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Federal Judge Sends a Message With 8-Year Prison Sentence for LA Sheriff’s Sergeant in Jail Visitor Abuse Case

November 3rd, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


On Monday morning, federal Judge George H. King sentenced former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s sergeant, Eric Gonzalez, to eight years in a federal prison. The sentencing followed Gonzalez’ conviction on June 24, 2015, of charges pertaining to the brutal beating of a handcuffed visitor to Men’s Central Jail, along with a conspiracy to cover up the beating by falsifying official reports, thus causing the victim to be criminally charged as the aggressor.

After King pronounced the sentence, he remanded Gonzalez, 46, straight into federal custody, rather than giving him a few weeks or more to wrap up his affairs and surrender, as had been the case with some of the other department members convicted of wrongdoing by the feds in the past two years.

Judge King —who is, by the way, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California-– made it clear that he wanted to send a message with the sentencing, stating grimly that Gonzalez “abused his authority and corrupted the very system he was sworn to uphold.”

When law enforcement officers “think they are above the law,” King said, “the entire rule of law is threatened.”

The judge expressed hope that the stiff sentence would provide “general deterrence,” because, he said, law enforcement must know that there are “very serious consequences for the type of gross misconduct” Gonzalez’ actions represented.

“This conduct went beyond the pale” said Judge King.


For those unfamiliar with the case, the whole matter began on February 26, 2011, when Gabriel Carrillo and his girlfriend (now his wife) went to the Visiting Center for Men’s Central Jail intending to visit Carrillo’s recently arrested brother. Both Carrillo and his girlfriend carried their cell phones into the visitors’ center, although phones are prohibited under jail rules. When the phones were discovered, Carrillo was handcuffed and brought into an employee break room, where prosecutors said he was subjected to a “savage beating” and sprayed with a burning agent similar to pepper spray. Paramedics later transferred Carrillo to the hospital, suffering from injuries to his face, ribs and wrists.

In December 2013, five LA County Sheriff’s department members were indicted for the Carrillo beating and cover-up. This past June, Gonzalez was convicted on all counts along with former LASD Sussie Ayala and Fernando Luviano. Two other former LASD deputies—Pantamitr Zunggeemoge and Noel Womack—had taken plea deals earlier in the year and thus became witnesses for the prosecution.

During their testimony, both Womack and Deputy “Z”—as Zunggeemoge was called— unspooled harrowing descriptions of a cluster of large deputies kicking and slugging the far smaller Carrillo, who writhed, handcuffed, on the floor, trying to escape the blows, as Gonzalez looked on. “He was no threat to anyone,” said Womack of Carrillo.

During his turn on the stand, “Z” described how, after the beating, he was given specific language by Gonzalez to insert into the necessary report. Z said that, with Gonzalez coaching him, he wrote of a violent, assaultive, escape-minded Carrillo, using a narrative that was entirely fiction, he said, but that succeeded in triggering felony charges against the handcuffed victim.


During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Carrillo asked to speak to Judge King. “This wasn’t a one-time thing,” he told King, “this was a one-time get caught.”

Carrillo argued for the 10-year-plus sentence recommended by prosecutors, noting that the false charges that Gonzelez and company caused to be filed against him, could have resulted in a 14-year prison stretch.

In fact, Carrillo was a week before trial for the false allegations when his attorney, Ron Kaye, found the photos of Carrillo’s injured wrists (shown above) that his girlfriend had taken and forgotten about, not realizing their importance. Kaye also found a neutral witness, a middle-aged woman who had been in the visitors center sitting near the so-called break room during Carrillo’s beating, and was able to describe what she heard coming out of the room. “She was very important,” Kaye told me.

Thus, instead of going to prison, Carrillo works in construction as a fork lift operator and is married to his former girlfriend, Grace Torres, with whom he has two children.

Judge King also discounted the argument of Gonzalez’ defense attorney, Joseph Avrahamy, who argued that the battering of Carrillo, and the ensuing fabricated reports, represented an isolated incident. King said that the speed and ease with which the cover-up fell into place, suggested “a known course of conduct that has played out before.”

Indeed, in the original indictment that preceded the two deputy plea deals, prosecutors laid out three additional incidents of alleged abuse against people who came to the jail to see friends or loved ones, including the beating of a jail visitor who was slammed around by deputies to the point that his arm was fractured, all reportedly because he asked to see a supervisor when his combat veteran brother repeatedly couldn’t be located in the jail.

Each of the incidents allegedly involved some mix of the same cast of characters. And in at least two other cases, according to the indictment, deputies prepared “false and misleading reports in an attempt to show that…their uses of force were justified.” Sergeant Gonzalez, the indictment alleged, “would assist deputies in preparing these reports and would approve these reports knowing they were false.”

The original indictment also included an allegation by the feds that former Sergeant Gonzalez would “maintain, perpetuate and foster an atmosphere and environment” in the visiting area “that encouraged and tolerated abuses of the law, including the use of unjustified force….” among other abuses.

According to the indictment, Gonzalez “would reprimand deputy sheriffs he supervised for not using force on visitors to the MCJ if the visitors had supposedly ‘disrespected’ these deputy sheriffs through the visitors’ words or conduct.” He allegedly would “praise overly-aggressive behavior by deputy sheriffs and criticize” deputy behavior “that was not aggressive” and would “encourage deputy sheriffs under his command to make unlawful arrests, conduct unreasonable searches and seizures, and engage in excessive force,” according to information the FBI and the prosecutors gathered.


At the sentencing, Gonzalez was not in the least contrite. Instead, he energetically defended his actions to the judge. As ABC7′s Lisa Bartley and Miriam Hernandez wrote in their account of the sentencing:

“Gonzalez told the court that the jail’s Visiting Center was controlled by gang members before he cleaned it up, changing it from ‘a violent place… to Disneyland.’”

The now ex-Sergeant also said that he and his fellow jail deputies routinely dealt with some of the most violent criminals in Los Angeles County, and while they could have had “uses of force every day,” they were “limited to a handful.”

The government was not impressed.

“Today’s lengthy prison sentence demonstrates that individuals who abuse their positions of trust as law enforcement officers will be held accountable,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker after Gonzalez sentence was handed down. “The former deputy sheriffs who participated in the scheme to violate the civil rights of a handcuffed man who was beaten without cause cast a stain on the entire Sheriff’s Department, where virtually all of the deputies serve admirably.”

Last month, a federal grand jury indicted a sixth deputy in relation to the incident at MCJ’s Visiting Center. Former Deputy Byron Dredd pleaded not guilty on Friday to conspiracy to violate civil rights and two counts of making false reports, and he was ordered to stand trial on December 22.

The case against Gonzalez and the five others is one in a series of indictments, that have resulted in the convictions of 15 current or former members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department on federal charges. At least seven of those convictions will be reviewed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals next year.

Still more indicted department members have yet to come to trial. The highest profile of those trials looming in the future is that of former undersheriff Paul Tanaka scheduled for March 2016.

Whether the feds’ still ongoing investigations will produce any more indictments of LASD personnel in the months to come is anybody’s guess. But rumors abound.

So, stay tuned.

VIDEO NOTE: The video above shows Carrillo being interviewed by then LASD Sergeant Eric Gonzalez, who had, a few hours before, supervised the Carrillo’s beating and the cover-up. It was shown at trial and the jury watched it with rapt attention. ABC-7 News producer Lisa Bartley obtained the video, so we have her to thank for being able to show it to you. Here’s ABC-7′s excellent story on Gonzalez’ sentencing, written by Bartley and reporter Miriam Hernandez

Posted in LASD | 35 Comments »

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy to File $15 Million Lawsuit Against Paul Tanaka, LA County, & More, for “Egregious Abuse of Power”

October 19th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


The accusation seems outlandish, but insiders, and a new lawsuit suggest otherwise.


On Thursday, June 11, of this year, a Southern California jury took less than three hours to acquit two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies of charges alleging that the twosome conspired to file false police reports in the course of a drug arrest.

After the verdict was announced by the jury foreman, however, something unusual happened. The attorneys, the defendants and other trial watchers filed out of the Judge Renee Korn’s courtroom in the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center. But the jurors, who after most trials typically walk quickly to their cars to avoid the press, in this instance didn’t seem to want to go home. Instead, they waited in the court hallway in order to meet and talk with the two deputies, Robert Lindsey, 33, and Charles Rodriguez, 40, to tell them how convinced the panel had become of the deputies’ innocence.

Several of the 12 insisted on hugging the newly-acquitted defendants. One juror, a tall black man named Alvin Green, reportedly told David Martinez, the lead investigator for the Lindsey defense—who is also a retired LASD lieutenant—that “it was a shame” that the two deputies had been prosecuted, that they “had done nothing wrong.”

Another, juror, a woman named Sylvia Thomas, took Lindsey’s mother Kathy Lindsey aside to explain how she and her fellow panelists had become so sure of the rightness of their decision.

