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Clippers owner Donald Sterling gets lifetime NBA ban

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 30 April 2014 | 12.56

Taking actions with little precedent in American professional sports history, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the basketball league for life and said he would push hard to get other NBA owners to force Sterling to sell his franchise.

The sanctions for what the commissioner called Sterling's "deeply offensive and harmful" language about African Americans could mean the end of the Clippers' owner's tumultuous 33-year reign over one of big league sports' most inept teams just as it appears poised for championship-caliber play.

The lifetime ban, along with a $2.5-million fine, came less than four days after audio recordings released by two websites unleashed waves of anger and disdain for Sterling. The recordings captured the 80-year-old Clippers' owner telling a female friend he did not want to see her at Clippers games with black people. The NBA said its investigation confirmed that it was Sterling's voice on the recording before the league imposed its harshest penalty ever.

Silver said the remarks were "contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league." About three-quarters of the league's 400 players are black. Silver's swift and forceful response to the biggest crisis facing the NBA in memory gained wide praise within and outside the NBA.

Sterling, though, remained mostly silent and out of public view. Shortly before Silver spelled out his sanctions, Fox News contributor Jim Gray said he had spoken to Sterling, who said he had no idea what punishment would be meted out. Gray said Sterling told him, "The team is not for sale."

Sterling, a lawyer, apartment magnate and the longest tenured owner in the NBA, has a reputation for combativeness. He spent years fighting the NBA when the league tried to prevent him from moving the San Diego Clippers to Los Angeles.

"He's obviously very litigious and he's cantankerous," said Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of sports economics at Smith College. "It's very hard to predict what he would do."

After posting losing records in 30 of their 36 seasons in San Diego and Los Angeles, the Clippers have a chance in this postseason to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs for just the third time in team history. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said the commissioner's pronouncement represented the "sigh of relief" that the team needed to refocus in time for Tuesday night's playoff game against the Golden State Warriors.

Outside Staples Center on Tuesday night, Clippers' fans showed solidarity with their team and distaste for its longtime owner. Many wore black shirts or armbands. Others turned their team jerseys inside-out, as Clippers players had done with their warm-up shirts two days earlier.

A Diamond Bar couple held signs that read: ""Dear NBA owners, Must have new owner! VOTE FOR SALE!" About 100 protesters outside the arena on Figueroa Street chanted: "Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Donald Sterling has got to go!"

The Clippers' owner had been condemned by President Obama, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and top figures from the NBA's past and present. On Tuesday, Sterling's own management team distanced itself from the owner, posting a "WE ARE ONE" message on the team's Internet site.

"As an organization, we wanted to make a stand, apart from Sterling's comments," said Seth Burton, the team's vice president of communications. "As players, coaches and an organization, we don't agree with those comments."

Silver pledged to do "everything in my power" to get Sterling to sell. The commissioner will need the backing of three-quarters of team owners. A league spokesman said a date for a vote had not been set.

Without specifying how many owners he had queried about the move, Silver declared Tuesday: "I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him."

Those who spoke out immediately after Silver's announcement signaled their approval, including owners of the Los Angeles Lakers, Indiana Pacers, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks.

Jeanie Buss, governor of a Lakers franchise that long overshadowed the Clippers in L.A., called Silver's action "decisive, firm and compelling." Magic Chairman Dan DeVos said, "We are wholeheartedly behind Adam's recommendation and plan to vote accordingly."

From Monday to Tuesday, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reversed himself, first saying harsh punishment for inappropriate statements could be a "slippery slope" that would harm other owners in the future, then tweeting that he agreed "100%" with Silver's actions.

Roger Mason Jr., a vice president of the players' association, said players would keep the pressure on. "We want immediate action and a timetable from the owners of when this vote is going to happen," Mason said.

He said players had been prepared to boycott playoff games if Silver did not impose tough sanctions against Sterling. But in a news conference outside Los Angeles City Hall, current and former NBA stars expressed gratitude for what Lakers guard Steve Nash called "quick, unequivocal and decisive" action. Lakers' legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hailed "a new day" in Los Angeles sports. Magic Johnson praised Silver for "great leadership." (Sterling's anger, and the resulting audio recording, apparently stemmed from a decision by his friend, V. Stiviano, to post a photo on social media that she took of herself with Johnson.)

Although ultimate control of the Clippers remained in flux, Silver said the lifetime ban took effect immediately. Sterling is barred from NBA games or practices. He is not allowed to enter Clippers facilities or to participate in any business or player personnel decisions. He is also banned from the NBA's board of governors meetings and league activities.

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State begins early releases of nonviolent prisoners

SACRAMENTO — The state is releasing some low-level, nonviolent prisoners early as Gov. Jerry Brown complies with a federal court order to reduce crowding in its lockups — a turning point in the governor's efforts to resolve the issue.

Inmates serving time for certain nonviolent crimes are being discharged days or weeks before they were scheduled to go free, a move that Brown had long resisted but proposed in January and was subsequently ordered by judges to carry out.

Eventually, such prisoners, who are earning time off their sentences with good behavior or rehabilitation efforts, will be able to leave months or even years earlier.

Prison workers, inmates' lawyers and county probation officials said the releases began two weeks ago. Since then, San Bernardino County probation officers said, the number of felons arriving from prison has increased more than two dozen a week, or 30%.

L.A. County Deputy Probation Chief Reaver Bingham said he did not know how many prisoners had been released early to his jurisdiction.

Corrections officials confirmed that some inmates are being released "slightly earlier" but would not say how many or discuss the criteria used to determine who is eligible.

Officials are still working on the terms of other planned steps to reduce crowding, including making more inmates eligible for medical parole and a new release program for those older than 60.

In addition, some second-time offenders who have served half their sentences under the state's three-strikes law could be eligible to leave.

Brown's administration has estimated that 780 inmates could be released under those programs.

Sentence reductions were among the changes Brown offered to make as he sought two more years to reduce prison crowding to a level the judges deem safe. He wants to meet the jurists' targets mostly by placing more felons in privately owned prisons and other facilities.

In February, the judges granted Brown's request and ordered him to "immediately implement" the early releases and add parole options for prisoners who are frail, elderly or serving extended sentences for specific kinds of nonviolent crimes.

Analysts in Brown's administration initially estimated that about 1,400 prisoners would be freed early over two years by being allowed to shave off as much as a third of their sentences with good behavior.

From prison, they follow the normal path to either state parole or county supervision, depending on the crimes they committed.

"Our first 'Whew!' moment was when we realized it was not anybody we wouldn't [be getting] already," said Karen Pank, a lobbyist for California's 58 county probation departments.

More than 17,000 prisoners overall are potentially eligible for reduced sentences, according to the administration's analysis.

Pank said the administration was negotiating with counties over whether to pay them additional money to supervise those who are sent to probation early.

Eligibility rules for the court-ordered parole programs have not been made public. A Board of Parole Hearings meeting on the matter was held last week behind closed doors, according to an agenda posted online by the board.

Ordinarily, such major changes to the state's criminal justice system would be debated before the Legislature, but the federal judges have set aside those requirements.

"We don't have many options to weigh in on the consequences of what is being put in place," Pank said.

If California misses any of the court's interim deadlines for easing crowding, a court-appointed officer has authority to order additional releases.

State lawyers said in an April 15 court filing that officials have already met the court's June 30 benchmark, its first since the judges gave Brown extra time.

The judges set a limit on the inmate population of 143% of the prisons' capacity; the state's attorneys said the latest population was 141%.

Lawyers for prisoners argued in a court motion last week that the state was counting empty beds in a medical prison in calculating its capacity to house inmates, permitting other prisons to remain crowded. The corrections department contends the medical space should be included.

The latest prison population reports from the government show a women's prison in Chowchilla is at 183% of its capacity. Corrections officials have confirmed an inmate lawyer's report that as many as eight women at a time share dorm rooms that have a single toilet, sink and shower.

"There is one person on top of another.... It is a pressure cooker simmering," said attorney Rebekah Evenson of the Prison Law Office, which represents inmates in class-action litigation over prison conditions.

Corrections spokeswoman Krissi Khokhobashvili said crowding in women's prisons will ease when a private lockup in McFarland opens to take 520 female inmates.

In a conference call Tuesday with financial analysts, executives of the company that owns the McFarland facility said it would not be ready to take the first 260 women until the fall.

They said state officials had not yet requested the remaining 260 beds.


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Alex Caputo-Pearl wins runoff to lead L.A. teachers union

Alex Caputo-Pearl was a young, activist teacher when he helped lead the Bus Riders Union, co-founded a group to organize against the growing influence of standardized testing and helped start a bloc within the union to push for liberal-leaning issues.

Strikingly little has changed about the veteran social studies instructor, what he's fighting for, and how he intends to go about it.

Except now he is taking that mission to the top job of the teachers union for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest school system.

Caputo-Pearl, 45, won a resounding victory Tuesday, winning 80% of the United Teachers Los Angeles vote in a runoff against one-term incumbent President Warren Fletcher. In the mail-in election, 7,235 members cast ballots, fewer than one in four of those eligible to vote.

The incoming leader vowed to make the union a force for advancing education reforms favored by teachers in the school district.

"I've always walked the walk on this," said Caputo-Pearl. "The union needs to be a real leader in taking control of school improvement and really working with members and the community around how to improve schools."

Caputo-Pearl and Fletcher differ little on education policy.

Fletcher, too, has criticized standardized testing. Also, both are opposed to evaluating teachers based in part on their students' test scores. And both criticize the overall direction of schools Supt. John Deasy.

