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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva's has failed six straight times to testify before the Civilian Oversight Commission relative to the existence of deputy gangs within the LASD. Screenshot
Sheriff Villanueva refuses to testify about deputy gangs
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—Attorneys for Los Angeles County, who want a court to consider holding Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his undersheriff in contempt for allegedly ignoring subpoenas to testify before the Civilian Oversight Commission about alleged deputy cliques, obtained an expedited hearing on the issue Monday, Aug. 10.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams Court scheduled the hearing for Sept. 7, more than six months ahead of the original March 14, 2023 date.
"Prompt resolution of the petition would further the public's interest in swiftly uncovering the full facts and rooting out alleged deputy gangs from the department,'' the county's lawyers stated in their latest court
papers filed Tuesday.
The COC hopes to conclude its investigation by Oct. 5, 2022 and subsequently issue recommendations based on its findings, according to the county attorneys' new court papers. Subpoenas to Villanueva and Undersheriff Timothy Murakami required each of them to appear and testify at the commission's July 1 public hearing on whether so-called deputy gangs exist in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the county lawyers said. Their alleged refusal to comply subjects them to the contempt procedures, according to the county's petition brought July 21.
Villanueva's non-appearance was the sixth straight time he disobeyed a commission subpoena, according
to the petition. The commission subpoenaed Villanueva because in 2018 his then-Division Chief Matthew Burson issued an order barring sheriff's department internal investigators from questioning witnesses about what role a suspected deputy gang known as the "Banditos" played in assaults by some deputies upon others at a department party, the petition states.
"Burson thus robbed criminal investigators before the investigation started of their best chance of exposing the Banditos, even though the evidence strongly suggested their direct involvement in the attacks and deputy gangs (that) have reportedly plagued the department for decades," the petition states.
Villanueva's testimony is now even more critical because Burson, who is now retired, testified under oath on July 1 that Villanueva, through his then-chief of staff, directed him to issue the order to the internal depart- ment investigators to not look into the activities of the Banditos, the petition states.
"Only Sheriff Villanueva can answer why the department failed to fully investigate its own deputy sheriffs in such an important criminal investigation and why the sheriff gave the order to not to investigate the Bandi-
tos as testified to by Burson," the county lawyers argue in their newest court papers.
Murakami's failure to appear on July 1 was his fourth alleged consecutive disregard of a subpoena from the commission, according to the petition, which further states the commission wants to question the sheriff's
department veteran of more than three decades about gangs as well.
Burson testified that he believes Murakami has a "suspected deputy clique Caveman tattoo," the petition states. In addition, Murakami once worked patrol at the East Los Angeles station, where the Banditos are allegedly active, the petition states.
Villanueva said he was prepared to testify before the commission in July, but "was deeply disappointed to learn the commission is unwilling to allow very basic and reasonable elements of a legitimate oversight meeting designed to understand the truth. It makes neutral observers question whether the commission's real agenda is to learn the facts, or to put on a show."
The COC rejected the sheriff's conditions for his testimony, in which he demanded the presence of a neutral hearing officer at the proceedings, an advance look at exhibits the commission intended to use and the opportunity for the sheriff to make an opening statement and cross-examine witnesses.
Villanueva has said in the past that he's acted to clean up any gang problem that may have existed in the department. The sheriff, who has repeatedly accused the county Board of Supervisors and Inspector Gen- eral Max Huntsman of pursuing personal political biases in clashes over the alleged deputy gangs and other issues, expressed concern in a letter to the commission last month about "demonstrably false statements having already been accepted by the commission."
Villanueva wrote: "This is why I sent department executives, on several occasions, to answer questions for the Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) about deputy cliques and subgroups. Additionally, on March 26, 2019, and December 17, 2020, I personally appeared and answered questions for the COC about deputy cliques and subgroups. Subsequently, I testified under oath before the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on April 22, 2022, and I offered to testify again in May on the issue of deputy subgroups."
Supervisors ratify local emergency due to monkeypox outbreak
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors ratified a local emergency declara- tion Tuesday in response to the monkeypox outbreak.
Board Chair Holly Mitchell issued a proclamation late Monday declaring the emergency in Los Angeles County, where 400 monkeypox cases have been identified so far)—nearly the double the amount from a week ago.
