Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Cue the sad tiny violins…

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Second day story on the Robert “Ratso” Rizzo sentencing. Not much new, but linked here for the historical record.

He developed a reputation as a micromanager who pinched pennies even as he burnished the city’s image, adding a miniature golf course and pristine playing fields.

Okay, the miniature golf course is the first good thing I’ve heard about him.

Taylor said most of Rizzo’s money and assets appeared to have been squandered on real estate investments and about 30 racehorses that would have cost more to care for than what they were worth.

I knew about Ratso’s horse racing, but “more to care for than what they were worth”? Hadn’t heard that before.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#11 in a series)

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Robert “Ratso” Rizzo has just been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

This is breaking news: watch this space for updates and links.

Edited to add: link with more details.

In addition to the prison sentence, Ratso will also have to pay $8.8 million in restitution to the city of Bell: but he will get credit for “money he and the city’s former police chief have already returned to the city”.

The LAT also states that Ratso will be allowed to serve this sentence concurrently with his 33 month sentence on tax fraud charges. One of the LAT‘s editors tweets:

In other news, Superintendent Jose Fernandez of the Centinela Valley Union High School District was paid $674,559 last year. For comparison purposes, the head of the NYC schools made $412,193. The head of the LA school district made $393,106.

The district gave him $230,213 to purchase more seniority in state retirement systems so he would receive a higher annual pension.

Isn’t that kind of “Here, let us give you some money so you can end up taking even more money out of our pockets?”

The FBI may be investigating. Or at least asking questions before they start an investigation. (I’m not sure what laws may have been broken: being paid a lot of money isn’t a crime by itself.)

From 2010 through 2012 he also did well — and progressively better — making $310,965, $382,370 and $407,786 respectively, according to district records Fernandez provided after a California Public Records Act request.

Doesn’t that still seem kind of high? The Centinela school district has “6,600 students, five high schools and a $70-million budget.” There seems to be an argument being made that Fernandez pulled the district out of possible bankruptcy; but at the same time, there are also claims that teachers were being laid off while he was getting paid to purchase more seniority in the retirement system.

Edited to add 2:

“I can’t go anywhere,” Rizzo murmured.

On a completely unrelated note, there’s an iPhone app called “Tiny Violin“.

Banana republicans watch: April 15, 2014.

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

I have written before about the California city of Cudahy: election fraud, marijuana dispensary bribes, the bimbo and the badge, payoffs in the Denny’s

Latest developments:

City leaders in one of Los Angeles County’s poorest cities used city-issued credit cards for excessive travel, meals and entertainment, mismanaged state funds and had virtually no internal controls to prevent the misuse of taxpayer dollars, the state controller concluded in a scathing audit released Tuesday.

The city has been ordered to repay $22.7 million in “redevelopment funds”.

On a totally unrelated note, here because I just love typing the name, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow has pled not guilty to the charges against him.

Better to light one small candle…

Monday, April 14th, 2014

…than to let the tax-fattened hyena get away without going down in flames.

Robert “Ratso” Rizzo has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison on his tax fraud charges.

He was also ordered to pay $256,000 in restitution to the federal government.

As I noted earlier, this sentence will likely run concurrently with his sentence on the Bell corruption charges, which will be handed down Wednesday.

Random notes: April 14, 2014.

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Don’t forget: tomorrow is National Buy a Gun Day. I’m not sure I’ll be observing it on the 15th this year, but we’ll see how things go…

I see Lawrence’s killer paramedic, and raise: 77 arson fires in a Virgina county over five months. Serial arsons are kind of interesting on their own, but who did it and (allegedly) why, is the twist here.

In the past four days, the NYT has run two stories bemoaning the closing of J&R Music World. Just saying.


“There is a place for using apps and all kinds of technology to prepare for the holiday, but I would prefer to do that beforehand so that when you’re actually at the Seder you’re actually speaking to one another,” said Rabbi Daniel Nevins, the dean of the rabbinical school of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, which ordains rabbis in the Conservative movement.

I think Rabbi Nevins is on the mark with this. But:

The use of the electronic Haggadot comes just as Conservative rabbis are embroiled in a debate over whether to make e-readers permissible on the Sabbath. Rabbi Nevins wrote a paper last year saying that such devices violated the spirit of the Sabbath and the holidays, traditionally viewed as a sanctuary from the workaday world.

If it is okay to read books on the Sabbath, why is it not okay to use e-readers? (Please note: while I have a great admiration for the Jewish religion and people, I am not Jewish, nor am I a Torah scholar.)

Lawrence also suggested at dinner the other night that I do a comprehensive prison personæ for the city of Bell: basically, a quick reference guide to who’s been convicted of what, and how much time they’ll serve. I may do that in the next few days, but I want to hold off a bit: Robert “Ratso” Rizzo is supposed to be sentenced on his tax charges later today, and sentenced on the other charges related to his role as Bell city manager on Wednesday. I will update here once Rizzo’s sentences are announced.