Both have made limited headway.

Fletcher spent his three-year term on the defensive — working to limit layoffs and salary cuts while trying to block aggressive moves by Deasy, who overhauled teacher evaluations to include test scores. Deasy also has tried, less successfully so far, to limit teacher job protections in the name of improving the workforce.

Caputo-Pearl was on the receiving end of one Deasy strategy: replacing the staff at low-performing schools.

Caputo-Pearl lost his job at Crenshaw High, after devoting his career to the campus and surrounding neighborhood. This year, he taught at Frida Kahlo High School.

His tenure at Crenshaw offers some insight into his leadership.

Students appreciated him as a strong teacher who motivated many into social activism. Several times, Caputo-Pearl outmaneuvered district officials, as when he helped students, parents and teachers fight off attempts to bring a charter school to the campus. (Charters are independently run public schools; most are nonunion.)

Caputo-Pearl was most proud, in recent years, of helping develop a homegrown improvement plan that won support from foundations and USC. Rather than replacing teachers, the faculty committed to improving skills and collaborating, while also working with students to make key decisions and incorporate an understanding and celebration of students' cultures.

But Deasy concluded that the approach failed to raise achievement. Caputo-Pearl countered that district decisions perpetually undermined efforts.

Another issue has arisen between them: Deasy said recently that Caputo-Pearl faces possible discipline for campaigning during school hours.

Caputo-Pearl said he'll look beyond these conflicts to work with the superintendent.

And, Deasy said Tuesday that he called to congratulate Caputo-Pearl. "I look forward to a positive and collaborative working relationship," the superintendent said.

The new leader's battle scars are a selling point for many teachers.

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John and Ken to host debate for GOP governor candidates

By Seema Mehta

April 29, 2014, 10:38 p.m.

A mostly unknown Republican gubernatorial candidate dropped out of the race Tuesday, but the two main GOP contenders will debate next month in a 90-minute event moderated by popular talk-radio hosts.

Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount cited health problems as he pulled out of the June 3 primary contest.

"Due to this, I've been unable to put together the campaign that California deserves," he wrote on a Facebook message to supporters.

Best known for his elaborate annual Christmas light display, Blount was a long-shot candidate who had single-digit support in the polls. The Republican had eschewed donations, saying, "California is not for sale and neither is this election."

Attempts to reach Blount on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the front-runner after Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, and first-time candidate Neel Kashkari will meet at 5 p.m. May 15 at the Ayres Hotel in Anaheim, according to the radio station KFI-AM (640). John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, hosts of the "John and Ken" show, will moderate.

The duo said they had also invited Brown. A political spokesman for the governor said he had not seen a debate invitation.

Attempts to reach Donnelly were unsuccessful.

Kashkari has raised much more money than Donnelly and rolled out high-profile endorsements by Republican leaders, including a nod from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday, but he remains unknown to most voters.


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Donald Sterling's ties to NAACP under scrutiny after race recording

Written By kolimtiga on Selasa, 29 April 2014 | 12.56

Five years ago, when the local chapter of the NAACP wanted to give Clippers owner Donald Sterling a lifetime achievement humanitarian award, Los Angeles' African American community was divided.

Sterling had been a prominent donor to the NAACP chapter for more than a decade. He ran newspaper ads touting his charity's generosity to L.A. organizations that help the poor communities.

But the real estate magnate had just paid $2.73 million to settle U.S. government claims that he refused to rent his apartments to Latinos and blacks in Koreatown.

"The NAACP airbrushed this away and simply said that Sterling has been a gem in giving oodles of tickets away to needy inner city kids and ladling out some cash to charities and sports camps for them," community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote at the time on his website.

The organization decided to go ahead give him the award. And in May, it was set to hand him a second honor as part of a gala marking the NAACP's 100th anniversary.

Then recordings emerged in which a man said to be Sterling asked a female friend not to publicly associate with African Americans.

This time, the NAACP withdrew the award. But as the scandal unfolds, some have questioned why it had associated itself with Sterling for all these years.

Leon Jenkins, president of the NAACP branch, declined to say how much Sterling had given the organization recently.

He said he didn't cut ties with Sterling until now because the group was reluctant to make decisions based on "rumors."

"We deal with the actual character of the person as we see it and as it is displayed," he said.

Jenkins said NAACP officials spoke with Sterling in 2009 about the housing discrimination case as well as a suit that NBA great Elgin Baylor filed accusing Sterling of racism when he ousted Baylor as general manager.

Baylor claimed that the organization had a "plantation mentality" in a deposition, and that Sterling rejected a coaching candidate, Jim Brewer, because he was black.

Jenkins said the NAACP officials told Sterling: "If any of the allegations in those lawsuits are true, you need to pay those people, you need to make amends."

In 2011, Baylor dropped the race allegations from the suit, and Sterling hired an African American coach, Doc Rivers, last year.

The NAACP tried to build partnerships with other sports franchises in Southern California, Jenkins added, but "his organization was the only one that really came to the front."

The chapter had recently been talking to Sterling about giving an endowment to Los Angeles Southwest College and donating more money to African American students at UCLA.

"That is something that shows — I don't want to get into the good or bad — but it shows there's a consciousness about the plight of African Americans and Hispanics," Jenkins said.

On Monday, Jenkins said the organization would refund the money that Sterling donated. He did not say how much that would be.

But he rejected a call by the national leader of the NAACP, Lorraine C. Miller, to rescind the 2009 award.

"This is not a Heisman Trophy, dude," Jenkins told a reporter.

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California's high school graduation rate passes 80% for first time

For the first time in California history, the high school graduation rate has surpassed 80%, mirroring a trend nationwide, officials announced Monday.

Although disparities remain based on students' race, socioeconomic status and English skills, the graduation rates for Latino and African American students are increasing more rapidly than those of their white and Asian peers.

That improvement in last year's graduation rate suggests that the state is succeeding in narrowing its academic achievement gap among racial groups, California education officials said.

Nationwide, the overall graduation rate climbed from 73% in 2006 to 81% in 2012, according to the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education.

If that rapid improvement continues, the overall national rate could surpass 90% by 2020, officials said.

The graduation rates were lower for Latino and black students across the country: 76% and 68%, respectively, graduated in 2012. The percentages were roughly the same in California, based on data from 2013.

"We have to be honest that this is a matter of equity and that we have to change the opportunity equation," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "All of America's children are our children."

In Los Angeles Unified, the nation's second-largest school system, the overall graduation rate was 67.9% — an increase of 1.3 percentage points from 2012. For Latinos, the improvement was 1.2 percentage points to 67.2%. For African Americans, it was higher — 2.8 percentage points to 63.7%.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, who has pushed to increase graduation rates, said he was particularly pleased with the results considering the devastating cuts in state funding that occurred while the 2013 graduates were in school.

"These results came at the absolute bottom of all the cuts, and we still saw improvement," Deasy said.

The superintendent attributed the gains to the work of teachers and staff, as well as an effort to steer funding to struggling schools, and investments made in programs geared toward dropout recovery and prevention.

"Considering all the challenges we have in L.A., I'm very pleased and proud," Deasy said.

Although the progress is welcome, some educators and others contend that the state is cheering piecemeal progress while alarming differences in achievement still exist.

"It's good to be optimistic and happy about the incremental success that we've had," said Valerie Cuevas of Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based education advocacy group. "But 1 in 4 Latino students are still not graduating from high school — that's a problem."

This year's annual report is the fourth compiled under a system that tracks individual students from the time they enter high school in ninth grade until they are seniors. The calculation does not allow direct comparison with years before 2009, but it is widely believed that the numbers are more accurate.

California's black and Latino students, although lagging behind white and Asian classmates, continued to make slight gains in graduation rates. For Latinos, the improvement was 1.7%; for African Americans, it was 1.9%.

The graduation rate among white students improved one percentage point, to 87.6%. For Asians, the improvement was half a percentage point, to 91.6%.

The positive momentum should continue as the state moves to a new funding system that allocates more money to schools with disadvantaged students, such as those from low-income families and those still learning English, said state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

"There's some good news, but there's a lot of work to do in front of us," he said. "We can — we must — do better to help all our students graduate."

Improvement, particularly within the burgeoning Latino population, must come at a quicker pace if California is to meet job needs and maintain the economic vitality of the state, Cuevas said. The influx of funding should be used strategically to help the most vulnerable within the underperforming groups, such as students who are not fluent in English, Cuevas said.

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Gov. Jerry Brown's fiscal pitch gets warm reception

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown received a warm welcome from lawmakers Monday as he pitched his proposal to pay off debt and save money for future economic downturns.

He faced only one mild question during a rare appearance before a legislative committee, joked about what office he might hold more than a decade from now and played his greatest-hits talking points about stabilizing California's tumultuous finances.

"There's nothing complicated about the idea of saving money," Brown said as he urged Democrats and Republicans to unite behind his proposal. "Voters can understand it."

Brown's testimony before the Assembly Budget Committee, part of a special legislative session he called to focus attention on his proposal, was another sign of his willingness to throw his personal political capital behind the measure.

Judging by his reception, Brown is on safe ground. One Republican, Assemblywoman Diane Harkey of Dana Point, praised the governor's handling of the budget and lamented that he "will only be here for another term," already assuming Brown will win reelection in November.

Committee members repeatedly praised the governor, and toward the end of the hearing Assemblyman Richard Hershel Bloom (D-Santa Monica) added, "I'm not going to rain on this parade."

