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Perez, Steinberg urge review of pepper-spray use

California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, just issued this statement amid the uproar over police’s use of pepper spray against nonviolent protesters Friday at the University of California, Davis:

“I was appalled at the apparent use of excessive force by the UC Davis police force at a peaceful student demonstration.

“All Americans deserve the right to peacefully express their opinions. Nowhere is that right more sacrosanct than in the university setting. I fully support the right of the students to continue to express their frustrations and aspirations, and I call on the University to assure the safety of their student body, not only from physical harm, but from limitations of their free expression.

“It is my expectation that the university will complete a thorough review of the incidents in question and adjust police procedures accordingly.”

Yesterday, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, had said:

“On its face, this is an outrageous action for police to methodically pepper spray passive demonstrators who were exercising their right to peacefully protest at U.C. Davis. Chancellor Katehi needs to immediately investigate, publicly explain how this could happen and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

The Davis Enterprise reported this morning that UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza has been placed on administrative leave, along with two of the officers involved in the use of pepper spray, pending a review.

UPDATE @ 12:57 P.M.: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who as the state’s former lieutenant governor used to sit on the UC Board of Regents, is up in arms about the incident, too:

“I am appalled by the way in which students at UC Davis were treated. Campus police should know better than to cavalierly pepper spray peaceful protestors. The proud tradition of peaceful campus protests was shamelessly marred by these actions. I’m glad an investigation is underway, and I look forward to a full report on how they will avoid incidents like this in the future.

“At the same time, violent protests are never appropriate. From what I have seen, however, there was no violence on the part of the protesters at UC Davis. Indeed, by all accounts, Aggie students have shown remarkable restraint in the days following the pepper spraying. If and when protests become heated, they must be handled with the greatest discretion, so as to avoid and minimize injury to police and to demonstrators.

“Every incident of violence – no matter who the perpetrator – is a distraction from the legitimate issues that the 99% movement has raised. Our public universities have seen drastic cuts, harming our ability to stay competitive in a tough economy, and thousands of students have been priced out of an education or burdened with debts that they cannot repay. I hope the entire university community understands that we’re all in this together.”

UPDATE @ 4:48 P.M.: Lynda Gledhill, spokeswoman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, noted the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department is investigating and will take what it finds to that county’s district attorney. The attorney general doesn’t usually get involved in such cases while that process under way unless asked to do so because local officials have a conflict of interests or a lack of resources.

Nonetheless, Gledhill said, “the attorney general is disturbed, she thought the incident was disturbing, and wants to follow the process and make sure the review is through. She will be monitoring that.”

Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Civil liberties, Darrell Steinberg, John Garamendi, John Perez, Kamala Harris, U.S. House | 18 Comments »

Kamala Harris reacts to feds’ marijuana blitz

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has now issued a brief statement about the recently announced federal crackdown on California’s medical marijuana dispensaries:

“Californians overwhelmingly support the compassionate use of medical marijuana for the ill. We should all be troubled, however, by the proliferation of gangs and criminal enterprises that seek to exploit this law by illegally cultivating and trafficking marijuana. While there are definite ambiguities in state law that must be resolved either by the state legislature or the courts, an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California. I urge the federal authorities in the state to adhere to the United States Department of Justice’s stated policy and focus their enforcement efforts on ‘significant traffickers of illegal drugs.”

Of course, that’s exactly what the feds say they’re doing, anyway.

Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2011
Under: Attorney General, Kamala Harris, marijuana | 13 Comments »

ATF: No guns for medical marijuana users

Almost lost in the hubbub of this week’s IRS and Justice Department crackdowns on California’s medical marijuana dispensaries was another revelation of federal action: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is telling gun sellers it’s illegal for medical marijuana patients to own firearms.

The Sept. 21 letter from ATF Assistant Director Arthur Herbert states, “ Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”

A lot of advocates – be they advocates of medical marijuana or the Second Amendment – are boiling mad.

“ATF’s blatant discrimination against Americans whose use marijuana legally under state law is outrageous,” Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann said Thursday. “It’s not just that ATF is riding roughshod over the rights of citizens who use marijuana legally with a doctors’ recommendation and thumbing its nose at laws enacted by sixteen states. It’s that there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that use of marijuana – whether for medical purposes or otherwise – is linked to reckless use of guns. … There should be zero tolerance for this sort of discrimination by the federal government.”

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who serve one of the 16 states with medical marijuana laws, each wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder earlier this week to protest the policy.