After that, everyone trooped outside the court building, where exuberant selfies were snapped—along with a group shot featuring seven of the jurors and the two deputies, plus some of the legal staff.

“In all my years of practice, I’ve never had a jury do any of that,” said James Blatt, Rodriguez’ attorney.

Yet, despite the June acquittal, although the two deputies are again receiving their salaries they have not gotten the months and months of back salary, they are not back to work, nor do they have their badges, guns and credentials. Instead, they are now both the subjects of an Internal Affairs investigation by the LASD which, in turn, means that they are on what amounts to house arrest. Thus if they need to leave their homes during business hours, they must get permission from the department.

With all of the above and considerably more in mind, on October 8, Deputy Robert Lindsey—known to his friends as Robbie-–filed a notice, through his attorney, Paul M. Mahoney, of his intention to sue the County of Los Angeles for $15 million for actions that include “the deliberate fabrication of evidence,” “the creation of false police reports,” “the violation of the claimant’s civil rights,” among other things. (You can find the Notice here: Government Claim Oct 8th)

Those to be named in the lawsuit include: former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, former captain Tom Carey, Captain Rod Kusch, Sergeant Dan Tobin, former department members, Stephen Leavins, Scott Craig, Maricela Long, plus a string of deputy DAs, and more.


The case involving Lindsey and Rodriguez was a curious one right from the beginning. In an era when great swaths of the American public are suspicious of U.S. prosecutors whom they believe are overly reluctant to file on law enforcement officers, the LASD’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau (ICIB), along with some members of LA District Attorney’s office, pursued the two deputies with what appears to be unusual vigor.

In fact, it reportedly took three tries on the part of the ICIB investigators involved with the case to get a charge to stick in the district attorney’s office. In the first instance, the reviewing deputy district attorney approached by the ICIB guys in the spring of 2013, reportedly said there was nothing to file.

A month later, ICIB personnel found a more sympathetic prosecutor who agreed to assign the case. However, on its first round in front of a judge at a preliminary hearing the case again ran into a wall when the judge did not find enough evidence to support the charges and kicked the case.

Undaunted, the investigators and prosecutor pressed on and managed to acquire a copy of a video that they claimed would support their charges. A new prelim was held, and Lindsey and Rodriguez were indeed bound over for trial.


Although this time the deputies were charged, they were also firmly acquitted by jurors who clearly felt they had saved two good men from an obviously wrongful fate. The charges for which Lindsey and Rodriguez were tried stem from a June 2011 drug-related arrest outside the Durango Bar in Huntington Park. Earlier in the evening, the partners had gotten a tip that a man named Abraham Rueda was dealing cocaine in the Durango’s parking lot out of a white Lexus. When the twosome arrived in the lot, they spotted a white Lexus with two men standing outside the car with the driver’s door of the vehicle open. One of the two men matched the description they had of Rueda. Lindsey exited the patrol car and called out to Rueda who immediately identified himself.

Looking in the car windows, Lindsey spotted a plastic “bindle” of what appeared to be cocaine protruding from an air-conditioning vent. After he and Rodriquez placed Rueda and his companion inside the patrol car, Lindsey proceeded to search the Lexys and removed the protruding bag of coke, but subsequently found no additional drugs.

Believing there may be more coke hidden, Rodriguez requested a drug-sniffing dog from his boss, a sergeant, who said none were available and that the deputies should just drive the Lexus to the Lynwood station where it could be further searched in a contained environment. Rodriquez and Lyndsey did precisely that, with Lindsey driving the Lexus, Rodriguez the patrol car, which contained Rueda and his pal, both of whom who had, by that time, been Mirandized but were not handcuffed.

At the Lynwood station, Lindsey further searched the car, while Rodriguez booked the prisoners. Then each deputy wrote brief reports about the night’s activities and the arrests.

ICIB investigators alleged that some elements of the deputies reports were untrue.

But, as described above, the purported discrepancies were not persuasive enough to form a case the first two times around. It was not until the district attorney’s office was provided with videotape from a security camera focused on the bar’s parking lot, that the case managed to move forward.

Lindsey was charged with one count each of filing a false report, conspiring to file a false report and conspiring to obstruct justice.

Co-defendant Rodriguez, was charged with one count each of conspiracy to file a false report, conspiracy to obstruct justice and being an accessory after the fact.

In plain English, the prosecution alleged that Lindsey was not standing where he said he was standing when he first spoke to Rueda and first glimpsed the cocaine and scrap of packaging in the air-conditioning vent. Prosecutors also claimed that Rodriguez lied and said that he and Lindsey drove the Lexus and the two suspects to an undisclosed second location—not the station—to search the Lexus for drugs. And finally, the deputy DA said that Rueda and his friend were handcuffed when they were transported to be booked, although the deputies reported that they were not.

There was no accusation of planting of drugs, no claim that the deputies had roughed up the two arrested men, tricked them, or otherwise violated their rights.

And the video, which was central to the case, turned out to support the accounts of the deputies, and not those trying to convict them, according to jurors, who said afterward, that they’d reviewed the video with extraordinary care, frame-by-frame.

Moreover, it was revealed during the trial that Rueda, who was the primary witness for the prosecution, was an undocumented man who had been promised, in return for testimony, what is called a “U-Visa,” which was originally created for victims of crimes who have endured mental or physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement and government officials investigate and prosecute the abuser.

It was further revealed that one of the deputy DAs who brought the case told Rueda’s sister that he added the obstruction of justice charge to the other two charges against Lindsey and Rodriguez specifically in order to qualify Rueda for the U-Visa.

(WitnessLA has obtained documents that show multiple exchanges between then prosecutor Kevin P. Stennis—who is now a Superior Court Judge—and Rueda’s sister, Veronica Flores.)

Nevertheless, by the trial’s end most of Reuda’s testimony had reportedly decompensated and changed enough that it too supported that of the deputies.


So why in the world would the internal criminal investigative arm of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department push and keep pushing to have two of the department’s deputies brought up on criminal charges for actions that, when pulled apart in the light of day, caused a jury to reject them dramatically and vocally?

And why would several prosecutors at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office buy in to what appeared to be a loser of a case at best and, at worst—if the defense is correct—may have persuaded the prosecution to either deliberately ignore or outright alter facts in order to get the thing to trial at all?

Sources close to the case told us that the answer may be found in a previous LASD vendetta, which had nothing whatsoever to do with Deputy Lindsey or Deputy Rodriguez—at least not directly. It’s roots, they claim, have everything to do with Robbie Lindsey’s father, retired LASD commander Robert Lindsey, who allegedly refused to engage in actions he was ordered to perform for former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, more than a decade ago, actions that Lindsey Sr. believed were unethical and likely illegal. As a consequence, sources said, threats were allegedly made by Tanaka, who was—at the time—still at the rank of chief.

The charges against Lindsey Jr. were the threats being made good all these years later, with Rodriguez as “collateral damage,” sources claim. To accomplish the deed, sources further claim, required the participation of various FOPs—Friends of Paul—both in the LASD and possibly in the DA’s office, in at least one case.

There are many additional colorful details to the story, of course. But they will have to wait.

The specifics of the claim will reportedly be laid out in the civil case, which is scheduled to be filed in LA Superior Court in the near future.

So stay tuned.

Posted in LASD | 99 Comments »

Fed Judge Denies Immunity for Former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca to Testify at Paul Tanaka’s Criminal Trial

September 30th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon

A new moment of drama in the run-up to the trial of former Los Angeles County undersheriff Paul Tanaka occurred on Monday
when District Court Judge Percy Anderson told Tanaka’s attorney that, no, he was not going to give former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca immunity from future prosecution should Baca be called to testify at Tanaka’s trial.

Tanaka’s attorney, H. Dean Steward, filed the request in mid-August, asking that the former sheriff be granted immunity because, “if he testifies truthfully, [Baca] will provide evidence that will contradict the government’s evidence” and thus provide a basis for [Mr. Tanaka’s} “acquittal of the charges.”

The motion was almost certain to be a non-starter with Judge Anderson from the get go. But it was also understandable that that attorney Steward would roll the legal dice, no matter how slim the chance for success.

When Tanaka was originally indicted for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice back in May 2015, former LASD Captain William (Tom) Carey was indicted at the same time as a co-conspirator and also for perjury, having to do with his previous testimony in the trials of seven other former LASD members indicted with obstruction of justice for some of the same series of alleged actions. (The seven have since been convicted of the obstruction charges, and their convictions are on appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.)

At that time, Seward made confident statements to the press about his client’s innocence and how Mr. Tanaka would prevail when it came time for trial—which certainly he still may.

However, in mid-summer, the odds of an acquittal for Tanaka suddenly rearranged themselves when Tom Carey took a plea deal in return for his cooperation in Tanaka’s trial and any subsequent proceedings relating to department member misdeeds of which Carey had had knowledge, and which related to the original indictment concerning the hiding of federal informant Anthony Brown and other actions designed to thwart the FBI’s investigation into chronic corruption and brutality in the Los Angeles County jail system.

