About Me

I am a veteran legal affairs reporter in Southern California with an accomplished history of breaking news, investigations, long-form narratives and memorable trial coverage.  I helped pioneer the use of Twitter to cover trials as a reporter for The Spokesman-Review in 2008, and my coverage of rapper Tory Lanez's December 2022 trial for shooting Megan Thee Stallion earned national attention

Speaking, project inquiries: meghanncuniff@gmail.com

Postal mail: P.O. Box 5853, San Clemente, CA, 92674

My 2022 case coverage

I watched no fewer than 13 trials in 2022, a mix of federal and state and civil and criminal. Here are some highlights.

People v. Daystar Peterson, L.A. County Superior Court. Rapper Tory Lanez on trial for shooting Megan Thee Stallion.

Jury Convicts Rapper Tory Lanez on All Charges in Shooting of Megan Thee Stallion, After Single Day of Deliberations

A Los Angeles jury on Friday found rapper Tory Lanez guilty of shooting Megan Thee Stallion in a July 2020 altercation in the Hollywood Hills, deliberating for about seven hours over two days before convicting him of three felonies. The 30-year-old Canadian-born man was taken into custody after the verdict was announced about 3:15 p.m. in Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Herriford‘s courtroom. He faces up to 22 years and eight months in prison at sentencing. He also could be depor

Prosecutor Tells Jury Tory Lanez Shot Megan Thee Stallion 'Over Nothing More Than a Bruised Ego'

A prosecutor on Wednesday urged jurors to convict rapper Tory Lanez for allegedly shooting Megan Thee Stallion “over nothing more than a bruised ego,” beginning and ending his 75-minute closing argument with the three-time Grammy-winning artist’s own trial testimony while calling her “a victim of domestic violence.” “If I would have known that coming out and speaking my truth would come with people agreeing with me being shot, if I would have known, I would have started to lose my confidence,”

In Trial Twist, Defense Witness Testifies Tory Lanez Was 'Firing Everywhere' When Megan Thee Stallion Was Shot

Rapper Tory Lanez’s own defense witness identified him as a gunman the night Megan Thee Stallion was shot, saying he was “firing everywhere” — but that the flashes he saw originated with a woman. “How many shots did you see the short guy shoot when you said, ‘he was firing everywhere?'” asked Deputy District Attorney Alexander Bott in cross-examination, referring to the 5-foot-3 Lanez. “Four or five,” answered Sean Kelly, a Hollywood Hills homeowner who called 911 to report a group beating a w

Megan Thee Stallion Seemed 'Like A Deer in Headlights' When Tory Lanez Opened Fire, Her Friend Told Prosecutors in Taped Interview

In a recorded interview played for jurors, a former friend of Megan Thee Stallion clearly identified rapper Tory Lanez as the gunman who fired five rounds at the hip-hop superstar in July 2020. That friend Kelsey Nicole Harris told prosecutors in an interview recorded months earlier that she turned at the sound of the second or third of five gunshots — and saw Lanez on the right front passenger side of the Escalade that Megan had exited, “shooting over the door.” Harris gave this statement to p

Jurors to Hear 80-Minute Interview in Which Megan Thee Stallion's Ex-Assistant Told Prosecutors She Saw Tory Lanez Shoot Her Former Boss

Jurors can hear the full 80-minute interview where Megan Thee Stallion’s former close friend and assistant told law enforcement that she saw rapper Tory Lanez shoot her ex-boss, a judge ruled on Thursday. That ex-assistant, Kelsey Harris, recently disavowed her claim on the witness stand, in a startling back-flip that prosecutors appeared to attribute to pressure from the defendant. In a win for prosecutors, jurors will be able to hear the witness’s full and unedited remarks from September, bef

Megan Thee Stallion's Ex-Assistant Tells Jury Her Interview 'Wasn't Truthful,' Disavows Claim She Saw Tory Lanez Shoot Her Former Boss

Megan Thee Stallion‘s former friend and assistant Kelsey Harris testified Wednesday that she never saw Tory Lanez shooting a gun the night Megan was shot in her feet. She told a prosecutor trying to convict Lanez of assault that she made statements that “weren’t accurate” in a recorded September interview partly played for the jury. “There were some things I wasn’t truthful about,” Harris said before Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Kathy Ta played a clip from Harris’ interview in wh

'I Am Not on Trial': Megan Thee Stallion Testifies Tory Lanez's Shooting Defense Led to Her Sexual Shaming by Hip-Hop's 'Big Boys Club'

Megan Thee Stallion testified Tuesday that Tory Lanez and his supporters are trying to turn him shooting her into a sex scandal that victimizes him, lamenting the tabloid-style coverage of Lanez’s criminal assault case that shames her “for being a grown woman having sex” and speculates about her sex partners. “I don’t understand why that matters…I’ve been turned into some kind of villain, and he a victim,” Megan said as Lanez looked on from the defense table in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.

'Dance, B****': Prosecutor Tells Jury Tory Lanez Shot Megan Thee Stallion After She Insulted His Skills as a Musician

A prosecutor told a Los Angeles County jury on Monday that rapper Tory Lanez fired five rounds at Megan Thee Stallion after she insulted his skills as a musician, lodging bullet fragments in her feet that only a surgeon could remove. “When Megan insulted his skills as a music artist, that’s what really set him off that night,” said Deputy District Attorney Alexander Bott. Bott’s first words to the jury were, “Dance, bitch,” which he told them Lanez yelled at Megan as he fired a handgun at her

People v. Harvey Weinstein, L.A. County Superior Court. Seven sex assault charges involving four women.