“We’re reviewing the matter,” Lynda Gledhill, spokeswoman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, said Friday; the office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the same thing. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the National Rifle Association didn’t immediately respond to inquiries today.

Posted on Friday, October 7th, 2011
Under: Attorney General, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, gun control, Kamala Harris, marijuana, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

California politicos react to Steve Jobs’ death

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Steve Jobs was a great California innovator who demonstrated what a totally independent and creative mind can accomplish. Few people have made such a powerful and elegant imprint on our lives. Anne and I wish to express our deepest sympathy to Steve’s wife, Laurene, and their entire family.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“I’m saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was a true visionary who brought out the best in others. His legacy will live on, not only in technology and business but also in the way the world communicates. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Laurene, his family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.”

From Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“California has lost a great leader with the passing of Steve Jobs. His character, intelligence, and creativity changed how the world works and how the world imagines itself. We are forever grateful and inspired by the gift he has given us. I send my thoughts and sympathies to Laurene and the entire Jobs family.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif:

“I send my deepest condolences to Steve Jobs’ family and friends on this devastating loss. Steve Jobs was a California icon who embodied Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial spirit of creativity and optimism. By revolutionizing communications, he touched the lives of billions of people around the world. He will be sorely missed.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

“I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Steve Jobs. Today, the world lost a great innovator. He was a visionary whose work and passion played a large part in making Silicon Valley what it is today. I am proud to represent Cupertino, the city he made home to Apple and where he led the company as it developed transformative products that put technology in the hands of the people around the globe. Sadly, he has left us too soon, but I believe that his spirit will live on with his loved ones, with Apple, and with the millions of people around the world whose lives he has touched through his work. Steve will be greatly missed by the rest of the Silicon Valley family.”

Tweeted by former state controller and Silicon Valley bigwig Steve Westly: “At a loss of words hearing the passing of Steve Jobs. He was a great entrepreneur, inventor & genius; the Edison of our times. May he RIP.”

Tweeted by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Steve lived the California Dream every day of his life and he changed the world and inspired all of us. #ThankYouSteve”

Some statements entered into the Congressional Record, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Gov. gets bill to take prohibited guns off streets

The Assembly today passed a Bay Area lawmaker’s bill that would provide more resources to find and confiscate guns belonging to convicted felons and the mentally ill.

SB 819 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, passed on a 48-23 vote; the state Senate had approved it June 1 on a 22-16 vote, so it now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

SB 819 – sponsored by state Attorney General Kamala Harris – would let the state Justice Department use money from the $19 Dealer Record of Sale fee that’s collected on each firearm sale to enforce the existing Armed Prohibited Persons System program. APPS, launched in 2007, identifies prohibited persons so law enforcement can go collect the illegally possessed weapons.

The state Justice Department’s Bureau of Firearms has identified more than 18,000 Californians who illegally own tens of thousands of firearms, a list that grows by 15 to 20 per day. But state and local officials say they lack the resources to confiscate this enormous backlog of weapons, much less keep up with new additions to the list.

Leno calls that “a troubling blind spot in our current enforcement of firearms laws.”

“Thousands of gun owners who once obtained their weapons legally still possess firearms despite subsequent issues, including criminal activities, that disqualify them from owning weapons,” he said in a news release today. “Innocent lives have been lost because we allow guns to be in the hands of known criminals, gang members and people who have serious mental illnesses. SB 819 helps remedy this troubling threat to public safety.”

To be clear: It’s not raising any more money for the state, just authorizing another purpose for which the DROS fee money can be used. The Justice Department has estimated it wouyld draw about $1 million per year from the DROS fund for this; the fund currently holds about $5.5 million.

The California Association of Firearms Retailers has argued that the DROS fee is supposed to pay for the costs of a criminal and mental background check to determine a buyer’s eligibility to lawfully own a firearm, and so redirecting some of it to another, more general purpose effectively turns it into a tax.

Posted on Monday, August 29th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Attorney General, California State Senate, gun control, Kamala Harris, Mark Leno, Public safety | 6 Comments »

Donna Brazile at Obama fundraiser in Oakland

Tomorrow is President Barack Obama’s 50th birthday…

…and like any U.S. politician might, he’s turned it into a fundraising event spanning the entire nation.

He’s attending fundraisers in Chicago today, including a concert with Chicago natives Herbie Hancock and Jennifer Hudson and the Chicago rock band OK Go. Meanwhile, surrogates have fanned out to headline events today in cities from coast to coast: Robert Gibbs in Boston, David Plouffe in Tampa, David Axelrod in Los Angeles, and so on.

