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The Robber v. the Judge’s Gut…. 2 LASD Deputies Camp & Draw Guns …..Gov. Jerry Offers “No Promise, No Hope”….Prison Hunger Strike: How Will It End?


In 1999 Judge Richard Kopf sentenced a young bank robber to 147 months in prison after the armed law-breaker, a 23-year-old named Shon Hopwood, pleaded guilty to five counts of bank robbery, and one count of “using a firearm during a crime of violence.” In addition, the judge ordered Hopwood to pay $134,544.22 in restitution.

The judge glumly assumed that the sentence would not be enough to keep the armed robber from a future life of crime.

“My gut told me that Hopwood was a punk–—all mouth, and very little else,” wrote Kopf on his blog, “Hercules and the Umpire,” earlier this month.

As it turned out, Kopf’s gut feeling did not dictate the rest of the story.

Adam Liptak writes about the tale of the judge and the “punk” armed robber in Tuesday’s New York Times. Here’s a clip:

A 23-year-old bank robber named Shon R. Hopwood stood before a federal judge in Lincoln, Neb. He asked for leniency, vowing to change.

Judge Richard G. Kopf had no patience for promises. “We’ll know in about 13 years if you mean what you say,” he said. It was 1999.

Judge Kopf reflected on the exchange this month. “When I sent him to prison, I would have bet the farm and all the animals that Hopwood would fail miserably as a productive citizen when he finally got out of prison,” he wrote on his blog. “My gut told me that Hopwood was a punk — all mouth, and very little else.”

“My viscera was wrong,” Judge Kopf went on. “Hopwood proves that my sentencing instincts suck.”

Judge Kopf had just heard the news that Mr. Hopwood, now a law student, had won a glittering distinction: a clerkship for a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is generally considered the second most important court in the nation, after the Supreme Court.

Mr. Hopwood’s remarkable ascent began in the prison law library, where he became not only a good jailhouse lawyer but also a successful Supreme Court practitioner. Persuading the justices to hear a case is a roughly 100-to-1 proposition, but the court granted the first petition Mr. Hopwood filed….

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m partial to tales like this one because, in the course of my reporting, I’ve been privileged to know a remarkable number of men and women whom others have written off for their early mistakes, and who had nearly written themselves off out of terrible childhood wounds, yet who somehow found the needed courage to transform the trajectory of their lives.


Two LA County Sheriff’s Deputies have been arrested and relieved of duty (with pay) after the deputies each allegedly angrily brandished, then fired their guns while staying at a popular family campground in Prado Regional Park. The incident, which occurred at around 1:30 Sunday morning, is thought to have started as a verbal conflict over loud music.

Prado is a 2000-acre regional park in San Bernardino County, well-liked for its camp facilities, fishing lake, hiking, biking and nature trails, and activities such as disc golf.

The shots were reportedly fired in the air and not aimed at anyone, according to Chino police.  

It should be noted, however, that shots fired into the air can be deadly, as has occasionally been the case on New Year’s Eves past when revelers fired guns skyward with unintentionally tragic results.

LASD spokesman Steve Whitmore was particularly emphatic on the topic.  “Firing a gun into the air is absolutely one of the most negligent and dangerous things a person can do because when the bullet comes down people can be injured or killed. And for law enforcement to do that makes this more reprehensible!” he said. 

Whitmore was quick to add that the investigation was in progress, and that the allegations against the deputies were just that, allegations.

“But, on the surface of it,” he continued, “this is an event that is going to be career changing.”

Robert Faturechi of the LA Times broke the story and reported that neither of the deputies—one of whom works at the county courts, the other for the LASD’s transit services— knew that the other was law enforcement until after the reported weapons brandishing and shot firing.  

According to Whitmore, the two deputies, DeJay Barber, 44, and Matthew Rincon, 24, joined the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department in November 2001, and November 2007, respectively.


Dan Whitcom from Reuters has this story about the resistance from some prominent state legislators to Governor Jerry Brown’s latest shockingly expensive and regressive plan to address the state’s ongoing prison overcrowding problem. Here’s the relevant clip:

…Though Brown’s joint appearance with Republican leaders and Democratic Assembly Speaker John Perez suggested bipartisan support for his plan, Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg took immediate issue with the bill.


“The governor’s proposal is a plan with no promise and no hope. As the population of California grows, it’s only a short matter of time until new prison cells overflow and the Court demands mass releases again,” Steinberg said in a written statement.

“More money for more prison cells alone is not a durable solution; it is not a fiscally responsible solution; and it is not a safe solution,” he said. “We must invest in a durable criminal justice strategy, which reduces both crime and prison overcrowding.”

According to the governor’s office, his plan would allocate $315 million for the state to “expeditiously” lease in-state and out-of-state prison capacity, including at county jails and private facilities.

