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WitnessLA on “Which Way LA?” Wednesday Night Talking Union Big Bucks Power Plays….& More

April 2nd, 2014 by Celeste Fremon

I’m on Which Way LA? with Warren Olney Wednesday night at about 7 pm on KCRW FM.

If you didn’t listen in real time you can click on the podcast here. It’s a five minute or so segment about the fight for power going on at the LA County Sheriff deputies’ union, ALADS. As we mentioned below, it’s a very high stakes game that could materially affect the race for sheriff, since ALADS has $2.5 million in campaign PAC money, a million or more of which could be thrown behind one candidate for sheriff in the primary election.

In a seven person race, that much money could—and likely would—change the outcome.



AND…IF YOU’D LIKE TO SEE AN INTRIGUING NEW PLAY FOR A GOOD CAUSE TRY: PLACAS, THE MOST DANGEROUS TATTOO

Thursday through Sunday, April 3-6 you can see a promising new play, Placas, the Most Dangerous Tattoo, by Paul S. Flores, starring Ric Salinas of Culture Clash and inspired by events in the life of Alex Sanchez, founder of Homies Unidos.

If you attend on Thursday night April 3, the performance will in fact benefit Homies Unidos.

On Saturday, there’ll be a pre-performance conversation with Father Greg Boyle and Alex Sanchez.

Here’s where you can find out more.

Posted in 2014 election, LASD, Paul Tanaka, unions | 10 Comments »

Opposing Factions in LASD Deputy Union Mud Wrestle for Power with Big $$$ at Stake

April 2nd, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


ALADS—THE LASD DEPUTY UNION—IS IN THE MIDST OF A HUGE TUG OF WAR WITH THE FATE OF $2.5 MILLION IN CAMPAIGN PAC MONEY AT STAKE

Two factions on the board of directors of the large, wealthy and powerful LASD Deputies union—ALADS (Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs )—are at war with each other for control of the union.

One of the things at issue in the tug of war for control of the 7200 member organization, is oversight of the reportedly more than $2.5 million in campaign PAC money that could be parcelled out with significant effect to a candidate or candidates in the upcoming races for LA County Supervisor and for Sheriff.

Most watching the melee believe that it is the selection of the sheriff of Los Angeles County that that could be materially affected by who comes out on top.

It is after all the board of the directors that has the last word on where the treasure chest of PAC money goes.

In other words, this little internecine struggle is potentially a very high stakes game.

In one of the skirmishes last week, one faction claiming to represent the union filed suit against two members of the opposing faction for alleged “abuse of fiduciary responsibility” and for the “misappropriation” of $100,000 of ALADS funds.

The two who were being sued, responded by having one of their attorneys send a letter on ALADS letterhead to the Bureau of Labor and Compliance of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, maintaining that their faction had legal control of the organization, and that it was the lawsuit-weilding group that had illegally grabbed union funds to hire its lawyers.

Are you confused yet?

Okay, let’s back up a bit.


THE BACK STORY—-OR AT LEAST SOME OF IT

You may remember that when we last visited the bizarre warren of high drama and bad behavior that the ALADS board has become, the two factions were just beginning to wrestle for power.

One faction is led by the current board president Armando Macias— who, as it happens, is reportedly not legally able to serve as board president, according the ALADs bylaws.

It seems that Macias did not attend enough of certain meetings that he was required to attend to hold office, so was removed from his position as president by the other group last month. But he declined to make a graceful exit, and instead has hired a lawyer—or possibly several lawyers—to support his legitimacy.

He is joined in his quest by legally elected Vice President Bruce Nance—plus two others.

The second faction—namely the one opposing Macias—appears to be led by the former board president, Floyd Hayhurst, who is also legally hampered since he has retired and thus is no longer a county employee. This means, although he may serve on the board, he may not vote. Hayhurst is reported to be voting anyway.

In other words, neither of these factions seems to have a firm grip on the legal high ground.

Nevertheless, most of the rest of the seven-member ALADS board has lined up behind one or the other of the combatants— Macias or Hayhurst—-with much bitter squabbling and legal postering the result.

To add to the mix, Hayhurst (the former ALADS Prez) appears to be angling to be appointed by the board as executive director of the organization, a powerful position which, at the moment, is vacant—-and which also might conceivably give him access to the sought after ALADS PAC money.

Hayhurst is reported to be a longtime supporter of former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who is running for sheriff, and who has been actively angling for union PAC money for a long time (as we wrote about here)

It is not clear whom Macias supports (rumors abound on that matter), although VP Bruce Nance has declared himself to be opposed to Tanaka’s candidacy.

It’s important to note that, although last month, the union’s political committee chose not endorse or to give any money to candidates for sheriff until after the primary (as we reported here), the board of directors has the power to override that decision.


LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST UNION PREZ & VICE PREZ FOR ALLEGEDLY SNATCHING $100K IN UNION FUNDS TO HIRE LAWYER (OR LAWYERS)

To bring you up to date, according to the lawsuit, (which you’ll find attached below), ousted board president Macias, and board VP Nance, requested, but originally were blocked from acquiring, $100,000 in board funds to pay the attorney that they have hired to get Macias reinstated as president, which frankly sounds like a losing battle.

The two insist that they have the authorization to request and receive the funds as they are acting in the board’s interest. Since approximately 50 percent of the voting board (Hayhurst’s group) seems to think otherwise, this seems like a questionable legal position.

Of course, it’s no more questionable than Hayhurst and Company filing a lawsuit against Macias and Nance, and claiming they are doing so in behalf of all of ALADS (and reportedly using ALADS funds to pay their lawyers).

Not to be outdone, when Macias and Nance could not get anyone to write them a $100,000 check out of the union’s general fund, despite much reported hectoring and pestering, they managed to snatch the $100K out of the union’s campaign fund—namely the very same PAC money that one or more sheriff’s candidates would like to get their personal mitts on.

As we mentioned before, the matter of a sheriff’s candidate receiving some of the campaign bucks is thought to be the point of this power struggle.

(For more on the lawsuit, I recommend that you read the complaint itself, starting about midway on Page 3 to the top of Page 12.)

Here’s the complaint: ALADS Lawsuit 4-27-2014

And for more of the Macias/Nance perspective, read the letter from Macias’ attorney Steve Ipsen (a former LA prosecutor who now presents himself as “general counsel” for ALADS), which you may find here: Dept. of Labor Letter

Did I mention that each of these factions now has competing ALADS websites?

Here’s the Macias & Co. website.

And here’s the Hayhurst group’s site.

Members of the ALADS rank and file with whom we spoke seemed generally dismayed with all the squabbling. “With these clowns fighting, we all lose,” said one LASD deputy.

Law enforcement experts outside the organization suggest that the ALADS struggle is yet another symptom of the problems in the sheriff’s department that continue to emerge.

