing for a Georgia death row inmate.

“This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a [constitutional] court that he is ‘actually’ innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged ‘actual innocence’ is constitutionally cognizable.”

As is often the case, Scalia makes a distressing—but legally interesting—point.


Posted in Courts, crime and punishment, criminal justice, DNA, Innocence, juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD, Los Angeles County, Paul Tanaka, Sentencing, Sheriff Lee Baca | 42 Comments »

42 Responses

  1. Bandwagon Says:

    Will someone please indict these idiots! Often moral courage is more difficult than physical courage. That statement is well represented by Mr. Tanaka’s response in his Channel 7 news interview ‘you won’t last long if you go against the Sheriff”. Some much for Core Values and doing the right thing. I hate to say it….but the Department is leaderless and run by a bunch of moral cowards!

  2. exCPT280TS Says:

    What a big joke. Tanaka your full of s*&%. In 2005, you should have notified the feds that Baca ordered the narcotics investigation to stop. Both of you need to be booked into federal prison.

  3. LATBG Says:

    exCPT280TS, Tanaka didn’t have time to notify the feds, he was too busy notifying his aide, and “that was the end of it.”

    That was the end of Tanaka’s campaign as well.

  4. Stuff Says:

    Tanaka is pathetic. Ummmm I don’t remember, Ummmm I don’t know who told me that, Ummmmm I told my aid this is a law enforcement situation, look into it. This is turning into front row entertainment and will only get better as the election nears and Tanaka has to answer hard questions. Tanaka has never done anything in law enforcement besides go to dinners and kiss his way up the ladder. No arrests, no investigative experience, no specialized units, nothing and he wants to LEAD the LASD? Pathetic.

  5. exCPT280TS Says:

    In 2005, Tanaka’s aide was to busy with other things, like buying a trailer in the north end of Compton College, so that he can run for the mayors position. Well, Rhambo lost, big time. He then sold that trailer and moved back to his real home.

  6. gmanwhistle Says:

    Voters beware…Tanaka is full of big elephant dung…..he says the Sheriff’s department should not play favorites. Well look at all his donors for Gardena Mayor from the department and tell me he does not play favorites. He remembers notifying his aid during the 2005 narco investigation to initiate an investigation, however, he does not remember the name of the department source that told him the Sheriff terminated the investigation. Can we say selective memory just like my kids when they get caught lying. This guy will stop at nothing..Little man go home

  7. lol Says:

    I’m sick and tired of all these excuses… Handle your business if you know something is wrong!

    Tanaka knew of wrong doing… yet he didn’t do anything.

    Olmsted knew of wrong doing… yet he didn’t do anything.

    Both of these guys claim Baca squashed their attempts to take action.

    Baca, Olmsted and Tanaka are all worthless! The kicker is all of the Olmsted Boot Lickers who claim he (Olmsted) is the Save-All.

    What a joke!

  8. CrackerJack Says:

    LOL, are you really going to equate Bob Olmsted’s actions with Tanaka’s and Baca’s…………….That’s like equating running a stop sign to murder….they’re both against the law, but there is a matter of degree…………..Olmsted was the only high executive that gave truthful testimony in the CCJV and he is the highest executive that even tried to put a stop to the problem…..remember Cruz’ statement, FUCK Olmsted, I work for Tanaka……..WHO ELSE STEPPED UP????

    The boss shut him down…..what’s he’s supposed to do, run to ABC and tell them our force numbers are way too high and there’s a culture of corruption brewing in the jail…..GET REAL, that wouldn’t make the back page of the Cudahy Auto Trader…..did you hear the Dear Leader’s speech when he told the Captains he was watching the numbers and he would put cases on Captains who put cases on deputies…..When one’s job is in jeopardy, you have to chose your battles wisely and take action when the time is right, otherwise your head gets chopped off and nothing changes

    It’s easy to say what he SHOULD have done behind a computer keyboard…….Neither one of us are saying who we are ….why is that??? Are we afraid we might be relieved of duty or commit career suicide. Go ahead, do the right thing….10-37

    Olmsted is not perfect… but he’s the best we have for now

  9. J.London Says:

    Obviously, Tanaka was the leaker. As the interview made Paul look stupid I urge Paul to take his leaks somewhere else! Again, Paul tries to escape blame by stating that it was not in his chain of command. So, why is Paul getting involved with the jails and Bishop Turner? Could Paul be lying just a tad? And why would ABC interview Paul? Was it because the news trail was leading right back to Paul? So, Paul has turned into a snitch trying to save himself. Didn’t Paul brag that he wasn’t raised in that manner? How many other times has Paul kept quiet about crimes, himself and Baca?

