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New Sheriff Halts Civilian Deputy Program, the Plight of LA’s Juvenile Indigent Defense, Entrepreneurial Education for Prisoners, and the Loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman

February 3rd, 2014 by Taylor Walker


Interim Sheriff John Scott suspended the “field deputy” (or civilian aide) program on his first day as sheriff, and just one day after an ABC7 investigation raised questions about the duties—or seeming lack thereof—of Michael Yamaki, one of three highly paid field deputies who retired with Lee Baca. (A previous ABC7 investigation found an illegal marijuana dispensary was operating on a commercial property owned by another of the civilian deputies, Bishop Edward Turner, who was subsequently asked to retire by Lee Baca.)

Sheriff Scott’s decision was a strong move that signals he will likely be a refreshingly proactive sheriff in departmental reform. The suspension will be effective for the duration of Scott’s term (until December, unless someone is elected in the June primary).

This story also demonstrates the importance of reporting, in that ABC7’s two reports—on Bishop Turner and on Yamaki—focused a light on this little-publicized program that has cost the county of Los Angeles more than $501 thousand a year in salary alone (not counting such deputy perks as a county car and cell phone).

ABC7 has the update on the on-going field deputy saga. Here are a couple of clips:

On his first day as interim sheriff, John Scott is suspending the civilian field deputy program and launching an official inquiry into possible misuse of county funds following an Eyewitness News investigation.

“There are concerns, so Sheriff Scott needs time, and that’s why he has the inquiry being conducted, so that he knows where he’s going to take it from here,” said L.A. Sheriff’s Captain Mike Parker.

The news comes one day after an Eyewitness News investigation raised questions about the $171,000 salary of retiring Field Deputy Michael Yamaki.

Yamaki was a senior civilian advisor to former Sheriff Lee Baca. Yamaki had no sheriff’s department office, no phone line, and appeared to spend work days at the exclusive Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. Yamaki is also a longtime friend of Baca and loaned him $20,000 in his first campaign for sheriff. Eyewitness News filed a Public Records Act request asking for Yamaki’s work calendars and a description of his job. We were told that neither of those things exists.

In response to the investigation, LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said that an audit of the sheriff’s department may be in order, as well as term limits for the sheriff’s position.

“It may be necessary for us to order an audit of the sheriff’s department and have independent eyes look at some of these very serious internal matters,” said Ridley-Thomas.

Thomas says major changes to the position of sheriff itself may be needed.

“There’s a big debate as to whether or not this should be an elected office in the first place,” he said.

Ridley-Thomas says if the sheriff remains an elected position, the supervisors should look at potential term limits.

By the way, here is a video of Sheriff John Scott’s swearing in—in case you missed it—in which he states his intentions to “restore respect” to the department.

(And, the new spokesman for both the LASD and sheriff is Captain Michael Parker, whose face you’ll undoubtedly see on camera a lot more.)


Panel attorneys are assigned to youth defendants who cannot be represented by a public defender (about 11,000 in LA County), due to conflict of interest. (For instance, if two kids are charged with committing a crime together, the public defender’s office can only represent one of the defendants.)

LA’s panel attorneys receive a flat rate of about $350 for the duration of a case, no matter how long it takes. The set fee means that there is no financial incentive to provide young defendants with quality representation.

On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors will be considering a motion to conduct an analysis of the current juvenile indigent defense system, including how the attorneys are compensated.

In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, Carol Chodroff, a juvenile policy attorney and former public defender, urges the Board of Supervisors to pass the motion. Here’s a clip:

Los Angeles has one of the largest juvenile justice systems in the world, processing approximately 20,000 youths annually. About 11,000 of these youths are ineligible for representation by the public defender because of a conflict of interest. They are represented instead by appointed panel attorneys who receive a flat fee of approximately $350 for the life of a case, regardless of its complexity.

This perverse compensative scheme penalizes panel attorneys for doing the work required to zealously represent youthful clients. The resulting arbitrary and disparate treatment of children in the Los Angeles juvenile delinquency system is destructive, expensive, and unconstitutional.