“To be honest, I think it’s one more thing shows the depth of dysfunction,” said one non-LASD law enforcement source. “It’s sad because it hurts all the good deputies who are just trying to do their jobs.”

Posted in 2014 election, LASD, Paul Tanaka, unions | 51 Comments »

Saving Kilpatrick, LA County to Request More $$ for Foster Kids’ Lawyers, Stop-and-Frisk, Sheriff’s Dept. Values…and More

April 2nd, 2014 by Taylor Walker

MORE ON THE CAMP KILPATRICK SPORTS CAMP STORY

Late last month, WLA posted a three-part story about LA County Probation’s Kilpatrick sports camp for locked-up kids (here, here, and here).

When it became clear that the scheduled demolition and renovation of the physical camp did not include space for the popular sports program, advocates, parents, and coaches rallied to save the camp. A study was ordered to measure the effectiveness of the program. Two years later, the study has come in and found that the sports program does indeed measurably help kids in a multiplicity of ways.

Now, Probation Chief Jerry Powers has come up with a plan to save the program and relaunch it for the fall 2014 sports season at the Challenger Memorial Youth Center camp in the Antelope Valley.

In the course of the study, researchers interviewed former Kilpatrick kids on various aspects of the program, including what they liked about it, and areas they thought could use improvement. The LA Times’ Sandy Banks takes a fresh look at the study, and includes quotes from the kids’ interviews. Here’s a clip:

The sports study — which looked at Los Angeles County probation records for hundreds of youths — offers a troubling snapshot of young lives.

Many of the boys had gang associations. Most came from unstable homes or were in foster care. Nine in 10 had substance abuse issues; almost as many had mental health problems. Almost all were failing, acting out or not showing up for school. Two-thirds had been in trouble with the law before. Their most recent offenses included robberies, assaults and weapons violations.

The study was not able to prove that the athletes did better in the long term than youths who were not on the teams. But there was a clear improvement in school attendance and performance. However when it came to returning to crime, or recidivism, the athletes did better only for the first six months of freedom.

“Clearly, there’s a positive impact,” said Cal State L.A. professor Denise Herz, the research team leader. “But the key is, they go back into the same environment… without much support.”

The interviews with former athletes described lives of constant upheaval, and explained how the sports teams filled gaps in their upbringing.

There was discipline there, where there was no discipline at home. The coaches… they worked with us, they tried to keep us motivated, I mean I still call them to this day.

To have that male figure around you that can give you a man’s perspective, and to hear a man’s voice. You know what I’m saying? It’s priceless.

Does the Kilpatrick sports model inoculate young men against the lure of the streets? Certainly not. But it can clear vision muddied by history and teach important life skills.

Probation department officials recognize that. Last week, they announced that the sports program won’t be disbanded but will move to the Challenger Memorial Youth Center camp in the Antelope Valley. Teams will resume play in their California Interscholastic Federation league this fall.

Go read the rest.


LA COUNTY SUPES TO LOBBY SACRAMENTO FOR EXTRA FUNDING FOR OVERBURDENED LAWYERS REPRESENTING FOSTER KIDS

On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to lobby the state capital to allocate an extra $33.1 million in funding for lawyers appointed to foster children across California.

In LA County, these lawyers, like social workers, are spread far too thin, and are responsible for nearly twice the maximum number of cases recommended by the Judicial Council of California.

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

With about 30,000 children in the foster care system in Los Angeles, each attorney is responsible for an average of 308 cases, said Leslie Heimov, executive director of the nonprofit Children’s Law Center, which provides attorneys to all foster kids in L.A. and Sacramento counties.

That’s nearly double the maximum caseload of 188 per attorney recommended by the Judicial Council of California. The optimal caseload would be 77 children per attorney.

“It’s huge, more than ‘a lot,’ if you look at the recommendations from various entities,” Heimov said.

She said the sky-high caseloads are a result of budgets not keeping up with growing numbers of children in foster care.

The numbers make it difficult for attorneys to advocate for the best interests of the children, she said, and turnover among attorneys has increased.

“Attorneys don’t have any time to do anything but the absolute bare minimum, instead of the maximum, and that’s not how any of us want to practice,” Heimov said. “So it also has a significant impact on burnout.”

Judge Michael Nash, the presiding judge of LA county’s juvenile court, says that the money will help, but it’s not enough:

The only long term solution, in Nash’s opinion, is reducing the number of kids in the foster care system.

“More of these cases could be resolved effectively outside of the court system,” Nash said. “The courts should not be the first resort for these issues.”


A FATHER’S TAKE ON STOP-AND-FRISK

In a compelling piece for the Atlantic, Christopher E. Smith (a criminal justice professor at Michigan State), a white man with a black son and in-laws, tells of the impact of stop-and-frisk on his family members of color, and of the constant state of fear he lives in for the safety of his son. Here’s how it opens:

When I heard that my 21-year-old son, a student at Harvard, had been stopped by New York City police on more than one occasion during the brief summer he spent as a Wall Street intern, I was angry. On one occasion, while wearing his best business suit, he was forced to lie face-down on a filthy sidewalk because—well, let’s be honest about it, because of the color of his skin. As an attorney and a college professor who teaches criminal justice classes, I knew that his constitutional rights had been violated. As a parent, I feared for his safety at the hands of the police—a fear that I feel every single day, whether he is in New York or elsewhere.

Moreover, as the white father of an African-American son, I am keenly aware that I never face the suspicion and indignities that my son continuously confronts. In fact, all of the men among my African-American in-laws—and I literally mean every single one of them—can tell multiple stories of unjustified investigatory police stops of the sort that not a single one of my white male relatives has ever experienced.

In The Atlantic’s April feature story “Is Stop-and-Frisk Worth It?” author Daniel Bergner cited Professor Frank Zimring’s notion that stop-and-frisk is “a special tax on minority males.” I cannot endorse the conclusion that this “special tax” actually helps make communities safer. As indicated by the competing perspectives in Atlantic essays by Donald Braman and Paul Larkin, scholars disagree on whether crime rate data actually substantiate the claims of stop-and-frisk advocates. Either way, I do believe that the concept of a “special tax” deserves closer examination.

Proponents of stop-and-frisk often suggest that the hardships suffered by young men of color might be tolerable if officers were trained to be polite rather than aggressive and authoritarian. We need to remember, however, that we are talking about imposing an additional burden on a demographic that already experiences a set of alienating “taxes” not shared by the rest of society.