Under Brown's proposal, spikes in revenue from capital gains taxes would be placed in a reserve fund or used to pay debts and other long-term costs, such as public pensions. California has had a reserve fund since 2004, but it has mostly sat empty. Brown says there should be stronger rules on paying into it.

"If we were angels, we wouldn't need any of these things," he said. "We would just, every day and every year, make very wise judgments. But we haven't proven that to be the case, so we're going to try a little bit of protective restraint."

Brown will need Republican support to push his proposal through the Legislature, because criminal investigations have cost Democrats their supermajority in the Senate. His measure, a constitutional amendment that voters would have to approve, requires a two-thirds vote before it can go on the ballot.

One of Brown's opponents in the governor's race, former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari, has said lawmakers should approve Brown's plan, which the Republican candidate called "a small incremental step in the right direction."

Republican lawmakers have already expressed willingness to back off a competing proposal for a rainy-day fund, which Democrats have criticized as too restrictive on spending. However, the Republicans want more constraints than Brown has proposed to dictate when lawmakers can pull money out of the reserve.

The governor said he was open to compromises, such as raising the vote threshold in the Legislature for withdrawing money and using it to prevent budget cuts during a recession.

There are signs that the Democratic leaders of the Assembly and Senate are divided on some details.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) wants to finalize the measure before the Capitol is consumed by annual budget negotiations, which begin in earnest in mid-May, when the governor releases his revised spending plan.

Finishing early, Pérez told reporters, "lays the foundation for the assumptions of the budget."

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) wants to slow down the debate, expressing concern that it is being rushed.

"A poorly designed constitutional amendment would be difficult to fix," Steinberg said on the Senate floor. "It's therefore paramount in my view that we work purposefully, but we don't rush it."

Steinberg said he wanted to see a greater emphasis on tackling the shortfall in the state's teacher pension fund and restoring money to government services. Advocates for the poor are also urging more funding for healthcare and social services.

Advocates plan to rally Tuesday at the Capitol to call for $5 billion more in spending on such services. They're confounded by Brown's push to save for the future when some cuts made during the recession have yet to be restored.

"We believe in rainy-day funds, but for a lot of people it's still raining," said Anthony Wright, who promotes expanded health coverage at Health Access.

To drive their point home Tuesday, demonstrators plan to carry umbrellas.


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Seal Beach hair salon massacre suspect to plead guilty to 8 slayings

The man accused of gunning down eight people at a Seal Beach hair salon in 2011 will plead guilty to eight counts of special circumstances murder and one count of attempted murder, his lawyer said Monday.

Scott Dekraai, who, according to prosecutors, was seeking revenge on his ex-wife when he opened fire at the Salon Meritage, has "felt for a while that he really needs to give at least the victims the sense that he's not seeking to have this go on forever," said his lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders.

"He thinks he owes to them at least the knowledge that he's willing to accept responsibility."

There is substantial evidence in the Oct. 12, 2011, shooting: Dekraai was arrested after he was driving away from the scene and soon confessed to investigators, according to court records. Dekraai had been involved in a custody dispute with his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, who worked at the salon and was one of those killed, prosecutors said.

He still faces what will probably be a long trial to determine whether he receives the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. California defendants cannot use a plea agreement to accept death.

Dekraai had previously offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole, but that offer was rejected by the Orange County district attorney's office because prosecutors refused to drop the death penalty. The guilt portion of his trial is set to begin June 9.

The intended plea does not involve a negotiated agreement for leniency, and prosecutors said little had changed as a result of it.

"The battle in this case has always been the penalty phase," said Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Simmons.

Dekraai's trial, which like many death penalty cases has been slow to start, has been delayed even longer as the court examines defense allegations of the improper use of jailhouse informants in this case and others.

Since mid-March, the court has heard testimony from prosecutors, law enforcement and informants as it examines whether jailhouse informants were, as the defense says, repeatedly deployed in violation of the constitutional rights of Dekraai and other defendants, and information routinely kept from defense attorneys.

During the hearing, the head of the district attorney's homicide unit acknowledged that evidence has not been disclosed in certain cases, a revelation that could lead to new trials for some convicted criminals. Last week, prosecutors said they would no longer seek to introduce recordings of Dekraai speaking to informant Fernando Perez, which they hoped would help prove that Dekraai deserves the death penalty.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals said Monday that Dekraai's plea does not resolve the motions filed as a result those allegations, and he indicated that he will continue hearing testimony on the informant issues.

Paul Caouette, whose father David was shot and killed in the parking lot outside the salon, said he had mixed feelings about Dekraai's decision to plead guilty.

"I don't know if it's any resolution," he said. "I think accepting his guilt, that's a good thing; but in my opinion, he deserves the death penalty."

Like many of the victims' families, Caouette has spent much of the last 2 1/2 years attending hearings as the case winds its way through the court system. He said he would continue to do so through the death penalty trial.

"I'll be here as much as I can," Caouette said.

Bethany Webb, whose sister was killed and mother was wounded in the shooting, said she does not believe in the death penalty. But she said Dekraai has not earned any sympathy for agreeing to the plea.

"He's not doing this because he's a good guy," she said. "This is just something his attorney is doing so he can go into that courtroom and say, 'Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, [Dekraai] did this because he felt bad for the families.' But he's not doing it because of that.

"He saunters in that courtroom and smiles at us," she added.

Dekraai is expected to enter a formal plea Friday.


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V. Stiviano shies from public eye amid Donald Sterling controversy

Written By kolimtiga on Senin, 28 April 2014 | 12.56

V. Stiviano's Instagram feed is full of bling — designer handbags, the interior of a Bentley, glamour shots of herself.

But on Sunday morning, she was uncharacteristically shy, hiding behind the door of her $1.8-million Spanish-style duplex near the Beverly Center. She told a reporter she was on her way to church.

A photo Stiviano posted on Instagram of herself with Lakers legend Magic Johnson was the main topic of a taped conversation in which a man said to be Clippers owner Donald Sterling asks her not to publicly associate with African Americans.

Since Friday night, when TMZ posted what it said were the recordings between Sterling and Stiviano, she has emerged as a central figure in the scandal, which has generated widespread condemnation and has prompted the National Basketball Assn. to launch an investigation.

On the audiotape, Stiviano appears to spar with the man said to be Sterling, pointing out that she herself is black and Mexican. At other times, she is conciliatory, apologizing and tenderly offering him a sip of juice.

The Clippers have not confirmed that Sterling is the voice on the tape and in a statement said the owner doesn't hold the views expressed in the recording. Stiviano's attorney, Mac Nehoray, said Sunday the tape is authentic but that his client did not release it to TMZ.

Much of what is known about Stiviano and the Clippers owner is laid out in a series of bitter legal filings made over the last few months.

Nearly 50 years Sterling's junior, Stiviano was sued last month by Sterling's wife, Rochelle, who seeks the return of the duplex as well as a Ferrari, two Bentleys and a Range Rover she said her husband bought for Stiviano.

Rochelle Sterling alleges in the lawsuit that her husband met Stiviano at the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami. The suit describes Stiviano, 31, as a seductress who targets wealthy older men like the 80-year-old Sterling.

According to property records, Stiviano purchased the duplex in December 2013. But Rochelle Sterling says that she allowed her husband to pay for the house, believing that her name would be on the deed along with his.

Sterling also gave Stiviano $240,000 for living expenses, according to Rochelle Sterling's lawsuit, amounting to $2 million of community property that he allegedly spent on Stiviano without his wife's knowledge.

In a response to the lawsuit, Stiviano argues that Rochelle Sterling must have known that her husband of more than 50 years had romantic relationships outside of his marriage.

Stiviano's court filing ridicules the notion that the "feminine wiles of Ms. Stiviano overpowered the iron will of Donald T. Sterling who is well known as one of the most shrewd businessmen in the world." Stiviano's papers, however, do not acknowledge that she was in a romantic relationship with Sterling.

"Neither Ms. Stiviano, nor this office has ever alleged that Ms. Stiviano is, or ever was, Mr. Sterling's girlfriend," Nehoray said in a statement Sunday night.

Nehoray wrote in court papers that his client was "a veritable fixture" at Sterling's business offices. A Clippers spokesman said Stiviano does not work for the team, though he said it is possible she is employed by one of Sterling's other business ventures.

An advertisement for a 2011 charity luncheon lists Stiviano as a director of the Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation, with Sterling as chairman.

In 2010, Stiviano legally changed her name to V. Stiviano from Maria Vanessa Perez. Her stated reason in a court petition: She had not "yet been fully accepted because of my race."

Since then, she has created hats and shirts emblazoned with "V. Stiviano." Her Instagram is dotted with photos of people posing in the "V. Stiviano" gear.

Nehoray said in a statement that the tape is part of an hourlong conversation between Stiviano and Sterling.

On the tape, Stiviano asks if she should change the color of her skin. The man identified as Sterling said "that isn't the issue" but asks why she is "taking pictures with minorities," referring to Johnson.

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Community art project to offer ideas on how to improve MacArthur Park

Getting the strangers to open up wasn't easy.

But Jesus Rodriguez, a high school senior, pressed on, clipboard and questionnaire in hand.

He and about 15 other students spent Thursday evening at MacArthur Park, interviewing people about their lives, their well-being and the health of their neighborhood.

Their responses will be the basis for an intricate art installation to be displayed at the park in the fall.

For Rodriguez, 18, the exercise was eye-opening. He spent two hours approaching random men and women, some of them homeless.