Disgraced Hollywood Producer Harvey Weinstein Has Been Found Guilty of Raping Model, Now Stands Convicted from Coast to Coast

A Los Angeles County jury found disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein guilty Monday of three sex crimes related to his rape of a Russian-Italian model, which could add at least 18 more years to the 23 years he’s already serving for his New York convictions. The mixed verdict fell far short of a wholesale victory for prosecutors: Jurors acquitted him of another crime and deadlocked on the remaining three. The acquittal was for sexual battery by restraint related to Jane Doe 3, who is Juls Bindi,

'Regret Is Not the Same Thing as Rape': Harvey Weinstein's Lawyer Reduces Prosecutors' Sexual Assault Case to 'Take My Word for It'

A lawyer for Harvey Weinstein told jurors Thursday that prosecutors’ case rides on a single theme: “Take my word for it,” repeating the phrase throughout a closing argument that cast the alleged victims as opportunists and liars unfairly targeting the former Hollywood titan. “Take my word for it. Take my word for it. Five words that sum up the entirety of the prosecution’s case. Take my word for it,” Alan Jackson said Thursday. “Take my word for it that he showed up at my hotel room unannounced

'Hotels Were His Trap': Prosecutor Displays Image of Prowling Wolf to Illustrate ‘Predator’ Harvey Weinstein in Closing Volley of Sexual Assault Trial

Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein used his power “to live his life without the repercussions of his predatory behavior,” a prosecutor told jurors as his California trial drew to a close. Walking jurors through testimony from eight women who accused the producers of sexual assault, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez displayed a photo of a grinning Weinstein. Martinez illustrated his status as a film industry “titan” by reminding jurors that his former driver te

Prosecutors Rest Sexual Assault Case Against Harvey Weinstein Without Calling Mel Gibson to the Witness Stand

Prosecutors on Thursday rested their sexual assault case against Harvey Weinstein without calling actor Mel Gibson — wrapping four weeks of witnesses with testimony from two Los Angeles police detectives who investigated the now-disgraced former movie producer. Jurors are to return to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench’s courtroom on Nov. 28 at 9:30 a.m. for the start of Weinstein’s defense case, with psychiatrist Deborah Davis the only announced witness so far. Davis is a pr

Model Testifies Harvey Weinstein Raped Her After She Told Him, 'I Don't Do The Casting Couch Thing'

A woman testified Wednesday that Harvey Weinstein raped her in London in 2008 after she told the powerful Hollywood producer, “I don’t do the casting couch thing.” “I don’t play that game,” Natassia Malthe said, rejecting Weinstein’s lawyer Mark Werksman’s contention in his Oct. 24 opening statement that so-called “casting couch” sex is a widely accepted gateway to Hollywood success. “Every single credit on my resume is hard-worked, earned. Integrity is something extremely important to me,” Ma

Judge Dismisses Charges Against Harvey Weinstein in Connection with Gloria Allred's Client Jane Doe 5

A judge has dismissed four charges against former Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein at the request of prosecutors. The charges are related to an alleged victim who was identified in pre-trial proceedings as Jane Doe 5. Her presence at trial had been in doubt since Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson didn’t mention her in his Oct. 24 opening statement, but Thompson said on Nov. 1 that her testimony was “still a possibility.” That changed Tuesday morning, when Thompson and Deputy District Atto

Harvey Weinstein's Lawyer Calls It Paradoxical That Jennifer Siebel Newsom, California Governor's Wife, Would Try to 'Stop a Rapist by Faking an Orgasm'

Jennifer Siebel Newsom sparred with Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer Tuesday in cross-examination that lasted nearly all day, with the self-described “First Partner of California” saying “you’re putting words in my mouth, sir” as he pressed her about alleged inconsistent statements she’s made to authorities. “I offered to talk to detectives initially to support other women. Not to be up here on the witness stand,” Siebel Newsom said, starting to cry. “You’re the wife of the governor of California at

'It Was Like the Twilight Zone': Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Wife of California's Governor, Tells Jury Harvey Weinstein Raped Her in 2005

The wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) took the witness stand Monday in disgraced Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial, describing her first meeting with the movie mogul as “like the red sea was parting” before moving into a highly emotional recounting of a hotel encounter she called “my worst nightmare.” “I’m standing — I’m resisting — against the bed. And he’s touching my breasts and touching himself,” Jennifer Siebel Newsom said. Crying heavily, Siebel Newsom told a packed courtroo

Ex-Harvey Weinstein Acquaintance Disputes Accuser’s Testimony About a Bathroom Sex Assault Trap

A social media influencer and former acquaintance of Harvey Weinstein testified Wednesday that a woman’s account of an alleged 2013 assault by Weinstein is false. She took the stand amid a legal debate over the admissibility of her own alleged encounter with the now-disgraced movie producer. Claudia Salinas said she has never been inside a hotel bathroom with Weinstein or the woman identified in his Los Angeles criminal case as Jane Doe 2. She also answered “absolutely not” when asked by Weinst

Woman Describes 2015 New York Police Sting on Harvey Weinstein After He Allegedly Grabbed Her Breast, Said She Looked Like Mila Kunis

Jurors in disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial in Los Angeles heard a conversation between him and a young woman surreptitiously recorded as part of a New York police sting in 2015. Identified in court by her first name and last initial, the woman said Tuesday that she met Weinstein during an afterparty for a spring show at Radio City Music Hall. Weinstein told her she looked like the actress Mila Kunis, whose That ’70s Show co-star Danny Masterson is coincidentally

Masseuse Who Accused Harvey Weinstein of Sexual Assault Denies Changing Story to Fit Prosecutors' Case

A lawyer for Harvey Weinstein questioned a masseuse Thursday and Friday about her shifting accounts of what exactly happened between her and the now-disgraced movie mogul, asking if she eventually said he’d touched her breasts because she realized skin-to-skin contact is an essential criminal element of sexual battery. Jane Doe 3‘s initial answer to whether Weinstein touched her under her clothing “was crystal clear,” Mark Werksman said. “You said, ‘Skin to skin? No, he did not,” Werksman said

Masseuse to Hollywood Stars Describes Telling Mel Gibson That Harvey Weinstein Sexually Assaulted Her

A massage therapist who said she confided in actor Mel Gibson about being attacked by Harvey Weinstein testified Wednesday that the disgraced movie mogul abruptly stopped their first session before barging in on her in a bathroom and masturbating in front of her. “I said, ‘What are you doing? This is not appropriate. Can you please go back in the other room and get your clothes on?'” said the woman, who is identified in court as Jane Doe 3. “He was a heavier man. His penis was hanging – that’s

Woman in 'Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights' Testifies Harvey Weinstein Defended Masturbating on Her by Saying 'It's Not Like We're Having Sex'

A woman who was in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights testified Thursday that Harvey Weinstein assaulted her while they were in Puerto Rico for filming in 2003, masturbating on her face and breasts in an attack enabled by Weinstein’s personal assistant. Not identified in court by her full name, the woman returned to the witness stand this morning as the first witness to testify about “prior bad acts” by Weinstein, a legal term describing sexual assault accusers who are not included as victims in the

'I Never Changed My Story': Accuser Defends Descriptions of Harvey Weinstein's Testicles During Cross-Examination at Los Angeles Trial