I can tell myriad stories about the ways my son is treated with suspicion and negative presumptions in nearly every arena of his life. I can describe the terrorized look on his face when, as a 7-year-old trying to learn how to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in front of our suburban house, he was followed at 2-miles-per-hour from a few feet away by a police patrol car—a car that sped away when I came out of the front door to see what was going on. I can tell stories of teachers, coaches, and employers who have forced my son to overcome a presumption that he will cause behavior problems or that he lacks intellectual capability. I can tell you about U.S. Customs officials inexplicably ordering both of us to exit our vehicle and enter a building at the Canadian border crossing so that a team of officers could search our car without our watching—an event that never occurs when I am driving back from Canada by myself.

If I hadn’t witnessed all this so closely, I never would have fully recognized the extent of the indignities African-American boys and men face. Moreover, as indicated by research recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the cumulative physical toll this treatment takes on African-American men can accelerate the aging process and cause early death. Thus, no “special tax” on this population can be understood without recognizing that it does not exist as a small, isolated element in people’s lives…

Read on.


THE IMPORTANCE OF AN OBSERVED SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT VALUE SYSTEM

On Monday, we pointed to a lawsuit filed last week alleging sexual assault by an LASD deputy clique called the “Banditos,” and sheriff candidate James Hellmold’s prank call (in which he seemed to use a South Asian accent).

An LA Times editorial says that, in the wake of these controversial stories (and previous scandals), campaigning sheriff candidates should focus on their own value systems and how they plan to make sure their standards are followed by the rank and file. Here are some clips:

Each Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy is supposed to carry a card at all times that sets forth the department’s core values, embodied in a single sentence pledging respect, integrity, wisdom and “the courage to stand against racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and bigotry in all its forms.”

The card has been variously called inspirational and plain silly, but if it’s silly, its silliness lies not in the values expressed but in the notion that words on a card could, by themselves, imbue deputies with values that they do not already hold or that are not instilled in them in training and reinforced each day on the job.

News reports and anecdotal tales of inmate abuse, the hazing of new deputies and disrespect paid to the communities it is supposed to protect suggest that the department has a long way to go to make its core values more than words on a card.

[SNIP]

There is a danger that the departure of Sheriff Lee Baca under a cloud created by his own mismanagement could be taken by those vying to replace him as an invitation to throw out everything he brought with him — the good as well as the bad, the vision as well as the often-sloppy implementation, the values as well as the card.

The sheriff is one of only three officials elected countywide to represent 10 million people, and the only one with uniformed officers acting as ambassadors to every corner of the county. They will be emissaries either for a system of gang-like cliques and frat-like pranks or for a culture of dignity and respect…


AND IN LA TIMES-RELATED NEWS…

Robert Faturechi will no longer be covering the LASD for the LA Times. We will miss his fine and important reporting.

He has passed the torch to Cindy Chang, who previously covered immigration and ethnic culture. Welcome, Cindy!

Faturechi tweeted the news on Tuesday:

Robert Faturechi ‏@RobertFaturechi
there’s a new sheriff (reporter) in town. I’ll be helping out for a couple more weeks, but @cindychangLA is now covering LASD.

Posted in DCFS, Foster Care, juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD, Probation, racial justice, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Class for Incarcerated Teen Dads, Status-Offending Girls and Trauma, and “Holistic” Indigent Defense

April 1st, 2014 by Taylor Walker

PROGRAM TEACHES PARENTING SKILLS TO TEEN FATHERS IN LOCK-UP

A prison class in California, called the “Baby Elmo Program,” teaches incarcerated teenage fathers how to be parents, and helps them build relationships with their young children, with help from Elmo videos. While still in the early stages, the program has been implemented in Sacramento, Fresno, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, and Orange County, and program leaders held a conference in Los Angeles last week with corrections officials statewide.

KPCC’s Shirley Jahad has the story. Here’s a small clip:

Originally named “A Parenting Intervention for Incarcerated Teen Parents,” the program was later dubbed the “Baby Elmo Program” by its teenage participants, referring to the Sesame Street teaching tools it uses. According to the program’s manager, the key message they try to pass on to troubled young fathers is the importance of making personal contact with their children. “The only way you are going to develop a relationship with your child is not through abstract courses or a strict program,” said Ben Richeda, who runs the program. “It’s really going to be ‘I know the food my child likes. I know what makes him smile. I know makes her laugh when she comes in the room.’” Richeda says the goal is to teach the parenting skills in order to break the cycle of abuse and neglect that can lead to a path of delinquency.


INCREASE IN YOUNG GIRLS ARRESTED FOR STATUS OFFENSES: THE STORY BEHIND THE STATISTIC

Girls are more likely than boys to be arrested for status offenses (age-related crimes, like truancy, running away, violating curfew laws, or possessing alcohol or tobacco), and the numbers are on the rise, according to the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

In an op-ed for Youth Today, Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, president of The National Crittenton Foundation, says the numbers are important, but don’t tell the whole story. She says that these status offenses that often earn a young girl a reputation as a “bad girl” are often coping mechanisms for underlying childhood trauma. And when these girls get thrown into the juvenile justice system for things like running away from a turbulent home, or self-medicating with alcohol, they are not receiving the help they need to become successful adults.

Here’s a clip:

According to the Coalition for Juvenile Justice’s issue brief, Girls, Status Offenses and The Need For A Less Punitive and More Empowering Approach, a disproportionate number of the status offenses petitioned in the courts every year are brought against girls. Between 1995 and 2009, the number of petitioned cases for curfew violations for girls grew by 23 percent vs. only 1 percent for boys. The number of petitioned cases for liquor law violations for girls grew by 41 percent vs. only 6 percent for boys.

Simply put, behaviors such as skipping school, running away, breaking curfew and possession or use of alcohol places girls at increased risk of entering the juvenile justice system. Girls entering the system because they are detained for a status offense often fall deeper into the system rather than getting the support they need to change their lives.

What the numbers fail to reveal is the story behind the statistics. As the president of The National Crittenton Foundation, I have had the great privilege to get to know many of the faces behind the data — girls and young women who were involved with Crittenton agencies because they were referred by juvenile justice or child welfare systems. While their stories are as diverse as they are, the most common shared narrative for the girls served by Crittenton agencies is that their early lives have been shaped for them by abuse, neglect, violence, addiction, family dysfunction and the betrayal of their trust by the very people whose job it was to love and protect them.

Victimization of girls typically precedes their involvement with the system. Up to 73 percent of the girls in the juvenile justice system have histories of physical and sexual violence. A study of 319 girls in the juvenile justice system in Florida found that 64 percent reported past abuse, including 37 percent reporting abuse by a parent; 55 percent reporting abuse by someone other than a parent; and 27 percent reporting both types of abuse.

[SNIP]

What the statistics also don’t tell us is how girls cope with the dangerous, damaging and traumatic circumstances in their lives. In fact, their “adaptive coping behaviors,” including running away from homes where violence is prevalent, self medication with drugs and alcohol, truancy and unruly behavior, are the very same behaviors that put them at risk of entering the juvenile justice system because they are detained for a status offence. In other words, we criminalize them for coping behaviors that are actually signs of strength and resiliency against the abuse and neglect they have experienced. What is the result? A system that fails to help the girls get the help they need to recover from the abuse and neglect they experienced long before they entered the system.