In Oakland, Democratic strategist and CNN commentator Donna Brazile is scheduled to join California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for a 5:30 p.m. event organized by the East Bay Young Democrats at The New Parish, 579 18th St. Tickets started at $25, but apparently have sold out.

The Republican National Committee is, of course, not amused.

“It’s time for the Obama Administration to focus on putting Americans back to work and protecting future generations, instead of worrying about his reelection,” RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney said. “President Obama said he was going to pivot to job creation but instead of focusing on the millions of unemployed Americans, the first thing he does is a fundraiser to save his own job. The 2012 election will hinge on the economy and President Obama will need every penny earned to cover-up his failed leadership on everything from the debt ceiling to jobs. With Americans struggling with 9.2 percent unemployment, no amount of fundraising cash can erase this president’s leadership and economic failures.”

Posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
Under: 2012 presidential election, campaign finance, Jean Quan, Kamala Harris | 48 Comments »

California again defends healthcare reform law

California Attorney General Kamala Harris – who already had joined friend-of-the-court briefs defending the constitutionality of last year’s federal healthcare reform law in the 6th, 4th and 11th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal – has now done so again in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“Health care reform saves lives, and that is why I am determined to protect this law,” Harris said in her news release today, noting that the filing comes one week after the 6th Circuit became the first federal appeals court to uphold the law’s constitutionality.

Harris and nine other attorneys general argue in the new brief that the Constitution grants Congress broad powers to regulate interstate commerce, and that the decision to buy health insurance has a significant impact on interstate commerce because it allows the formation of risk pools, lowers health care costs nationally and reduces the cost of uncompensated care.

“The law strikes an appropriate, constitutional balance between federal and state authority over the health care system by creating federal requirements, backed by federal funding, to expand access to affordable coverage, while conferring considerable latitude to allow states to decide how best to design a system of federally-supported coverage that works well for their citizens,” the brief argues.

Joining California in this brief are Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Vermont.

Posted on Thursday, July 7th, 2011
Under: Attorney General, healthcare reform, Kamala Harris | 7 Comments »

Kamala Harris names Justice Dept.’s new top cop

California Attorney General Kamala Harris today named a former Bay Area police officer as the first black director of the state Justice Department’s Division of Law Enforcement.

Larry Wallace will oversee the department’s $238 million budget, 437 special agents, 281 criminalists, and 693 non-sworn personnel. He most recently served as deputy chief of the bureau of investigations for the San Francisco District Attorney‘s office – Harris’ former domain – and also served for 10 years as a special agent with the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement in San Francisco. He began his law enforcement career serving from 1987 to 1994 with the Berkeley Police Department, where he was named Officer of the Year and awarded the Medal of Valor.

Harris also named Christopher Cunnie, a retired undersheriff of San Francisco, as a special advisor for labor and law enforcement. Cunnie for 17 years was a San Francisco Police Department patrol officer and from 1996 through 2004 served as president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association. Between that job and the undersheriff’s office, Cunnie was chief of investigations for the San Francisco District Attorney’s office and director of the San Francisco Emergency Communications Department.

In other appointments today, Harris named Wayne Quint, Jr., who retired from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department as a sergeant after 29 years of service, as Wallace’s assistant for external affairs. Quint for the past 12 years has served as president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs; he also was the longest-serving president in the history of the California Coalition of Law Enforcement Associations, which represents more than 40 public safety organizations and 80,000 peace officers statewide. The CCLEA, under Quint’s leadership, endorsed Harris’ Republican opponent, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, in last year’s election.

Jerry Szymanski, who spent 37 years with the Los Angeles Police Department and retired as a commander, will serve as Wallace’s assistant for evidence-based law enforcement. Szymanski led LAPD’s Narcotics, Commercial Crimes and Burglary-Auto Theft divisions, also served as second-in-command to deliver police services in the San Fernando Valley. He played a key role in LAPD’s implement measuring crime data and law enforcement results with COMPSTAT, an accountability process.

And Suzy Loftus, a prosecutor who specialized in domestic violence, elder abuse and firearms cases in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office and served on Harris’ executive staff there, is now a special assistant attorney general working on criminal law issues and public safety policy, as well as the office’s primary liaison to local, state and federal law enforcement offices.

Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
Under: Attorney General, Kamala Harris | No Comments »

AG Harris launches mortgage fraud strike force

California Attorney General Kamala Harris today announced she’s creating a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force staffed by state Department of Justice attorneys and investigators charged with the duty of “protecting innocent homeowners and bringing to justice those who defraud them,” according to her news release.