    No doubt that Waldie handled the money and ensured that the drug money was returned. Who did Waldie call, was it the Captain at Narco in 2005? So, now that Turner has not submitted IRS returns for years will Turner snitch on Waldie to save himself? This scandal could be the end of hundreds of careers and potential prison time!

    Olmsted and Gomez are looking better and better!!

  10. Hey now Says:

    Don’t forget to get your tickets for the big Mr. T support banquet coming up on Sat. Check with your local Mr. T supporter. The cost is $99 per plate. If you buy 2, be sure to put the ticket in another name.

  11. LATBG Says:

    CrackerJack, I’ll take it a step further for LOL. Within the rigid, hierarchical, quasi-military structure that we have, Olmsted did all that was available to him: he advised his supervisors up the chain, including his division chief, assistant sheriff, and the sheriff himself. He contacted the FBI and worked with them to ensure the matter was properly investigated, and then testified for the CCJV. His efforts were ignored and overruled at every turn, and he ultimately retired rather than remain in a corrupt administration. THAT is honorable, and that is why Olmsted commands the respect of the honest, dedicated members of the department.

    LOL, if you want to claim Olmsted didn’t do anything, well, you’re entitled to your opinion but not your own facts. And by the way, the people who back Olmsted detest bootlickers both in theory and in practice. Olmsted has the support of people who believe in what he can do for the organization, not themselves.

  12. J.London Says:

    LATBG: Add that Baca offered Olmsted a’Consultant’position after Bob retired. An obvious bribe by Baca. Bob refused! Many past and current excs wouldn’t hesitate to sell out for another huge six figure income with NO job description. I also keep bringing up Gomez, why? Gomez didn’t sell out either!!!

  13. J.London Says:

    Bishop Turner wants four tickets but asked to pay cash?

  14. CSN83 Says:

    At this point, I think the only salvation for the Sheriff is to hire Olivia Pope. Obviously his stint with the bishop has not turned out so well. A pope out-moves a bishop any day, right?

    Does anyone know why the BOS has secret meeting when deciding who will pay all the money out? I would like to know how they voted when elections come up.

  15. Hey now Says:

    Don’t forget to get your tickets for the big Mr. T support banquet coming up on Sat. Check with your local Mr. T supporter. The cost is $99 per plate. If you buy 2, be sure to put the ticket in another name.

  16. lol Says:

    Truth hurts….

    #7 response is fact. Everybody knows it!

  17. LATBG Says:

    LOL, is that the best you could do? It speaks volumes not only of yourself but the depth of the campaign of your fearless leader.

    It’s okay, I realize facts are not friendly to your cause.

  18. exCPT280TS Says:

    Shake up in the Exc branch of LASD. Rumors are spreading that C.R will be getting a boot.

  19. Fed Up With Baca Says:

    Cecil Rhambo, was rumored to be talking about retirement at the end of the year. Another ineffective manager gone.

  20. Stuff Says:

    Cecil Rhambo is smarter than I thought by retiring at the end of the year. This way he avoids a tremendous pay cut from being demoted when Olmstead is elected Sheriff.

  21. 280M1 Says:

    The word on street…J.H spoke to his dad L.B to boot C.R. W.M will replace C.R within 14 days. Hold on to your panties C.R, crap is coming down hill.

  22. J.London Says:

    Is Baca too dumb or what? W.M. wants to be sheriff and would do anything to have Baca fall! Way to go W.M. You always knew how to get around the other snakes in the pit!