Pai-Espinosa also gives five ways to address the problem:

- Promote universal assessment for girls and boys involved in the juvenile justice system to better understand their exposure to violence, abuse and neglect.

- Advocate that girls in or at risk of entering the juvenile justice system receive gender-responsive, trauma-informed services to heal from the violence and abuse they have experienced.

- Push for the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act, with a focus on preventing detention for status offenses and the importance of gender responsive and trauma informed services

- Support HR 4123, Prohibiting the Detention of Youth for Status Offenses Act, introduced recently by Representative Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) and

- Endorse and advance the important work of organizations like the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the National Standards for the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses.

Over the weekend, the LA Times had an editorial in support of HR 4123. Here are some clips:

It is unjust to lock up minors for offenses that wouldn’t be offenses at all if the “perpetrators” were only a few years older. The practice is costly, and ineffective as well. Substantial research has shown that incarcerating teenagers for these non-criminal actions doesn’t deter them from committing the same offenses again once they’re released; quite the opposite. After being housed with true juvenile criminals, they are more likely to commit real offenses…

Legislation by Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) would ban the incarceration of status offenders across the country, requiring states to find more useful ways of handling these cases. HR 4123 doesn’t eliminate penalties for status offenses, just the harsh discipline of lockup. Offenders could still be penalized in various ways, including required community service or Saturday classes to catch up in school. That, combined with counseling and other services for offenders and their families, would be fairer, more productive and almost certainly less expensive than having them do time.


MOVING TOWARD A MORE COMPREHENSIVE—”HOLISTIC”—INDIGENT DEFENSE APPROACH

“Holistic” indigent defense—in which a team of attorneys, social workers, and other advocates work together to provide much-needed services to defendants who can’t afford to hire a lawyer—is building momentum in the Bay Area. The approach aims to keep people from reoffending, and may help ease overcrowding in California prisons (although there’s not yet much data on the effectiveness of “holistic” defense against recidivism).

The San Jose Mercury News’ Tracey Kaplan has the story. Here’s a clip:

Born partly out of a conference in the late 1990s at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, holistic defense in its most elaborate form uses teams of criminal, civil and family defense lawyers, social workers, parent advocates, investigators and community organizers to address the needs — legal and otherwise — of defendants who can’t afford their own lawyers.

The idea is to keep people from coming back into the criminal justice system — thus save taxpayers money — by limiting the consequences that can arise from even a misdemeanor arrest, such as deportation and the breakup of families, loss of a job, revocation of an employment license or eviction from public housing.

“An arrest is never just an arrest — it can explode someone’s life,” said Robin Steinberg, founder of the Bronx Defenders, the nonprofit agency of public defenders leading the holistic defense movement. “Even when you get the not-guilty verdict, you don’t hug them and send them into the night. That’s when the work begins.”

From Rhode Island to Texas, and to Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties, the general principle has started to catch on, especially the notion of teaming social workers with lawyers.

However, some supporters say holistic defense faces a major obstacle — lack of funding for even basic services, and not just in poor parts of the country such as the South.

“Can the Bronx Defenders’ model be replicated across the country?” said Mark Stephens, chief public defender in Knoxville, Tenn., who attended the original Harvard conference. Though he supports holistic defense and has eight social workers on his staff, he said, “I don’t see it happening.”

Hard data is still scarce on whether the approach keeps people from reoffending. But some public defenders say California must innovate because a federal court order forcing it to reduce prison overcrowding prevents the system from merely locking people up.

Posted in gender, juvenile justice, prison, Public Defender, Reentry, Trauma | No Comments »

Banditos Sexual Harassment Lawsuit – The Suit Itself

March 31st, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


Several people asked to see the “Banditos” sexual harassment lawsuit
we mentioned in this morning’s post.

You can find it here: Lopez.Guadalupe-Complaint, etc. (filed 032514)

Guadalupe Lopez, the plaintiff, has declined to talk to anyone but her attorney, Greg Smith, is confident that her allegations are solid.

If he is correct, it would appear that quite a number of people would have observed or been aware of some part of what was reportedly going on in East LA station and with this group calling themselves the Banditos.

Let us hope that some of those folks come forward.

Posted in LASD | 34 Comments »

West Virginia Eliminates Juvie LWOP….Deputy Clique Sexually Harasses LASD Women, Candidate’s Gag Call Criticized

March 31st, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


EDITOR’S NOTE: LIGHT POSTING TODAY….as I’m a bit under the weather. More news coming tomorrow.


WEST VIRGINIA ELIMINATES JUVIE SENTENCES OF LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE

The state of West Virginia voted on Friday to make all those sentenced as juveniles in adult court to be eligible for parole after 15 years, a decision that lawmakers hailed as maintaining public safety as well as being sound policy.

The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth has the story:

Here’s a clip:

West Virginia has eliminated the practice of sentencing children to die in prison. Every child convicted and sentenced in adult court will be eligible for parole no later than after serving 15 years. With this new law, West Virginia is among a growing number of U.S. states that have either abandoned this sentence or severely limited its use. The U.S. is the only country in the world that imposes this sentence upon children.

“We applaud West Virginia for responding in a meaningful way to the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that children are ‘constitutionally different’ from adults and should not be subject to our nation’s harshest punishments,” said Jody Kent Lavy, director & national coordinator of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. “This new law ensures young people are held accountable for harm they have caused in a way that accounts for their unique characteristics as children and offers them hope of a second chance.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed HB 4210 into law on Friday. The bill passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support in the House of Delegates and unanimously in the Senate.

“This bill demonstrates that we take seriously our responsibility of caring for young people and for making sure our communities are safe,” said Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Under HB 4210, children who are convicted of serious crimes will be held accountable for their actions. However, they will also be given a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate later in life that they have been rehabilitated and deserve a second chance. This bill represents our understanding that children are different from adults and that our courts need to take these differences into account when dealing with children. It is also sound fiscal policy for West Virginia, allowing us to maintain public safety while ensuring that we make the best use of our state’s limited financial resources.”


LA SHERIFF’S DEPUTY CLIQUE DEMANDED SEX FROM FEMALE TRAINEES, SAYS LAWSUIT

In a lawsuit filed last week, Guadalupe Lopez, a ten year veteran of the force who is now getting her law degree, describes how members of an 80 member deputy clique who called themselves the Banditos sexually harassed, threatened and demanded sex from her as part of “training” when she was transferred to the department’s East LA station in 2011, according to a story first broken by NBC’s Andrew Blankstein.

