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Arrest Made in South Sacramento Murder

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 / No Comments

Early this morning, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Homicide detectives arrested Cansio Santiago Ramirez, 47, of Sacramento for the murder of 37-year-old Arnulfo Soto which occurred on the afternoon of August 15, 2017. Ramirez was located at his residence and taken into custody without incident.

A little after 1:30 p.m. on August 15, 2017, the Sheriff’s Communication Center received a 911 call regarding a man who was shot at an auto repair shop located in the 3000 block of 52nd Avenue in South Sacramento. Deputies responded to the scene and located the victim, on the ground just outside the auto repair shop, who was suffering from a gunshot wound to the upper torso. 

Deputies immediately began life saving measures but the vicitm deceased at the scene. It is suspected the victim and another male got into a dispute regarding a purchase of a vehicle that led to a physical altercation.  

At some point during the fight, Ramirez allegedly produced a gun and shot the victim in the upper torso. Ramirez, who fled the scene after the shooting, was not part of the physical altercation, but rather a third party at the auto repair shop. 

Ramirez was arrested for murder and booked at the Sacramento County Main Jail. He is currently ineligible for bail and is scheduled to be arraigned in Sacramento Superior Court on August 18, 2017.

Homicide detectives are not releasing the booking photo of Ramirez at this time. Further investigation still needs to be completed by detectives, and the release of the booking photo at this time may compromise the case.

Sue Them? It's Harder Than You Think

Monday, August 14, 2017 / No Comments

By Ted Rall |  

Are you one of those Americans who say it's too easy to file a lawsuit? As I can tell you from personal experience, it's anything but. The canard that U.S. courts are jammed up by litigious jerks is based on anecdotes spread by corporate propaganda.

The dirty secret is that American courts have created so many hurdles to sue that it's become daunting for all but the most determined plaintiffs to pursue justice. My case against The Los Angeles Times illustrates how hard it is for an individual to sue a large entity.

The Times fired me as its editorial cartoonist in July 2015, apparently as a favor to LAPD's police chief, whom I had mocked in my cartoons.

Neither I nor Times readers were aware that there was a conflict of interest between the paper and the fuzz: the LAPD's union pension fund was a major shareholder of the Times' parent company.

It ought be to illegal for a government agency or an entity associated with a government agency to buy stock in a media company - but it isn't.

The Times published an article accusing me of having lied in a blog post. I was able to show that I'd told the truth. But after I sent the Times the exonerating evidence — which attracted worldwide media attention and calls for my reinstatement — instead of issuing a retraction and giving me back my job, Times executives doubled down, publishing a second piece reaffirming the first one. In March 2016, I filed suit in LA Superior Court against the Times for defamation, wrongful termination, blacklisting and other charges.

As I expected, the Times' defense attorney filed a motion to dismiss my case on the grounds that it was not meritorious. The judge denied.

After that, California's legal and financial hurdles became nearly insurmountable.

When free speech groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation get behind something, I'm usually all for it. The First Amendment is my religion. But speech advocates' support for a federal anti-SLAPP law is wrong - and terrible for freedom of expression. Perhaps they haven't thought this all the way through.

Twenty-eight states and D.C. have passed anti-SLAPP laws. On paper, they sound great. A "SLAPP" (strategic lawsuit against public participation) is a lawsuit the plaintiff doesn't think he'll actually win. The purpose of a SLAPP is to harass you by forcing you to hire a lawyer and tie you up in court. It's an intimidation tactic sometimes used by big companies to silence individual whistleblowers and critics. Is the problem really widespread? No one knows. No one has done a serious study.

If you get sued in a state with an anti-SLAPP statute, your anti-SLAPP motion is a powerful tool. Discovery (depositions, subpoenaing of evidence) halts. If the judge rules in the defendant's favor that a suit is frivolous, the case gets tossed and the plaintiff pays the defendant's attorney fees. This is supposed to make jerky plaintiffs think twice before filing a SLAPP.

There are two big problems with this theory.

First, anti-SLAPP isn't likely to deter frivolous SLAPPs filed by wealthy companies and individuals. Wealthy entities have more than enough money to litigate anti-SLAPP and to absorb the potential awarding of attorney's fees to defendants. In fact, proponents have never come up with any statistical evidence that anti-SLAPP laws deter frivolous lawsuits.