"This proclamation is critical in helping us get ahead of this virus,'' Mitchell said in a statement. "By declaring a local emergency, it allows us to cut through the red tape to better dedicate resources and educate resi- dents on how to protect themselves and help stop the spread. It will also allow the county to quickly admin- ister vaccines as more become available and to take the necessary efforts to obtain supplies and enhance outreach and awareness."
The Board of Supervisors ratified the declaration Tuesday on a unanimous vote.
As part of the proclamation, the Board of Supervisors will request recovery assistance be made available under the California Disaster Assistance Act, and that the state expedite access to state and federal resources and any other appropriate federal disaster relief programs.
The Board of Supervisors will also direct county departments to implement all assessment, assistance and monitoring efforts as applicable.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency for California on Monday in response to the increase of monkeypox cases in the state. New York also issued an emergency declaration, as has San Francisco.
Supervisor Janice Hahn wrote on Twitter Monday she supports the emergency declaration.
"I'm hopeful this will help vaccination efforts and ultimately help slow the spread of this virus," Hahn said in
Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement the county "needs to draw down all the support available to accelerate the distribution of vaccines and resources to those at risk and suffering from this terrible disease. I will work to ensure we're doing so quickly and efficiently. We don't have any time to waste."
As of Aug. 1, a total of 824 monkeypox cases were confirmed in California—the second-highest of any state, behind New York's 1,390)—while nationwide, the aggregate count was at 5,811, accord- ing to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were roughly 400 cases in Los Angeles County as of Monday, primarily in gay men.
Monkeypox is generally spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, resulting from infectious rashes rashes and scabs, though respiratory secretions and bodily fluids exchanged during extended physical episodes, such as sexual intercourse, can also lead to transmission, according to the CDC. It can also be transmitted through the sharing of items such as bedding and towels.
Symptoms include fresh pimples, blisters, rashes, fever and fatigue.
There is no specific treatment. People who have been infected with smallpox, or have been vaccinated for it, may have immunity to monkeypox. According to health officials, the vaccine can prevent infection if given before or shortly after exposure to the virus.
Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are at increased risk of contracting the virus, according to the CDC.
Last week, the Board of Supervisors voted to lobby federal health officials for more monkeypox vaccine supplies and boosted funding for testing and administration of the shots. The county has been slowly expanding eligibility for the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine, but supplies remain low.
In Los Angeles County, monkeypox vaccines are available to people confirmed by the Department of Public Health to have had high-or immediate-risk contact with a known monkeypox patient, and to people who attended an event or visited a venue where they was a high risk of exposure to a confirmed case. Those people are generally identified through county contact-tracing efforts, and they will be notified by the county.
Shots are also available for gay and bisexual men and transgender people with a diagnosis of rectal gonorr- hea or early syphilis within the past year.
Also eligible for the shots are gay or bisexual men or transgender people who are on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxix, or PrEP, or who attended or worked at a commercial sex venue or other venue where they had anonymous sex or sex with multiple partners—such as at a (sauna, bath- house or sex club)—in the past 21 days.
People who believe they fall into any of the criteria can contact their health care provider to see if that provi- der can administer the vaccine.
Qualified people who do not have a health care provider—or whose provider does not carry the vaccine—can either make an appointment at a designated vaccine clinic or visit a walk-in location. Information is available at ph.lacounty.gov/monkeypox. A list of monkeypox vaccine locations is available at http://public
The county has also activated a website where residents can fill out an online form to see if they may be eligible for a shot and pre-register to be added to a waiting list. People who register at the site and are eligible for the vaccine will receive a text message when it is available, with information on where to get the shot.
The registration website is ph.lacounty.gov/monkeypoxsignup.
The vaccine is a two-shot regimen, so additional supplies will be reserved to provide second doses to those who received the initial shot.
Arbery killers get life
Neighbor, 35 years for his role, attempt
From left, Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan and Gregory McMichael, who were all convicted of murder on Nov. 24, 2021, for the death of Ahmaud Arbery. (Pool, file)
By KAYLA GOGGIN, Contributing Writer
ATLANTA (CN)—The father and son convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced Aug. 8 in Georgia federal court to life imprisonment for violating the 25-year-old jogger’s civil rights and targeting him because he was Black, adding to their life sentences for aggravated assault and murder.