Here is a clip:

Guadalupe Lopez, who was assigned to the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s station in Boyle Heights beginning in 2011, is seeking unspecified damages for alleged sexual harassment, hazing and retaliation that included being run off the road by another deputy, being slammed into a wall while she held a loaded shotgun, and having a dead rat placed under her car after she reported objectionable behavior, according to the lawsuit.

There were about 80 deputies associated with the Banditos, whose full members sported numbered tattoos of a skeleton with a sombrero, bullet sash and pistol, the suit alleges. Probationary deputies, meaning trainees, were allegedly described as “prospects” or “puppies.”

Female trainees were expected to “submit” and “provide sexual favors for male training officers and their associates,” according to the 33-page suit filed by attorney Jason M. Wymond. The suggestion was that if a trainee provided these favors, she would become a full-fledged patrol deputy rather than being forced to work at a Los Angeles County jail, where most deputies begin their careers.

“Plaintiff was made to understand that she was expected to be ‘One of the Girls,’ which included drinking, partying, and the fulfillment of the ‘sexual needs’ of her male training officers and their associates,” the complaint alleges.

Several other lawsuits alleging sexual harassment by superiors have been filed in the last two years against the sheriff’s department, as have other lawsuits reporting threats and repeated retaliation aimed at department members who attempt to report wrongdoing in the LASD.


SHERIFF’S CANDIDATE CRITICIZED FOR GAG CALL

Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold, who is one of seven candidates running for sheriff, is in the news for using what sounds like an attempt at an east Indian accent in a 2010 faux complaint call that the Los Angeles Times reports was part of a prearranged skit recorded for a watch commander’s retirement party.

LAT’s Robert Faturechi reports:

The gag call starts out with Hellmold asking for “the watching commander,” a play on the traditional title of watch commander. In accented English, Hellmold says: “Deputy sheriff don’t care about the community….That’s why I call now.”

Back in 2010, when The Times first inquired about the call, a sheriff’s spokesman mostly defended the incident, calling it a “prearranged sound bite” that “did not influence public safety.”
But records reviewed by The Times show that after the newspaper’s inquiry, Hellmold received “documented counseling” in connection with the joke. Hellmold’s boss at the time wrote “you disguised your voice in a manner that sounded representative of another ethnic group.”

WLA obtained the recording as well, and learned from LASD sources that the call was criticized by department members at the time as immature and showing less than ideal judgement for someone of Hellmold’s then rank of captain.

On Friday, Hellmold’s campaign spokesman told the LA Times that the “candidate ‘certainly meant no disrespect” with the gag, ‘and regrets if anyone may have taken offense.’”


Posted in 2014 election, LASD, LWOP Kids, Sentencing | 13 Comments »

CDCR to Hire Staff to Speed Up Internal Investigations, Sen. Leland Yee Update, Baca’s Q&A with Loyola Marymount Students, and Todd Rogers’ “Reno 911!” Ads

March 28th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

CDCR TO HIRE MORE EMPLOYEES TO INVESTIGATE PRISON STAFF MISCONDUCT CASES

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will be hiring more employees to the Office of Internal Affairs to help expedite prison staff misconduct investigations, according to CDCR spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman. Among other changes, the CDCR will also require wardens to refer cases of alleged misconduct to the OIA within 45 days.

The reforms come in the wake of a lengthy 341-page semi-annual report by the California Office of the Inspector General highlighting issues within the prison system.

Don Thompson of the Associated Press has the story. Here’s a clip:

The changes come as a state inspector general released a two-volume, 341-page report criticizing the department for often failing to meet interim deadlines for investigating and disciplining cases of employee wrongdoing, including smuggling of cellphones and drugs, and having sexual contact with inmates. The report covers incidents between July and December 2013.

Hoffman said the department is drafting a new policy requiring wardens to refer cases for investigation within 45 days, fixing what the inspector general called “a heretofore neglected policy gap.” She could not immediately say how many more employees will be hired to fill vacant positions in the department’s Office of Internal Affairs to help reduce backlogs and delays.

She and the inspector general said their disagreement on the department’s handling of employee dishonesty cases involves a small but significant proportion of all allegations against employees. The department agreed to have supervisors review dishonesty allegations if there is a dispute with the inspector general’s office over whether formal disciplinary charges should be filed.


MORE ON THE BIZARRE LELAND YEE CORRUPTION CASE

If you missed it on Wednesday, California Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was arrested in an FBI corruption sting for alleged gun trafficking in exchange for donations to his campaign for California Secretary of State.

KPCC’s Sharon McNary has a roundup of eight of the weirdest things in the affidavit against Yee, his associate Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, and twenty-four others picked up in the sting. Here are the first four highlights:

Yee allegedly offers to connect the FBI’s undercover operative (who claims to be in an East Coast mafia family) with a weapons dealer. The dealer claimed to have contact with Muslim dissidents in the Philippines who can sell $2 million worth of that country’s military weapons, including shoulder-mounted missile launchers. Yee’s response: “Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money.”

Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow claims to be the “Dragonhead” of Chee King Tong, described as a fraternal organization that fronts for an organized crime group in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the affidavit says. Chow tells the FBI’s undercover operative that he can approve killings by group members. He’s also identified as a top player in an international organized crime group known as a triad.

Ex-con Chow and Yee’s campaign consultant Keith Jackson allegedly arranged to have a state Senate proclamation presented to Chow’s group. The cost? Just $6,800 in donations to one of Yee’s campaign committees. The ex-fugitive Chow also wanted to pay Yee to use his influence to have his bracelet monitor removed.

Yee allegedly confesses to the FBI’s undercover fake mafioso that he is unhappy in his life as a high ranking California politician, and that, at age 65, he just wants to run off and hide in the Philippines. Yee to undercover agent: “There is a part of me that wants to be just like you…Just be a free agent out there.”

Yee pulled out of the Secretary of State race, but had not yet stepped down from the Senate, as of Thursday night. His colleagues at the capitol are urging Yee to do so of his own volition, but are also preparing to vote, likely today (Friday), to suspend him with pay.

The LA Times’ Patrick McGreevy and Melanie Mason have more on the Yee scandal and its implications in Sacramento. Here’s a clip:

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has called for a Friday vote to sideline the San Francisco Democrat — with pay — if he does not leave voluntarily, action supported by the leader of the Republican minority.

Yee, arrested by the FBI in a criminal sting operation that also ensnared a notorious Bay Area gangster known as “Shrimp Boy,” abruptly ended his campaign to become California’s secretary of state in this year’s elections. But as of late Thursday, he had not quit the Senate.

“Leave,” Steinberg had said in an open plea to Yee at a news conference Wednesday. “Don’t burden your colleagues and this great institution with your troubles. Leave.”