Carey’s plea, which was filed on August 13, 2015, sent Tanaka’s defense scrambling for a witness to counter what Carey was likely to say on the stand.

Hence, presumably, the motion about immunity for Baca.

Carey and Tanaka took the stand in the previous obstruction of justice trials, and former Sheriff Baca was on the witness list for the defense at least twice, most notably in the two trials of former LASD Deputy James Sexton (who was tried twice before the feds could produce a guilty verdict). Yet Baca was never called in either of the trials because his then-attorney informed Sexton’s legal team both times that Baca would take the fifth if put on the stand.

Baca hired a new attorney, Michael Zwieback, earlier this month. While Zwiback did not attend the Monday hearing, he confirmed to us that Baca would indeed be invoking his 5th Amendment rights this time around, if called as a witness.


At least one federal witness was reportedly given immunity that was limited to his testimony before a federal grand jury during hearings that likely contributed to Tanaka’s and Carey’s eventual indictment. But that witness had already been convicted of obstruction of justice, so the government’s cost/benefit ratio in issuing limited immunity was presumably very different that it would be in the case of Baca, who at remains conspicuously un-indicted.

To put it another way, if federal prosecutors are able to convict the former undersheriff of the allegations arrayed against him, the notion that Baca’s once powerful second in command is guilty of corruption charges that have already resulted in seven additional convictions and one plea bargain, it becomes less and less believable that Tanaka’s former boss, the man who headed up the nation’s largest sheriff’s department for a decade and a half, is legally blame free.

Originally Mr. Tanaka’s trial was scheduled to begin in early November of this year. But on Monday Judge Anderson agreed to delay proceedings until March 22, 2016, at the request of Mr. Tanaka’s attorney.

Posted in LASD | 41 Comments »

“Evolution of a Criminal,” Solitary Confinement Pt. 2, LAPD Community Guardians, and the Beneficiaries of Prop 47

August 25th, 2015 by Taylor Walker

Darius Clark Monroe was a 16-year-old honors student in Texas until he robbed a bank with a shotgun in a foolish attempt to bring his family out of extreme financial hardship.

In an award-winning PBS documentary, filmmaker Darius Monroe talks about the circumstances that led to his decision and asks his victims for forgiveness.

As a teenager, Darius says he did not think of the repercussions when he robbed the bank: the psychological harm done to the bank employees and customers present for the robbery, and the pain inflicted upon his tight-knit family and upon himself.

You can watch the whole documentary on PBS’ website until Sept. 11.


The second installment in a three-part NPR series on solitary confinement in US prisons takes a look at the prison system in New Mexico where officials are working to reverse the state’s overuse of isolation. New Mexico has made real progress: 6% of the prison population is in solitary confinement this year, compared with 10% in 2013. But as the numbers creep lower, the task becomes more challenging, says Gregg Marcantel, head of New Mexico’s prison system. (We pointed to the first here.)

Here’s a clip from Natasha Haverty’s story for NPR:

In New Mexico, many low-risk inmates were moved out of solitary. The men still housed in isolation can now earn their way out in nine months with good behavior. That’s still more time in solitary than most reform advocates and most mental health experts support, but not so long ago, New Mexico’s solitary unit was packed with inmates who were thrown into cells “and then we really had no clear-cut way to get them out of there,” says Gregg Marcantel, head of New Mexico’s prison system. He says when he came in as corrections secretary four years ago, that heavy reliance on solitary had been unquestioned for decades.

“It’s very, very easy to overuse segregation. I mean, for a guy like me it’s safe, right? It’s safe — if these prisons are quiet, I don’t get fired,” he says.

One of Marcantel’s new programs gives prisoners the chance to live in a more open group setting if they swear off their gang affiliations.

For corrections leaders like Marcantel trying to change the system, it’s a struggle to get it right. None of his reforms get rid of solitary. He says he can’t see it ever going away.

“But i­n a perfect world, one that maybe involves unicorns, yeah, I would love to get rid of it,” he says.

So far, New Mexico’s first steps toward change seem to be working. Two years ago, 10 percent of the state’s prison population was in solitary. That’s down to 6 percent this year.


The Los Angeles Police Department is conducting a series of five-hour training (or retraining) sessions in the wake of controversial officer-involved shootings in LA and across the nation.

The LA Times’ Kate Mather sat in on some of the LAPD training lectures, which emphasized replacing the “warrior” culture of the 70′s and 80′s with a mindset shift to “guardian” of communities. (WLA pointed to another story exploring this issue here.)

Here are some clips from Mathers’ story:

“We were warriors,” Deputy Chief Bill Scott recently told a room filled with LAPD rank-and-file officers, a group of fresh-faced rookies watching from the front.

Now, he said, officers need to think of themselves as guardians watching over communities — not warriors cracking down on them.

“That means if we’ve got to take somebody to jail, we’ll take them to jail,” Scott said. “But when we need to be empathetic and we need to be human, we’ve got to do that too.”


The five-hour lectures in Los Angeles have covered matters such as the way officers should interact with people who are mentally ill, how they can build community trust, when they are permitted to curse while dealing with the public and why they should avoid walking with a swagger. Department brass emphasized that public perceptions of police can be influenced by the way officers treat residents during their daily work.

Scott warned one group assembled at a department pistol range that the brash attitudes some officers have — “I’m the cop, you’re not” — can appear disrespectful. “That’s one of the biggest problems that we have,” he said. “How we talk to people.”

In an Eastside auditorium, Deputy Chief Jose Perez told a crowd of Hollenbeck officers that just because department policy allowed them to curse at uncooperative suspects — the LAPD calls it “tactical language” — they shouldn’t automatically use foul language when walking up to someone.

“It doesn’t let you go up to them, when you’re getting out of the car, and you go: ‘Hey … come here,’” Perez said, using a profanity. “We use it because we have to, not because you can or because you want to.”

When and how officers should use force was another key focus. Police were reminded to be patient with people who may be mentally ill and to try to build a dialogue in an effort to avoid using force to take them into custody.

In one session, officers were implored to carry less-lethal devices such as a Taser or beanbag shotgun in their patrol cars, so the option is always available. The department does not require all officers to carry less-lethal devices.

Last week, the LA Times’ Patt Morrison interviewed Deputy Chief Bill Murphy on the evolution of training within the department. (WLA linked to it here.)


During her 20s, Sholanda Jackson was incarcerated 13 times because of an addiction Sholanda’s mother sparked by giving her crack cocaine as a teenager.

A poster child for rehabilitation, Sholanda has now been sober 11 years, has a degree, and works at a non-profit.

Thanks to California’s Proposition 47, which reclassified certain non-serious felonies as misdemeanors, former offenders like Sholanda are receiving a second chance—one that will free them from the stigma of old felony convictions, and help them secure employment, as well as government assistance.

KQED’s Marisa Lagos has more on the issue, including the story of Sofala Mayfield, another former felon who received a second chance through Prop 47. Here’s a clip:

His life began to fall apart in his teens, after his grandmother suffered a stroke and his mother fell back into drug addiction. After a series of minor run-ins with the law as a teenager, he was convicted of felony theft two years ago for stealing an iPhone.

Mayfield has three younger siblings that live with him. But he said when he got out of jail, he couldn’t find a job.

“I didn’t get any calls back, I would call them back — our hiring manager’s not in, you know. I just had a feeling that’s what it was, just me having the felony on my record and stuff,” he said.

At the urging of his probation officer, Mayfield called the public defender’s office and asked if he would qualify to reduce his felony to a misdemeanor under Prop. 47. Within a month, a court had approved the change.

He now has two jobs, is helping support his family and hopes to go to culinary school.

“I was just very grateful,” he said.

Posted in juvenile justice, LAPD | No Comments »

Harm-Focused Policing, LAPD Training and Retraining, the Mayor of New Orleans, and Tom Carey’s Guilty Plea

August 20th, 2015 by Taylor Walker


In a paper published on Friday in the journal Ideas in American Policing, Temple University criminal justice professor Jerry Ratcliffe outlines the difference between a “crime and disorder” focused policing strategy and another method he calls “harm-focused policing,” which redirects police resources and strategies toward the detrimental effects of crime on a community

Targeting issues that affect poor minority communities, like substance abuse, emotional health, and gang recruitment would go beyond the symptoms to get at the “why” of the crimes.

Switching the focus would more accurately represent communities’ concerns, says Jerry Ratcliffe, a criminal justice professor at Temple University and the paper’s author, and would help to change the relationship between cops and poor minority communities: “Where police can often see only crime and disorder, community experiences are more nuanced and diverse.”

While it can be difficult to quantify harm, the paper says there are ways to identify places and people that are especially harmful to communities.