Kamala Harris“Californians in search of the American dream all too often found a protracted personal and legal nightmare. Families are losing their homes, while those who perpetrated crimes and frauds against them walk free,” Harris said. “We will work to safeguard the homeowner at every step of the process – from origination of a loan to its securitization, and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who take advantage of trusting California families. We are setting a high bar for other states and we insist that homeowners be protected, respected, and informed.”

Harris rolled out the new initiative in Los Angeles this afternoon, accompanied by LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Center for Responsible Lending.

Harris’ news release says the strike force will work out of state Justice Department offices in San Francisco, Fresno, Los Angeles and Sacramento, with 25 attorneys and investigators broken into three teams. A consumer enforcement team will target scams in the consumer arena, including predatory lending, unfair business practices in originating loans, deceptive marketing, and loan modification and foreclosure consultant scams. A criminal enforcement team will prosecute criminal frauds associated with the epidemic of mortgage scams, including fraudulent investment and money laundering schemes related to mortgage lending or foreclosure relief. And corporate fraud team will target misconduct involving investments and securities tied to subprime mortgages, as well as false or fraudulent claims made to the state with respect to these securities.

There were foreclosure filings against 546,669 California homes in 2010; an estimated 2 million California homes will enter the foreclosure process from 2009 through 2012. The state Justice Department reports it has received thousands of complaints related to foreclosure scams, mortgage fraud, and mortgage servicing practices in the past year.

“The fingerprints of illegal activity are all over the foreclosure crisis,” said Paul Leonard, director of the Center for Responsible Lending’s California office. “The Attorney General’s effort marries the need to punish bad actors for the practices that brought our economy to the brink with the need to eliminate the scam artists who have since attempted to profit from it. Given the economic damage wreaked by foreclosures in California, this initiative is very welcome news.”

Homeowners who believe they’ve been scammed can file complaints through the Attorney General’s website.

Posted on Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Under: Attorney General, housing, Kamala Harris | 4 Comments »

Boxer, Harris want donors’ money to reach Japan

Japan is suffering in the wake of the greatest natural disaster it has ever faced, and the need for charitable donations to support its recovery remains huge, but here are a few things to consider as you whip out your credit card.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., wrote today to the CEOs of the nation’s four biggest wireless companies, urging them to accelerate the delivery of mobile charitable donations for Japanese relief efforts. Mobile donations, which have grown more popular in recent years, can take 30 to 90 days to be sent to a relief organization while being collected through the wireless company’s billing process.

In past humanitarian crises, such as the earthquake in Haiti last year, mobile companies expedited donations to ensure that relief groups could start using the money immediately to help disaster victims. Concerns about the delay in remitting text donations to Japan were raised recently by Masaya Uchino, a third-year law student at University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; Uchino created an online petition at Change.org to draw attention to the issue.

And California Attorney General Kamala Harris encouraged Californians to donate but warned them to beware of scams posing as charities to prey on the goodwill in times of tragedy. Harris advises everyone to:

    1. Carefully review disaster-relief appeals before giving. In times of disaster, many “sound-alike” organizations and sham operations solicit donations.
    2. Make sure the charity is registered in the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts. Registration does not guarantee that a charity is effective, but it is an important indicator.
    3. Ask what percentage of your donation will be used for charitable activities that directly help victims.
    4. Avoid donating through e-mail solicitations. Clicking on an e-mail may lead you to a website that looks authentic but is established by identity thieves seeking to obtain money or personal information.
    5. Only provide your credit card information once you have reviewed all information from a charity and verified its credibility. Ask the organization not to store your credit card information.
    6. Do not give cash. Write checks payable to the charitable organization, not a solicitor.
    7. Take action on your own rather than responding to solicitations. Seek out known organizations and give directly, either by calling the organization, using the organization’s official website, or mailing a check to the address listed on the organization’s website.

Californians who believe they or others have been victimized by fraudulent charitable solicitation can contact the Attorney General’s Registrar of Charitable Trusts.

Scams also can be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, the Disaster Fraud Fax at 225-334-4707 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at disaster@leo.gov. The NCDF was created in 2005 in response to a lot of fraud associated with federal disaster relief programs after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma; its mission has expanded to include suspected fraud related to any natural or man-made disaster. To date, the U.S. Justice Department has charged more than 1,300 defendants across the nation for disaster fraud related to the three hurricanes, the Gulf Coast oil spill and other disasters.

Posted on Friday, March 18th, 2011
Under: Barbara Boxer, Kamala Harris, U.S. Senate | No Comments »