An attorney for Harvey Weinstein questioned an accuser Wednesday about the disgraced movie producer’s deformed genitalia, asking her if she “changed her story” of the alleged 2013 attack after she learned he’d had surgery that removed his testicles from his scrotum. An Italian model of Russian descent, the woman told lawyer Alan Jackson, “I never changed my story” and said in broken English that she “described that he had a problem, that it wasn’t the testicles but it was a part of him.” Jackso

Harvey Weinstein Accuser Describes Alleged 2013 Hotel Room Assault: 'I Wanted to Die'

A model and actress testified Tuesday that she frantically told ex-movie producer Harvey Weinstein to stop as he sexually assaulted her in her hotel room in 2013, but he continued and acted afterward “like nothing happened.” “I wanted to die. It was disgusting. It was humiliating, miserable. I didn’t fight,” she said. “I remember how he was looking in the mirror and he was telling me to look at him. I wish this never happened to me.” The woman began her testimony by apologizing “for my breakdo

'I Was Like Please, I Have Kids': Jury Hears Details of Harvey Weinstein's Alleged Crimes as Sexual Assault Trial Opens in LA

Jurors in the criminal trial of Harvey Weinstein heard details Monday morning about eight sexual assaults that Los Angeles County prosecutors allege the disgraced movie producer committed between 1991 and 2013. Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson displayed a graphic with photos of eight women and told the 20 people in then jury box “all were assaulted by the defendant, Harvey Weinstein.” Already serving 23 years for rape and sexual assault convictions out of New York, Weinstein was charged

People v. Daniel Masterson, L.A. County Superior Court. Three rape charges against the actor and Scientologist.

Judge Declares Mistrial in 'That '70s Show' Star Danny Masterson's Rape Trial After Jury Deadlocks Again, with Most Favoring Acquittal

A judge declared a mistrial Wednesday in actor Danny Masterson‘s rape trial after jurors said they couldn’t agree on any charges, ending a four-week trial that cast a spotlight on Masterson’s lifelong membership in the Church of Scientology. “At this time I find the jury is hopelessly deadlocked, so I do declare a mistrial,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo said about 3:15 p.m.. Jurors revealed a split that favored acquittal on each charge, with the vote on count 1 2

The Legal Concept Bringing the Deadlocked Jury Back to Danny Masterson's Rape Trial After Thanksgiving Is Controversial. Here's Why.

When the jury in actor Danny Masterson’s rape trial returns to court next week to continue deliberating, they’ll be doing so under a controversial legal concept born in federal court that is barred in some states while frequently applied in others. California is among several states that have revamped a jury instruction allowed under Allen v. United States, an 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision that says a court can instruct deadlocked jurors to reexamine their views in what is known as an “Allen

Judge Orders Deadlocked Jury in 'That '70s Show' Actor Danny Masterson's Rape Trial to Return After Thanksgiving

Jurors said Friday afternoon they are deadlocked on each of actor and Scientologistthree rape charges, but the judge declined to declare a mistrial and instead ordered them to return Nov. 28 for more deliberations. The That ’70s Show star is accused of raping three women, each of whom is a former member of the Church of Scientology. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo limited testimony about Scientology to five areas: why the alleged victims didn’t contact police sooner;

As Defense Fumes at Focus on Scientology, Prosecutor Calls That '70s Show Star Danny Masterson 'a Rapist' During Closing Arguments

A prosecutor on Tuesday called actor Danny Masterson “a man for whom no never meant no” before detailing seven encounters with four women who say the Church of Scientology is harassing them for reporting to police that Masterson raped them. While Masterson “looks like a well-dressed, well-groomed gentleman, I can assure you these victims here have a different image of Mr. Masterson,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said in his closing argument, referencing a TV scre

Woman Says Danny Masterson Told Her 'Diseases Were In the Mind' When She Complained About Him Raping Her Without a Condom

A woman testified Wednesday that actor Danny Masterson raped her on two occasions in 1996, describing waking up to him having sex with her after a night of drinking and having fun with fellow movie cast mates. Actress Tricia Vessey also said Masterson raped her months later after showing up at her apartment and inviting her to drink from a flask that she said tasted like whiskey but, according to her testimony, may have contained a drug that knocked her unconscious. In the first encounter, she

Alleged Rape Victim and Ex-Scientologist Testifies About Realizing Danny Masterson 'Was Like a Predator'

A woman who accuses “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson of raping her testified Wednesday morning that as she grew older and separated from the Church of Scientology, she realized a 2003 encounter with him “was rape, and he was like a predator.” “I didn’t want it to be rape because of so many reasons. So many reasons,” the former Scientologist testified. “I did not want to think of someone in the church that I was friendly with as a rapist.” Identified only as by her first initial and last

The Mars Volta Singer Testifies in Danny Masterson Trial About Emotional Conversation with Ex-Scientologist Wife: 'She Had Been Raped'

The leader singer of the rock band The Mars Volta testified Friday that he continues to be stalked and harassed by the Church of Scientology since his wife first told police she’d been raped by Scientologist and “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson. Cedric Bixler-Zavala did not detail specific acts because of a court order, but he affirmed he was being stalked and harassed and answered “yes, it is” when asked by Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson,”Is that by the Church of

'That 70s Show' Actor Danny Masterson's Ex-Girlfriend Testifies She Was 'Terrified' by Repercussions from Scientology for Reporting Alleged 2001 Rape

A former girlfriend of That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson said Thursday that she feared the actor’s ties to the Church of Scientology when she reported he’d raped her, answering questions in a cross-examination partly focused on what she described as Masterson’s aggressive approach to their former sex life. Christine Carnell-Bixler said she was “terrified” to speak with a Los Angeles police sexual assault detective in 2017 about Masterson’s alleged rape of her in 2001, and it wasn’t because o

Kevin Brophy v. Belcalis Almanzar, U.S. District Court, C.D. Cal. Trial over the cover to rapper Cardi B's "Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1"

Federal Jury Sides with Cardi B in Lawsuit from Man Who Claimed His Tattoo Was Misused on the Star's Mixtape Cover

A federal jury on Friday sided with Cardi B in a lawsuit accusing her of misusing a man’s tattoo on the cover of her 2016 mixtape “Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1,” deliberating about 90 minutes before rejecting all claims against her. The jury concluded Kevin Michael “Mike” Brophy hadn’t proven his claims that Cardi misappropriated Brophy’s likeness on the cover, nor had he proven that her former management company KSR Group LLC or her cosmetics company Washpoppin’ did. They also concluded that Br