Here’s a clip from the paper:

The range of community anxieties is often heartbreaking, ranging from the day-to-day incivilities that sap community cohesion, to concerns about root causes of crime, drugs, speeding traffic, environmental conditions, community dissolution and the harms associated with gang recruitment of young children. It is not uncommon to hear concerns about the lack of police attention to a neighborhood in the same meeting as complaints about the detrimental impacts of excessive and unfocused police attention on the wrong people. While there are correlations between increased police activity and lower neighborhood violence (see for example Koper & Mayo-Wilson, 2006; Ratcliffe, Taniguchi, Groff, & Wood, 2011), the negative consequences of repeated police contacts are now being more widely understood.

The paper also says the controversial practice of “stop, question, and frisk” (or “stop and frisk”) should be included in the harm index calculations as something that can hurt police-community relations:

The crime reduction benefits of increased pedestrian investigations (sometimes referred to in general as ‘stop, question and frisk’ [SQF]) remain a matter of some dispute (Rosenfeld & Fornango, 2014), and the tactic itself remains highly controversial with the public concerned about both the disproportionate impact on minority communities and potential reduction in police legitimacy. Even Braga and Weisburd, two of the strongest advocates of hot spots policing, accept that ‘It seems likely that overly aggressive and indiscriminate police crackdowns would produce some undesirable effects’ (2010: 188).

Given the potential for harm stemming from unrestrained used of SQF, inclusion of a weighting for each pedestrian or vehicle investigative stop has a number of benefits. First, it acts as a constraint against unfocused and unrestricted use of SQF by over-eager police commanders desperate to reduce crime in a location. The right weighting3 would still sanction use of the tactic, but ideally encourage a focused and targeted application because each stop would count against the area’s harm index. In this way a calculation of cost-benefit ratio would determine if the anticipated crime and harm reduction benefits sufficiently offset any potential loss of police legitimacy and community support. Second, this would send a signal that the police are cognizant of the potential for pedestrian and vehicle investigative stops to impact police-community relations and that they are aware that some police tactics come with an associated cost. Third, having a price associated with investigative stops may generate improved data collection of stops, which will have a corollary benefit, allowing departments to better assess their vulnerability to accusations of racial profiling.


In an interview with the LA Times’ Patt Morrison, Deputy Chief William Murphy, who is the head of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Police Sciences and Training Bureau, talked about how much LAPD training has evolved from a decade ago, how the Sandra Bland tragedy might have turned out differently, and how LA officers are taught to conduct traffic stops and mental health crisis calls.

Here’s a clip (but do yourself a favor and read the whole thing):

What is the LAPD training for a traffic stop?

In the academy, before we teach anything, we ask, “Have you ever been stopped by the police?” Everybody’s hands go up. [They say] the officer was kind of rude. We say: “Remember that before we teach you how to do a traffic stop. What if it was your mother? Your sister? Is that how you’d want someone to treat them?”

In California, we teach an eight-step traffic stop. The first four are critical: The initial thing is the greeting — a smile, say, “Good morning, I’m Officer Bill Murphy of the LAPD.” When people ask for business cards, you give it to them — that’s our policy. When you do this [he points to his nameplate] and say, “This is me,” you’re just getting them mad.

Then you explain the reason for the stop. In some of these traffic stops that go south, they’ve left out some of these components. The goal of a traffic stop is to educate, not irritate. You pull somebody over for running a stop sign to have a conversation to change their behavior.

Watch the tapes and you notice officers — not from California — don’t ask [the driver], “Why would you do that?” I’ve had people tell me, “My wife’s at the hospital delivering my first baby” or “I just got fired today and my head’s not in the game.” You give them an opportunity to explain before you make a decision whether or not to write a ticket.

Then [as the last step], you say have a good day; you always end on a positive note.

The Sandra Bland traffic arrest apparently escalated when an officer got testy because she wouldn’t put out her cigarette; it ended with Bland allegedly hanging herself in a jail cell.

You have to think, is [the driver] a threat to you, or are you just irritated because they happen to be having a cigarette? If you think they’re really a threat, that’s a different situation. I’ve gotten pulled over, and as a police officer, my heart still races. [Bland was] probably just nervous, smoking her cigarette.

We teach don’t be the “contempt of cop” cop. Usually, you get contempt of cop when your emotions take over, when the goal becomes something other than educating, like, “You’re not respecting my authority.”

We’re lucky: About 98% of our police vehicles are two-person. If the [first officer] for whatever reason isn’t making that connection and it’s getting heated, we tell them to switch roles right away. Say, “Hey, partner, let me take this over,” as opposed to getting into a confrontation.

I was asked about the video of the Cincinnati incident [a campus police officer shot an unarmed man during a traffic stop; the officer has been indicted for murder]. You need to control your emotions and stress level so you don’t overreact. When you overreact, you can see a threat that’s really not there.


The Altantic’s Jeffery Goldberg has a great longread about New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu who is on a crusade to cut down on the level of homicides in his city. Landrieu’s particular focus is on the “epidemic of young African American men killing young African American men.”

One of Mayor Landrieu’s innovative violence diversion programs, NOLA for Life, initiates “call-ins” where around 20 men between the ages of 16-24 who are likely to shoot or be shot, and who have had contact with the justice system, are called into court without explanation.

Landrieu addresses the gathered boys and young men, who are either doing a short stint in jail or are on probation, and introduces two groups of people who have come to speak with them and help them—on one side, representatives from every local and federal law enforcement agency, on the other, social workers and counselors ready to help the attendees and connect them with services and resources.

Landrieu tells the young men gathered in front of him, that if they leave the courthouse and make wrong choices they will have further contact with the law enforcement agencies in attendance, but if they choose correctly, Landrieu says, “I’ll make a commitment to you that you’re going to go to the front of the line: if you need a job, if you need mental-health, substance-abuse counseling, if you say you need something, the folks on this side of the room will listen to you, talk to you, help you.”

NOLA for Life also features mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and job training. And teams of counselors, including former gang members, are dispatched to ERs to convince family members of shooting victims not to seek revenge.

“i want people to tell me whether or not they think that the lives of poor young African American men that live in certain communities in every city—whether their lives matter…that’s all I want to know: that the answer to that is ‘yes’.”

Here’s a clip:

“It’s a roll of the dice. People get out of Central City, they do,” Landrieu told me recently. “But many don’t. If life had gone differently for Joseph Norfleet and James Darby, who knows? Joseph Norfleet could have been that 9-year-old victim. Maybe Joseph Norfleet would be dead and James Darby would be in prison today. We see this so often—today’s shooter is tomorrow’s victim.”

The prison [Angola], 130 miles from New Orleans, could legitimately be considered the city’s most distant neighborhood. Of the roughly 6,300 men currently imprisoned at Angola—three-quarters of them there for life, and nearly 80 percent of them African American—about 2,000 at any given moment are from New Orleans. Thousands of children in New Orleans—a city whose population today is roughly 380,000—have fathers who will reside until death in Angola.

“This place will bring you to your knees,” Landrieu said.


“What you’re going to see is a huge governing failure on the part of our society. This country has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country. That’s failure.”

Landrieu visits Angola on occasion to learn more about a crisis that has come to consume him. He decided, early in his first term, to devote the resources of his city to solving one of this country’s most diabolical challenges—the persistence of homicide in poor African American communities. The numbers are staggering. From 1980 to 2013, 262,000 black males were killed in America. By contrast, roughly 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam. In New Orleans, about 6,000 African American men have been murdered since 1980. The killers of these men were, in the vast majority of cases, other African American men. In New Orleans, 80 percent of murder victims are believed to have known their killer.


As we drove to Angola, I asked Landrieu why he has made homicide—a seemingly ineradicable disease in a gun-saturated country whose popular culture glorifies violence—his chief priority.

“I didn’t grab this. This problem grabbed me,” he said. “I guess you could say I’m obsessed with it. I don’t understand why it’s okay in America—a country that’s supposed to be the greatest country in the world, a place with more wealth than anywhere else—for us to leave so many of our citizens basically dead. Why do we allow our citizens to kill each other as if it’s the cost of doing business? We have basically given up on our African American boys. I’d be a cold son of a bitch if I ignored it, if I just focused on the other side of town, or focused just on tourism.

“I’m absolutely certain we have the money and the capacity to solve this problem, but we do not have the will. This problem doesn’t touch enough Americans to rise to the level of a national crisis. But these are all our children. I’m embarrassed by it. How could this be normal?”


On Wednesday, former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Captain William “Tom” Carey officially changed his plea to guilty in the obstruction of justice trial involving the hiding of a federal informant from the FBI.

Standing before US District Judge Percy Anderson, Carey pled guilty to one count of perjury. In exchange, three separate charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and another count of lying on the witness stand, are to be dismissed.

In return, Carey will have to fully cooperate with the feds and provide testimony in related trials, including that of his co-defendant, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, and that of former Sheriff Lee Baca, who has not been indicted, but may be federal prosecutors’ next target.

ABC7′s Miriam Hernandez and Lisa Bartley were there in court and have the story. Here are some clips:

Former Sheriff Leroy “Lee” Baca might be getting nervous right about now.