As any young person who has been through the juvenile justice system can attest, the quality of representation he or she receives is critical. Children in the justice system need trained attorneys who can obtain crucial records and advocate for children’s medical, educational, mental health, social, and emotional needs. These same attorneys must also protect children’s constitutional rights by interviewing the child, employing investigators, having expert witnesses appointed, objecting to inadmissible evidence at adjudicatory hearings, advocating for the least restrictive alternative at disposition, and pressing, at every stage, for the child’s expressed interests.

Public defenders are prepared to provide such quality representation. They are carefully vetted, receive extensive training, rewarded for zealous representation, and held to clear standards.

Not surprisingly, the data demonstrate public defenders are more active in the courtroom, and more likely to file motions, have expert witnesses appointed, and request release and dismissal of their juvenile clients’ cases than contract panel attorneys, who are financially penalized for hard work and not subject to any specialized training requirements.

The current inequitable system leads to less favorable outcomes for youth represented by panel attorneys, and can have dire consequences for youth, at disposition and afterwards.

The U.S. Department of Justice has found that when contract systems are created for the purpose of containing costs, they pose significant risks to the quality of representation and the integrity of the criminal justice system.

Gerald Uelman, executive director of California’s Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, has called the spread of low-bid, flat-fee representation “a race to the bottom.”


Steve Mariotti, founder of a non-profit entrepreneurial program for at-risk young people—the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)—had 1,000 out-of-print copies of the NFTE’s guide to starting a business. Mariotti decided to donate them to the NY Dept. of Corrections.

That first donation started a decades-long correspondence between NFTE and incarcerated men all over the country. Thousands of letters poured in from inmates inspired by the guide and eager to use their newfound knowledge to fulfill dreams of starting their own businesses and non-profits to help others and support their families.

In a piece for the Huffington Post, Mariotti asks if entrepreneurial and financial education would change the futures these men face when they are released. Here are some clips:

At first, the letters came in intermittently, one or two every week. Some came directly from inmates responding to the donated books, others through ITEM (Inmates Teaching Entrepreneurship and Mentoring). ITEM, a program I co-founded in 2004 with Joe Robinson, trained inmates in the basics of financial literacy. Joe’s genius wasn’t just to teach inmates how to start and run their own businesses, but to strategically help them re-engage with their family, particularly their children. When a man is released he is given around $40 and a bus ticket to the city in which he was arrested. Because 70 percent of men released from prison will be locked up again within two years, this program was paramount.

Now, the letters come almost every day, and NFTE has since received over 10,000 letters from men in prison. Yet, these letters are more than just requests for more books on entrepreneurship, or notes of thanks for the donations. They express a hopefulness inspired by their newfound knowledge of entrepreneurship, and offer us a rare chance to hear directly from men whose lives have been stunted by incarceration.

About five months ago, I enlisted the help of my friends Victor and Meredith, professionals with invaluable experience working within women’s prisons. Together, we read over 500 letters received from 2009 to 2013. Meredith and Victor then selected 70 letters that gave special insight into the roots of American male imprisonment.

The findings were both fascinating and depressing. Ultimately, the letters confirm what we already suspected about the pathways to prison: a life of poverty, drug-related crimes, and unstable home environments. What was most notable, however, was their relationship with education. These histories did not mention mentorship, or a powerful — let alone consistent — engagement with education. As an educator and advocate for at-risk youth, I was particularly struck by their various expressions of detachment from and discouragement with the education system.


Within the pages of these letters, they disclose their immense will to learn, and their natural talents as entrepreneurs. Some are passionate to start nonprofits for youth who that they worry may fall prey similar channels of confinement. Most profound, however, is their eagerness to learn more and their hopefulness to become a productive part of society — where they can share and carry out their visions and give back to their communities.


On Sunday, the world lost arguably one of the most brilliant and infinitely versatile actors of our time. Philip Seymour Hoffman played an impressive 63 roles during his too-short, 23-year career, according to IMDB.