'America’s Darling': Cardi B's Ex-Manager Defends Mixtape Cover in Trial Testimony

Cardi B’s former manager testified Thursday that he stands by the mixtape cover that features a portion of a tattoo inked on the back of the man who’s suing her, saying he believes it’s protected by the First Amendment. “The First Amendment allows you to transform and edit and create your own artwork,” Klenord “Shaft” Raphael said. He also disputed inferences from plaintiff Mike Brophy‘s lawyer that he distributed “Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1” at no cost in 2016 as a marketing tool to eventual

'Please Tell Me How He's Suffered': Rapper Cardi B Testifies at Trial About What Turned Her into a 'Superstar,' and It's Not the Tattoo on Her Mixtape Cover

Cardi B took the witness stand in a California federal courtroom on Wednesday, questioning how a man who accuses her of misusing his distinct tattoo on her mixtape cover has been harmed and angrily disputing any notion that the tattoo contributed to her fame. “There is not one evidence where people believe it’s actually him,” Cardi testified in the civil lawsuit. “He hasn’t gotten fired from his job. He hasn’t gotten a divorce. How has he suffered? … Please tell me how he’s suffered.” She also

Man Who Sued Cardi B for Using His Tattoo on Mixtape Cover Testifies at Trial: 'Disgusting' Visual Disrespects 'Me and My Family'

A California man suing Cardi B for using his distinct tattoo on the cover of her mixtape “Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1” told a jury Tuesday he’s disturbed that something he takes great pride in has been plastered on something that “goes against everything I stand for.” “It felt like my Michelangelo was stolen off a wall and literally ripped off, robbed, and put where ever these people wanted to put it,” Kevin Michael “Mike” Brophy testified. A married father of two and lifelong surfer, Brophy li

Vanessa Bryant v. Los Angeles County, U.S. District Court, C.D. Cal. Aug. 2022. The Kobe Bryant crash photos trial.

Man Who Lost Wife and Daughter in Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash Settles All Claims over Los Angeles County Photos for Nearly $20 Million

The widower who was awarded $15 million along with Vanessa Bryant for Los Angeles County’s mishandling of photos of human remains from the helicopter crash that killed his wife and daughter will settle all claims against the county for an additional total of nearly $5 million. Christopher Chester‘s $19.95 million settlement was announced Tuesday in a press release from the private law firm that handled the case for the county. It whose covers the $15 million the jury awarded Chester last month

After Reducing Jury Award By $1M, Judge Wants to Know If Vanessa Bryant Will Pursue Remaining Claims

With a $15 million jury award finalized in U.S. District Court, Vanessa Bryant still has another potentially lucrative case awaiting in state court over Los Angeles County’s photos from the helicopter crash that killed basketball star Kobe Bryant and their daughter Gianna Bryant. U.S. District Judge John F. Walter on Wednesday gave Bryant’s attorneys until Sept. 19 to say whether they’ll pursue the California invasion of privacy claims he separated from the federal civil rights claims before tr

Jury Awards $31M Total in Favor of Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester in Lawsuit Against LA County Over Fatal Helicopter Crash Photos

A jury on Wednesday awarded $31 million to Vanessa Bryant and Christopher Chester for Los Angeles County’s mishandling of photos from the helicopter crash that killed their spouses and daughters. The verdict follows 10 days of testimony in U.S. District Judge John F. Walter’s courtroom about how employees with the sheriff’s and fire departments took and disseminated photographs of human remains at the site of the Jan. 26, 2020 crash that killed Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna Bryant. Chester’s wi

Jury Hears $75 Million Damages Request in Vanessa Bryant's Lawsuit Over LA County's Photos of Fatal Helicopter Crash

A lawyer told jurors that the egregious behavior of Los Angeles County officials and their “clumsy” coverup over photos from the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant warrants a $2.5 million damages award to both Vanessa Bryant and Christopher Chester, with another $1 million for each year of future suffering. Jerry Jackson, who represents Chester, made the recommendation during his closing argument Tuesday afternoon, saying he’s usually worried about asking jurors for too much. In this case

'I Trusted Them': Vanessa Bryant Takes Stand for First Time at Trial Against LA County, Recalls Moment She Was 'Blindsided' by Crash Photos

Vanessa Bryant testified Friday that sheriff’s deputies and fire officials who photographed her daughter’s remains the day after the deadly 2020 helicopter crash were “taking advantage of the fact that her daddy couldn’t protect her because he was at the morgue.” “I expected them to have more compassion, respect. My husband and daughter deserved dignity,” Bryant said in trial in her lawsuit against Los Angeles County over first responders taking and distributing photos of human remains at the s

Grieving Widower Suing LA County Alongside Vanessa Bryant Testifies About Losing Wife and Daughter in Helicopter Crash

A widower suing Los Angeles County for taking and distributing photographs of his wife and daughter’s remains testified Thursday that the inconsistencies he’s heard from trial witnesses have deepened his concerns that the photos will someday surface. “I felt like there wasn’t a clear explanation for what happened,” said Chris Chester, whose wife, Sarah George Chester, and 13-year-old daughter, Payton Chester, died in the Jan. 26, 2020, helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter G

Fire Captain Denies That He Showed Photos of Kobe Bryant’s Body at Gala Cocktail Hour as ‘Party Trick’

A Los Angeles County fire captain on Wednesday denied showing photos of Kobe Bryant’s body during a gala three weeks after the helicopter crash that killed the Lakers legend, his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others, telling a federal jury he was instead “talking shop” about how to manage such a chaotic scene. Capt. Tony Imbrenda also said his girlfriend never invited a woman whose cousin died in the crash to view the photos, saying “that never happened.” “I am adamantly testifying to that

LA County Sheriff’s Chief Apologizes to Vanessa Bryant During Trial Over Sharing of Helicopter Crash Photos

A top-ranking Los Angeles County Sheriff’s official apologized to Vanessa Bryant and Christopher Chester from the witness stand Tuesday after being pressed about apparent lies he told regarding photos a deputy shared at a bar of victims from the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven more. Chief Jorge Valdez gave his “utmost condolences” to Bryant and Chester after Chester’s lawyer, Jerry Jackson, asked him about telling a reporter in a February 2020 ema