Retired Captain William “Tom” Carey, 57, officially changed his plea to guilty on Wednesday, becoming the highest-ranking Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department official to flip in the years-long federal investigation.

“Guilty,” Carey stated under oath as he stood before Judge Percy Anderson alongside his defense attorney Andrew Stolper.

Carey cut a deal with prosecutors that requires total cooperation with law enforcement as they forge ahead in their investigation of corruption and inmate abuse inside county jails, which are run by the LASD.

Speculation is growing that Baca, who abruptly resigned in January 2014, could be in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors.

“We’ve seen in the investigation of this case that the prosecution has been trying to go as high as they can, even to the sheriff himself,” said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor.

Carey’s co-defendant, former LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, goes on trial this November for his alleged role in the scheme to block the FBI investigation.


Carey’s plea deal means that three felony counts — obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and one count of making false statements — will be dismissed.

Carey pleaded guilty to one count of making another false statement, which points to what prosecutors say was the true motivation for hiding Brown from the FBI.

At the trial of Deputy James Sexton in May 2014, Carey testified that there was no other reason to move Brown other than for his own safety.

Carey now admits that was a lie because he “knew that the deputies ordered to stand guard over Inmate AB during this time were there, at least in part, so that the FBI could not have access to Inmate AB unless there was an order from co-defendant Tanaka or another LASD executive that would have allowed access.”

Carey’s cooperation agreement means he is likely to testify against Tanaka at his upcoming trial, although defense attorneys are sure to attack Carey’s credibility now that he’s admitted to previously lying on the witness stand.

Posted in LAPD, LASD, law enforcement, Sheriff Lee Baca, Violence Prevention | 29 Comments »

Paul Tanaka’s Attorneys Ask Feds to Give Former Sheriff Lee Baca Immunity to Testify….& Execs Charged with Skimming $$ From Group Home for LA Foster Kids

August 17th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon

As the ongoing drama of the obstruction of Justice indictments against former members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department continues,
the newest moment-of-interest is provided by the attorneys for former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, whose trial will commence this coming November.

Where we last left off was last week, when Tanaka’s co-indictee, former LASD Captain William “Tom” Carey took a plea deal—meaning, among other things, Mr. Carey will be a witness for the prosecution at Tanaka’s trial.

Clearly the former undersheriff could use a new witness of his own.

Voila! On Friday, Tanaka’s attorney, Dean Seward, filed a motion asking the judge to step in because the federal prosecutors have declined to grant former Sheriff Lee Baca immunity so that he may testify at Tanaka’s trial without taking the fifth, which Baca’s attorneys have consistently said to anyone who asks is exactly what their client will do, absent immunity.

This is the same answer Baca and company has given to other attorneys of other federal defendants who wanted the former sheriff to testify at their trials.

When prosecutors Brandon Fox and Lizabeth Rhodes have been asked if they will make the immunity deal, they’ve evidently answered with the rough legal equivalent of “Are you freaking kidding us?! No! Of course, not!”

So Seward has turned to a higher power—namely Judge Percy Anderson—in the hope he will intervene. Anderson, who seemed to be irritated with Tanaka’s antics on the stand as a witness in the previous obstruction trials, is not likely to catch this pre-trial Hail Mary pass now that Tanaka is a defendent.

Nevertheless the argument in the text of the motion, which will be heard at the end of this month, is fascinating. Here’s a clip:

…Moreover, the prior prosecution of LASD deputy sheriffs by these same prosecutors in this same courtroom would never had occurred but for the actions of then Sheriff Leroy Baca.

But the Court and jury will never hear from Mr. Baca unless this Court intervenes. That is not because his testimony is not relevant. That is not because his testimony is not exculpatory. That is only because the government refuses to bestow the same inoculation against criminal prosecution that it has used with such vengeance to enable it to charge Mr. Tanaka.

As a result of the government’s inaction and refusal to immunize an exculpatory witness, Mr. Tanaka will be prevented from presenting a valid and relevant defense unless this Court intervenes. In order to enable the defendant to present the complete events and not rely on the incomplete version from the prosecution, this Court should grant this motion and order the government to give Leroy Baca use immunity for any testimony he may provide at trial.

The government cannot, at this late hour, argue that it has not had the opportunity to investigate the matter and determine who should be prosecuted. Logically, there’s only one person for whom prosecution is still possible: Leroy Baca. The events in this case occurred nearly 4 years ago. Multiple grand juries have been convened. The government and F.B.I. have interviewed hundreds of witnesses. Hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, exhibits, and recordings have been generated. To say the government does not have enough before it to choose whether to prosecute Mr. Baca makes no sense. The motion herein is not meant to force the government’s hand. But it is meant to force them to let Mr. Baca have his day in Court: either as a witness in Mr. Tanaka’s trial or as a co- defendant in this prosecution.

The government, by refusing to charge Mr. Baca or grant him immunity to testify in Mr. Tanaka’s trial, is exercising its immunity power not for legitimate prosecutorial purposes but to deny Mr. Tanaka a level playing field of evidence.

In other words: either indict Lee Baca or give him to us as a witness!

There is, of course, lots more after that.

The motion will be heard on September 28. So stay tuned.


Just about a year ago, LA District attorney Jackie Lacey announced that a husband and wife team was being charged with embezzling more than $460,000 in taxpayer money from a nonprofit agency hired by Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family services to help some of the harder to place abused and neglected foster children.

The LA Times Garrett Therolf reported extensively on the story last year and has been on top of the issue since.

Now Therolf reports that a whole different set of executives for a different group home that cares for abused and neglected LA Youth have been charged by the DA with skimming and generally misusing money from the taxpayer funded enterprise the are supposed to be overseeing.


Here’s a clip:

As in the district attorney’s recent case against leaders of the Little People’s World group home, the alleged wrongdoing at Moore’s Cottage may have festered for years as county officials ignored signs of financial mismanagement, records show.

“It’s my fault that we didn’t know more about it,” said Philip Browning, director of the Department of Children and Family Services.

The activities alleged in the lawsuit occurred before 2013, and Browning said they might have been prevented by an improved monitoring system the department put in place about a year ago.

Prosecutors filed the criminal charges against Batchelor and Smith in April with no public announcement. The district attorney’s office declined to comment.

The two men, who pleaded not guilty and are free on bail, declined to respond to requests for comment.

They are accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from the charity and damaging or destroying property in excess of $65,000. The lawsuit also accuses them of filing false personal tax returns in 2011, 2012 and 2013 — the same period in which they failed to file tax forms for Moore’s Cottage. In total, Moore’s Cottage owed $460,000 in delinquent federal payroll taxes as of September 2013.

A court petition for a search warrant filed this year by the district attorney’s office says that “Batchelor had no intention of paying payroll taxes with the money he withdrew. His sole purpose was to split the withdrawn money with Smith for personal gain.”

Posted in LASD, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca, U.S. Attorney | 33 Comments »

Former LA Sheriff’s Dept. Captain Tom Carey Takes Plea Deal—Which Means Cooperation, Testimony….(And Maybe a Baca Indictment?) in the Future

August 13th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon

William “Tom” Carey, a former captain of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the former head
of the department’s Internal Criminal Infestations Investigations Bureau*—ICIB—has just entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that was filed in federal court Thursday morning, August 13, 2015.

Both Carey and former undersheriff Paul Tanaka were federally indicted on May 14 of this year on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, having to do with the matter of FBI informant Anthony Brown, whom members of the LASD allegedly hid from his FBI handlers, while also attempting to—allegedly—obstruct a federal investigation into corruption and brutality by deputies inside the county’s large and long- troubled jail system. Carey was also indicted on perjury charges for things he said when testifying the trials of seven other former department members who were convicted of obstruction of justice last year.

The deal is interesting in that, in return for Carey’s plea, the feds will drop the multiple charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy, leaving only the single count of perjury. (He could still get five years in prison for even the perjury conviction, but he will likely get far, far less.) The other part of the deal, obviously, is that Carey must cooperate with the feds completely and provide testimony in front of a grand jury or in any relevant trials, if he is asked to do so.

Certainly we can expect to see Carey as a witness at the November trial of Paul Tanaka. But we also think it is quite possible—based on past strategies used by the feds—for Carey to be called in front of a grand jury sometime soon, at which time he would perhaps be asked about the unidicted elephant in the room, so to speak–namely former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

There is already strong speculation from people like Paul Tanaka’s attorney, and others familiar with the LASD obstruction of justice investigation, that Baca is indeed the next target for federal prosecutors.

This presumption would seem to be bolstered, purely on a logical basis, by a quick perusal of parts of the plea deal.

For example, if one reads Attachment A at the end of the document, one finds that one of the falsehoods that Carey admitted to had to do with the following: “At the time of this testimony, and during the relevant time frame, defendant knew the orders of co-defendant Tanaka and others were in part to interfere with the federal investigation.