BACA DISCUSSES HIS TIME AS HEAD OF THE LASD, IN RETROSPECT, AND THE CURRENT SHERIFF’S RACE WITH LOYOLA MARYMOUNT STUDENTS

Not one for the spotlight since he announced his retirement in January, former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca spoke with students in a rare Q&A session at Loyola Marymount about his 15 years as sheriff, and what he would do differently in hindsight.

The LA Times’ Robert Faturechi has the story. Here’s a clip:

“What I’d do differently is … manage more,” said Baca, looking relaxed during the two-hour question-and-answer session.

The former sheriff said he’s also coming to terms with criticism over his leadership of the department, which has been mired in various scandals including an FBI investigation into inmate abuse.

“You won’t hear anyone giving me credit for much of anything, which is OK,” he said. “Did I give it my heart and soul? I didn’t leave much space for anything else but the Sheriff’s Department.”

Baca said when he looks back, he realizes he spread himself too thin and should have focused more on the inner workings of the department. Baca was known for his community outreach as well as his frequent trips abroad for various cultural and law enforcement events.

“It’s amazing how hindsight is always clearer than foresight. I think what I can be clearly faulted for is I tried to do all things for all people. That’s asking for the impossible,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that the public doesn’t come first. It just means that your time comes first.”

One student asked Baca if he would have stayed on “if the scandals were not front page news.”

Baca, 71, blamed his age instead, saying that being sheriff “is definitely a younger man’s type of work.”

“People who were political professionals” told him he would have been the front-runner, but that the campaign was going to be tough. “I decided to say this is one for the future. I’m not the future,” he said.


“RENO 911!” CAST REUNITES IN ADS FOR LOS ANGELES SHERIFF CONTENDER TODD ROGERS’ CAMPAIGN

On Thursday, all but one cast member from the comedy television show “Reno 911!” reunited to film ads for sheriff candidate Todd Rogers’ campaign.

The Daily Breeze’s Beatriz Valenzuela has the story.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Todd Rodgers’ Reno 911 campaign moment was definitely our favorite elections news of the week. In the midst of all that is at stake with this sheriff’s race, it’s nice to be able to take a break for a well-costumed injection of law enforcement humor.

Posted in CDCR, environment, prison, Sheriff Lee Baca | 39 Comments »

Breaking News: Hostages Held at Homeboy Industries

March 27th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon

Thursday night: An armed former employee of Homeboy Industries is reportedly holding six-to-eight hostages in the Homeboy building at 130 Bruno St. in Chinatown, just north of Union Station.

Police got the call around 10:22.

Here’s what CBS Los Angeles has:

A man wearing a blue baseball cap and blue jeans reportedly walked into the business and said he was armed.

Homeboy Industries is located at 130 Bruno Street in the Chinatown area.

The company is comprised of men and women who used to be in gangs, ex-cons and other law breakers in programs that rehabilitate (including tattoo removal, employment services and counseling.) Homeboy also makes several products including taco chips and salsa.

At this time of night, we are told that only the night crew will be on working in the Homeboy Bakery at the back of the building.

Those associated with Homeboy are calling each other frantically, trying to find out more. (We at WLA have been getting some of those calls.)

The LAPD is investigating, with around 20 patrol cars reportedly at the scene. As of 11:30 pm it was not clear if SWAT had been called out, according to LAPD media spokesperson Officer Nuria Vanegas.

12:12: UPDATE: The Homeboy Building has reportedly been cleared with no hostages, and no gunman. Streets have been reopened.

Whew!

Posted in Homeboy Industries | 1 Comment »

State Sen. Leland Yee Arrested in Federal Corruption Sting, Sheriff Campaign Fundraising Update…and More

March 27th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

CALIFORNIA SEN. LELAND YEE INDICTED ON CORRUPTION CHARGES

State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was arrested Wednesday morning as part of an FBI corruption sting operation, along with “Shrimp Boy,” head of an international crime ring, and 24 others. Yee, who is was running for California Sec. of State, has, among other things, been accused of discussing gun trafficking (with an undercover FBI agent) in exchange for campaign donations.

We at WLA are saddened by this news, as Yee has authored a number of important juvenile justice and foster care bills (some of which we have pointed to here and here).

The LA Times’ Scott Gold, Joe Mozingo and Maura Dolan have the story. Here are some clips:

An affidavit filed in federal court in San Francisco by FBI Special Agent Emmanuel V. Pascua said there was probable cause to believe that Yee had conducted wire fraud and had engaged in a conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and illegally import firearms.

Yee, 65, was taken into custody in San Francisco on Wednesday and was seen being loaded into an unmarked law enforcement vehicle under an umbrella, his wrists handcuffed behind his back. He was set to be released on $500,000 bond after surrendering his passport.

The affidavit paints a portrait of Yee that is by turns seedy and bumbling, and one deeply at odds with the high-minded image he had long cultivated. Yee, a candidate for secretary of state, is accused of being willing to take varied and numerous steps to solicit campaign donations and sidestep legal donation limits.

For instance, he is accused of seeking an official state Senate proclamation in the spring of 2013 praising the Ghee Kung Tong Freemason lodge in San Francisco. Yee sought the proclamation, according to the court complaint, in exchange for a $6,800 donation to one of his campaigns — a donation that was paid by an undercover FBI agent.

The organized crime figure known as Shrimp Boy, whose name is Raymond Chow, identifies himself as the “dragon head” of that Freemason organization on his Facebook page. The indictment says that Chow, 54, whose criminal history includes racketeering and robbery, has a position of “supreme authority” in the Triad, an international organized crime group.

Yee is also accused of brokering an introduction between a prospective campaign donor and state legislators who had influence over medical marijuana legislation. It allegedly came in exchange for cash campaign donations that far exceeded legal limits — and were paid by the FBI.

The affidavit says that in August 2013, a prominent California political consultant who had been working to raise money for Yee’s campaigns told a prospective donor — an undercover federal agent — that Yee “had a contact who deals in arms trafficking.”

In exchange for campaign contributions, according to the affidavit, Yee would “facilitate a meeting with the arms dealer” so that the donor could buy a large number of weapons. The firearms would be imported through a port in Newark, N.J. At one meeting, the affidavit said, Yee and the prospective donor discussed “details of the specific types of weapons.”

All told, 26 people were identified as having violated federal statutes in the complaint. It was unclear how many were in custody. They were accused of participating in a free-ranging criminal ring that dabbled in a spectrum of activity, from illegal marijuana “grows” to a scheme to transport stolen liquor to China.

Read the rest of this strange and disappointing tale.

The San Jose Mercury’s Aaron Kinney looks from a different angle at Yee’s background and political history in light of Wednesday’s indictments. Here’s how it opens:

He was the first Asian-American speaker pro tempore of the California Assembly and a source of pride to many in the Bay Area’s thriving Chinese community. After rising to the highest ranks of the state Senate, he had a good shot at becoming California’s next secretary of state.