Second, the intent of anti-SLAPP laws - to protect the little guy from the big guys - is constitutionally prohibited. You can't grant rights to some defendants but not others; there are plaintiffs and defendants, period. So there's nothing to prevent a rich megacorporation from using anti-SLAPP against Joe Schmoe.

Which is how the LA Times, the fourth largest newspaper in the U.S. and part of a $512 million media conglomerate, was allowed to file an anti-SLAPP motion against a $300/week cartoonist. In other words, the Times censored my cartoons and tried to ruin my journalistic career for their owners, the police. Then they accused me of violating their First Amendment rights!

Starting with their anti-SLAPP motion, Times' lawyers have unleashed a barrage of tactics to delay my suit and harass me. And it's worked - for nearly a year, I haven't been able to question Times editors or LAPD officials under oath or subpoena documents that would help me build my case - or my defense to the anti-SLAPP motion. I'll get my case before a jury in 2018 or 2019 - if I'm lucky.

Or I'll be broke.

Three days of anti-SLAPP hearings in Rall v. Los Angeles Times begin February 28th in LA Superior Court. My attorneys spent many hours preparing our opposition to that motion. Legal fees aren't cheap, so the expense of defending against an anti-SLAPP filing before the case even begins is enough to deter some plaintiffs from filing valid lawsuits.

If the judge rules for the Times, I'll be ordered to pay the Times their legal fees. The Times told the court their bills would be at least $300,000. If she rules for me, the Times can and probably will appeal to the Court of Appeals. That means more work for me and my lawyers and months, maybe another year, of delay - and justice delayed is justice denied. If the appellate court agrees with the Times, my case gets thrown out and I'll have to pay the Times' bills - which by then will be significantly higher.

I know I'm right. And I think the law is on my side. But by filing a lawsuit in an anti-SLAPP state, I'm risking bankruptcy. How many would-be plaintiffs get scared away from pursuing their legitimate claims? How many defendants get away with illegal behavior by abusing anti-SLAPP laws?

Anti-SLAPP opens the door to unfair defense tactics. LA Times lawyers invoked an obscure California statute to require me, as a non-California resident, to post a cash bond to guarantee the Times' legal bills if they win on anti-SLAPP. They asked for $300,000; the judge knocked it down to $75,000. Just to keep my case going - before it begins, really - 75 grand was the cost of entry.

Thanks to concerned readers who gave to my GoFundMe campaign, I raised the $75,000. After I turned over the money to a bond company who filed it with the court (more fees there), the Times tried to get the case thrown out on the ground that the form hadn't been filled out perfectly.

Still think it's too easy to sue?

There's hope for change. In 2015 Washington State became the first state to find its anti-SLAPP statute unconstitutional because it denies plaintiffs their fundamental right to a trial by jury. Anti-SLAPP, the Washington Supreme Court ruled, "seeks to protect one group of citizen's constitutional rights of expression and petition — by cutting off another group's constitutional rights of petition and jury trial." Minnesota and D.C. may do the same.

Congress should pass a federal law about this - one that bans anti-SLAPP laws.

Ted Rall is an American columnist, syndicated editorial cartoonist, and author of "Trump: A Graphic Biography," an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon. Rall's GoFundMe.

Stockton Woman Arrested on Suspicion of Murdering Child

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Mavis Allen

Stockton Police have arrested a woman suspected in the death of a 20-month old child.

On August 6, 2017,  police were contacted by St. Joseph’s Hospital regarding a 20-month-old, male Child who was brought in with obvious trauma and was in cardiac arrest. Life saving measures were started and the child was transferred to Oakland Children’s Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. 

Detectives met with the mother, Mavis Allen, 26, and initially booked her on a child neglect charge. An autopsy confirmed the trauma to the child’s head was most likely not caused by an accident. 

The investigation determined that the abuse occurred in a room at the motel located at 550 W Martin Luther King Blvd. On August 11, 2017, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office refiled the charges as 273 a(a) PC Child abuse resulting in death as well as 12022.95 PC which is an enhancement charge for child abuse which causes death.

Mavis remains in custody at the San Joaquin County Jail.

Fairfield Man, Juvenile Accomplice Arrested on Suspicion of Bank Robbery

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Two suspects, ages 17 and 18, are in custody at the Sacramento County Jail and Juvenile Hall after they allegedly robbed an Elk Grove bank.