Brown’s proposal comes as new attention is being focused on California prisons during a hunger strike by inmates to protest conditions in special housing units where some prisoners are held for prolonged periods in isolation.


Tuesday marks the 51st day of the California prison hunger strike that is being run out of the Security Housing Unit—or SHU—at Pelican Bay.

With approximately 43 people still continuing to strike (out of what was originally thousands), force feeding is about to start. However, the Governor and the CDCR higher-ups insist that they won’t negotiate until the striking stops.

The strikers, however, feel that if they stop, they will lose their only leverage.

So how to break the stalemate?

Writing for the Nation Magazine, former California State Senator Tom Hayden suggests some alternatives to the all or nothing stance of the Brown administration. Here’s a clip from the middle Hayden’s column:

…So what options do the hunger strikers have now? With the governor taking a fundamentalist line, only a fast-track restoration of checks and balances by the courts and legislature, propelled by public questioning, might yield a breakthrough.

• The first track to a solution is the legal one. A federal judge upheld a class action suit by ten hunger strikers, most of them in solitary confinement for two decades, that they have been subject to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment and denial of a meaningful process to challenge their indefinite confinement. But Governor Brown has adopted a defiant stance towards court monitoring, and the case will not be resolved before it is too late for the fasting inmates.

• The second track is a possible emergency hearing by state legislators worried about a massive state prison system on which they spend billions but which is beyond their control. The hearing could give voice to the inmates demands, send a message to Brown, and draw the crisis into the light of public debate. It might convince the isolated inmates to live to fight in another forum. It would take an immediate signal from the legislature, which has yet to make a decision.

• The third track is the mobilization of public questioning and protest. While the public has no love for prison gangs, there is increased questioning of the costs of the governor’s continual quarrels with the courts…

NOTE: Earlier this month, the CDCR’s new head guy, Jeffrey Beard, wrote an op ed for the LA Times saying that the strike’s organizers are all leaders in the various prison gangs, who are and are asking for more privileges by “putting lives at risk to advance their own agenda of violence.”

There is no question that the power wielded by California’s prison gangs is a deeply corrosive problem that has proved extremely difficult to combat.

Yet, many of the changes these “bad guy” leaders are requesting are just quality of life improvements…like wall calendars, the right to wear watch caps and sweats, no more group punishment, and the chance to occasionally see the sunlight. Perhaps we are missing something, but it is hard for us to see how occasional access to sunlight, and the like, will strengthen the power of EME and/or AB shot callers.

Here, by the way, is an essay in LA Progressive by CUNY Sociology professor Denis O’Hearn, who got to know the hunger strike’s most notorious organizer, Todd Ashker. What O’Hearn has to say about his experiences with Ashker and some of the other strike leaders in the so-called Short Corridor Collective, is interesting and challenges much of what has been uncritically accepted in the media.


  • I love the “social justice” mentality.

    Armed robbers who “turn their lives around” and finally do something right are celebrated. Yet law enforcement officers who risked their lives and did right for years, maybe decades, get thrown out with the weekly trash because they messed up one time.

    Gotta love this brave new world!

  • It would be very telling to have current and former Personnel Administration staff hauled in front of a grand jury and forced to testify under oath about all the wonderful people they hired that did not meet standards that executives kept shifting on a daily basis.

    I’ve lost count of all the deputies fired/resigned/quit in disgrace, but I do know over the last five years it’s been more than the last fifty COMBINED!

    How’s that for Baca and Tanaka’s legacy?

  • Just maybe before firing someone we should give them their day in court. According to Jack it sounds like there is more to this story than what “Ditmore” says. We all know how he likes to spin things around.
    At this point I would trust JD over Ditmore.

  • @ #2 “NCCF Slap”: I agree with you to a certain extent, about being “quick to throw them out with the trash,” but here is where I get a little confused. Why is it that the “new breed” of Cop (not necessarily you, unless it applies)is quick to get upset that now days people want to quickly dismiss/fire these guys when we all know things of this nature “probably” has happened in the past and gone unreported or addressed (lets say 15 plus years ago for the sake of argument). Yet, this same “new breed” complains about being treated as a “trainee” with lessons geared towards developing their memory, officer safety issues and testing your breaking point, by labeling it hazing.

    So my point is, when it comes to screwing up they want people to be more tolerable like they were 15 years ago, but when it comes to learning from seasoned veterans they don’t want to be tolerable of the training style from 15 years ago? You can’t have your cake and eat it too, as we’ve heard hundreds of times throughout our lives, yet they still try!