"It's made me realize how much people are affected," Rodriguez said. "You can't just drive by a neighborhood and think you know everything. You have to stop and talk to those who live there."

The event, called Story Summit, has taken place every year since 2003 in neighborhoods across the city. It was organized by L.A. Commons, a community program that uses art to give a voice to underrepresented areas.

This particular gathering featured Aztec dancers, arts and crafts workshops and free tamales.

"This is a way to support the youth and the neighborhood and to show that art is really valuable to a community," said Beth Peterson, director of L.A. Commons' community arts program.

Last year's MacArthur Park art installation — puzzle pieces depicting black and white scenes from the park — hangs prominently from light posts. The pieces will be on display for several more months.

This year, students will create papel picado bunting, with flags as long as 8 feet. The traditional Mexican cutouts will be made from plastic tablecloths and feature images inspired by the students' findings. They will hang from five giant trees facing the south side of the park on West 7th Street.

On Thursday, the young people tried their best to get folks talking. They asked, among other things:

What are challenges to you and your family's good health? How does your job affect your health? What is your vision for a healthy neighborhood?

Some of the interviewers were taken aback by how personal some of the answers were.

"This man started crying to me," said Armando Larios, 17. "I asked him about his family. He said he regretted everything he's put them through. He said he was an alcoholic and now he's alone."

Many opinions seemed universal.

People said they loved the park; it's one of the few open spaces in a dense area filled with overcrowded apartments. But they were tired of the litter, the gangs, the drugs and the fast food outlets. They wanted more fresh fruits and vegetables and better schools.

"I want to see the grass green, not full of brown spots all the time," said Fatima Lujano, 12.

When they spoke about how work affects their health, many said they work so much, they hardly sleep. Others worry because they work around chemicals and never have time to see a doctor.

Adrian Guerrero, a junior at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown, listened closely and took notes as people spoke to him.

He began visualizing the images he could create for the installation.

"I'm picturing doing an angel with no face, with his chest being opened up by chains," he said. "Something powerful that captures people's struggle in this place."


Twitter: @LATbermudez

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17 candidates for Waxman's seat compete for spotlight at 2-hour forum

On the biggest political stage of the election season in California, the 17 candidates competing to succeed Rep. Henry Waxman struggled to stand out Sunday at a forum that was long on issues and short on time.

Some common priorities emerged among those hoping to occupy the seat that Waxman, a Beverly Hills Democrat, is giving up after four decades: traffic woes and public transportation needs, ways to improve public education and a desire to get special-interest money out of politics — espoused even by some with the biggest war chests.

The two-hour forum, organized by the Brentwood News and held at University Synagogue, marked the first time all candidates appeared together — the largest field of any contest on the June 3 primary ballot. An 18th candidate dropped out after it was too late to remove his name from the ballot.

The event drew an audience of about 400 mostly polite, attentive listeners.

The only two candidates who have held elected office — former Los Angeles councilwoman and controller Wendy Greuel and state Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance, both Democrats — said they had the experience and track records to get things done.

"I'm a fighter and a doer," Greuel said, listing such accomplishments as getting federal aid to victims of the 1994 Northridge earthquake when she worked in Washington and helping to tighten city campaign rules as a local official.

Lieu cited his tenure on the Torrance City Council and in both houses of the state Legislature as evidence that he "can work across the aisle" to help break partisan gridlock in Congress.

But several first-time candidates tried to turn Greuel's and Lieu's political experience into a liability.

"It's time for something different," said Green Party member Michael Ian Sachs, an environmental technician from Redondo Beach.

Author and public radio talk show host Matt Miller, a Democrat, touted his work in the Clinton administration and in advising Fortune 500 companies, saying the experience prepared him to be the best candidate "who can bring the change we all know we need."

And TV director and producer Brent Roske, one of three candidates running without a party affiliation and the first candidate to announce his bid, said he would try to form a "congressional district council" of all the candidates — and Waxman too.

"It's all about working together" without party labels to get in the way, Roske said.

Another no-party candidate, spiritual teacher and bestselling author Marianne Williamson, brought along supporters who punctuated with cheers and applause her spirited calls to rid politics of special interests and reverse "the dismantling of our democracy."

A handful of candidates — Williamson, Greuel, Lieu, Miller, Republican gang prosecutor Elan Carr and defense attorney and Democrat David Kanuth — have raised at least $300,000 to campaign in the sprawling, heavily Democratic 33rd congressional district.

For the others, who have raised little or no money to reach voters from the Westside to Malibu and along the coast through the Palos Verdes Peninsula, forums such as Sunday's are one of the few ways they have to get their ideas across. Some, attempting to connect more with the audience, brought their microphones down the steps to speak near the front row of seats rather than stay on the makeshift dais.

Environmental health advocate and Republican Kevin Mottus used his time to warn of health hazards posed by cellphones and other wireless technology.

Attorney Barbara Mulvaney, one of 10 Democrats on the ballot, criticized the importance placed on a candidate's campaign treasury and proposed "a $200,000 rule."

"You look up here and pick the best candidate who has raised less than $200,000" as a way to minimize the influence of money in politics.

There were lighter moments. Libertarian candidate Mark Matthew Herd drew laughs when he said in his opening remarks, "If you read the L.A. Times this morning, you probably didn't know I exist." He was referring to a Sunday article on the presumed front-runners in the race, sorted mostly by fundraising strength.

The logistics of trying to accommodate such a large field clearly posed a challenge. More than half the two-hour event was required just to get through the candidates' opening statements of three minutes each.

And to fit on the makeshift stage, the contestants sat in two rows, one behind the other. They were told to switch places halfway through the forum, so that each would have equal time in front.

There was a "lightning round" of questions — different for each candidate — with an allowed response time of 30 seconds. Another 30-second round allowed the competitors to say whatever they felt was most important to communicate.

By the time they arrived at their 90-second closing statements, several candidates blurted out their campaign website addresses, hoping that at least some audience members would seek more information there.


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As Clippers lose a playoff game, pressure mounts on owner Sterling

As the Clippers struggled through a playoff loss in Oakland, the pressure on team owner Donald Sterling mounted Sunday with the release of additional minutes of a racially charged recording and a flurry of denunciations from President Obama, NBA players, fans and even the NAACP that had sought to honor him.

The comments about blacks that were attributed to Sterling show "the United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and discrimination," said Obama during a visit to Malaysia. "When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk. That's what happened here."

Two websites posted recordings over the weekend that they identify as a conversation between Sterling and a female friend. A person the websites identified as Sterling can be heard castigating the friend for associating with blacks — even though Sterling's team and the league it plays in are 80% African American.

The NBA is investigating the remarks, which have yet to be authenticated, and a decision on possible punishment for Sterling is expected soon. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player who serves as an advisor to the league's players union, said the harshest possible sanctions must be considered by the league.

A lawyer for the woman, V. Stiviano, said Sunday that the tapes were "legitimate" and that they came from a conversation that was roughly an hour long. The lawyer said his client didn't leak the recording to the media.

As the league delves into the matter, calls to punish the 80-year-old owner are growing within NBA ranks. The Clippers themselves took the lead in repudiating Sterling. Before Sunday's game, they took off their warm-up tops and tossed them in unison near the jump-ball circle, revealing their shooting shirts turned inside-out to hide the Clippers logo. They wore black wristbands and black socks.

NBA legends continued to chime in.

"I'm completely outraged," said a statement from Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, echoing sentiments made by NBA star LeBron James, former All-Star Charles Barkley and Lakers legend Magic Johnson a day earlier. "There is no room in the NBA — or anywhere else — for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed."

Also, the L.A. chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People announced that it would not give Sterling a lifetime achievement award he was scheduled to receive next month.

Sunday's extended version of the recording — nearly six extra minutes released by Deadspin that add to the roughly 10 minutes the gossip site TMZ made public Friday night — appeared to worsen matters for Sterling.

After discussing Stiviano's Internet posting of pictures with Magic Johnson and Dodgers star Matt Kemp, the person Deadspin identified as Sterling tells her, "Don't come to my games. Don't bring black people and don't come."

They bicker for a while, and then the male voice tells her: "It's the world. You go to Israel, the blacks are treated like dogs."

"And are the black Jews less than the white Jews?" Stiviano asks.

"A hundred percent," he says.

"And is that right?" Stiviano asks.

"It isn't a question," he replies. "We don't evaluate what's right and wrong, we live in a society. We live in a culture, we have to live within that culture."

He adds that he can't change the culture. Of himself, he says: "I don't want to change."

He can again be heard continuing to castigate Stiviano for associating with African Americans.

Later, Stiviano, who describes herself as black and Mexican, asks if he's even aware that his team is mostly black.

"Do I know?" he says. "I support them and give them food, and clothes and cars and houses."

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In landlocked Sun Valley, a small ship is taking shape

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 27 April 2014 | 12.56

He grew up on the sea. So maybe it's only natural that Dillon Griffith still has some salt water in his blood.

Which would help explain why the 82-year-old retired heavy-duty mechanic has spent the last 37 years — miles from the ocean — meticulously assembling a 64-foot boat in the backyard of his Sun Valley home.

"The Mystic Rose" has slowly taken shape on quiet Arminta Street, a project so ambitious that it has passed through the generations with his children, in-laws, grandchildren and great-grandchildren lending a hand along the way.

When the boat is finally ready for its christening — by August or September, he hopes — it will take a 32-wheel trailer and a CHP escort just to get it to the water.