On Saturday, August 12, the two suspects, Cameron Davon Pickett (pictured above), 18 of Fairfield, Calif., and his 17-year old male accomplice, entered the US Bank branch location on the 5000 block of Laguna Boulevard and threatened tellers demanding money. After complying with their demands, the suspects fled.

Responding Elk Grove Police officers located a vehicle a short distance away that was believed to be involved in the robbery. When officers attempted to stop the vehicle, the suspects fled and led police on a 1.4 mile pursuit that terminated in the 8400 block of Elk Grove Boulevard when the suspect vehicle collided with another vehicle. 

The two occupants fled on foot but were apprehended by officers. The juvenile was placed in juvenile hall while Pickett is being held at the county jail facing four felony charges with an August 15, 2017 arraignment.  

First Amendment Coalition to California Calif. Court of Appeal: The Public Can’t See What No Longer Exists

Saturday, August 12, 2017 / No Comments

By David Snyder, First Amendment Coalition |

FAC recently filed a “friend of court” brief in a California Court of Appeal case addressing an issue of critical importance to the public’s ability to obtain records under the California Public Records Act: should a CPRA requester be required to get a court order - an injunction - to prevent the government from destroying records?

The clear answer is “no.” If the CPRA stands for anything, it is the idea that the government has a duty, at an absolute minimum, to retain records sought under the CPRA. That obligation stems from the government’s legal duty to provide records under the CPRA. As FAC’s amicus brief puts it, “the public can’t access records that no longer exist.” Thus, no CPRA requester should have to get a separate court order to prevent the destruction of those records.

But in the case of Stevenson v. City of Sacramento, not only did Richard Stevenson and Katy Grimes have to obtain an injunction to prevent the wholesale destruction of million of emails they sought, but they had to post a bond - i.e., make a payment - in order to prevent that destruction.

Grimes and Stevenson have appealed the order requiring them to post a bond in order to prevent the destruction of records.

FAC’s amicus brief supports the argument that no records requester should have to put up thousands of dollars in bond money to prevent the destruction of public records. But FAC also makes a larger, more fundamental point: no injunction should be required in the first place. As FAC explained in its amicus brief:

Requiring PRA requesters to obtain an injunction to prevent the destruction of records at issue in PRA litigation runs directly counter to the purpose of the California Public Records Act and the clear mandate of the California Constitution, both of which require that records relating to the people’s business be made available to the public. That which does not exist plainly is not “available,” and nothing in the CPRA or any other law requires the public to obtain a specific order requiring agencies to preserve records to which they are entitled under California law—and that which California law requires all litigants to preserve in any event.

Karl Olson of the law firm Cannata, O’Toole, Fickes and Almazan in San Francisco prepared FAC’s amicus brief, which was joined by the Sacramento Bee, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, The Sacramento Valley Mirror, The North Coast Journal, The Ferndale Enterprise, The Lake County News, The Davis Vanguard, The Woodland Record, and Californians Aware.

The case is Richard Stevenson and Katy Grimes v. City of Sacramento, Sacramento County Case No. 34-2015-8000215, California Court of Appeal No. C080685. The brief can be viewed here.

Suit Filed in Federal Court in Washington D.C. Against U.S. Dept. of Interior over Proposed Elk Grove Casino

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California Assemblymember Jim Cooper (l), with Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chairman Raymond Hitchcok, and former
Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis at the February 14, 2017 announcement that the 36-acre parcel purchased by Boyd Gaming
had been placed into federal trust.  |  

An amended complaint was filed on Thursday, August 10 in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. by Stand Up For California (SUFC) against the U.S. Department of the Interior challenging recent decisions that have helped the Wilton Rancheria's pursuit of a $400 million casino to be located in Elk Grove City limits.

The complaint, which was filed on behalf of casino watchdog group SUFC and three Elk Grove residents, continues to challenge the validity of the decision to place the 36-acre parcel located at the site of the unfinished Outlets Collection at Elk Grove shopping center into federal trust. Placement of the parcel into federal trust is required for any Indian casino on non-tribal land.

At the core of SUFC argument is that the decision was made in violation of 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act. SUFC contends the decision made by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Lawrence Roberts, lacked the authority under the Vacancies Reform Act (VRA). 