  • Social justice? Seems clear, convicted felon (armed robber) turns life around….okay, didn’t see that one coming or expect it. He’s a dirt bag. He does what he does: dies, goes to jail, or reforms. But two coppers, who know better (it’s not like they just drove up), bustin’ caps….what-warning shots? For what? Okay, no details, but hella lotta ‘splainin to do. Yeah, this isn’t a Compton Station gather and shoot, an Alondra Park hoe down, or an extracurricular video, but it is kinda trashy…especially from guys who aren’t supposed to be dirt bags. I guess they should be mentored and promoted.

  • 100  million dollars in lawsuits in three years. Judgements  and settlements that total  over  5 million  dollars for this month alone.  We are still hiring candidates that other agencies rejected for law enforcement careers. If you dumb enough to do something  serious enough to risk your career and the reputation of an already embattled agency,good riddance.

  • In the past Baca would have used his “weasel room” to decide what to do with these guys. Baca’s infamous inconsistent application of policy applied to who you know (or campaign contributed to) rather than what you know. Because of all the heat put on Baca and with Tanaka gone these two will be fired barring any unforeseen circumstances.

    Again, all this loss of public trust and the personal sacrifice by so many just so Baca could feed his ego!

  • @#8 “Eyeswideopen”: Don’t get me wrong. Then and now, in my opinion, is clearly irresponsible criminal behavior. What I was trying to address with “NCCF Slap” was his inference to the “Brave New World” of handling things.

  • Actually my “brave new world” comment was about the juxtaposition of stories on the same page of this social justice site – celebrated felon vs. bad cops.

    I don’t condone bad behavior – never capped rounds at off-training parties, retirements, or other such get-togethers. I know the sheriff is under tremendous pressure to show he’s doing the right things these days, which likely means the end of the deputies’ careers. If there is any mitigation whatsoever, hopefully they consider 30-day suspensions with long-term restrictive contracts that hold termination in abeyance.

    Everybody sees the difference in young deps these days. But there’s only so much any department can do to screen out problem employees. This isn’t a new phenomenon. LASD didn’t just open up new units called ICIB and IAB yesterday – they’ve been investigating criminal and administrative misconduct for decades. Let’s not forget ARCO-Narco, the credit card fraud ring, the murder of Sgt. Arthur by a fellow deputy, a litany of dope-selling deps in the jails, and the list goes on.

    Don’t give up hope – we are LASD, and we will move forward.

  • Maybe we will or we won’t move forward. Meanwhile, my question is “has it always been so bad or blatant?” Or “were folks better at hiding or covering things up?” There are way too many captains and commanders involved in serious shenanigans, not to mention sergeants and lieutenants, too. Beyond running roughshod over folks who aren’t in the car, there are way too many “stoopid” supervisors who don’t know any better or don’t care. Honestly, this place runs more like a frat house than a law enforcement agency. It’s really disturbing. We look pathetic. Where are the grown ups?

  • The Sgt Test Cheating allegations must of been much to do about nothing. The Dept is moving forward with promotional process and keeping the scores and issuing them out to all that took the test.

  • @ “NCCF Slap”: Good points and I, too, hope they can explain their behavior for the sake of their careers. If not, then obviously they need to go!

    And yes, we are LASD and we will survive, but we need to get new leadership and restore the pride in being LASD!

  • @”perhaps”: It’s easy to be blatant when there’s no accountability. The only people accountable, are those who choose not to be “in the car” and speak their mind. There has always been some politics, but there use to be two sides. Hard working Deps backed by Execs who worked hard and remembered from where they came, and the kiss butts who would do whatever it took to promote. The latter have taken over the Department and the hard workers just choose to retire and quietly go into retirement.

    @”show me code six”: In true Department fashion, there have been some sacrificial lambs and as long as no one makes a stink or files a lawsuit it will get “brushed under the carpet.” I saw that coming when the Monday after the test, Whitmore showed the Department’s hand when he said the investigation was going to be wrapped up quickly. How can you make a statement like that unless you don’t intend to be thorough. If they dig to deep they might come across some of the “chosen ones!”

  • It comes down to $$ re the promotional tests. It will cost too much to put on another test and require budgeted money the Dept. does not have to spend. Kudos to the Deps that were honest.

  • ShowMeCode6, are you kidding? The same people that stand to lose everything if the truth is unveiled are telling you it’s all okay and you want to believe them? I hope your analytical skills are not currently in use in any investigative capacity.

    The department will do what it always does: cover up and move on by promoting all the test cheaters. They can’t accuse anyone directly because then how did someone get their hands on the test, other than from those with access to it? This is not your garden-variety peeking at your neighbor’s test, this is organized compromising of the test materials in advance in order to game the results.

    The cheating scandals won’t end until there is a new administration that understands what integrity means. Baca, Tanaka, and all of their protégés who gamed the system should know their day is coming.