  23. Investigative Mind Says:

    Ah Ha. Now this should be interesting….wonder who is going to take over Detective Division if this is true??

  24. Please Says:

    J. London – Said one snake looking for a promotion to another snake looking for a promotion. The pit is full of you and your type.

  25. times awasting Says:

    Thats funny I hear JH wants EP and EP is already packing his map

  26. Fed Up Says:

    I hate seeing Cecil just casually jogging around SHB/SBI/Sheriff Rd./Ramona bl with Chief Betkey and they also like playing with SEB! I busted my ass for 13 years in a B/W for 13 yrs,,We need new blood, I am ashamed of LASD right now. Who else Knows where all the Bodies are Buried?

  27. lol Says:

    LASD is a mess right now!!!!

    0 leadership!!!

  28. LATBG Says:

    This is a classic story of the kettle calling the pot black. Tanaka rose through the ranks, or shall I say was propelled through the ranks, because he managed Baca’s campaign election, office holder, and legal defense fund accounts since the beginning. That means he had his hands on all the dirty money that was laundered through Baca’s fundraising efforts.

    Of particular concern is the relationship between Sheriff Baca, or former Chief Baca, with a suspected drug trafficker by the name of Carlos Vignali Sr. This guy held three fundraisers for candidate Baca in an auto body shop that was under investigation by our own narco bureau for being the site where drug vehicles were disassembled and the dope removed after crossing the border from Mexico. He personally received $11K from Vignali over the years, and later lobbied the White House on his behalf to get a pardon for his convicted drug trafficking son, Carlos Vignali Jr.

    Our narco folks warned Baca that this dude was a bad guy and he should not associate with him, but of course they were ignored. And who took all the cash in from this drug dealing family? Sheriff’s candidate Paul Tanaka, of course! So it is no shock that the most religious Bishop Ed Turner and his mail order box of $84K in cash does not raise an eyebrow with our incumbent or his corrupt challenger.

    The $84 thousand dollar question is, where’s the money now?

  29. times awasting Says:

    Lol you are absolutely right..0 leadership at the top and 1/2 way down the pyramid. When Bob Olmsted wins we will immediately see a change.

  30. Investigative Mind Says:

    Well #27 seems t know quite a bit about Narco capers. Not surprising since lots of money goes through that unit from asset forfeiture seizures and who knows what else?

  31. Nancy Drew Says:

    And who controlled Narco Forfeiture funds for almost a dozen years? You guessed it, Paul Tanaka.

  32. Investigative Mind Says:

    #30, exactly my thought too.

  33. Hey now Says:

    So, who attended the Tanaka Fundraiser on Sat.

  34. lol Says:

    @32 –

    I hear there were over 500 people there.

    Interesting.

  35. hmmmm Says:

    only 500?…..COPS, OSS, GET, OSJ, Temple, Century, South LA, Marina, MCB, NARCO, Homicide, Admin Services, DSB, Facilities….lotsa tentacles in lotsa places? Figgered he shoulda hit a grand.

  36. J.London Says:

    bs

  37. Investigative Mind Says:

    On the weekend before Thanksgiving? You would think people had better things to do……

  38. lol Says:

    @ Hmmmm – I was thinking the same thing. Word has it that the occupancy level was maxed out and they couldn’t fit anymore. Could anyone confirm this? Was there really that many people?

  39. Curious George Says:

    it would be the same number of votes his PPOA guys got…..hahahahahah he is a looser. pull out Tanaka….

  40. Jack Dawson Says:

    Ladies and Gents,

    There is a calm before the storm. Get ready for a good week in the media.

    We didn’t start the fire……

  41. Investigative Mind Says:

    Yup, tomorrow on a large television news station. Now this is just the beginning…..stand by everyone.

  42. LATBG Says:

    If things are going down the way I believe they will, what will all those Tanakaid drinkers do with their hero exposed in all his glorious corruption?

    I won’t have any sympathy for them, because of their efforts they enabled the corruption that brought shame to the sheriff’s house. It’s not like Baca and Tanaka could do it all by themselves, there were many bootlickers and ass kissers willing to do all the dirty details…

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