The italics are ours. In reading that sentence, one wonders what “others” there might be, in addition to Paul Tanaka, in a position to give orders to Tom Carey on this issue?

You’ll find the plea agreement below. Scroll down to Attachment A. We think you’ll find it an intriguing read.


*UPDATE: Autocorrect produced an unusually bizarre mistake in this story’s first paragraph that none of us caught for more than a week. If you look, you can see the correct word and the word that Autocorrect clearly preferred.

Posted in LASD, U.S. Attorney | 58 Comments »

Ten LA County Sheriff’s Jail Personnel Relieved of Duty Over “Troubling” Report of Inmate Abuse

July 12th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


On Saturday night, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced that ten department members working in the county’s jail system had been relieved of duty pending an investigation of a report of “troubling” inmate abuse that allegedly occurred last month.

It seems that this past Thursday McDonnell was informed of a complaint resulting from the alleged incident, which began on June 19 at the LA County jail system’s Inmate Reception Center (IRC), where an inmate was handcuffed in a cell for approximately 32 hours without being provided food or liquid—save “a cup of water,” said McDonnell in a statement released Saturday night. (The inmate reportedly had eaten on his initial arrival at the jail.)

The inmate had allegedly assaulted a female guard during a force incident, after which he required medical attention. Then the inmate was handcuffed and restrained for a period amounting to a full day and night, and then another half day, without food.

By this past Friday (July 10), McDonnell had clearly learned enough about the alleged incident to decide that it warranted swift action. Thus by the end of the day, his staff had relieved ten jail employees of duty, “including supervisors,” while still others were reassigned to other duties pending further investigation.

Those relieved of duty include two lieutenants, one sergeant, one senior deputy, four regular deputies and two custody assistants—an unusual number to be ROD for a single incident. One could guess that messages were being sent.


McDonnell said the matter is being investigated by the department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau (ICIB), and its Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB). In addition, he and his staff have notified Max Hunstman, the LASD Inspector General—and the FBI, which still is engaged in its long-ongoing investigation into brutality and corruption in the LASD, a federal investigation that, in May of this year, resulted in the indictment of the former undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, and the former captain of the department’s criminal investigative unit, Tom Carey.

The same ongoing federal investigation resulted in the conviction, late last month, of one sergeant and two deputies, for brutally assaulting a handcuffed man in a 2011 incident in the Men’s Central Jail visiting center, then falsifying felony charges against the man, in order to justify the assault.

This fall, two more department members will be tried by the feds for other alleged instances of abuse in the jails, and for allegedly training newer jail deputies in methods designed to “teach” certain inmates “a lesson,” and then how to cover up said lessons.

According to a massive class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Southern California—Rosas v. Baca—that was given its final stamp of judicial approval in April, the incidents of abuse of inmates and others that resulted in federal indictments were representative of a pattern of abuse that was allowed to occur all-but unchecked under former sheriff Lee Baca and his former undersheriff, Tanaka.


McDonnell— who served on the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence, and thus was one of those responsible for the CCJV’s scathing report on jail abuse and misconduct that was issued in September 2012—seems determined to set a very different standard of response. Even his notifying of the FBI is a world away from the reaction of the previous administration, which—as we now are painfully aware—went to extravagant lengths to try to keep the feds from examining wrongdoing inside LA County’s jail system, in a manner outside the LASD’s control.

“The investigation into this incident is ongoing and will be thorough,” said McDonnell about the June 2015 incident, in a statement released Saturday night. “It will not only focus on employee actions, but also on corrective policies and procedures,”

McDonnell added that he was “… deeply committed to providing the highest levels of constitutional care to those in our charge.” He added that he will “quickly address and remedy any conduct, policies or practices that do not meet this expectation…”

NOTE: This story was updated on 7/12 at 12:20 pm.

Posted in Jim McDonnell, LA County Jail, LASD | 37 Comments »

Playwright Takes on School to Prison Pipeline… LAT Calls for Real Oversight of the LASD… .LAPD Praised for Handling of Mentally Ill…Update on SB 124, Juvie Solitary

July 6th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


Playwright/actress Anna Deavere Smith has never been one to be scared off by complex subject matter.

When Smith premiered Twilight: Los Angeles 1992, her searing and revelatory one woman play about the aftermath of the Rodney King verdicts—first performing it in Los Angeles in 1993, then a year later in New York—reviewers fell over themselves praising the work. At the same time, they also argued with each other about whether Smith’s creation was really theater, or some strange new kind of journalism.

The confusion had to do with the fact that Smith had gathered the material for the play that would make her a critical success by interviewing nearly 300 people, many of whom had some direct connection to the riot, some of whom did not. Then, from those interviews, she shaped monologues for more than 40 “characters,” real people whom she inhabited on stage, one after the other, with eerie accuracy.

The parts she played included former LAPD chief Daryl F. Gates, a south LA teenager, one of the members of the Rodney King jury, a Beverly Hills real estate agent, a former Black Panther party head now living in Paris, truck driver Reginald Denny, the widow of a Korean American grocer killed during the madness, a pregnant cashier hit by a random bullet who managed, against odds, to save herself and her baby—and several dozen more.

All of this came together to produce what NY Times’ theater reviewer David Richards called, “an epic accounting of neighborhoods in chaos, a city in anguish and a country deeply disturbed by the violent images, live and in color, coming over the nightly airwaves.”

Now, 22 years later, Smith is working on another play that makes use of her signature form of documentary theater to illuminate another crucial cultural moment. (Smith has authored around 18 of these documentary plays thus far.) The new play, which has the working title of “The Pipeline Project,” investigates what the playwright describes as “the school-to-prison pipeline—the cycle of suspension from school to incarceration that is prevalent among low-income Black, Brown, Latino, and Native-American youth.”

As she did with Twilight, for the last year or so, Smith has been interviewing hundreds of people including students, teachers, parents, police, thought and policy leaders, psychologists, community activists, heads of prisons, people who are incarcerated, kids in juvenile hall, public defenders…and many more, as she fashions her theatrical characters.

Smith said that she got the idea after educators and reformers approached her to see if art could affect policy change. And so: The Pipeline Project.

Most recently, she has been performing pieces of the work-in-progress at select regional theaters in Berkeley, CA, Baltimore, MD, and Philadelphia, PA. Then after each performance, Smith engages in an extended dialogue with the audience, sort of town hall meeting style, all of which she uses to continue to recalibrate her material.

Eventually Smith will have a full length theater piece, that she’ll debut around the country.

In the meantime, Californians will have the opportunity to see the work-in-progress version starting this coming Saturday, July 11, when Smith will begin previews at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre. This pre-play play will run through August 2.

Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle talked to Smith while she was in rehearsal for her Berkeley opening, about what she wants from this part of the process, and from the Pipeline Project as a whole.

Here’s a clip:

“This is one of those rare moments when people do begin to think about race relations in this country,” Anna Deavere Smith says over the phone from Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where she’s in rehearsal for the premiere run of her latest solo piece. The new work, with the complicated but accurate title “Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education, the California Chapter” is about the treatment of African American and other disadvantaged youth in our schools and what’s increasingly being called the school-to-prison pipeline.

“I started thinking seriously about these matters in 2010, and I started my work, my interviews in 2013,” Smith says. “A lot has happened very quickly in this country during that time. … You can’t really think about inequities in education without looking at the broader canvas of racial inequity in America. And you can’t think about school discipline without thinking about the ways in which the types of discipline that are of greatest concern mimic some of the practices in prisons.

“So it’s a problem, and it’s an opportunity. I did my first staged readings of this piece here at the Rep last July and left town and — boom! Ferguson. And just since then, because of technology, Americans have watched any number of bad interactions between authority and young African American males, and these videos have taken the country by storm and have caused a lot of people to go, ‘Wait. What? Something’s going on here about men of color. What is this? Wow! Whoa! No! How could that happen?’”

Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, the California Chapter: Previews begin Saturday, July 11. Opens July 14. Through Aug. 2. $25-$89. Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley. (510) 647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org.


The LA Times editorial board has called for a civilian commission with teeth before, but this time the board lays out the absolutely dismal history of attempts to oversee the department, all of which have failed utterly.

Let us hope the LA County Board of Supervisors are paying attention.

Here’s a clip:

Los Angeles County has a commission created more than a half century ago, that is tasked with monitoring jail conditions and holding government accountable for improper treatment of inmates. As reports circulated in recent years of inmate beatings and abuse at the hands of sheriff’s deputies, the Sybil Brand Commission for Institutional Inspections failed to find or act on the pattern of brutality that has resulted in the county paying millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements, the resignation last year of Sheriff Lee Baca the indictment this year of former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka (among others), the convictions of several deputies for obstruction of justice, and the ongoing criminal investigations into inmate mistreatment. It instead reported accomplishments such as commending the sheriff for his cooperation during jail inspections.