The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson calls Hoffman “the greatest actor of his generation.” (I agree.) Here are a couple of clips:

Famous deaths invite hyperbole. The news that Philip Seymour Hoffman was discovered dead today in an apartment bathroom, with a syringe sticking out of his arm, seems like an occasion to overreact with some exaggerated summary of his career—something like “most talented and kaleidoscopic actor of his time.”

Except, in this case, the compliment isn’t hyperbolic at all. It’s just an accurate description, as true yesterday as it is today. And the competition isn’t even that close.


It’s not clear that there were roles Philip Seymour Hoffman could not do. He had so many lives within him—and more, undiscovered and unseen. Those are the lives, aside from his own, we’ve now lost. “For me, acting is torturous,” Hoffman told the New York Times in 2008, “and it’s torturous because you know it’s a beautiful thing. I was young once, and I said, That’s beautiful and I want that. Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great—well, that’s absolutely torturous.”

Here are a couple of scenes from Hoffman’s prolific career:

As Lester Bangs in Cameron Crow’s Almost Famous…

And two from his transcendent performance as Truman Capote…

Posted in juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD, prison, Reentry, Sheriff Lee Baca | 15 Comments »

15 Responses

  1. J.London Says:

    Sheriff Scott was right in replacing Whitmore. I had hoped (I hate that word hope!) that a person with more credibility would have selected. Mike Parker is just a loose cannon. But, Sheriff Scott must pay a lot more attention to what Parker says and does behind the scenes!

  2. Wuzfuzz Says:

    Mark Ridley-Thomas is asking for an internal audit of the Sheriff’s Department? Sure it’s needed, but should the BOS really ask for that before they get their own house in order? And to change to term limits, state law must be changed. Baca won that court battle. The County is powerless to limit powers of the Sheriff given by Constitutional authority. Maybe he should spend more time auditing building permits.

    And then let’s start with the three or four Field Deputies that each member of the Board are allowed. Most of them are filled with family members or friends of friends. How much does that cost and what about their County cars?

    And don’t get me started about the “discretionary” funds each member of the Board are alloted each year which exceeds three million dollars each year. No one approves expenditures from these slush funds. This is taxpayer money that is spent solely to assist each member get re-elected by parceling it out to their local subjects in each district or to spend on their pet projects. Let’s audit those funds for the last ten years and report publicly on how that money was spent.

    I hope John Scott does more than cancel a program that was self cancelling with the resignation of Lee Baca. Each of them automatically loses their free buffet at the County trough when Baca left office. One would hope that Sheriff John focuses his attention on the remaining members of the EPC and unit commanders.

  3. jim hitchcock Says:

    Two lesser known roles that showed Hoffman at his tormented best were Love, Lisa and Owning Mahowny.

  4. Cognistator Says:

    On the issue of term limits for the Sheriff the voters approved just such a measure back in November of 2004, the Superior Court struck the measure down, and the Board of Supervisors declined to appeal that ruling further up the appellate ladder. That is where things now stand. More details from the L.A. Times:

  5. CSN83 Says:

    I understand and totally agree with Sheriff Scott’s decision to remove Baca’s former “spokesman,” my only question is, why in the world are we paying a Captain’s salary to someone to give news briefs, etc.? I have always thought OCSD’s Jim Amormino has seemed to do a good job. He sounds sane & speaks in complete sentences, unlike Whit-less. He was a retired LAPD guy; not sure what his rank at retirement was, but it seems like a great job for the right retiree.

  6. Stinkin badges Says:

    I was hoping Sheriff Scott’s first move was to fire Whitmore, but 2nd move is not bad. Good start!!

    Searchlight, I hope you’re right about the cigar club coin list. Those cancers need to be weeded out immediately before any healing can begin. I pray Sheriff Scott puts on his surgical gloves. Start with the specialized units and then take a close look at the Lt n Sgt promotion lists. There are some complete dimwits on these lists. If it wasn’t for Tall Paul’s minions spoon feeding them the test questions, they would have never passed the test. Just cross reference the Lt n Sgt lists with Paul Tanaka’s donation lists.