'I Need a Break': Ex-Fire Captain Repeatedly Leaves Witness Stand While Testifying in Vanessa Bryant's Suit Against Los Angeles County

A retired Los Angeles County fire captain left the witness stand on Monday while testifying about his time at the site of the helicopter crash that killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant, repeatedly saying he’s the victim of false accusations while denying any memories of what he did there beyond that he was instructed to take photos. The approximately two hours Brian Jordan spent on the stand was punctuated three times by Jordan’s sudden departure from the courtroo

‘That Would Be Psycho’: Bartender Denies Laughing at Kobe Bryant Crash Photos Shown to Him by Deputy

A man who saw photos of Kobe Bryant’s remains while tending bar testified Thursday that he and the off-duty deputy who displayed them never laughed about the images because “that would be psycho to do that.” Testifying in the trial of Vanessa Bryant’s federal lawsuit against Los Angeles County, bartender Victor Gutierrez asked “what kind of human being” would he be if he’d laughed at the photos of the basketball legend, who died in January 2020 when a helicopter carrying him, their daughter Gia

Vanessa Bryant Lawsuit: LA County Deputy Who Photographed Human Remains at Helicopter Crash Site Defends His Actions in Court

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who photographed human remains at the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, testified Friday that he doesn’t regret taking the photos and believes he was complying with a supervisor’s orders. “I know I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Deputy Douglas Johnson, answering “no sir” when a lawyer for Vanessa Bryant asked him if he’d do anything differently if he could. Johnson also said he didn’t know th

Los Angeles Lakers GM Rob Pelinka Testifies He 'Knew The Impact' LA County's Misuse of Photos Would Have on Vanessa Bryant

Grief-stricken Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka testified Wednesday that he learned sheriff’s officials had shown off gruesome photos of Kobe Bryant’s body when he got a call from someone with the Lakers about a “terrible story, unthinkable story about to break in the LA Times.” Deputies had shown “graphic, awful images” at bars and to friends, Pelinka said in a slow, tearful tone, and “I was horrified by the facts that were being relayed to me.” “I just knew the impact it would

United States v. Michael Avenatti, U.S. District Court, C.D. Cal. Guilty plea and sentencing for client embezzlement.

U.S. Judge Explains Michael Avenatti’s 14-Year Sentence in Final Order Laying Bare the Disgraced Lawyer’s ‘Great Evil’

The judge who sentenced Michael Avenatti to 14 years in prison on Monday explains his reasoning in a new 20-page order that details not why the disgraced lawyer’s sentence is so harsh but why it’s lenient. “As is the case with most human beings, there is the ability to do great good on an individual level or even a national or global scale. But there is also the ability to do great evil through willfully inflicting great harm on others through greed, arrogance, lying, uncaring dealing with othe

Michael Avenatti Is to Be Sentenced Monday for Client Fraud. Here's What You Should Know.

Michael Avenatti is to be sentenced Monday at 9 a.m. in Santa Ana, California, for a years-long financial fraud that victimized clients and included tax and bankruptcy crimes related to his law firm and failed coffee shop venture. You can follow the sentencing live on Twitter through reporter Meghann Cuniff. It’s the potential end of a long cross-country trial court saga for the now-former California attorney, who has been in custody since turning himself in to federal authorities on Feb. 7 fol

'It Is Now Time to Pay His Debts': Michael Avenatti to Serve More Than a Decade Behind Bars for $12M Fraud Against Four Clients

Disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti was sentenced Monday in California to 14 years in federal prison for defrauding four clients out of millions of dollars over several years, ending a years-long battle with a three-hour hearing that included emotional statements from two victims and unsuccessful plea for leniency from Avenatti. After completing his current five-year total sentence for two other prosecutions on the East Coast, currently scheduled for January 2026, the 51-year-old will begin a sep

Michael Avenatti Cites Ousted SDNY Top Prosecutor’s Tell-All Book on Trump Years While Calling Trio of DOJ Prosecutions 'Improper and Highly Prejudicial'

Michael Avenatti says an an “internal ‘turf’ battle” over his three federal prosecutions that’s described in former Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman‘s new book shows his convictions for defrauding Stormy Daniels and trying to extort Nike shouldn’t be counted against him when he’s sentenced in California next month for defrauding his law clients out of millions of dollars. In a new brief, Avenatti’s standby counsel H. Dean Steward says “the highly unusual decision” to

Michael Avenatti Asks for Leniency as Prosecutors Recommend Lengthy Sentence in Client Fraud Case

Federal prosecutors want Michael Avenatti to spend nearly 18 years in prison for defrauding four clients out of nearly $12.5 million in a “cruel” scheme that reduced his clients to his beggars and coincided with crimes against the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Bankruptcy Court. In a 52-page memorandum filed Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brett Sagel and Ranee Katzenstein say Avenatti should serve a 210-month sentence served in addition to the approximately five years he’s currently servi

Book Agent Says Stormy Daniels’ Lawsuit Against Him Should Be Thrown Out Now that Michael Avenatti Must Pay Up

The Manhattan literary agent who sent Stormy Daniels’ book payments to Michael Avenatti says the recent restitution order against the disgraced lawyer means Daniels’ lawsuit against the agent should be dismissed. A lawyer for Luke Janklow and Janklow & Nesbit Associates said last week’s order from U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman “further reinforces” that only Avenatti is responsible for Daniels not receiving the last of three $148,750 payments she was due for her 2018 book Full Disclosure.

Bankruptcy Trustee, Two Ex-Clients Join Ex-Partner in Battle for Michael Avenatti’s Seized Aircraft

The legal battle for Michael Avenatti’s jet is now a four-way match, with two ex-clients and the trustee for his bankrupt law firm jumping into the fray. Lawyers for the jet’s co-owner, William Parrish, say Avenatti victimized him “as much as or more than any other party claiming an interest in the jet,” and the money Parrish put toward the aircraft entitles him to at least a portion of its sale proceeds. They filed their petition late Thursday about the same time lawyers for the court-appoint

Michael Avenatti Seeks Sentencing Delay for Defrauding Clients, Citing Prison COVID Lockdown

Disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti is asking to delay sentencing in his California client fraud case because a COVID-related lockdown in his prison unit is prohibiting him accessing the law library or visiting with his standby counsel. In a five-page request filed Thursday, Avenatti’s standby counsel, H. Dean Steward, said he’s been allowed out of his unit “approximately five hours per week for limited fresh air” since a nearby prisoner testified positive for COVID-19 on July 27. About 20 to 30

United States v. Gabriel Zendejas-Chavez, U.S. District Court, C.D. Cal. Lawyer accused of conspiring with the Mexican Mafia.