Previous to this amended complaint, SUFC's administrative complaint with the Department of Interior was denied. 

The proposed casino by the Wilton Rancheria has been a source of controversy in Elk Grove since it was formally introduced last summer. Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming, who is financing the project for the tribe, recently purchased a portion of the unfinished mall from Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC).

The City of Elk Grove, who is also embroiled with SUFC in a lawsuit over the release of public documents, has supported the development of the mall as a way of kick-starting the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove. Construction on the shopping center, which was previously called the Elk Grove Promenade, stopped over nine years ago, and despite repeated claims by HHC of their interested in the development of the shopping center, construction has not resumed.

While past and current Elk Grove City Council members and the city's executive team initially stated they were neutral on the project, public documents revealed the city's interest in working with the Wilton Rancheria dating to at least 2012. In December 2012, not long after Gary Davis became Elk Grove's first directly elected mayor, former assistant city manager Beck Craig emailed HHC saying the city had a good prospect, what became Wilton Rancheria's proposed casino, for them to explore as a way of resurrecting development of the moribund site. 

Along with the VRA argument, SUFC contends that federal officials denied proper local notice; did not require an Environmental Impact Statement when the location was switched from a proposed Galt, Calif. location to Elk Grove; and ignored the development agreement title encumbrance placed on the entire site. 

Among nine specific requests for relief included requests to reverse the decision to place the land into trust based on violation of the VRA; and the "unwinding all of the steps taken by the Defendants to change the status of the lands in Elk Grove, including requiring the Defendants to return the declared trust land to its non-trust, fee title status prior to the issuance of the ROD; to rescind the Defendants’ “restored lands” and “restored tribe” determination under IGRA."

In a statement issued this morning, SUFC said "Off-reservation gaming creates enough controversy and contentious political activity in affected communities as well as between and with tribal governments. In this instance, we have the added frustration of Interior officials overstepping their authority, ignoring regulations, statutes and Department guidelines. 

In response to the filing, Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock reasserted that land has been placed in trust and said the complaint was void of merit.

“The land is in trust, we have signed a compact with the State of California, and the project continues to progress. It’s time for certain card club interests that are writing checks for baseless lawsuits to step aside," Hitchcock said. "The project will create thousands of new jobs and new opportunities for businesses, and invest more than $180 million into the City of Elk Grove and Sacramento County over the next 20 years.”

Interestingly, California Assemblymember Jim Cooper penned an opinion piece that appeared today in the Sacramento Bee praising the benefits the casino. As part of his support of the casino, Cooper recently introduced urgency legislation to approve the gaming compact between the State of California and Wilton Rancheria approved by Gov. Jerry Brown. 

Perhaps in anticipation of push back, in their statement, SUFC stressed they are not seeking "to harm the economic viability of any California tribe, or any shopping mall project." However, they asserted that the process for placing the land into trust is flawed and illegal.

"Instead we strive to ensure that State and Federal statutes, regulations and decision-making processes are adhered to properly. In doing so, all citizens can be assured that Federal officials cannot thrust a casino into any urban community, next to homes, schools, places of worship, and businesses that are not compatible with a casino environment."

SUFC is being represented in the complaint by Jennifer A. MacLean and Benjamin S. Sharp, of Perkins Coie, Washington D.C. 

August 10: Updated at 5:20 p.m. to include a statement from Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock. 

Suspects Wanted For Shooting at Stockton Police Apprehended

Thursday, August 10, 2017 / No Comments
Martin Harlan (l) and Steven Rodriguez. 

Two men suspected of shooting at Stockton Police officers during a vehicle pursuit have been taken into custody.

Both men were wanted on suspicion of shooting at Stockton Police on the late evening of June 26 during a traffic stop.

Martin Harlan, 26, was arrested for attempted murder of police officers and gang enhancements. Harlan (above left) was arrested by the Hayward Police Department on August 5, 2017 for carjacking, firearm violations, evading arrest, felony hit and run, and assault on two Hayward Police officers and currently in custody at the Alameda County jail.

Today, the FBI and US Marshal’s arrested Steven Rodriguez, 48, in San Francisco. Rodriguez is currently being transported back to Stockton where he will be arraigned on attempted murder with gangs enhancements charges.