    Also, nice try Paul at trying to take over PPOA. Thank God there were enough good people to outvote your minions. The light is dimming on your political career my friend. Feds are a coming. You forgot you made incriminating statements to David Ono in March 2013. Oooooohhh no!!!

    Celeste, can you be a sweetheart please and post the Tanaka donation lists again? I think we all need to look at them to see for ourselves. More importantly, Sheriff Scott needs them to see who bought their promotions!!! The only way to get rid of weeds is to pull them 1 at a time.

    This is from a guy who just wants to clean the manure off his badge and be proud of LASD once again. Respectfully submitted.

  7. Jack Dawson Says:

    Sheriff Scott when are you going to get your cigar coin?

    I hear/see Rhambo, Betkey, and Goran are still sparking them up at 1600?

    Please show me any other multi-billion corporation’s executives who have that much time on their hands. Of course, Betkey knows everything there is about computers and Rhambo has never applied for another job.

    Just warming up the seats until the cruiser comes back to town.

    Old wine new bottle if you ask me.

  8. Cognistator Says:

    #1: More on Mike Parker:

    Publish or perish? Not likely with capt. Parker, with over 100 articles published.

  9. Nancy Drew Says:

    Good for Mike! His accomplishment is a positive reflection on the LASD. With him as spokesperson we are back to the tradition of SHB captain being the face for the Sheriff and LASD. I personally believe he is apolitical and represents us well. The Nixle and Alert LA programs have been a great success both internally and to the community.

  10. J.London Says:

    Parker is a loose cannon! You know that you are Mike! Just use your own name. Still bragging about yourself; your favorite subject!

  11. Cognistator Says:

    #10: “Still bragging about yourself….”

    Yeah but, as the link I provided indicates, he’s got a lot to rightfully brag about.

    Personally, I think Parker’s appointment points the direction Sheriff Scott is going, and it looks like a good one.

    Sheriff Scott, stay on course!!

  12. lol Says:

    Despite the negative press,rumors of indictment and the John and Ken debacle, Paul Tanaka was able to fundraise more than all candidates, including Baca ($312,000), who was the incumbent at the time. Looks like Tanaka ($381,000) is in the lead at this time and from what I hear, his fundraising has increased ten times since the Sheriff stepped down. His momentum continues to grow!

    Good luck to all the candidates…..

  13. Stuff Says:

    That’s great that Tanaka has raised 381,000, his accounting skills will come in handy when he has to crunch numbers and distribute monetary amounts to each inmate in his Federal Prison Module to prevent a handball being stuffed in his mouth on the exercise yard.

  14. Come on man Says:

    #12 lol
    Come on man! Do you really believe Baca wanted to step down? You buy that? Tanaka said that Baca was obsessed with getting reelected during a news interview. In the same interview,Baca made a statement to the reporter that Tanaka was “In the loop more than me” re: Operation Pandora’s Box.
    Isn’t it pretty clear to you that Baca was told he better go ahead and step down before the Feds show
    up on the 4th floor and arrest him? How do you interpret Baca’s last minute, totally unexpected retirement and him saying it was because he wanted to “Go out on his own terms”?
    All the evidence points to a real crap storm heading Baca’s way. If or when it arrives, he’s made it plain during that news interview that he’s going to drag Tanaka right into the middle of it. Tanaka already admitted during a different news interview that he was aware of Pandora’s Box. In effect he said he was following Baca’s orders. Isn’t it clear to you that when as soon as it starts raining on Baca he’s going to lay Tanaka out? What do you think the guys who were already indicted are telling the Feds?
    Do you really think that when the storm hits, all the evidence says it’s going to, the sky is getting awfully dark, Tanaka will be electable? Do you think his ability to raise money will trump an indictment and the megatons of negative stories in the media that will follow?
    Come on man!

  15. Time to Clean House Says:

    I guess Scott didn’t have a coin like the rest of us. As of today Rhambo , Betkey, and Goran are going to have to find someplace else to smoke those cigars.

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