Supermax Prison Official Testifies About Notes in Toilet After Alleged Mexican Mafia Lawyer’s Visit

A security specialist at the highest security federal prison in the United States testified Tuesday that a Los Angeles lawyer’s already suspicious visits with Mexican Mafia inmates took on a more criminal appearance after three notes were discovered in a visiting room toilet he’d used. The testimony of Jean Pierre Espino spotlighted the inner workings of the Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado, sometimes called the Alcatraz of the Rockies for its remote location in the Rocky M

Ex-Sureño Gangster Tells Jury in Mexican Mafia Lawyer's Trial a Rat 'Is a Person Who Is Doing What I'm Doing Now'

A former Sureño gangster and Mexican Mafia ally who helped control Los Angeles jails from the inside testified Monday that a lawyer provided a crucial bridge between members incarcerated in different prisons, relaying messages about potential murder plots and other key business decisions. Luis “Hefty” Garcia, 43, is the star prosecution witness against indicted attorney Gabriel Zendejas-Chavez, describing in his two days on the stand Chavez’s work as a facilitator for the Mexican Mafia who used

Los Angeles Jury Hears of Lawyer’s Alleged Role in Mexican Mafia Jail Extortion Scheme

A lawyer served as a key facilitator for a ruthless Mexican Mafia racketeering conspiracy based in Los Angeles County jails, traveling to prisons up and down the West Coast to pass notes between members while “hunting down” government informants and helping launder money, a prosecutor told a federal jury on Wednesday. A defense attorney for Gabriel Zendejas-Chavez said he’s been falsely accused by Mafia members looking for leniency in their own criminal cases, and his prominence within the gang

My Twitter coverage of U.S. District Judge David O. Carter's hearings in a lawsuit over homelessness in Los Angeles placed first for "best use of social media by an independent journalist" at the 2021 Los Angeles Press Club Awards. Here are a few of my articles about L.A. Alliance v. City of Los Angeles et al.

Tentative 'Settlement' in Lawsuit Over Homelessness Leaves Many Questions

A proposed settlement in a federal lawsuit over homelessness still has major work ahead before it’s finalized, with the city’s announcement including only vague plans met with immediate criticism by Skid Row advocates and at least one city councilmember. A five-year term sheet filed with U.S. District Judge David O. Carter essentially acts as an agreement to come up with an agreement, with the city pledging to create “sufficient shelter and/or housing” to accommodate 60 percent of the city’s ho

Nearly A Year After Skid Row Upheaval, Judge Wants Settlement in L.A. Homeless Suit

When the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated U.S. District Judge David O. Carter’s court-ordered revamp of Los Angeles’ approach to homelessness and housing, the lawyers behind the lawsuit praised the decision as giving them a clear path forward to secure another seismic order about systemic racism from a judge who’s vowed never to let up. But six months later, their efforts appear to have lost a key supporter: the judge himself. After nearly a year of on-the-ground action that included perso

Appeals Court Overturns Judge's Order Demanding Housing of Skid Row's Homeless

A federal appellate court today overturned Judge David O. Carter’s system-shaking injunction on homelessness in Los Angeles, saying the group of downtown business owners and residents that filed a lawsuit against the city and county didn’t put forth evidence to support it. “To fill the gap, the district court impermissibly resorted to independent research and extra-record evidence,” according to an opinion issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Elizabeth Mitchell, an attorney for the L.

Opposition Is Mounting to a Local Judge's Homeless Crisis Crusade

On the eve of the first hearing in a lawsuit about Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis in March 2020, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter joined Mayor Eric Garcetti on a conference call with the mayors of California’s nine most populous cities. It was the first step in a groundbreaking approach that Carter said was garnering attention from judicial officials and policymakers in Seattle and Portland, too, and the judge predicted the interest would only grow. Fifteen months later, that prediction ha

As His Homeless Housing Order Faces Appeals, a Judge Says He Won't Let Up

In two days of hearings last week in Los Angeles, the judge at the epicenter of a historic lawsuit over homelessness made one thing clear: no matter what happens in appeals court, he’s still in charge. “Take it up to the Ninth Circuit,” Judge David O. Carter told attorneys for both the city and county of Los Angeles. “But when you do that, regardless of what the Ninth Circuit does, it’s coming back to my court eventually. And the question is: In what form and then how long?” It was a somewhat

'A Legacy of Racism': Judge Issues Bold Order to House Skid Row's Homeless

Describing “a legacy of entrenched structural racism” in the city and county of Los Angeles, a federal judge is requiring an accounting of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s new $951 million budget for homelessness within seven days, part of a broad order that also mandates housing offers for everyone on Skid Row, and freezes the sale and transfers of all city properties pending a study of potential housing sites. The 110-page order issued Tuesday details the history of homelessness in Los Angeles and discr

Along with my trial coverage, I write articles about legal issues that shed light on our judicial system. Here are a few.

Judge Orders Trump to Pay Stormy Daniels $54K in Attorney Fees, But Her Debt to Him Remains Far Greater

As Manhattan prosecutors reportedly renew their focus on a criminal investigation into Donald Trump, lawyers are closer to knowing the final tab for the litigation that first thrust the former president’s relationship with adult film star Stormy Daniels into the public spotlight. A judge in Los Angeles last week ordered Trump to pay Daniels $54,436.25 to cover her attorney fees and costs for defending an earlier fee order. The earlier order said Trump owes Daniels $44,100 for the trial court co

After Six-Year Probe, DOJ Calls Out Illegal Use of Jail Informants by Prosecutors and Sheriff's Officials in Orange County, California

A new report from the U.S. Department of Justice says years of law enforcement using jail informants to violate the constitutional rights of criminal defendants “continues to undermine public confidence” in the integrity of the judicial system in Orange County, California. “It has been eight years since much of the misconduct came to light, and OCDA has still not taken adequate steps to ensure that prosecutors understand and carry out their constitutional disclosure obligations,” the 63-page re

Citing 'Too Many Murders,' Federal Judge Won't Give Mongols Bikers New Racketeering Trial Over Informant Allegations Against the Club's President