"People are already calling up to charter it," Griffith marveled.

Griffith plans to launch the boat in Oxnard after a boatyard puts a special coating of paint on its hull and reattaches the wheelhouse, which will have to be removed so the 40-ton boat can clear overhead wires and bridges as it rolls to the ocean.

Griffith was born on the island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where the Caribbean and Atlantic meet. As a young man, he sailed a 75-foot island-hopping cargo schooner around the Caribbean before coming to the U.S. in 1967.

Once in America, Griffith purchased a 40-foot fishing charter boat that he kept at the 22nd Street Landing in San Pedro.

"I finally decided it was just too small," he said.

When Griffith set his sails on building a larger boat, he and his wife concluded that their home in Arleta didn't have a large enough yard to accommodate his king-size plans. They snapped up the Sun Valley property when they discovered its house was large enough to accommodate the pair's eight children and its half-acre lot was big enough for his dream boat.

Griffith hired Seattle shipbuilder Ed Monk & Son to draw up plans for his steel-hulled craft and built his own dry dock out of heavy-duty piping. He started building the boat in 1977, working from the keel up.

Early on, Griffith and his family traveled to Montreal to purchase a battered, rusty 1955 Dodge truck with a small crane attached to it to lift the hull's steel plates into place for welding. "It took 11 days to drive that truck back here," he said.

Later, when the twin 600-horsepower marine engines were hoisted into the rear of the vessel to power its two propellers, a larger crane had to be rented. Two generators have also been installed to provide electricity for lights, refrigeration and navigation equipment.

"I couldn't believe he could do it. Many times I thought he would just quit," said his wife, Christine. "But I told him there was no way he's going to drop this now, in the middle of the project."

There were setbacks along the way, of course. The U.S. Coast Guard visited the backyard on numerous occasions to inspect Griffith's work. Once, Coast Guard inspectors made him rip out the boat's internal walls so they could inspect his structural welding.

Over the decades, everyone in Griffith's growing family ended up lending a hand — new sons-in-law and many of his 54 grandchildren and great-grandchildren chipped in.

"Everybody in the family has been involved with this," said daughter Kim Griffith, 48.

Patricia Bezart, a 32-year-old granddaughter, said she's proud of the family's role. "How many people can say their grandfather built a boat in the backyard?" Bezart asked.

But even with the free labor, Griffith estimates he has spent $1 million of his own money on the boat.

"And I'm not done yet," he said, noting it will cost another $50,000 to truck the Mystic Rose to the sea.

The finished vessel will sleep 25 people on fishing excursions and will have a refrigerated hold large enough to handle 10 tons of fish. It will require a certified skipper to operate it.

"Police and firemen have come by to climb aboard and watch me work," Griffith said. "Everyone in the neighborhood has been watching the boat being built."

Next-door neighbor Carmen Iniguez said she hopes to travel to Ventura County for the launching, which will feature a Caribbean-style steel band.

"I've been watching Grandpa build this boat since 1983," she said, employing the affectionate nickname those in the neighborhood call Griffith.

"I'd like to be there when he finally puts it in the water."


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In booming marketplace for Cuban players, Puig's tale far from unique

Yasiel Puig's journey to Los Angeles — and riches with the Dodgers — is a serpentine tale of drug cartels, nighttime escapes and international human smuggling.

Yet in the booming marketplace for Cuban ballplayers, it is far from unique.

Since 2009, nearly three dozen have defected, with at least 25 of them signing contracts worth more than a combined $315 million.

Many, like Puig, were spirited away on speedboats to Mexico, Haiti or the Dominican Republic. Once there, they typically were held by traffickers before being released to agents — for a price.

Puig's case drew widespread attention after Los Angeles magazine and ESPN the Magazine published articles this month detailing the gifted young outfielder's harrowing trek to the United States.

That spotlight aside, the smuggling of Cuban players has been the subject of federal investigations for years, resulting in a handful of prosecutions.

Still, the flood of risky defections has continued.

Over the last six months, the Department of Homeland Security has been working on at least two separate cases involving smuggling rings that brought baseball players out of Cuba into the United States, said a former federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter.

The pattern has been for smugglers to force players to sign agreements stipulating they will turn over a percentage of any initial contract signed with a big league club — often more than 20%.

The players are viewed as victims and were not under investigation themselves, the former official said. Investigators said they had spoken with Major League Baseball officials about the probes and presented them with a list of players who were being extorted.

Some, authorities said, still are making payments to smugglers. And some of their families in Cuba still are threatened with violence.

Nestor Yglesias, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Miami, would not comment on whether agents were looking into the Puig smuggling case.

But a long-running investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI resulted in the indictment late last year of a trio of Cuban nationals for the alleged smuggling of as many as a dozen players, including current Texas Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin.

Even as U.S. authorities are trying to stop the smuggling, the prospect for multimillion-dollar major league contracts remains a powerful lure for Cuban players — and those willing to bring them here.

"Ten years ago a player would leave Cuba, sign a nice contract, and people in Cuba might kind of hear rumors about how well he's doing," said Joe Kehoskie, a former player agent.

Now, he said, pointing to Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman — who defected in 2009 during a tournament in the Netherlands and signed a six-year, $30.25-million contract —"Chapman's Lamborghini is on Facebook. Chapman's mansion is on Facebook."

The trafficking is a result of the trade embargo with Cuba, which prevents any economic assistance to people on the island, and Cuba's unwillingness to allow its players to sign with major league teams.

Thus, prospects have to either defect on their own or enlist smugglers to take them to the United States or another country.

Florida was originally the favored route, but increased monitoring by the Coast Guard has made the voyage riskier. In addition, by establishing residency in another country, Cuban players are not subject to Major League Baseball's domestic draft, allowing them to sign as free agents.

Puig was smuggled out of Cuba on a speedboat in June 2012 along with three others, including a boxer and childhood friend named Yunior Despaigne, according to records in a lawsuit filed against Puig. (He is being sued for $12 million by a man in Cuba who claims Puig made false allegations that landed him in prison.)

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Exotic species are settling in at L.A. Zoo's new rain-forest exhibit

The Los Angeles Zoo's new Rainforest of the Americas exhibit doesn't open until Tuesday, but it is already filled with commotion.

Dwarf caimans and a giant bird-eating spider were exploring the creature comforts of their enclosures this week. Construction workers were inspecting thermostats and water pumps.

The $19-million exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is the last in a series of major projects built under Phase 1 of the 47-year-old facility's master plan. Over the last 15 years, the zoo has opened exhibits for some of its biggest draws: pachyderms, gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and Komodo dragons.

The rain-forest exhibit, spread across two acres, is designed to create the sensation of walking through luxuriant foliage teeming with exotic wildlife — and boost visitor numbers, revenue and international cooperation on behalf of endangered species pushed to the edges of their once broad native ranges.

"Some of these species are unique in the animal kingdom, as well as in zoological facilities," said zoo Director John Lewis. "We can't wait to get visitors as excited as we are about them and in preserving their habitat in Mexico, Central and South America."

The exhibit has built-in appeal for the 58% of the zoo's annual visitors with cultural ties to Mexico and Central and South America, all places where rain forests are common, and zoo officials hope it will draw enough interest to help ease the facility's financial woes. Funding for zoo operations, including marketing, comes largely from a city subsidy that has dwindled from $10 million six years ago to $263,000.

The largest display in the exhibit features a forest glen overlooking a stream emptying into a lagoon. The expanse is shared by river otters 6 feet in length; red-bellied piranhas; freshwater stingrays; and a pair of critically endangered primates known as cotton-top tamarins.

Also roaming the grounds are two Central American tapirs, hefty mammals that reach a height of about 4 feet and use their dexterous snouts as snorkeling devices when submerged in water.

With the zoo's tight budget, its fundraising arm — the private, not-for-profit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn. — for the first time has taken responsibility for raising the facility's public profile, enhancing the visitor experience and pushing annual attendance, now about 1.6 million, toward 2 million.

Under a three-year plan, the association will provide $2 million of its own money to market the zoo. The L.A. City Council has until September to ratify a memorandum of understanding to make the plan official.

"Our offer has kick-started a more vibrant business plan for marketing all that the zoo has accomplished until now," said the association's president, Connie Morgan. "Now we can begin laying out a vision for the years ahead."

Projects the association is considering include creating roomier exhibits and more natural settings for species that are nearing extinction because of habitat loss, wildfires, hunting and a rare-animal trafficking trade that spans the globe.

Among those improvements is an addition to the rain-forest exhibit reserved for three jaguars, scheduled to open early next year.

At the exhibit last week, a pair of rough-scaled crocodilians known as dwarf caimans sprawled in a shallow pool that doubles as an Amazon river.

"We've got ringside seats for admiring some of the most unusual characters in nature," said Sybil MacDonald, a zoo spokeswoman.


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Fundraising may narrow field for Henry Waxman's House seat

Attorney Barbara Mulvaney prosecuted killers in Rwanda and promoted democracy for the U.S. State Department in Iraq before returning to Los Angeles and running for Congress.

She could hardly believe it when a local Democratic club barred her — and several other candidates of that party — from the dais at a recent campaign forum.

"I'm a very qualified candidate," Mulvaney said in an interview, taking issue with the club's decision to include only those who had raised at least $200,000 for their campaigns.

Photos: Candidates for the 33rd Congressional District

 "My reaction was disappointment," Mulvaney said, that the campaign system is "focused more on fundraising than on issues."