Following reports of numerous improper uses of force by deputies more than two decades ago, the Board of Supervisors hired special counsel Merrick Bobb, who regularly reported on problems in the jails and elsewhere in the department; but the board, distracted by other emergencies and concerns, took little action on Bobb’s recommendations. The board abolished his office just over a year ago.

In 2001, in response to concern that abusive deputies were not facing meaningful discipline, the county created an Office of Independent Review to provide civilian oversight of the discipline process. But in order to get access to confidential sheriff files, the office agreed that such documents would be privileged, and in so doing it became in essence the department’s attorney, and wound up providing in-house advice rather than actual oversight. That office, too, was abolished last year.

Those efforts illustrate the two primary avenues of failure in oversight of the sheriff’s department. The supposedly independent overseer either is absorbed into the sheriff’s world, as with the Office of Independent Review, or becomes an agent of the Board of Supervisors, ineffectual like the Sybil Brand Commission or else too easily ignored, given the board’s many duties and political pressures, like the Office of Special Counsel.

There is an urgent need for a new model that does not replicate those that so utterly failed during the jail abuse scandal. The oversight body must have sufficient independence from both the board and the sheriff, sufficient access to department documents to perform its task, sufficient standing to apply political pressure in cases when the sheriff refuses to cooperate, and sufficient professionalism and restraint to avoid becoming a runaway tribunal.

To design such a model, the Board of Supervisors appointed a panel to consider various possibilities and make recommendations. The Working Group on Civilian Oversight completed its report late last month. It falls woefully short.


While, it doesn’t magically solve every single problem, with 61 sworn officers and 28 mental health workers, the Los Angeles Police Department’s mental evaluation unit is the largest mental health policing program of its kind in the nation and, by all accounts, it’s doing a lot of good, both in helping take the pressure off patrol officers while, most importantly, aiding in productive and appropriate resolutions, rather than harmful outcomes, for the city’s mentally ill.

According to LAPD spokespeople, the unit has become a vital resource for the city’s 10,000-person police force.

NPR’s Stephanie O’Neil has a good new story on the unit and how it functions.

Here’s a clip:

Officer Ted Simola and his colleagues in the unit work with county mental health workers to provide crisis intervention when people with mental illness come into contact with police.

On this day, Simola is working the triage desk on the sixth floor at LAPD headquarters. Triage duty involves helping cops on the scene evaluate and deal with people who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

Today, he gets a call involving a 60-year-old man with paranoid schizophrenia. The call is typical of the more than 14,000 fielded by the unit’s triage desk last year.

“The call came out as a male with mental illness,” says the officer on the scene to Simola. “I guess he was inside of a bank. They said he was talking to himself. He urinated outside.”

If it were another department, this man might be put into the back of a police car and driven to jail, so that the patrol officer could get back to work more quickly. But LAPD policy requires all officers who respond to a call in which mental illness may be a factor to phone the triage desk for assistance in evaluating the person’s condition.

Officer Simola talks to the officer on the scene. “Paranoid? Disorganized? That type of thing?” The officer answers, “Yeah, he’s talking a lot about Steven Seagal, something about Jackie Chan.” Simola replies, “OK, does he know what kind of medication he’s supposed to have?” They continue talking.

The triage officers are first and foremost a resource for street cops. Part of their job entails deciding which calls warrant an in-person visit from the unit’s 18 cop-clinician teams. These teams, which operate as second responders to the scene, assisted patrol in more than 4,700 calls last year.

Sometimes their work involves high-profile interventions, like assisting SWAT teams with dangerous standoffs or talking a jumper off a ledge. But on most days it involves relieving patrol officers of time-consuming mental health calls like the one Simola is helping to assess.

The man involved in this call has three outstanding warrants for low-grade misdemeanors, including public drinking. Technically, any of them qualifies him for arrest. But Simola says today, he won’t be carted off to jail.

“He’ll have to appear on the warrants later,” Simola says, “but immediately he’ll get treated for his mental health.”


The bill to drastically restrict solitary confinement for California ‘s locked up kids, has one more committee to make it through, and then it goes to the assembly floor and, if passed there, on to the governor.

The bill’s author, Senator Mark Leno, has tried to address some of the concerns of the bill’s opponents, with a set of amendments, but so far they’ve not done the trick writes Kelly Davis for The Crime Report.

Here’s a clip:

In response to opposition from county probation unions and California’s influential prison guard union, Leno has agreed to several amendments since the legislation was first introduced in February. The most recent amendment allows a youth to be confined beyond four hours if he can’t be safely re-integrated into the general population.

But the amendments have not appeared to sway the critics.

At the committee hearing, Craig Brown, a lobbyist with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, argued that the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), which runs California’s four juvenile correctional facilities, has implemented numerous reforms over the last several years, including significant reductions the use of confinement. In 2004, the DJJ, then called the California Youth Authority, entered into a consent decree with the Prison Law Office after documented cases of young people being kept in solitary confinement—sometimes in cages—for 23 hours a day.

Leno’s bill would add another layer of regulations and “mess up all that progress” Brown said.

There are currently no laws governing the use of juvenile solitary confinement in California.

The lack of regulations has played a role in at least four lawsuits-—the one filed against the Prison Law Office against the DJJ, and three subsequent lawsuits against county probation departments.

Posted in American artists, American voices, Inspector General, jail, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LAPD, LASD, School to Prison Pipeline, solitary, Youth at Risk, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 24 Comments »

LASD Visiting Center Convictions: What the Jury Didn’t Know

June 29th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


As most readers are aware, a seven-woman five-man jury deliberated for just about four hours last Wednesday before finding former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sergeant Eric Gonzalez, and LASD deputies Sussie Ayala and Fernando Luviano guilty of a string of civil rights abuses for delivering a vicious beating to jail visitor Gabriel Carrillo, then conspiring to falsify criminal charges against Carrillo in order to cover up the abuse.

In order to arrive at their verdict, the jury was appropriately only exposed to the facts and testimony having directly to do, or leading up to, that beating and phony report writing.

As a consequence, when defense attorney Joseph Avrahamy said multiple times in his closing arguments, “This has never happened before!”— meaning, one assumed, that the beating of someone for no reason in the jail or its visiting center, and the falsifying of charges to cover for such a beating, was all quite anomalous—the jury had no way of knowing that the statement was extravagantly untrue.

“Someone just mouthing off would never cause [these deputies] to use excessive force,” continued attorney Avrahamy. “Why would these deputies and their sergeant risk their careers and criminal charges by beating up a suspect and falsifying reports?”

Why, indeed? Well, perhaps it was because the defendants felt, quite rightly, that they were not risking much of anything—which would almost surely have been the case had the feds not stepped in. The truth was, in February 2011, when the beating of Gabriel Carrillo occurred, jail personal who engaged in such behavior were very, very unlikely to be held even the tiniest bit accountable for their actions.

This sad fact was documented in detail in such quarters as the department’s own internal reports, by testimony of department supervisors at the public hearings held by the Citizens Commission for Jail Violence, in the CCJV’s scathing final report– and in WitnessLA’s own reporting.

In answer to the spurious claim that “this has never happened before,” there are myriad accounts of similarly senseless beatings having taken place in the county’s jail system, often accompanied by the fabrication of charges against the beating victims to cover the brutality.

The ACLU’s massive class action suit, Rosas v. Baca, featured 70 signed declarations by victims of—or witnesses to—such incidents. The abuse described in the declarations was deemed credible enough that it forced a landmark settlement that was approved by the LA County board of supervisors last December, and then given final approval in April 2015 by U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson. (The settlement, just to remind you, was not for money, but to force a system of jail oversight that is intended to help prevent such incidents from happening in the future.)

Moreover, the name of Fernando Luviano, one of the just-convicted defendants, is featured prominently in several of the Rosas declarations, plus in the accounts of still other former inmates who were not part of the lawsuit.


At WLA we have read declarations by eight different former jail inmates, some of them also witnesses, who described beatings, pepper spraying, outsized threats of retaliation, and similar actions in which Luviano allegedly took part. In the majority of cases, he was the main player, or at least one of them.

This spring I spoke to one of the Rosas victims, a 35-year-old named Michael Hoguin, who works for a car auction company. Holguin explained how he was badly beaten in 2009 by several deputies, Luviano prominently among them.

Holguin was, at the time, in jail on a charge of possessing an illegal weapon—-namely a cop baton, which was inside the compartment on his motorcycle, where he’d reportedly stashed it, then forgotten about it.

According to Holguin’s civil complaint, in October of 2009, he and the other inmates of the 3500 unit of Men’s Central Jail, where Holguin was housed, had not been allowed showers for more than two weeks. “We had to bird-bath out of the sinks in our cells,” Holguin told me.

On October 18, however, along with others in his unit, he was finally let out of his cell for a shower. “It was odd cells one day, even cells the next day,” he said. But, after he was moved toward the shower area, at the last minute, Holguin was informed that he would not be allowed a shower after all. When Holguin asked why and protested that we wanted his scheduled shower, Luviano reportedly replied, “Turn around and I’ll tell you why.” At this point Holguin was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, then moved to a “nearby area,” where he was allegedly beaten severely, kicked, slammed repeatedly in the head and body with a hard object, presumably a flashlight, while the deputy chanted the requisite “stop resisting,” over and over, even long after inmate Holguin had been knocked—still handcuffed—to the ground.