By way of Popehat on the Twitter: NYC’s Brecht Forum is closing. No, this wasn’t a place where folks sat around and sang “Mack the Knife” and other songs: that would actually have been kind of cool.

The center’s mission, according to its website, is to “create, within existing society, a counter-hegemonic culture of working people and their allies, who are capable of challenging the capitalist agenda, prefiguring new ways of thinking and of self-organization, as well as creating new ways of relating to each other and nature.”
Figures like Noam Chomsky, William Greider, Lewis H. Lapham and Naomi Klein have spoken at events at the forum. Affiliated groups include the Institute for Popular Education, the Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory and the Strike Anywhere Theater Ensemble.

Yeah, Donnie, they’re Marxists.

“Rising Manhattan rents forced us to Brooklyn, but we have incurred debts and costs that are insurmountable,” the board members wrote, saying that they had decided to close the forum “with dignity” and the hope that “the larger project we all care so deeply about may survive in a different form.”

Awwwww. But where will they go now?

Plenty of serious discussion about politics and philosophy took place in the brick building on West Street, but the activists who gathered there had a lighter side, too, sometimes playing foosball or a Marxist version of Monopoly, called Class Struggle.

I was hoping to be able to provide an Amazon link for “Class Struggle”, just in case you have any children in your life that you hate. Sadly, it appears that “Class Struggle”, produced by Avalon Hill (!), is out of print and used copies are pricy. Here’s BoardGameGeek’s page.

Banana republicans watch: April 10, 2014.

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Woo hoo woo hoo hoo!

Eleven years and eight months in prison for Angela Spaccia, former assistant city administrator for the notoriously corrupt city of Bell.

And speaking of the notoriously corrupt city of Bell, here’s second day coverage of the plea deals by the former city council members.

As part of the deal, each will pay restitution to Bell, which was left on the brink of bankruptcy, largely because of the large salaries paid.


“I don’t imagine any of you are planning on running for public office again, but you will be precluded from doing so,” [L.A. County Superior Court Judge Kathleen] Kennedy told them in court.

Edited to add 4/11: Second day story on the Spaccia conviction. Nut from that story: in addition to the prison time, Spaccia has also been ordered to pay $8 million in restitution.

Accordion Crimes.

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Since the topic of accordions has come up several times in the past few days, I feel like I have to link to Popehat’s “A Story About Low-Key Policing and Corduroy“.

If you want to be unpleasantly technical I am not familiar with how an accordion is operated, at least as narrowly defined by uncharitable social convention. However, I believe that unbridled enthusiasm can make up for lack of formal training in many pursuits. There is evidently a difference of popular opinion on this point as it pertains to playing the accordion on a roof at one in the morning.

Also, posting this gives me a chance to test the “Save Draft” function. Yes, Lawrence, it works for me.

(Subject line hattip. It seemed appropriate at the time. Actually, I may have to read that book after I finish The Power Broker.)

Banana republicans watch: April 9, 2014.

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Woo hoo woo hoo hoo! A great day!

Five former political leaders in the scandal-plagued city of Bell have agreed to plead no contest to corruption charges and could be sentenced to up to four years in prison for their role in looting the treasury of one of Los Angeles County’s poorest cities.

Let us all say the magic words together now:

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyenas!

(Yes, it is a plea. Yes, they are getting a lighter sentence than they would have if they had gone to trial and been convicted. Yes, they’ve already been convicted of other charges. Yes, it wouldn’t surprise me to see all the sentences served concurrently. But can’t you let me be happy, even if it is just for a short time? Thank you.)

NYPD Blues.

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
  1. James E. Griffin, a former NYPD detective, settled his lawsuit against the department for $280,000. In 2005, Mr. Griffin reported what he believed was misconduct by a fellow detective to Internal Affairs: “…he had found the word “rat” scrawled on his locker and that other detectives in the 83rd Precinct’s detective squad in Bushwick refused to work with him. Although he switched units a couple of times, the reputation followed him; he was ostracized in each new unit, he claimed.
  2. Jonathan Fleming was released from prison yesterday. In 1989, he was sentenced to 25 years to life on a murder charge. It turns out that the Brooklyn DAs office failed to turn over evidence to the defense, including a receipt that proved Mr. Fleming was actually in Florida shortly before the murder.
  3. Speaking of the Brooklyn DA’s office, “A review of homicide convictions stemming from the work of Louis Scarcella, a Brooklyn detective accused of framing suspects, has turned up a stash of old handwritten police notes that could exonerate two men convicted of a murder in 1985. One of the men served 21 years in prison; the other died behind bars.
    More: “…two previously undisclosed eyewitnesses saw the September 1985 killing of a man named Ronnie Durant, but they named killers different from the two men who were convicted. The notebook could have affected the verdict; not turning it over to defense lawyers decades ago is a serious violation of the rules of criminal procedure, experts said.

Edited to add: In the interest of fairness: NYPD Officer Dennis Guerra died this morning as a result of injuries he sustained during a fire on Sunday.