  • Just to clarify, the Sergeants’ Intent to Promote list that was published last night is off of the OLD exam, NOT the one that is currently under investigation. From what I understand, the investigation is not finished yet, & I do hope a thorough investigation is completed. Our Department spokesman has no idea how long an investigation would/should/could take, so his comments, once again or as usual, are unsupported. However, does anyone know if Olmsted’s comment on Larry Elder is correct? I can’t remember if he said 18 or 22 people have been relieved of duty behind the alleged cheating on the current exam? I have heard BOTH numbers, so I’m not sure if this is true or just rumor.

  • #19, thanks for the clarification on the intent to promote list out on JDIC last night.

  • The number of personnel ROD has changed due to statements and evidence. One real question that needs to be answered will never see the light of day! What connections do the ROD folks have with Tanaka and Baca? Maybe the new sheriff can one day answer this. The gang all here as the song goes!

  • Let’s say there are two groups of campers at Prado late on a Sunday night.
    Within each camping group is an off duty LASD deputy. Each deputy has brought a revolver to the campground.

    Question #1: is it legal for anyone, with the exception of on duty law officer on assignment, to possess a loaded firearm within the Prado Regional Recreation Area?

    A verbal dispute over the subject of loud music occurs between the 2 groups of campers.
    Deputy #1 then brandishes his revolver.

    Question #2: what law has deputy #1 violated by the brandishment and what corresponding code of LASD conduct?

    Deputy #2 sees the brandishment committed by deputy #1.
    Deputy #2 fears for the safety and lives of his fellow campers. Deputy #2 then brandishes his revolver and fires two shots into the air as a warning to deputy #1 that he is armed and prepared to defend himself and his group. Deputy #2 then attempts to contact authorities and also instructs his group to begin exiting the area in a safe and organized manner.

    Question #3: has deputy #2 broken any law or violated any LASD code of conduct?

    Upon hearing Deputy #2 fire two warning shots into the air, Deputy #1 wants to demonstrate that the weapon which he brandished is authentic and make clear that he is prepared to defend himself and his group. Deputy #1 fires one shot into the air.

    Question #4: has Deputy #1 broken the law or LASD code of conduct by the single shot warning discharge?

  • Cognistator, don’t encourage him. Please let Ali Bubba go right down the rabbit hole and take his motives and his motif with him.

  • If anyone would know where park cameras are would be “mo.” Add, Mo believes that Donner was innocent! Don’t pay her any mind!

  • Paul Tanaka is about as good a candidate  for Sheriff, as Robert Rizzo would be for the Mayor of Bell. Paul is just  too arrogant to realize and take responsibility for the damage he contributed  to the department. He can accuse Leroy of  a lot, but Leroy will counter with “Why didn’t you step up  as the second in command?”  I think Baca and Tanaka’ s chances are gone with federal indictments expected at the end on the year. Even if they are not named. Interesting filing on the civil service hearings for next week. We have a Lt. appealing his July 30, 2013 discharge. So far over 60 discharges and demotions filed for civil service hearings. Not many of them have been reinstated.

  • Clean House, based on the well publicized discharge case you are referring to, I would say his “discharge” is the least of his worries. Iben Robben.

  • The Holiday weekend is over – and class is in session. Professor Sheriff Baca is teaching a lesson. For those who may have forgotten over the summer, your attention to the podium ,please!

    Professor Baca is giving a quick review and demonstration of the Sheriff Baca System. While Sheriff Baca lectures the national politicians on why Kindergarten is very good for the young children(warm and fuzzy, the rest of the country will see him as Dr.Phil in tan and greens) Back in L.A., we tune in to TV news KTLA and see how Baca disposes of a Reserve Depu-tay.

    The Reservist owns a successful retail jewelry business in Downtown L.A. He is arrested by the Feds on charges of theft from a customer(violation of trust – bad p.r. for a jeweler) and terminated from the LASD Reserve on the same day. Ouch! And the ex-reservist can look forward to lots of travel expense(and being away from his business) because the charges are filed in Texas.
    The Reservist could have listened to Whitmore’s plea “you need to stop listing your LASD Reserve status in your jewelry ads, these kind of things are quite upsetting to Lee.”
    The Jeweler thought to himself – “Im a volunteer, I don’t depend on him for my money earning career, so I have nothing to fear.”
    BOOM! Wrong, Ding-dong. Lee just burnt your toast on both sides.
    But at least there is a lesson to learn from studying the foolishness of the jeweler’s mistake. The Sheriff Baca System has got its grip firmly on allz of yourz Balzac’s – you will do what your told. If not, you will truly learn how it feels to lose everything and get shut out in the cold.

  • Prophet thanks for telling us how a thief got arrested. I don’t think anyone watches KTLA anymore.

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