“But I wasn’t struggling, except to kind of brace myself for the blows,” he said. “I was mostly trying to curl myself into a fetal position.”

At some point two other deputies reportedly joined in, spraying Holguin with a long stream of pepper spray. Then Luviano allegedly rubbed the spray in Holguin’s closed eyes, a description that now sounds creepily similar to Luviano’s close range and entirely punitive and gratuitous spraying of the handcuffed Gabriel Carrillo, who by then had open wounds on his face.

Although he declines to disclose the dollar amount, Holguin has already won what is thought to be a decent sized sum of money in the settlement of a civil suit against the county that concluded in the fall of 2013.

According to the diagrammatic record made by LASD’s Medical Services (see above), Holguin suffered extensive cuts and bruising requiring seven staples in the center of his scalp, plus four stitches over his right eyebrow. His knee was deeply lacerated, his tibia was broken in two places requiring a “short leg cast.”

But, again, Holguin’s report is only one of eight we read. There are also declarations by Robert Dragusica (2009), Antonio Candelario (2010), William Littlejohn (2011), Jonathan Goodwin (2011), Alex Rosas (2011), Jabaar Thomas (2011), and Arturo Fernandez (2011)—all naming Luviano.

And, yet, despite these reports, at least two of which have resulted in high ticket civil settlements, when Luviano was convicted by the jury last week, incredibly he was still employed by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (albeit relieved of duty, as was required once he had been indicted).


Part of the reason that department members like Gonzalez, Luviano, and Ayala were so rarely disciplined for excessive uses of force in Men’s Central Jail can be laid at the feet of Dan Cruz, the man who was the captain of Men’s Central jail from April 2008 until December of 2010—in other words, during the years immediately before Gonzalez, Luviano, Ayala and three other deputies pounded and pepper sprayed Carrillo on February 26, 2011.

During his tenure as captain, Cruz—and those below him—okayed questionable uses of force after only the most cursory review. As a consequence, during the first year of Cruz’s watch, force jumped from 273 to 330 incidents. Concerned about the spiking numbers, Cruz’s direct supervisor, then-commander Robert Olmsted, asked one of his lieutenants, Steven Smith, to randomly pull 30 force reports and then to start looking for some commonality.

When a stunned Smith came back, he told Olmsted that, out of the 30 randomly yanked force reports, all of which had been approved by higher-ups as essentially fine, he found that 18 were clearly out of policy. In other words, nearly two-thirds of the sampling of force reports that had been approved by supervisors—in some cases as high up as Cruz—had something obviously wrong with them.

What Olmsted didn’t know at the time was the fact that the bad approvals were not the worst of the matter. It turned out that, even more alarmingly, in many instances neither Cruz nor anyone else ever reviewed the force cases at all. Instead, he buried the force reports in drawers or on shelves until the year-long statue of limitations expired, and the reports were useless.

This report burying finally became very public when now-captain, then-lieutenant Michael Bornman testified before the Citizen’s Commission for Jail Violence and described what he found when he was transferred into MCJ to work under Cruz.

Here’s a relevant excerpt from the CCJV’s report:

The most disturbing examples of a systemic breakdown occurred at MCJ in 2010 when LASD Lieutenant Michael Bornman analyzed approximately 100 unprocessed and incomplete use of force reports spanning several years that had not been entered into the Department’s data tracking systems. As Bornman acknowledged in testimony before the Commission (discussed in greater detail in the Discipline Chapter), dozens of use of force cases were deemed unfounded years after the fact to simply close cases that had missing files, no witness statements, missing video tapes, and incomplete information upon which to assess deputy performance.

When Bornman tried to question all the deep-sixed reports, he said he was told to back off, that then-assistant sheriff Paul Tanaka, who was the man who had put Cruz in as captain, had no problem with what his protege was doing.

Here a clip from WLA’s 2012 story by Matt Fleischer regarding what Bornman told the CCJV:

Bornman testified that despite having three immediate supervisors in the chain of command between Cruz and Paul Tanaka—Commander Olmsted, Chief Dennis Burns and the assistant sheriff in charge of custody, Marvin Cavanaugh—bizarrely Cruz felt he needed to be accountable only to Tanaka who, as the assistant sheriff in charge of patrol, technically had no control over the jails at all.

In fact, in one instance, when Bornman suggested Cruz’s supervisor Bob Olmsted needed to be briefed on the massive backlog of administrative investigations at CJ that had been allowed to slide, Cruz told him: “Fuck Bob Olmsted. I don’t work for him. Lee Baca is my sheriff, but I work for Paul Tanaka.”

Cruz’s contempt for the chain of command went so far that, incredibly, he had a side access door to CJ alarmed so that Olmsted couldn’t make a surprise inspection. If Olmsted wanted to visit the facility, he had to check in through the front entrance.

And yet when Olmsted or anyone else tried to go over Tanaka’s head to Lee Baca about the use of force problem, they were roundly ignored.

For more on the Cruz-Tanaka era at Men’s Central Jail see WLA’s reports here and here and here and here.


Another document that the jury didn’t see was the original indictment, which got trimmed down after two of the five indicted department members—former deputies Noel Womack and Pantamitr Zunggeemoge—made deals with the feds.

If they had seen the lengthier indictment, the jury would have been aware of three additional incidents of alleged abuse against people who came to the jail to see friends or loved ones, including the beating of a jail visitor who was slammed around by deputies to the point that his arm was fractured, all reportedly because he asked to see a supervisor when his combat veteran brother repeatedly couldn’t be located in the jail. (And, yes, that incident has resulted in potentially high dollar a civil lawsuit.)

Knowledge of the original indictment would also have informed jurors of additional charges against Sussie Ayala for allegedly helping to falsify records against the victims of some of these other visitors center beatings, in addition to reportedly engaging in aggressive behavior herself.

Plus they would have seen the allegation by the feds that former Sergeant Gonzalez would “maintain, perpetuate and foster an atmosphere and environment” in the visiting area “that encouraged and tolerated abuses of the law, including the use of unjustified force….” among other abuses.

According to the indictment, Gonzalez “would reprimand deputy sheriffs he supervised for not using force on visitors to the MCJ if the visitors had supposedly ‘disrespected’ these deputy sheriffs through the visitors’ words or conduct.” He allegedly would “praise overly-aggressive behavior by deputy sheriffs and criticize” deputy behavior “that was not aggressive” and would “encourage deputy sheriffs under his command to make unlawful arrests, conduct unreasonable searches and seizures, and engage in excessive force,” according to information the FBI and the prosecutors gathered.


The jury did hear that Robert Carrillo, the younger brother whom Gabriel Carrillo had come to visit in MCJ on the day of his beating, had also been beaten a few days at the time that he was arrested.

Then the jury heard that, the day after Gabriel’s beating, there had been an exchange of texts between defendant Eric Gonzalez and a deputy out in the field named Julio Martinez, who was the primary officer who had arrested Robert Carrillo.

In a screen shot taken of Gonzalez’ cell phone, the jury and the rest of the trial watchers, saw that Martinez—whom Gonzalez had known since the days when the two worked together at Century station—had texted Gonzalez a photo of Robert Carrillo’s bruised and swollen post-arrest face. In return, Gonzalez texted to Martinez a booking photo of Gabriel Carrillo’s grotesquely swollen, lacerated and elaborately discolored face, with the following message: LOOKS LIKE WE DID A BETTER JOB. WHERE’S MY BEER BIG HOMIE.

Gonzalez’ lawyer, Avrahamy, tried to dismiss the text exchange, first as a joke, then as a legitimate search for information by Gonzalez from his colleague, Martinez, who was a member of the department’s gang detail, Operation Safe Streets, or OSS.

The jury bought neither explanation for the gleeful exchange of images of the brothers’ damaged faces.

What the jury did not know is that, Martinez is a member of the deputy gang called The Jump Out Boys, and that, together with his OSS partner, Anthony Paz, also a Jump Out Boy, in April of this year, Martinez was charged with conspiracy, perjury and altering evidence, in relation to the alleged planting of guns at a marijuana dispensary in order to make an arrest. (For the details see the LA Weekly story by Gene Maddaus and this LA Times story by Kate Mather).

Martinez and Paz are involved in another case where there are allegations of a planted gun to justify a fatal shooting by Paz of an unarmed 22-year old, killed at his South LA home. In June 2014, the 22-year-old’s family was awarded $1.2 million in a settlement with LA County.

Yet, despite all the information the jury did not have, they still arrived with a cross-the-board guilty verdict—reportedly without any doubts or dispute whatsoever.

Posted in FBI, LA County Jail, LASD, U.S. Attorney | 41 Comments »

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