Officer Guerra, 38, and his partner, Officer Rosa Rodriguez, 36, had been on regular patrol in the public housing developments of Coney Island on Sunday when they responded to a 911 call of a fire in an apartment tower at 2007 Surf Avenue around 12:30 p.m.
They took an elevator straight to the floor and, when the doors opened, were immediately overwhelmed by noxious smoke. The officers collapsed unconscious in the hallway by the elevator where they were found by arriving firefighters.

Banana republicans watch: April 8, 2014.

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Samuel In used to be a building inspector in LA.

Samuel In pled guilty to taking $30,000 in bribes while on the job. Samuel In is now serving a 2 1/2 year federal prison sentence.

Samuel In is receiving, and will continue to receive, a $72,000 yearly pension.

Two years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure requiring public employees convicted of a felony to give up retirement benefits earned during the period when their crimes were committed.
But the forfeiture requirement doesn’t apply to Los Angeles because it is governed by the City Council under a voter-approved charter, and the City Council manages its own pension systems.


On top of his $6,030-per-month pension, In receives a monthly healthcare subsidy of $1,459, said Tom Moutes, the top executive at the City Employees’ Retirement System.

Also on FARK, but noted here for the record: Antenna Gate.

With a total of about 160 antennas installed in Southeast Division vehicles, 72 had been removed, Smith said. Twenty antennas from cars in other divisions were missing as well.

Gee, Officer Krupke, if you have nothing to hide, why are you afraid of being recorded?

Random notes: April 8, 2014.

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

For the historical record, your Mickey Rooney obit roundup: NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

The author Peter Matthiessen has also passed away after an illness. The only work of Matthiessen’s that I’ve read so far is In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, which made a strong impression on me at the time. Further, I say not, as I’d sound too much like TJIC. Anyway: A/V Club. NYT. NYT Magazine article published shortly before Matthiessen’s death.

Thanks to “That Guy” for providing a Houston Press link with more details about the Damian Mandola story. There’s also an update in the Statesman: Austin Eater has a story which links to the Statesman, so this may let you get around the paywall.

…security researchers say that in most cases, attackers hardly need to go to such lengths when the management software of all sorts of devices connects directly to corporate networks. Heating and cooling providers can now monitor and adjust office temperatures remotely, and vending machine suppliers can see when their clients are out of Diet Cokes and Cheetos. Those vendors often don’t have the same security standards as their clients, but for business reasons they are allowed behind the firewall that protects a network.
Security experts say vendors are tempting targets for hackers because they tend to run older systems, like Microsoft’s Windows XP software. Also, security experts say these seemingly innocuous devices — videoconference equipment, thermostats, vending machines and printers — often are delivered with the security settings switched off by default. Once hackers have found a way in, the devices offer them a place to hide in plain sight.

Heh. Heh. Heh. (Also: remember some jerk saying “Titles like ‘Restaurant IT Guy’ or ‘SysAdmin for Daniel’ are going to become a thing, if they aren’t already.”? I didn’t even think about the “Hey, let’s put malware on the server for that Chinese place that everyone orders from! That’ll give us a back door into the Federal Reserve!” scenario.)

Al Sharpton: FBI informant.

More tales from the police blotter.

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

You may have heard of Damian Mandola. He and his nephew Johnny Carrabba have had cooking shows on PBS. The Mandola family are prominent restaurant operators, and the Carrabba’s chain was founded by Johnny and Damian. Damian also has a local chain, “Mandola’s Italian Market”, that I kind of like, and a higher-end Italian place in Driftwood closer to the Salt Lick, Trattoria Lisina.

Damian Mandola is also at the center of one of the more interesting local crime stories I’ve seen in a while.

The story starts on Thursday. Local law enforcement responded to a report of someone driving a golf cart erratically in the area of Trattoria Lisina. This led to Damian being taken into custody and charged with burglary; specifically, he is alleged to have broken into a building at the Dutchman Family Winery (which is next to Lisina but not owned by Damian) and stolen some wine. Other reports I’ve seen put the amount stolen at one or two bottles, which is odd; if he just wanted a couple of bottles of wine, surely Lisina would have that on hand?

So this is already odd enough. But I was talking about the story with my mother this morning, went to look up the press reports, and…

Damian Mandola was arrested again last night, after putting up bail on the burglary charge. This time, the charges are assault with a deadly weapon and “criminal mischief”.

There’s not a whole lot of detail so far about the sequence of events, and I haven’t seen any reporting except for brief stories in the Statesman and HouChron. It is worth repeating that these are just charges, and Mr. Mandola deserves the presumption of innocence. On the other hand, I doubt the Hays County Sheriff’s Office goes around picking up prominent business owners for no reason. And an ADW charge implies both that there was an assault, and the assault victim could identify their attacker (or that there was other physical evidence tying someone to the attack).

This is a darn shame. I really do like Damian’s ventures other than Carrabba’s. (I also like Carrabba’s, but I don’t think he or anyone else from the family is involved in managing it any longer.)

It is sad and odd and I hope it gets straightened out for the better.