She will get a crack at voters this weekend, as will 17 others on the June 3 primary election ballot to succeed retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills). All have been invited to a forum sponsored by the Brentwood News on Sunday.

But the earlier snub reflected a hard reality about crowded races in sprawling districts: Candidates are quickly sorted by political experience, name familiarity, party affiliation and, yes, the ability to raise money — perhaps the most common yardstick in measuring the viability of a campaign. Mulvaney has reported raising slightly more than $10,000.

California's relatively new voting districts and switch to the "jungle" primary add to the election calculus. The predominantly white and affluent Westside district was redrawn in 2011 to meld parts of the South Bay with Waxman's Beverly Hills base. All candidates will appear on the same ballot, with the top two finishers advancing to November regardless of any party ties.

In this solidly Democratic district, most observers put three members of that party, along with a bestselling author who has no party affiliation, in the top tier of candidates.

The 10 Democrats on the ballot could splinter the vote enough to allow a well-funded Republican to take one of the two fall ballot spots. But there's a fourth Democrat who has pulled together an impressive campaign treasury and shouldn't be ruled out.

The leading Democrats are presumed to be former Los Angeles City Controller and Councilwoman Wendy Greuel; state Sen. Ted Lieu; and Matt Miller, a former journalist, radio talk show host and Clinton administration staffer. Each has raised more than half a million dollars, has some political experience and is at least somewhat familiar to voters.

Greuel's campaign for Los Angeles mayor last year boosted her name recognition, but it also left her bloodied, especially over controversial spending on her behalf by a city union. Her political base is mainly outside the district, in the San Fernando Valley, where she grew up and her parents ran a building-supply company.

She and her husband and son recently moved to Brentwood. She has some support in the district and is backed by Emily's List, which helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights.

Lieu hails from Torrance, in the southern, more politically moderate part of the district, where he served on the City Council before winning special elections to the state Assembly and Senate after the officeholders died. His family emigrated from Taiwan to Ohio when he was 3, and he recalls helping his parents sell gifts at flea markets as they pursued a piece of the American dream.

He said he joined the Air Force after college because he wanted to repay the country that provided his family a chance to succeed; he remains a member of the reserves.

Miller is making his first run for elected office. He has worked as a Washington Post columnist, written two policy books and is familiar to KCRW radio listeners as co-host of the public affairs show "Left, Right and Center." (He was the Center.)

The Pacific Palisades resident is trying to position himself as an informed outsider, a "proud but independent Democrat" with the experience to help break the political gridlock in Washington.

Spiritual teacher and bestselling author Marianne Williamson entered the race long before Waxman's surprise Jan. 30 announcement that he would retire this year after four decades in Congress. Williamson has campaigned almost nonstop for months, led in fundraising and built a core of volunteers, including some who say they were turned off by politics before meeting her.

A lifelong Democrat, Williamson has switched her registration to "no party preference," saying she believes both major parties share the blame for a "corrupt" system in which they are "deeply beholden to corporate interests in order to win elections."

She recently moved to Brentwood from just outside the district in West Hollywood.

"I think the top two will be among those four," said longtime Democratic strategist Garry South, who lives in the district but is not working for any of the candidates and has not endorsed any.

Businessman James A. Graf, a Democrat, said a poll he commissioned with some of the $1 million he lent his campaign showed good support for other candidates, especially Lieu and Greuel. Graf said he dropped out of the race based on his findings, but his decision came too late to remove his name from the ballot.

Defense attorney David Kanuth, a Democrat and first-time candidate from Venice, surprised observers by raising nearly $800,000 within weeks of entering the race. The money will help him reach voters but probably won't be enough to get him past better-known, more politically experienced candidates, South and others said.

Gang prosecutor Elan Carr of Westwood, the only one of three Republicans on the ballot with a substantial campaign fund, has a shot at the fall contest if enough of his party — and perhaps some unaligned voters — turn out for him. He has already started running cable TV ads, which do not mention his party affiliation but call for reforms and say Washington is "too much of a mess" to achieve them.

Waxman's 33rd Congressional District includes much of Los Angeles' Westside and Malibu and runs down the coast through the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Registration is nearly 44% Democratic and 27% Republican, with 18% of voters belonging to no party.

South thinks it's likely that two Democrats will end up on the November ballot, in large part because of Waxman's long tenure and his stature in Washington on such major policy issues as healthcare and the environment.

"Henry Waxman is the shadow that looms over this race," South said. "Those in this district who voted for him for years and who admired him — and there are many — are going to be looking for a candidate they think will be the most suitable replacement for him."

"There is a clear sense that this district is losing a very influential member of Congress," South said, adding that voters are asking, "Who do we replace him with that can fill his shoes?"


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Philanthropist adds Beverly Hills' Fine Arts Theater to purchases

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 26 April 2014 | 12.56

The Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, a classic Art Deco venue with a celebrity-studded past, has been sold to Paula Kent Meehan, the philanthropist who also is buying the Beverly Hills Courier.

Built on Wilshire Boulevard in 1936 as the Regina, the compact, single-screen theater served for years as a venue for small premieres that drew Hollywood A-listers.

In 1948, it was renamed the Fine Arts Theater and showed the premiere of "The Red Shoes." Among the invited guests were Susan Hayward, Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner and Shirley Temple.

Vittorio Cecchi Gori's film production company bought the theater in the early 1990s and spearheaded a 1993 renovation by the late Joseph J. Musil, a theater designer who also restored the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Musil installed red velour seats, gold sconces, a sunburst ceiling and crimson carpeting in the lobby.

Roberto Benigni, the director and star of Cecchi Gori's Oscar-winning film "Life Is Beautiful," popped in to the theater in 1999 to practice crawling over the seats, a move he reenacted the next evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion when he accepted his best actor award.

Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft used to watch movies at the Fine Arts on double dates with Carl and Estelle Reiner. Years ago, Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio had to dash across the street to an ATM when they learned that the theater did not accept credit cards.

The venue has been shuttered since 2009, a victim in part of patrons' shift to multiplexes with parking and food courts. Spice Global, an Indian conglomerate, bought the theater in 2010 with plans to reopen it to screen Bollywood films. That scheme did not pan out, and the company put the theater on the market for $4 million.

Brian Dunne, a Bentley Global broker who represented the seller, declined to specify what Meehan paid but said it was less than the asking price.

A Beverly Hills native, Meehan, 83, got her start as an actress in TV commercials and series. She co-founded Redken Laboratories, a maker of hair care products that was later sold to L'Oréal. She recently agreed to buy the Courier, a weekly tabloid.

Meehan was a major donor to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts adjoining the historic Beverly Hills Post Office, which is now named for her.

The Fine Arts, designed by architect B. Marcus Priteca, is dominated by its marquee and stepped tower. It is expected to be approved soon as a local landmark. Priteca also designed the Pantages in Hollywood.

Meehan expects to "clean it up, reopen it and let it evolve," Dunne said of the theater. "They want to bring in more live performances and take care of the Beverly Hills community, including schools and seniors."


Twitter: @MarthaGroves

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Parking activists to team up with Mayor Eric Garcetti for change

A grass-roots group that has been railing against Los Angeles' parking ticket policies has agreed to team up with Mayor Eric Garcetti to look at changes to the enforcement system.

Steven Vincent, founder of the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative, said Garcetti invited members of his organization to participate in an official city working group. The panel, Vincent said, will look at an array of possible changes, such as reducing certain fines, expanding parking hours in key locations, making no-parking signs less confusing and halting the practice of using ticket revenue as a tool to balance the city's budget.

The Parking Freedom organization announced last year it was seeking to put an overhaul of the city's parking enforcement policies on the March 2015 municipal ballot. If the new working group fails to accomplish the goals sought by activists, the L.A. Parking Freedom Initiative will launch a signature-gathering drive to put the changes directly to voters, said Vincent, a market analyst who lives in Studio City.

"What we want is real, systemic reform," he said.

Penalties for parking violations have grown steadily over the last decade as the city's elected officials used ticket revenue to balance the budget. Parking citation proceeds have grown from nearly $110 million in 2003 to about $161 million this year, according to the mayor's budget.

Parking at an expired meter is now a $63 violation, and the penalty for parking on street-sweeping day is $73. "That's pretty unreasonable, in my view," Vincent said.

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said it was "premature" to say whether motorists pay too much for parking tickets. The mayor promised to create a working group two weeks ago, when he unveiled his first budget proposal, and "wants to start a discussion," he said.

"We know that parking tickets are frustrating for Angelenos, and it's our policy that enforcement should be about traffic management and safety," Millman said.

Aides to the mayor met with Vincent's group Wednesday. Vincent said his organization has agreed to find people to serve on the working group, which will also include city officials.

Garcetti's budget does not call for any increases in parking penalties this year. However, his recently released financial plan does seek the hiring of 50 part-time parking enforcement officers, a move expected to generate an additional $3 million in ticket revenue this year.

Millman said the additional part-time officers are needed, in part, to reduce overtime and clear streets that are slated to be repaved. The extra officers also will be used to free up other personnel assigned to special events and traffic control, he said.

Vincent's group denounced the budget proposal earlier this week, saying Garcetti had "chosen to continue along the beaten path of aggressive ticketing as a budgetary salve." On Thursday, Vincent said he was more focused on the larger changes that will be tackled by the working group.

The process for challenging incorrect tickets needs to be completely revamped, he said. In addition, city officials have been too willing to balance the budget by tapping a fund dedicated to the construction of new parking garages, Vincent added.