A federal judge in California has rejected a request by the Mongols Motorcycle Club to vacate its federal criminal convictions, saying the tearful rant by the club president that led some to believe he’s a secret government informant isn’t enough to offset the “horrific” killings that dominated the 2018 trial. The allegation against David “Lil’ Dave” Santillan “has a stench to it,” said U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, but there’s no evidence to support it. And even if there was, the idea t

Pimp Sentenced to Federal Prison for Sex Trafficking Three Teen Girls; 'Bottom Girl,' Once Considered a Victim, Gets Time, Too

A convicted pimp who admitted to trafficking three teenage girls through routine assaults, cruel taunting and forced drug use is to spend 38 years in prison, while a woman convicted of helping him must quit her job and begin a 10-year sentence next year. “These victims are loved,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Their mothers are devastated and enraged by the abuse of their daughters and the suffering they were helpless to prevent.” Two other women charged with 41-year-old Ariel

Ex-FBI Agent's Armenian Mafia Trial Roiled by Revelation That Star Witness Cheated for His Law License

Jurors deciding the fate of a federal agent accused of selling secret information to an organized crime syndicate will hear of a key prosecution witness’ fraudulently obtained attorney credentials after a last-minute revelation rocked an already sensational trial in Los Angeles. Former FBI Special Agent Babak Broumand is accused of helping corrupt attorney Edgar Sargsyan avoid “law enforcement detection and monitoring” through a bribery scheme that provided secret information in exchange for ca

’Angry and Sadistic' Fraudster Sentenced for Prison Plot to Kill Federal Judge, Prosecutors and FBI Agents with Wood Chipper

A conman already imprisoned for a fake gold mine scheme is to spend an additional 20 years in prison for soliciting the murder of the trial judge, prosecutors and FBI agents in a plot involving a wood chipper. John Arthur Walthall, 67, has a “serious and severe personality disorder” marked by obsessiveness, compulsiveness, narcissism, paranoia and delusions, but that didn’t hinder his ability to concoct a “diabolical murder scheme” that he knew was “terribly wrong,” U.S. District Judge Cormac J

Judge Dismisses $21M Mortgage Fraud Case From ’08 Financial Crisis — But Only for One Defendant

An in-trial redaction error has led to the dismissal a decade-old, $21 million mortgage fraud case against a California man already saved from prison by an appellate court ruling, with a judge citing “cumulative prosecutorial misconduct.” Maher Obagi’s co-defendant in the federal trial in Santa Ana, California, however, wasn’t so lucky. A jury convicted former mortgage broker Mohamed Salah of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud after U.S. District Judge David O. Carter last week reje

'Boss of Bosses' Crips Gang Leader Sentenced to Decades in Federal Prison for Racketeering Murder Conspiracy

A longtime Crips leader in Los Angeles was sentenced Friday to 35 years in federal prison for a racketeering conspiracy that included the 2014 murder of a rival gang member who was unarmed and washing his car when he was shot dead. Paul Gary “Lil Doc” Wallace, 56, started hanging out with south Los Angeles gang members when he was 6 or 7 years old, his lawyers said, sometimes riding on the handlebars of teenagers’ bicycles before growing into a 30-year leadership role that made him the point pe

Jury sides with park ranger in dispute over couple's serving meals to homeless residents at O.C. beach

As Kathy Lemly tells it, the beachside confrontation that led her and her husband, Don Lemly, to the federal courthouse in Santa Ana this month began with an ominous comment from a state park ranger. “I heard someone say, ‘You’re not going to feed these people, are you?’” she recalled on the witness stand. “I turned to my husband and said, ‘I think we can expect trouble today.’”

Defending trial ban, U.S. judge says O.C. state courts aren’t tracking coronavirus infections

A federal judge defending the court’s pandemic-related prohibition on jury trials said her stateside counterparts in Orange County Superior Court aren’t tracking jurors after trials end, so it’s impossible to know how many people have been infected through them. “How do you know it wasn’t spread throughout the community because of the trial? How do you know someone’s grandmother wasn’t hospitalized because she came into contact with the juror?” said U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton. Speaki

Orange County federal judge dismisses criminal cases over lack of jury trials

On what would be the first of three occasions in three days, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney looked into his computer screen one recent January morning and apologized to a criminal defendant for the courthouse’s pandemic-related prohibition on in-person hearings. Then he repeated a move that had already drawn sharp objection from federal prosecutors: He announced the dismissal of all charges, part of a constitutional stance he said has left him feeling isolated and frustrated.

Amid the Fight Over Franklin Canyon, Mohamed Hadid Would Just Like a Little Gratitude

For Mohamed Hadid, the hikers who traverse his Franklin Canyon property aren’t necessarily a problem, per se. But amid a very public campaign against the millionaire developer—called Hillsides Against Hadid—Hadid says he can’t help but view them as just a little bit ungrateful. “I’m happy to see them enjoying my property, but don’t say I can’t develop it. I have my rights like any other rights in the U.S.” Hadid says. “It’s never been a public easement.”

Homeless man who died in San Clemente chronicled troubles in official court filing

About seven years into his life without housing, longtime San Clemente resident Steven Riley described his plight in an official court declaration. “I use buildings and bushes to protect myself from the sun, rain, wind or other weather,” the then-72-year-old man wrote. “Due to my age and health, I cannot stay outside all day. But I can only afford a motel a few nights per month.”

Disgraced Attorney Michael Avenatti's Quiet 2020 Is About to Give Way to a Wild 2021

After a spectacular 15-minutes-of-fame crash and burn that included serious talk of a U.S. presidential bid, Los Angeles lawyer and three-time convicted felon Michael Avenatti enjoyed a quiet 2020 confined to a friend’s Venice home on a court-ordered COVID release from jail. But while he’s secured about a dozen continuances in his three cross-county criminal cases, Avenatti couldn’t avoid a sanction issued December 23 in an Orange County civil case: A judge fined him $960 for failing to participate in an evidentiary proceeding in a longstanding lawsuit over $5.4 million Avenatti’s former co-counsel claims he stole. Avenatti’s former business partners, attorneys and wives also are facing ongoing court action for their dealings with him, and each could end up facing financial consequences much heftier than the $960 sanction lodged against Avenatti.

Amid an increasing homeless population, Santa Ana fights with Orange County over jail releases

Aided by snacks, an iPhone and a friend with a taxi, Vaskin Koshkerian works to be the first stop for newly released jail inmates in Orange County. He’s parked his RV outside the Central Jail Complex most nights a week for several years, helping thousands of people released onto the streets of Santa Ana. Some need only a quick call to a roommate or a cup of coffee; others have nothing but jail clothes and no way to get back to the park where they usually sleep.