But Sen. Leland Yee’s political life effectively ended Wednesday when he was allegedly caught in a sordid web of murderous gangsters, gun runners and narcotics traffickers. And the breadth of the federal charges against him left his colleagues in the Legislature almost speechless.

“He’s been a leader on human services, foster care and juvenile justice issues,” said Jim Beall, D-San Jose. “For me, to see this happen to someone with that record, I just can’t understand it. I can’t comprehend it at all.”

The Democratic Party establishment, however, never really trusted the enigmatic Yee. That much became clear when Yee failed to gain a single endorsement from a top Democrat during his unsuccessful 2011 campaign for San Francisco mayor.

Born in China, Yee came to San Francisco when he was 3. He studied at UC Berkeley and received a doctorate in child psychology from the University of Hawaii. He began his political career in 1988 on the board of the San Francisco Unified School District.

In 1996, the child psychologist was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, where he began pushing for open government with his Sunshine Ordinance and established his independence from Mayor Willie Brown. He carried that reputation for bucking the party line to the Assembly in 2002, but his opponents claimed and his colleagues whispered that his true allegiances were to special interests and pay-to-play politics.

Mike Nevin, a former San Mateo County supervisor who ran against Yee for state Senate in 2006, echoed a common refrain in 2011 when he told the Bay Area News Group that Yee was an opportunist with no substance.

“He’s a personable enough guy,” said Nevin, who died in 2012. “There’s just no ‘there’ there.”


TANAKA TAKES THE LEAD IN LA SHERIFF RACE FUNDRAISING, NEARLY DOUBLING CLOSEST COMPETITOR

Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka has raised about $648,000 in sheriff campaign funds, almost double that of candidate with the next highest total, according to the latest fundraising records.

The candidates with the second and third highest numbers are Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold, who has raised $330,676, and Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell with $307,000. (It should be noted that both Hellmold and McDonnell—along with Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers—entered the race when former Sheriff Lee Baca announced his retirement January, months after the other four candidates began raising campaign money.)

The LA Times’ Robert Faturechi has an informative rundown on the fundraising numbers. Here’s a clip:

While Tanaka is leading the field, many of the race’s higher-profile candidates only entered the race in January and have had less time to raise money. During the most recent period, Tanaka came in third in fundraising.

During that period, which started in January when the current field of candidates was set, Assistant Sheriff Jim Hellmold led the field, bringing in over $330,676 in total contributions. His records show he has more than $205,000 in cash on hand, with less than $11,200 in outstanding debt.

Hellmold was one of the two internal candidates former Sheriff Lee Baca tapped to replace him.

Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell came in second during the most recent period, raising more than $307,000. He’s got over $132,500 in cash left, but roughly $277,000 in outstanding debt.

His donor list included high-profile backers such as current and former district attorneys Jackie Lacey and Steve Cooley.

Tanaka raised just over $266,885 during this period, which ended in mid-March. He has more than $186,440 in cash on hand, but also more than $91,000 in debt.

Records show he accepted contributions from several sheriff’s officials who left the department under a cloud, including a captain blamed for problems with jail abuse, a charity director ousted because of her ties with pot dispensaries and a captain who prosecutors said funneled secret information to an alleged Compton drug trafficker.

Read on for Todd Rogers, Bob Olmsted, Lou Vince, and Patrick Gomez’s numbers.


OP-ED: JURISDICTIONS SHOULD EVALUATE JUVENILE PROBATION DEPTS. AND COURT SERVICES TO BETTER SERVE KIDS

In an op-ed for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, John Tuell says that juvenile probation and court departments across the nation don’t collect enough data to make sure that the services they provide are effective, and that system-involved kids are getting the help they need. Tuell, the Executive Director for the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, suggests jurisdictions should follow the lead of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana (part of Greater New Orleans) where a system-wide probation evaluation resulted in a lowered recidivism rate, access to evidence-based treatment, and 16% fewer kids in lock-up.

Here’s a clip from Tuell’s op-ed:

Do current policies and procedures support effective practice? In many departments it is unclear what outcomes probation officers are seeking — or even that client outcomes should be the focus of their activities. Without this focus, probation officers often turn their attention to meeting contact frequency and paperwork requirements, which often has little if any impact on adolescent behavior.

Traditional interactions between probation officers and young people are frequently brief and focus too heavily on monitoring compliance and court-imposed conditions rather than developing rapport and supporting an intrinsic motivation to improve behavior. This is truly a missed opportunity, as current research suggests the relationship established between probation officers and youth is of the utmost importance in securing positive outcomes.

Are standardized and validated risk and needs assessments used to guide decision-making and planning? Even where such assessments are routinely used, case plans and targeted treatment interventions are often not developed in accordance with the results. Research indicates that too often when forming treatment plans, priority is given to court mandated interventions rather than what is indicated by assessments. Despite the best intentions of probation officers, the failure to use the assessment findings to inform structured professional judgment undermines the ability to ameliorate the risks for re-offending. This often translates to decreased community safety and a deeper penetration of the youth into the costly deeper-end alternatives of the juvenile justice system.

Do programs reflect an evidence-base of efficacy? Often, programs are adopted without sufficient consideration of empirical research regarding effectiveness of the program with the specific population being referred. The National Academy of Sciences, in a recent and comprehensive report, urges that “Programs for delinquents, whether evidence-based or not, should be subjected to rigorous evaluation to determine whether or not they are helpful, not just assumed to be so.” Data collection, management and analysis efforts are underutilized in routine oversight of program and department activities. The evaluation process frequently focuses only on outputs and not outcomes and is not effectively incorporated into policy and program reviews.

Our collective failure to consider these key aspects have resulted in less than ideal outcomes for youth involved with probation and court service interventions.

Posted in FBI, juvenile justice, LASD, Paul Tanaka | 8 Comments »

Proposal to Keep Kilpatrick Sports Program Alive…..Judge Nash Plans New Order to Open Family Courts to Media…Does the LASD IG Need Greater Independence?….& More

March 26th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon

NEXT CHAPTER ON THE ONGOING CAMP KILPATRICK SPORTS PROGRAM STORY


According to a motion sponsored at last Tuesday’s board meeting
by Supervisor Don Knabe, Probation Chief Jerry Powers was going to deliver a report on Tuesday of this week detailing exactly where and how he thought he could relocate the popular sports program that is right now in residence at Camp Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick is the aging LA County juvenile probation facility that will be shuttered and torn down starting at the end of this month in order to make way for a brand new rehabilitation-centric juvenile probation camp that it is intended to be a model for future camps that help kids rather than simply punish them.

However, as much as California juvenile advocates are in favor of the new Kilpatrick project, the many fans of the sports program don’t want to lose one good thing, in order to get another.