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$10 million to be spent on sidewalks next to city properties

Los Angeles lawmakers gave the green light Friday to spend $10 million to repair broken sidewalks next to parks, libraries and other city facilities.

Despite public demands to step up sidewalk repairs, the action had been delayed because council members were concerned about how the spending might figure into negotiations to settle a related lawsuit. But with the budget year drawing to a close in two months, and chances increasing that the budgeted funds might not be spent as promised, the City Council decided to move forward.

It remains to be seen how quickly the money can be spent and whether officials can avoid having unencumbered leftover funds swept back into the city's general budget for next year. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana says the goal is to spend at least $3 million on sidewalk repairs before the end of June.

Failing to spend the repair money as planned would mean "we're kind of kicking the can down the road," said Jessica Meaney, Southern California policy director for the nonprofit Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

Roughly 40% of city sidewalks may need to be fixed or replaced, according to the Bureau of Street Services. The city faces a yawning repair bill, estimates show. Budget officials have proposed a sales tax increase that would generate $640 million toward the repairs. That would allow the city to tackle the worst problems, but fixing every damaged sidewalk is expected to cost far more.

Despite the backlog, a council committee earlier this year chose to hold off on spending the $10 million.

Councilman Paul Krekorian said lawmakers waited because of a lawsuit filed by residents with disabilities, who say that broken sidewalks violate their rights to public access. Krekorian said the council wanted to avoid any spending that would not count toward a possible settlement.

The committee ultimately approved a plan that dedicated the dollars to fixing sidewalks next to city facilities. The plan is designed "to move this money as quickly as possible into the areas where it will have the most impact in improving accessibility for the public — which is around the public's facilities," Krekorian said Friday.

The decision disappointed those who wanted the city to prioritize repairing the most dangerous, heavily used sidewalks. City officials said repairs next to city facilities could be done the fastest. Santana added that the city also is clearly responsible for those sidewalks, an important distinction amid an ongoing debate over who should bear repair costs.

Pedestrian advocates have emphasized the need for rapid action.

"We still have hazardous sidewalks out there that people have to traverse every day, going to school or getting to their jobs," said Deborah Murphy, executive director of Los Angeles Walks. "Everybody in Los Angeles witnesses this every single day."


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45-unit complex to double number of Vernon's voters

By a Times staff writer

April 26, 2014

The industrial city of Vernon in southeast Los Angeles County has long been known for its small number of residents and voters — just 42 turned out for a municipal election last year, for example.

So on Friday, when city leaders and state and national elected officials announced the groundbreaking of a new apartment complex in the city, it was hailed as a good governance reform that will bring more voters to the city.

The 45-unit Vernon Village Park is hailed as an environmentally conscious, energy-efficient facility that, as city officials put it, "will make the concept of a live/work community a reality in Vernon."

Vernon Village Park is expected to more than double the number of voters in the city when it is completed in 2015, and officials said it would be affordable for low- to moderate-income families.

The facility will feature one-, two- and three-bedroom units with balconies and patios, a play area for children and an edible garden.

Vernon was the focus of scrutiny after a series of scandals at City Hall. The city came under criticism from state legislators who argued that its government was controlled by a small group of individuals rather than a legitimate voting population. Legislators attempted to disincorporate the city in 2011, but that effort failed.

Vernon officials agreed to a series of reforms, including building more housing to add to the voter rolls.


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L.A. Unified doesn't have to release teachers' names with performance ratings

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 25 April 2014 | 12.56

The Los Angeles Unified School District does not need to release the names of teachers in connection with their performance ratings, according to a tentative court ruling issued Thursday.

A three-judge state appellate court panel tentatively found a stronger public interest in keeping the names confidential than in publicly releasing them. Disclosure would not serve the public interest in monitoring the district's performance as much as it would affect the recruitment and retention of good instructors and other issues, the ruling said.

The Times, in suing for access to the names, had argued that parents and others had a strong public interest in learning the performance ratings of identifiable public school teachers under the California Public Records Act.

But the tentative ruling rejected that argument and would overturn a lower court decision last year that ordered the teacher names and ratings be released to the newspaper.

"The disclosure of the names of teachers tied to their scores adds little, if anything, to illuminate how the district itself is performing its duty," the provisional ruling said.

Rochelle Wilcox, an attorney representing The Times, called the tentative ruling disappointing. She had argued that without knowing the names of teachers, the public could not monitor their performance to learn from good practices and strengthen ineffective ones.

"We believe that parents and the public have a profound interest in learning about individual teachers," she said.

Attorneys for the school district and the teachers union declined to comment on the tentative ruling.

The Times sought three years of district data, from 2009 through 2012, that show whether individual teachers helped — or hurt — students' academic achievement, as measured by state standardized test scores.

Using a complex mathematical formula, the district aims to isolate a teacher's effect on student growth by controlling for such outside factors as poverty, race, English ability and prior test scores. The district sought to use that type of analysis, known in L.A. Unified as Academic Growth Over Time, in teacher evaluations but was fiercely resisted by the teachers union, which argues that it is unreliable.

The district has given performance ratings of individual teachers and their grade levels to The Times but not their names or schools. Both Presiding Judge Tricia A. Bigelow and Judge Russell Kussman said that disclosure of teacher names would seem to serve the personal interest of parents trying to get the best for their child rather than a broad public interest. The Times argued, however, that parental interests are public interests.

But both judges indicated that they might support the release of location data to see, for instance, whether particular campuses were disproportionately staffed by weak or strong teachers.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ruled last year that the ratings must be released to The Times because public interest in them outweighed any teacher privacy rights. He rejected arguments by the district and United Teachers Los Angeles that the performance ratings were confidential personnel information that, if released, would create discord, stigma, embarrassment, difficulty in recruiting teachers and other harm. He said the public had an interest in the ratings because they indicated student achievement and district choices in allocating resources.


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Republicans back Brown's concept of a fund for debt and rainy days

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown has both Democrats and Republicans on board with the broad outlines of his plan for stockpiling some cash and paying off debt.

But as the special legislative session Brown called on the issue opened Thursday, it was clear that, as lawmakers like to say, the devil could be in the details.

Republicans, whose votes the Democratic governor needs to place his measure on the fall ballot, want tighter controls on the reserve fund than the governor has proposed. One senator said there might be a loophole in the plan that could help Brown fund the state's troubled bullet train network — a project most Republicans oppose.

On the other side of the aisle, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has publicly balked at Brown's insistence that lawmakers act on his proposal now rather than later this year. Democrats also could hold out for the restoration of more healthcare and social service funds cut during the recession.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles), an early proponent of a rainy-day fund, said there was plenty of room for compromise. Although lawmakers took no action on the governor's plan Thursday, Pérez scheduled an initial hearing on the topic for Monday.

"We'll figure out what it is we need to address to make this solid concept something people can come together on," he said in an interview.

By calling the special session, which runs concurrently with the Legislature's regular session, Brown has put Republicans on the spot in this election year.

They can withhold the two votes he needs in the Senate, now that the Democrats have lost their supermajority there, and torpedo the measure. Or they can help pass Brown's plan, hoping voters — who have the power to restore Democrats' complete control of the Capitol — will see them as collaborators on a proposal that could have broad popular appeal.

Brown failed to win Republican support for a tax-hike ballot measure in 2011, the last time he needed their help with a high-profile financial issue. But this time, the governor is engaging Republicans on an issue they generally favor.

"It's a fiscally conservative goal Republicans have been seeking for years," said Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), vice chairman of the Assembly budget committee.

After spending much of Brown's term watching from the sidelines, Republicans are eager to jump into the fray.

"I'm just very happy the Republicans can be the fiscal conscience for the taxpayers," said Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), vice chairman of the Senate budget committee. "That's good for the people of California."

Brown's proposal is aimed at taming California's volatile finances, which have soared and crashed along with the stock market and national economy. Under his measure, spikes in revenue from capital gains taxes would be set aside in a reserve fund and used to prevent budget cuts when the state faces a deficit, or to pay debts and other long-term costs, such as public pensions.

Some of the reserve money would be earmarked for education, ensuring that schools received support when an economic downturn hit.

Gorell said he'd like to see stronger requirements for how much would go into the reserve, possibly tacking on a requirement for an additional deposit from the general fund.

"We want some confidence we're capturing enough money," he said.

Republicans also said Brown's plan would make it too easy to withdraw money from the fund, which would require a majority vote of the Legislature and an emergency declaration from the governor.

Another provision in the governor's measure would allow lawmakers to spend the money on public works instead of selling bonds approved by voters. Brown is pitching this part of the plan as a way to avoid more debt: By using cash instead of borrowing, the state wouldn't incur interest.

Nielsen is concerned that the provision is geared toward funding the bullet train, which is tied up in lawsuits that are preventing the sale of bonds for the project. If the court ultimately rules against the state, Nielsen said, money intended for the rainy-day fund or debt payments could instead be used for the train.

"I believe [Brown] looks at this as a win-win on high-speed rail," he said. "We Republicans plan to hold his feet to the fire."

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman at the Department of Finance, said the governor's proposal was not written with any project in mind.

Steinberg said he'd like to see strong provisions in the final measure to ensure that the state pays down debt and tackles the cost of unfunded public pensions. And although he says he wants the state to start saving, he also wants to restore spending on government services.

"There's a lot of unmet need when it comes to infrastructure, when it comes to education, when it comes to health and human services," he said in an interview.

Assembly Budget Chairwoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) said Brown's proposal still leaves enough room to fund programs for the poor.