An eviction crisis is coming, housing lawyers warn

Nearly six months into a pandemic that’s upended American society, a San Diego property owner cut a deal with a tenant: Take $10,000 and get out. A 60-day eviction notice expired while the courts were closed, and the city’s new emergency restrictions gave the tenant significant leverage: His landlord couldn’t secure a court summons until Sept. 30 at the earliest, and in the meantime, the renter wasn’t legally required to pay him anything. The landlord’s lawyer, Rachael Callahan, told him the ke

In shutdown, national parks transform into Wild West — heavily populated and barely supervised

“Once those port-a-potties fill up, there’s no amount of cleaning that will save them,” said Sabra Purdy, who along with her husband, Seth, owns the rock-climbing guide service Cliffhanger Guides in the town of Joshua Tree. “At that point, I think I’m going to have to tap out.” The partial government shutdown, triggered by a dispute between Pr esident Trump and Congress over funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, is now well into its second week, with no resolution in sight. Democrats, who take

Former Buchalter lawyer would like an apology

A former Buchalter APC shareholder at the center of a $200 million fraud and negligent hiring lawsuit said he believes he did nothing wrong and the plaintiff family owes him an apology, according to video depositions played for jurors on Wednesday. J. Wayne Allen acknowledged lending himself money from the family’s business that he didn’t repay, but he said the loans were part of a larger financial plan that worked as intended. “Sure, I wish those were paid, but by the same token, events occurred that inhibited my ability to pay those back. I wish those hadn’t happened either, right?” Allen said. “I did what I felt was the right thing to do for my client along the way.”

Rainmaker ties shielded lawyer, Buchalter CFO testifies

A former Buchalter APC shareholder at the center of a fraud and negligent hiring trial was so close to a key attorney in the firm’s Orange County office that its top executive disregarded concerns about suspicious billing practices, a firm executive testified Monday. Orange County Superior Court jurors considering the multimillion dollar claims against the firm saw emails between former Buchalter CEO Rick Cohen, a current shareholder, and Chief Financial Officer Pamela K. Webster, who testified that then-shareholder J. Wayne Allen’s relationship with shareholder Martin P. “Marty” Florman influenced Cohen’s response.

Vacations, groceries, hotels: Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s spending from obscure fund raises questions

When Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer and his wife traveled to Maui seven years ago, political donors paid for the nearly $9,000 trip through a fundraising account rarely used in California politics. It was the first of several trips covered by those campaign donations, and it began years of unprecedented spending from a war chest that’s paid for $340,000 in travel, groceries, restaurant meals, hotels, office and retail store purchases, a security system and donations to politicians, cause

Boat ban could jeopardize Irvine Lake’s fishing, finances

Neither man knew how to swim and neither wore a life jacket. So when their overloaded boat began to sink on Irvine Lake four summers ago, they died in one of Orange County’s most tragically common ways: drowning. But the June 2012 deaths of Juan Flores and Thomas Rivera were far from ordinary. Their deaths prompted a court battle that ended this year with a $1.5 million settlement brokered by lawyers for the men’s families and lawyers for the Orange County water district that controls one of th

Supervisors seek less oversight of $60-per-hour assistant jobs

A move by newly elected Orange County officials to gain lucrative, taxpayer-funded government jobs for their offices has prompted county leaders to examine a longstanding hiring process that some fear allows political cronies undeserved access to high-paying positions. They’re called executive assistants, and they can be paid upward of $60 an hour. And now, despite an attempt by some county leaders to better monitor who can be hired, even fewer restrictions apply: the Board of Supervisors recen

County officials battle over audit control

The tipster who called Orange County’s fraud hotline didn’t know the name of the man who paid for lunch with a high-ranking county official, but she recognized him as a consultant who did business with county officials. “I am aware of the law about not taking anything more than a cup of coffee, and this was certainly more than that,” said the woman who didn’t leave her name on the recorded message. “Shouldn’t our county executives lead with actions as our role models?” But it turned out it was

Capistrano killings: Who is Ashton Sachs, teen charged with killing parents?

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – Ashton Sachs grew up in luxury homes, impressed his teachers and spent time on activities typical of an Orange County teenager: playing video games, taking photos of beach sunsets and holding a part-time job, his at Laguna Beach’s Pageant of the Masters. But the 19-year-old, charged this month with murder in the deaths of his parents – an attack that left his 8-year-old brother paralyzed – had another life much different from his friends. He bounced from town to town durin

San Juan Capistrano’s devolving discourse comes amid tumultuous times in local politics

The mayor has quoted Abraham Lincoln during municipal discussions. The attorney suing the city on behalf of an activist newspaper invoked a centuries-old exchange between Thomas Jefferson and John Jay. But the rhetoric that engulfs municipal politics in San Juan Capistrano has often taken a more extreme tone recently. • Last month, City Councilman Roy Byrnes compared three of his council colleagues to Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan. He made a similar statement in April 2010

Family grapples with shooting death

James Edward Rogers spent Monday driving around the Spokane area, calling his family. Depressed and distraught, the 45-year-old father of seven said it was over – that he had his father’s shotgun and planned to use it on himself. His family frantically searched for him, eventually learning of a police standoff on the lower South Hill with a man in a van. It had to be him, said Rogers’ father, Alonzo Rogers, who owns the van his son took from their Deer Park home Monday. Family rushed to the a

Use-of-force case leaves questions

Brian Greear remembers the sirens that prompted him to stop his car. But the 27-year-old Spokane man says he can’t remember what happened before he awoke face down in a South Hill street with a police officer’s knee in his back. “I just heard ‘Stop resisting! Stop resisting,’ ” he said. Greear’s arrest last July on suspicion of reckless driving, resisting arrest and driving with a suspended license has led to a disagreement between the Spokane Police Department and police Ombudsman Tim Burns,

Militias in the Inland Northwest: A passion rising

Groups once seen as fringe political outcasts are banding together, powered by what experts describe as an unprecedented fear of the federal government and disgust with the political climate. It’s happening across the country, and in the Inland Northwest it’s drawing big crowds of diverse attendees. More than 1,000 people, including local sheriffs, state representatives, lawyers, families and blue-collar workers, gathered in Post Falls last month to hear a former Arizona sheriff blast the fede
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