(For the back story on the Kilpatrick sports issue, see our post of last week.)

It was everyone’s assumption that Powers’ report would be presented publicly at Tuesday’s meeting. But a few days ago, that plan changed and Powers said he would simply deliver his report to the supervisors on Tuesday, without a public presentation.

The report in question was finally delivered to all the Supes Wednesday, and we have obtained a copy.

There’s lots of good news in what Powers has proposed, like the fact that Powers has set a firm timeline for the sports program reopening for the fall season. However, some of the details may produce complications—particularly the fact that the proposed location for the sports program is Challenger Memorial Youth Camp in the Lancaster area, more than an hour away from where Kilpatrick is now located in Malibu.

Yet, the proposal also describes the advantages that Camp Challenger has to offer, like two gymnasiums, multiple areas for practice fields, and others. It also helps that moving the sports program there will not displace any existing programs.

But it’s complicated.

Hopefully, all parties can come together in good faith to work out any rough spots so that the sports program can resume for the Fall 2014 season with even more support than it has had in the past—which is what Powers has made clear he wants.

We also hope that this new plan will continue to support the work of the extraordinarily dedicated Kilpatrick coaches who continue to give so much of themselves to the kids who have been under their care.

We’ll keep you up to date as this story unfolds further.

Here’s a copy of Wednesday’s report. Garfield sports proposal


JUDGE MICHAEL NASH’S EXCELLENT & LEGALLY TWEAKED PLAN TO RE OPEN CHILD CUSTODY COURTS TO THE PRESS

If you’ll remember, at the beginning of this month, in a 2-1 decision a California appeals court closed off press access to LA’s Juvenile Dependency hearings—aka where foster care cases are decided—in all but a few instances.

The ruling came more than two years after Judge Michael Nash, the presiding judge of LA county’s juvenile court, issued a blanket order opening the long-shuttered court system to the press, on January 31, 2012.

Undeterred, Judge Nash will soon issue a new order complying with the appellate court decision and laying out a new procedure for journalists and members of the public seeking access to dependency hearings.

Journalist/advocate Daniel Heimpel has more on the story in the Chronicle of Social Change.

Here’s a clip:

Today, Presiding Judge Michael Nash continued his campaign to encourage media access to Los Angeles County’s historically closed juvenile dependency court, after a California appeals court had invalidated a similar, earlier order only this month.

While Nash had called the changes a “a distinction without a difference,” in an interview with The Chronicle of Social Change last week, it appears that his new order will thread the needle on this highly contentious issue: by offering the press a way in, but forcing reporters to be conscious of the potential harm their coverage could cause to vulnerable children.

Nash sent a revision of his controversial 2012 order easing press access to a clutch of judges, journalists, child advocates and other stakeholders for comment. They have until April 14th, after which Nash intends on issuing a new order that will once again allow press into the courts.

Read the draft order HERE:

A key reason why two out of three judges in California’s Second Appellate District ruled against the 2012 order was because they believed it stripped individual judges and court referees of discretion in excluding the press from sensitive hearings involving child victims of maltreatment.

Nash’s rewritten order fixes all that.


DOES THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT’S NEW INSPECTOR GENERAL HAVE THE NECESSARY POWER AND INDEPENDENCE?

The LA Times Editorial Board thinks new IG Max Huntsman needs more independence if he is to be effective. Here’s a clip from the editorial:

It was no surprise last week when Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman recommended against renewing contracts with two agencies monitoring the Sheriff’s Department. The same citizens commission that called for the creation of Huntsman’s office also suggested that it absorb the functions of those other agencies, one of them established 22 years ago to report on excessive force and lax discipline, the other created nine years later to monitor the sheriff’s handling of deputy misconduct allegations.

One lesson arising from the commission’s hearings was that the county’s existing oversight and reporting agencies were insufficient to end a pattern of abuse in the jails; the implication was that a differently constructed and empowered office would be better suited to the task.

That lesson and that implication could stand some scrutiny. Without it, the county could find itself with new titles and offices but the same problems it failed to solve a decade ago and a decade before that.

Just why, for example, were the special counsel and the Office of Independent Review inadequate? The citizens commission noted that both did their investigations and reports but both met with a “lack of meaningful or timely action” by the Sheriff’s Department. And why did the department not respond? Because it didn’t have to. Criticism and critiques were filed by both monitors with the Board of Supervisors, which too often failed to use the political power at its disposal to develop sufficient public pressure to get the sheriff to act.

Read on.


A COOK COUNTY, ILL, JUDGE SENTENCED A KID TO DIE IN PRISON IN 1988 AND HATED THAT THE LAW MADE HIM DO IT

The Chicago Tribune’s Duaa Eldeib and Steve Mills report about how judges are glad that the US Supreme Court ordered an end to mandatory life for kids. Now various state courts are stepping in to put the Supremes ruling into motion.

Here’s a clip:

The Cook County judge made it quite clear he did not want to sentence Gerald Rice to life in prison without possibility of parole.

At the sentencing hearing in 1988, Judge Richard Neville noted that Rice was mildly mentally disabled and that evidence showed the 16-year-old had been coaxed by an older man into throwing a Molotov cocktail into a West Side house on a summer night two years earlier, killing a woman and three children. The co-defendant was acquitted.

Neville criticized state legislators for tying his hands and making a life sentence mandatory. Doing so, he said, stripped him of his discretion. He could not weigh Rice’s age, maturity level, lack of a criminal record or his role in the murders. Urging Rice’s attorney to appeal, the judge said he hoped that such mandatory sentences would be outlawed someday.

“I think it is outrageous that I cannot take that into consideration in determining what an appropriate sentence is for Mr. Rice,” a transcript quoted Neville as saying about Rice’s fate compared with his co-defendant’s. “It is with total reluctance that I enter the sentence, and it is only because I believe I have no authority to do anything else that I enter this sentence.”

Nearly a quarter-century later, the U.S. Supreme Court fulfilled the judge’s hopes, ruling that mandatory life sentences violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Last week the state’s highest court weighed in, ruling that inmates in Illinois who received mandatory life sentences for murders that they committed as juveniles should receive new sentencing hearings.

“It’s a judge’s job and usually they’re the best qualified to decide what kind of sentence is appropriate,” Neville said last week. “I’ve got the most information and the best view of what happened and of the defendant’s background.”

Neville retired from the bench in 1999 and now is a mediator.

The ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday affects about 100 inmates who were under 18 at the time of their offenses, according to state prison officials. The youngest four were 14, while about half were 17. The vast majority were sentenced in Cook County. Most were convicted of more than one murder.

Posted in Board of Supervisors, Courts, DCFS, Foster Care, juvenile justice, LWOP Kids, Probation, Supreme Court | 2 Comments »

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