Archive for December, 2009

Freshman Lawmaker, John Perez (D-Los Angeles), Will Lead California State Assembly

Posted on December 11, 2009. Filed under: Politics |

latimes.com

Democrats select Perez as next Assembly speaker

The freshman Los Angeles lawmaker’s nomination ends weeks of infighting in the caucus. If confirmed in January, the first openly gay Assembly speaker would transition to power in the spring.

By Eric Bailey and Shane Goldmacher

December 11, 2009

Reporting from Sacramento

A freshman Democrat from Los Angeles won the unanimous support of his party colleagues Thursday to be the next leader of the California Assembly, a choice that would make John A. Perez the first openly gay lawmaker to hold the powerful post.

Perez, a 40-year-old former labor union official and a cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is slated to be confirmed as the next speaker in a floor vote set for early January.

The choice of Perez ended several contentious weeks of infighting among the Assembly’s ruling Democrats — who hold a 50 to 29 edge over the GOP — and came only after his chief rival, Assemblyman Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), agreed to a truce and urged supporters to get behind the rookie lawmaker.

Perez emerged from a closed-door meeting of the Democratic Caucus linking arms with De Leon and current Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles).

He will enjoy the advantage of potentially having up to five years in the post at a time when California is grappling with its worst fiscal crisis in modern times.

The choice immediately drew plaudits from union leaders and gay-rights activists.

Geoff Kors, executive director of the gay-rights group Equality California, called Perez’s achievement “a truly historic opportunity for our state.”

Friends and colleagues say Perez makes an unlikely trailblazer, with a career more focused on helping organized labor and working families than on advancing gay rights.

“It says more about California than it does about me,” Perez said of his stride toward the history books. “It means that California is a place where everybody has a seat at the table.”

Under terms of an agreement hatched with Bass, who helped recruit Perez as successor with her own tenure set to end next year, the transition would take place over the course of several months. Although a formal timetable has not been outlined in public, Perez might not assume full control until sometime in the spring.

Born into a working-class family on L.A.’s Eastside, Perez earned a political science degree at UC Berkeley, and then became a top official with several unions and the California Labor Federation, focusing on political campaigns and government relations. Though he had not held elected office before last year, Perez was appointed to several city, state and national commissions and boards, including the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Among his Assembly colleagues, Perez has a reputation as an aggressive and savvy political strategist.

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SB3 18 – California’s Prison Reform Law – A Threat to Public Safety

Posted on December 8, 2009. Filed under: Crime, Parole |

We saw this article on OurLA.org and felt compelled to share it.  It provides straight forward, truthful information about the Corrections Package (SB3 18) passed by the legislature that will reform the current parole system.  CVAA sponsored SB 440 last year which would have added crimes to the list of serious and violent crimes, as defined in statute.   The bill is currently stalled in committee and it is likely to go nowhere this year.  In this article you will also read about a huge problem with the section of SB3 18 that defines who can be revoked on parole and sent back to prison.  Domestic violence abusers are not on this list.  We have reached out to a couple members of the legislature regarding this problem.  One never returned our call and we are hoping to discuss this issue further with the other.  This must be addressed.  It appears that SB3 18 may actually de-criminalize the crime of domestic violence.  At the very least, SB3 18 will allow criminals to commit further crimes without being held accountable.

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Caroline Aguirre: CD2 Candidates and the Threats to Public Safety

Written by Caroline Aguirre, Our LA Writer http://www.ourla.org

Monday, 07 December 2009
parole agentI’m a retired parole agent who knows first hand the threat to our safety posed by the early release from prison of more than 25,000 inmates classified as non-violent.

As a community activist, I’ve been bothered during the CD2  runoff campaign between Chris Essel and Paul Krekorian that there is no discussion at forums or in the media about public safety or how the city is going to deal with this parolee release, a third of whom are expected to reside in the LA area.

So, I decided to try to find out the candidates views myself.

It wasn’t easy but after several attempts  I was able to reach Essel on the telephone and asked her numerous questions all surrounding public safety issues.

I asked her point blank if she was aware of the difference between a criminal offense classified as violent vs non-violent.  I must say I respected her honesty  as she acknowledged that she had limited insight in this area.

Essel was completely taken back and surprised when I explained to her that the criminal offense of Domestic Violence was classified as non-violent low level. I told her that it would take victims of crimes organizations members to come forward and demand that our state elected officials change the laws.

I didn’t even have that much luck with Krekorian but after several attempts to reach him I wound up in communication with his press secretary, Jeremy Oberstein.

My objective goal was to find out if Krekorian had a true and accurate understanding of the SBX 3-18, the state legislation he voted for that deals with prison overcrowding, the return to custody of parolees for parole violations, placing parole holds on parolees when requested by various law enforcement agencies and changes in sentencing laws. The bottom line is that it will lead to the  early release of thousands of supposedly non-violent, low-level criminal offenders from our state prisons.

I also wanted to know why he considered the changing of sentencing laws surrounding some property relayed criminal offenses but did not consider changing the sentencing laws surrounding  Domestic Violence. Felony convictions for Domestic Violence under Penal Code  273.5 pc. under the California Penal Code is classified as a low level non-violent criminal offense.