A unanimous jury convicted Travis McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael, in February of inter- ference with rights, attempted kidnapping and brandishing and discharging a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.
The McMichaels’ neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, who was also convicted of hate crimes charges and attempted kidnapping, received a 35-year prison sentence on Monday. The men, all of whom are White, were convicted in a state trial last year of Arbery’s murder and given life sentences.
The McMichaels armed themselves with guns and chased Arbery in their pickup truck after spotting him jogging through their coastal Georgia neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase in his truck and captured video on his cellphone of the moment Travis McMichael fired two fatal shotgun blasts at Arbery.
Before U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood made her decisions on the hate crimes punishments, Arbery’s family members gave statements urging the judge to impose the maximum possible sentences.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said she feels every shot fired at her son every day.
"It's so unfair, so unfair, so unfair that he was killed while he was not even committing a crime," she said.
Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud's father, said he wanted the men to "rot" in prison.
"These three devils broke my heart into pieces that cannot be found or repaired," he said. "How can you all dare ask for mercy? You didn’t give my son no mercy."
Before handing down a sentence of life plus 10 years to the younger McMichael, Wood said he had received a fair trial. "It’s not lost on the court that it was the kind of trial that Ahmaud Arbery did not receive before he was shot and killed," the judge said.
As their respective hearings came to a close, both Greg McMichael and Bryan apologized to Arbery’s family and friends.
"The loss you’ve endured is beyond description," the elder McMichael, whose life sentence carries an additional seven years, said. "I'm sure my words mean very little to you, but I want to assure you that I never wanted any of this to happen."
McMichael also apologized to his son, saying he "never should have put him in that situation."
Travis McMichael chose not to make any statement on his own behalf, relying on his attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, to object to the application of sentencing enhancements against him. Wood overruled those objections and rejected arguments that all three men should be allowed to begin serving their sentences in federal prison rather than state prison for their safety.
Copeland had argued that her client received "hundreds of threats, possibly a thousand" that he would be killed in state prison.
"I represent a man who has been told hundreds of times that his photo… has circulated through the prisons," Copeland said, adding that she is "concerned" that McMichael could face a "back door death penalty."
A.J. Balbo, an attorney for Greg McMichael, made similar arguments and added that his client's health problems—a stroke and a recent angioplasty—meant he was medically "not fit" to serve his sentence in state prison.
Both attorneys also raised the US Department of Justice’s ongoing civil rights investigation into Georgia's state prison system as another reason for their safety concerns. The judge refused the requests, explaining that the state of Georgia originally arrested the three men and therefore has primary custodial jurisdiction over them.
The McMichaels and Bryan have 14 days to appeal their federal hate crimes sentences. The McMichaels have already appealed their murder convictions.
US transitions to 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
ROCKVILLE, MD (MNS)—Effective July 16, the US transitions the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to 988—an easy-to-remember three-digit number for 24/7 crisis care.
The lifeline, which also links to the Veterans Crisis Line, follows a three-year joint effort by the US Depart- ment of Health and Human Services (HHS), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to put crisis care more in reach for people in need. This initiative is part of President Biden’s comprehensive strategy to address our nation’s mental health crisis, and is identified by US Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra as a top priority at HHS.
Since January 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration has made unprecedented investments to support the 988 transition, investing $432 million to scale crisis center capacity and ensure all Americans have access to help during mental health crises.
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, signed into law after the passage of bipartisan legislation in 2020, authorized 988 as a new three-digit number for suicide and mental health crisis. All telephone service and text providers in the US and the five major U.S. territories are required by the FCC to activate 988 no later than July 16.
"988 is more than a number, it is a message: we’re there for you. Through this and other actions, we are treating mental health as a priority and putting crisis care in reach for more Americans," said Secretary Becerra, who has been meeting with states across the country about the transition to 988 as part of HHS’ National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health. “There is still much work to do. But what matters is that we’re launching, 988 will be live. We are looking to every governor and every state in the nation to do their part to make this a long-term success."
The Biden-Harris Administration increased federal investments in the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by 18-fold from $24 million to $432 million—to scale up crisis centers and back-up center capacity, and to provide special services, including a sub-network for Spanish language speakers.