"If it were restricting any ability to use an increase in revenue for needed programs," she said, "then it would not be wise."


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Search for S. Korean official's secret funds leads to O.C.

The South Korean public got a first glimpse of former President Chun Doo-hwan's ill-gotten gains in 1996 — 25 apple boxes neatly packed with crisp bills.

The bills, the equivalent of several million dollars, were only a fraction of the more than $200 million Chun was ultimately found to have amassed in bribes extracted from corporations like Samsung, Hyundai and LG during his eight years as president.

When Chun was convicted on mutiny, treason and bribery charges, the South Korean courts also ordered him to pay $229 million in criminal restitution — a bulk of which Chun has long maintained he can't afford, saying that he had less than $300 to his name.

On Thursday, the nearly two-decade hunt for Chun's secret funds — a closely watched accounting for a figure who remains one of the most reviled in South Korea — found its way to Southern California. Prosecutors with the U.S. Department of Justice announced that they had located $721,951.45 — a portion of the value of a white clapboard home in Newport Beach that was owned until recently by Chun's son and daughter-in-law.

The U.S. government filed a forfeiture action in Los Angeles on Thursday, moving to seize the proceeds from the home's sale in February.

The story of how the fruits of corruption half a world away wound up in coastal Orange County is a painstakingly orchestrated, convoluted path that prosecutors here will have to retrace to claim the money.

Now 83, Chun came to power in a 1979 military coup after the assassination of a long-ruling strongman, and amid his ascension to power, he ordered troops to open fire at masses of students and citizens protesting in the city of Gwangju, causing hundreds of deaths. He declared martial law, ordered the Constitution rewritten and held a presidential election as the sole candidate. He eventually stepped down in the face of widespread protests.

Chun was initially given the death penalty after his 1996 conviction, but that was later reduced to life in prison and — ultimately — he was freed after his punishment was commuted. Even so, the restitution order remained in effect, according to the forfeiture complaint filed in Los Angeles. After paying a fraction of the amount, Chun has refused to pay more, saying that his assets totaled $290.

Chun's denial has launched an international hunt for his secret funds, suspected of having been laundered through a wide network of shell corporations and nominee accounts. The effort to track down the money was increased last year because the statute of limitations was due to expire. Prosecutors in South Korea have already seized real estate, artwork, stocks and jewelry that they determined were derived from corruption proceeds.

As of August 2013, Chun still owned $167 million, according to the complaint.

According to U.S. prosecutors, the funds that ended up in Newport Beach were initially handed over from Chun to his father-in-law, Gen. Lee Kyu-dong. Chun admitted to South Korean prosecutors that he gave Lee the money in 1996 because he "feared that there may be a misunderstanding and that the money may be seized later, if [he] had a lot of money while [he] was being investigated," according to the complaint.

The money was transferred in the form of housing bonds from Lee to Chun's second son, J.Y. Chun, who allegedly spread the money into dozens of accounts in other people's names.

After initially denying that the money came from his father, the son eventually admitted to South Korean prosecutors: "I always thought of the [funds] unconditionally as my father's money. It is true that I did as such. I am very sorry about that now," according to the forfeiture complaint.

A business partner and friend, Ryu Chang-hee, told South Korean prosecutors in 2013 that the younger Chun asked him to buy real estate in the name of Ryu's father to "dodge suspicion" because he didn't have the income to justify such a purchase, according to the complaint.

Over the years, J.Y. Chun has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into the U.S. financial system, prosecutors alleged in court papers. In 2003, he and his wife purchased a home outside Atlanta with suspected corruption proceeds. In 2005, they sold that home and purchased the Newport Beach property for $2.24 million, with a nearly $1-million down payment.

Neither J.Y. Chun nor his wife had an income that could prove the money for the home was legitimate, prosecutors alleged. The younger Chun reported annual income of $20,000 to $50,000

His wife, former starlet Park Sang Ah, is also suspected of having lied on the mortgage application for the home — she allegedly told immigration authorities that she hadn't worked since 2003, yet claimed on the application that she was president of a company and made nearly $500,000 a year.

Representatives for the Chuns could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.


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Two students, driver critically hurt in Anaheim Hills school bus crash

A school bus with 11 students aboard ran off the road and slammed into a tree Thursday afternoon in Anaheim Hills, leaving the driver and two students critically injured.

The yellow school bus from El Rancho Charter School in the Orange Unified School District appeared to swerve and pick up speed before coming to a stop amid trees on a grassy hill along East Nohl Ranch Road by the Anaheim Hills Golf Course, according to witnesses. Officials said the bus had left an after-school function.

The witnesses recalled a chaotic scene as dust filled the twisted bus and students screamed for help, even as they scrambled for safety through an emergency exit at the rear of the vehicle.

"They were crying, saying, 'I'm hurt! Help me!' " said Claudia Matten, who was among several Good Samaritans who helped the middle school students leave the bus.

A total of six people were taken to hospitals, including the two critically injured students and the driver. The two students' injuries did not appear to be life-threatening, the California Highway Patrol said. Three other students with minor injuries also were taken to hospitals, officials said.

The six remaining students were released at the scene to family or friends. "They might have had scratches or bruises," CHP spokesman Officer Florentino Olivera said.

The driver was conscious after firefighters pulled him from the front of the bus. His name has not been released.

Olivera said the CHP was launching an investigation to determine the cause of the crash. He said preliminary evidence indicated that the driver may not have hit the brakes before plowing into the tree.

"I don't see any skid marks. It looks like he went straight into the tree," Olivera said.

As it moved along East Nohl Ranch Road, the bus suddenly picked up speed, according to student Solymar Colling, 14, who was sitting in the third row.

"It started going up fast, we went up and then it hit the tree," Solymar said. "People were screaming."

She said she flew into the seat across from her as the bus hit the tree. "I started looking for my phone," she recalled, "so I could call 911 and say we need to get off the bus."

Tyler Fabozzi, 17, a senior at Canyon High School, said he was driving next to the bus when it swerved into his lane and suddenly swerved back.

Tyler continued to drive alongside the bus when it suddenly drove up the grassy hill and knocked down the tree. He parked his truck and ran up the hill to help the students. He found the fuel door near the emergency hatch and turned off the gas line, he said.

Solymar said she and the other students were inside the bus for a minute or two before they started to make their way to the back where someone had opened the emergency exit.

Ellen Johnson, transportation supervisor for Orange Unified, said the bus was equipped with seat belts and that students "are directed by the bus driver to put them on."

Olivera said the CHP conducted a safety inspection of the bus in October and that it "passed with flying colors."


Times staff writers Paloma Esquivel and Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report.

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Consultant lays out options for $2-billion L.A. County jail overhaul

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 24 April 2014 | 12.56

A consultant hired by Los Angeles County to develop a long term plan for the county's aging jail facilities laid out options for a roughly $2-billion proposed overhaul of the county's jail system in a report released Wednesday.

Concerned about deteriorating facilities and poor living conditions for inmates with mental health issues, county supervisors want the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles torn down and replaced.

Officials are also contemplating creating a new 1,600-bed women's jail at the now-vacant Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, to replace the overcrowded women's jail in Lynwood.

The report by Vanir Construction Management laid out five options, all which involve replacing the Men's Central Jail, which was built in the 1960s and '70s and primarily holds inmates awaiting trial on felony charges.

The new downtown facility would be built next to the current jail site and would hold between 4,860 and 5,860 inmates, depending on the design chosen. The bulk of the beds would be set aside for inmates needing mental health treatment, and a smaller number of beds for those requiring substance abuse and medical care and for high-security inmates.

Four of the five options also include a new women's jail, at Mira Loma or Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, or both.

The construction is projected to cost between $1.74 billion and $2.32 billion and take seven to 10 years to complete, depending on the size and configuration of the new building and the location of the women's jail. The plan would add an estimated $162 to $300 million a year to the county's jail operating costs.

The proposal is not expected to increase the number of available jail beds countywide, but officials said it would help the county comply with federal mandates on the treatment of mentally ill inmates, and would allow women – who are typically lower risk than male inmates – to be housed in a "rehabilitative, campus style environment" with more options for job training and other programs.

County officials have been talking about modernizing the jails for years, but the issue took on added urgency in the face of federal intervention in state prisons and an investigation into the treatment of inmates in the county jails.

Vanir gave an initial presentation on jail options in July. County officials asked for more information about ongoing operating costs of the new facilities.

County supervisors are expected to discuss the report May 6 and may decide which option, if any, to move forward with.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a statement that he thought the lowest-cost option, which would place the women's facility at Mira Loma, "makes sense" and that the design of the downtown facility should be decided "depending on what is most feasible or prudent."

"My primary goal is to reduce recidivism, and effective jail master planning is one component of that process. …What is certain is that [Men's Central Jail] has to be replaced and a mental health facility must be built," he said.

The other supervisors declined or did not respond to requests for comment.

Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald, who oversees the jail system, argued that in the long run, the plan will save the county money because it will create better treatment programs for inmates and reduce their risk of reoffending.

"Certainly there's sticker shock associated with this, but there has to be a recognition that we're making a front-end investment to reduce recidivism and victimization," she said.

Activists have called on the county to put more money into diversion programs instead of jail facilities, and said mentally ill people should not be jailed at all.

"It's humanly incorrect, it's devastating," said Mary Sutton, an activist with the Los Angeles No More Jails Coalition, at a meeting Wednesday where Vanir representatives discussed the report. "Locking people up with mental health issues — other places don't do that."


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