Oberstein told me that he could not answer any questions surrounding the CD2 upcoming election.  I did communicate with two staff members at Assemblyman’s Kerkroian campaign office.

When I asked Oberstein if Krekorian knew which criminal offenses under the California Penal code are classified as violent vs non-violent criminal offenses, I got this answer: “This bill is a common sense approach to reduce prison population without compromising public safety.”

That isn’t my view as a retired law enforcement officer.

To start with, it is rare that individuals are sentenced to state prison for their first felony conviction. Most individuals who are sentenced to state prison have at least four separate previous felony convictions and received probation supervision.

It is only when an individual has received a felony conviction under 667.5 of the California Penal Code ( Violent crime ) does one receive a prison term on their first felony conviction. The inmates getting released early were not convicted under 667.5 thanks largely to plea bargaining that lets them off on violent crimes in order to get a guilty plea to charges classified as non-violent even though violence may have been involved.

For instance, as the law reads now only individuals convicted of felony crimes under 667.5  can be charged with possession of body armor.

In brief  SBX 3-18 only addresses the inmates current commitment offenses when assessing for early release from state prison. Exceptions would be those individuals with prior convictions for sex related criminal offenses.

SBX 3-18 does not take into account the inmates prior prison commitments (exceptvfor sexual  crimes),  violent crimes, review of inmates complete arrest history, noted history of acts of violence, gang membership or association  (except for prison gangs) and possession and the use of firearms and other dangerous weapons.

In reality, SBX 3-18 seeks to stop the return to custody of parolees who have violated their conditions of parole. As a result even with cases where the parolee has committed a new felony and the District Attroney’s office has referred the criminal matter for parole revocation determination in lieu of a new criminal filing, the parolee is released from custody and given a slap on the back of his hand.

Even when parolees are arrested on Parolee At Large Warrants  the parole holds are removed, parolee is released back into the community and the parole agent has to submit another request for an arrest warrant.  Currently the number of parolees in the state of California that are avoiding parole supervision and have no bail warrants out for their arrest is in the neighborhood of 12 -14 thousand if not more.

It’s no secret that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Division of Adult Parole Operations can best be described as one big mess — an organization that has been besieged by the lack of quailified and honest leadership. Many see it as corrupt and practicing the Code of Silence.

State elected officials would rather blame rank-and-file correctional officers and parole agents than hold administrators accountable. They also are prone to look for the easy way out and  quick fixes, especially when it involves cutting costs.

Crime fell sharply under the watch of Police Chief William Bratton as the LAPD became more proactive in combating crime and more involved in multi-law enforcement agencies task forces.

But even with the overall reduction of murders and violent crime, there has not been a passing day where we have not heard or read a story about an individual on active parole status involvement in the commission of a violent crime.

Parole and parole supervision has become one big joke.

Parole agents have been encouraged by their supervisors to make advance appointments when conducting home site visits. Reasoning behind this is so that the parole agents won’t observe any signs of a parole violation. Remember parole agents are being instructed not to arrest parolees.    State elected officials have openly stated that with the passage of SBX 3-18,  the reduction and the amount of parolees being supervised by parole agents will be reduced  and thus in the long run the parole agents will be supervising smaller case load.

How can anybody forget or not know about the Phillip Garrido case and the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard?

Just prior to the voting and after the passage of SBX 3-18, California State Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg stated that the Garrido case was a perfect example of why parole agents should be supervising smaller case loads.

This statement by Steinberg is yet another perfect example of an elected official speaking on matters that he knows nothing about and in essense making false statements. Garrido was being supervised on the 40-1 passive sex offender case load. His assigned parole agent only had 40 parolees assigned to him for parole supervision.

Most law enforcement agencies up and down the state of California opposed passage of SBX 3 18 and for good reason.

Just last Nov. 11, Flor Medrano was stabbed to death by a male suspect. The suspect who was shot and killed by police officers was subsequently identified as a ex felon who had spent time in California State prison for Domestic Violence. He was discharged from parole supervision after only one year because Domestic Violence convictions are classified as non-violent  low level criminal offenses.

In another case, Scott Thomas, on parole for property related criminal offenses, was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted murder after he stabbed two individuals inside a bakery.

Carlos Velasquez on parole for resisting arrest and classified as a non-violent offender was arrested and charged with the murder of Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Abel Escalante

Howard Astorga on parole for possession of controlled substance for sales and classified as a non-violent offender was arrested and charged with the murder of 4-year-old Ricardo Lopez

Charles Samuel  on parole for Petty Theft with Priors arrested and charged with the murder of 17-year-old Lily Burk

Salvador  Solis on parole for Domestic Violence a non-violent offender was arrested and charged with Kidnapping ,Attempted Rape and Rape.

Two weeks ago, non-violent offender parolee Alberto Alvarez, on parole for Illegal Possession of a firearm, was found guilty of the 2006 murder of  Palo Alto police officer Richard May.

The list of paroled non violent offenders committing new violent criminal behavior is endless.

It is essential to review an inmates complete criminal and arrest history prior to early release consideration.

I bring all this up because it is important for all residents of CD 2 to be vigilant whoever wins Tuesday’s election. The same is true throughout the city.

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