The $432 million included $105 million in grant funding to states and territories, provided by the American Rescue Plan, to improve response rates, increase capacity to meet future demand, and ensure calls initiated in their states or territories are first routed to local, regional, or state crisis call centers. Prior to this investment, the Lifeline, which has existed since 2005, had been unfunded and under-resourced.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a network of more than 200 state and local call centers supported by HHS through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
"Recent investments made in the Lifeline have already resulted in more calls, chats, and texts answered even as volume has increased, but we know that too many people are still experiencing suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress without the support they need," said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and leader of SAMHSA.
"Over time, the vision for 988 is to have additional crisis services available in communities across the country, much the way emergency medical services work." Delphin-Rittmon said. "The success of 988 depends on our continued partnership with states, as the federal government cannot do this alone. We urge states and territories to join us and invest further in answering the call to transform our crisis care response nationwide."
FCC staff first proposed 988 in a report to Congress in August 2019 as the nationwide, easy-to-remem-ber, 3-digit dialing code for individuals in crisis to connect to suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules designating 988 for this purpose. Recognizing the need to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including youth and individuals with disabilities, the FCC adopted additional rules in November 2021 to expand access to this important service by establishing the ability to also text 988.
"All across our country, people are hurting. They need help. The good news is that getting that help just got a lot easier. The 988 hotline will be available nationwide for individuals in crisis, and their loved ones, to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline more easily," said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
"This cross-government effort has been years in the making and comes at a crucial point to help address the mental health crisis in our country, especially for our young people."
VA administers the Veterans Crisis Line through the Lifeline’s national network. Because of VA’s partner- ship with the Lifeline, the Veterans Crisis Line is affected by this transition to a new number. Veterans and their loved ones can now Dial 988 then Press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
"988 has been a long time coming and will serve as a critical resource during a crisis when every second counts. The new, shorter number will help ensure Veterans have easier access to the Veterans Crisis Line," said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. "This launch is a whole-of-government approach in line with the president’s call to prioritize mental health by strengthening access to crisis services, and preventing Veteran suicide, our top clinical priority."
In 2021, the Lifeline received 3.6 million calls, chats, and texts. That number is expected to at least double within the first full year after the 988 transition.
The US had one death by suicide every 11 minutes in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people aged 10-14 and 25-34. From April 2020 to 2021, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses. Studies have shown that after speaking with a trained crisis counselor, most Lifeline callers are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful.
The 10-digit Lifeline number 1-800-273-TALK (8255) will continue to be operational after July 16 and will route calls to 988 indefinitely. Veterans, service members, and their families can also still reach the Veterans Crisis Line with the current phone number 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or by chat or text to 838255.
More information on 988 is available at www.samhsa.gov/988 and https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/faqs. B-roll and soundbites are available for download here: https://hhstv.orangedox.com /20220716988BitesandBroll
Weather Forecast by the numbers
WEATHER WATCH — Fire Weather Planning Forecast for Southwestern California. National Weather Service Los Angeles/Oxnard CA
Sat. July 30, 2022.
Deep monsoonal moisture will bring increasing chances of showers and thunderstorms through Monday, with the highest chances and largest
coverage over the weekend.
While the chances are highest (30 to 50 per- cent) over the mountains and interior valleys this weekend, there is at least a 20 to 30 per- cent chance of thunderstorms across coastal and valley areas later through Sunday.
The amount of moisture available is about as high as we ever see in southern California, but the instability to create thunderstorms in general is marginal. So if any storms do form, heavy rain and flash flooding including debris flows over recent burn areas will be a real threat, especially over portions of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, but highly unsure on how many storms we will see.
The area of most concern with the best combination of instability and moisture is the San Gabriel Moun- tains and Antelope Valley, where the flash flooding threat is the highest. Warm conditions will persist as well with increased humidities, except for pockets of humidities in the 15 to 25 percent range outside of the thunderstorm chances Saturday and Monday. Winds and marine layer will be difficult to predict, but periods of gusty winds near thunderstorms should be expected along with occasionally gusty onshore winds over interior areas. More typical conditions are expected to return Tuesday through Thursday. Another round of monsoonal moisture is possible by the end of the week.