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Former House candidate lied to feds about threats

A Republican who ran against Rep. Jerry McNerney in the 9th Congressional District last year has been charged with lying to the FBI about death threats she said she received during the campaign – threats she now admits she made up herself.

Karen DavisKaren Davis – who served as the Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder from 1990 to 2001 and as the Manteca City Clerk from 1981 to 1984 – is charged with making false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations to federal law enforcement officers during their investigation into the mailing of threatening letters.

Davis, 67, was arrested at her Lodi home and then released after posting $50,000 bond Thursday, court documents show. She’s scheduled to return to federal court in Sacramento on Nov. 19.

She was one of three Republicans who challenged McNerney, D-Stockton, as he sought a fifth term last year. She finished fourth out of four in the June 2014 top-two primary, with only 6 percent of the vote.

In an affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint, Treasury Agent John Hartman wrote that Davis contacted authorities in December 2013 to report she had received an anonymous letter that read in part, “You will be stopped by those who believe in the soverign [sic] rights. A close up shot to your head or to your husband will be final. You make the decision now not to run for congress.” Federal agents and Lodi police began investigating.

Davis reported receiving a second letter in March 2014, Hartman wrote. That letter said in part, “If you don’t quit very soon, you won’t be warned. YOU WON’T SEE IT COMING! Your family will have to plan a funeral.”

Davis mentioned the threats in several news stories about her candidacy, including articles in the Manteca Bulletin, Lodi News-Sentinel and IVN.us.

“It’s been scary and it’s like throwing a bucket of ice water on democracy,” she told the Bulletin in May 2014. “Nobody should be threatened because they’re running for office, but I’m not somebody that runs from threats. It has changed the way that I can do things, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get the word out and talk about the sorts of things that matter.

The investigation continued, and in February, Davis went to the FBI office in Stockton to be interviewed. She agreed to take a polygraph test but failed it, and then admitted she had written both letters and sent them to herself, Hartman wrote. In a signed statement, Davis wrote that she sent herself the first letter after Lodi police told her she probably wouldn’t be granted a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

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Steinberg’s prison plan seeks 3-year extension

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s alternative to Gov. Jerry Brown’s state-prison plan involves relies on asking for three more years to solve the overcrowding problem.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, unveiled Senate Democrats’ plan this morning in a letter to Brown and to the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuits that led a three-judge panel to order California to further reduce its inmate population by this year’s end.

Darrell Steinberg“The federal courts have put us in the untenable position of either releasing thousands of inmates from our prisons early, or putting our prison capacity on steroids by renting new prison beds at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars for years to come,” Steinberg said today. “Neither option makes any sense. We can do far better, and would be wrong to give up now.”

Steinberg said his plan would “achieve a durable solution” to prison overcrowding by reducing crime through performance-based grant programs. These grants would incentivize counties to expand proven rehabilitation, drug and mental health treatment programs for criminal offenders. This is modeled after a 2009 effort which, in just two years, reduced new prison admissions by more than 9,500, with $536 million in state savings over three years.

Also, the state would create an Advisory Commission on Public Safety to analyze and recommend changes in California’s sentencing laws.

But that won’t do the trick by Dec. 31, so Steinberg is asking the plaintiffs to agree to extend the deadline by three years. He wants all parties to the lawsuit to agree to let an independent state panel evaluate and determine proper population levels for California’s prisons based on standards and practices employed by correctional administrators across the country.

The state is under a federal court’s order to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity by the end of this year. California already has reduced its prison population by more than 40,000 since 2006 – more than half of which was via 2011’s “realignment,” which spun some offenders out to county jails instead of state prisons.

The one thing on which all the leaders in Sacramento agree is that granting early release to thousands of inmates in order to meet the deadline isn’t an option. Brown, joined by Assembly Speaker John Perez, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, yesterday unveiled a plan that calls for quickly leasing in-state and out-of-state prison capacity, including county jails, and contracting with community corrections facilities; suspending the closure of the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco; and spending up to $315 million to make it all happen.

“Governor Brown has a well-earned reputation as a good steward of the public purse; throwing this expensive Band-Aid on a hemorrhage threatens to undermine our hard work,” Steinberg said Wednesday. “We cannot build or rent our way out of overcrowded prisons.”

UPDATE @ 10:37 A.M.: The plaintiffs say they might be willing to grant the extension Steinberg seeks. Here’s the statement they just released:

“We are ready and willing to sit down with the Governor and his counsel to discuss ways to end federal court oversight. Senator Steinberg’s substantive proposals are acceptable to us and we are open to an extension of the date for compliance with the three judge court’s order if an agreement produces an effective and sustainable approach that will resolve the chronic overcrowding problem in the state’s prisons. The actual amount of time must be arrived at through these discussions.

“We strongly support Senator Steinberg’s proposal to provide local governments with resources to reduce and prevent crime by treating offenders in the community, and to establish a public safety commission. That commission will be charged with making recommendations based on solid evidence to reduce recidivism by holding individuals accountable in the most effective and least costly way. His solution demonstrates that the state can achieve a real, sustainable approach to safely reducing and managing the inmate population without further federal intervention and wasteful spending on more prisons.

“The Governor’s plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to expand the prison system for low risk prisoners will not make the public any safer. Without reform of the sentencing laws California’s prison population will continue to grow, making it only a matter of time before the prisons will once again exceed the population cap and prompt a renewed Court order requiring further reductions in the prison population.”

UPDATE @ 12:00 P.M.: Brown says it wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.

“It would not be responsible to turn over California’s criminal justice policy to inmate lawyers who are not accountable to the people,” the governor said in a statement issued a few moments ago. “My plan avoids early releases of thousands of prisoners and lays the foundation for longer-term changes, and that’s why local officials and law enforcement support it.”

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Brown, some lawmakers unveil state prison plan

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle – most of them, anyway – rolled out a plan today to satisfy a federal court order to limit the state’s prison population while avoiding the early release of thousands of prisoners.

In the short term, the plan is: Lock ‘em up somewhere else.

The plan unveiled by Brown, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway calls for quickly leasing in-state and out-of-state prison capacity, including county jails, and contracting with community corrections facilities; suspending the closure of the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco; and spending up to $315 million to make it all happen.

“This legislation will protect public safety and give us time to work with public officials and interested parties to make thoughtful changes in the overall criminal justice system,” Brown said in a news release.

But while state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he agrees with preventing any early inmate releases, he said Brown’s plan has “no promise and no hope.”

“As the population of California grows, it’s only a short matter of time until new prison cells overflow and the Court demands mass releases again,” Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in his own news release. “For every 10 prisoners finishing their sentences, nearly seven of them will commit another crime after release and end up back behind bars.”

“More money for more prison cells alone is not a durable solution; it is not a fiscally responsible solution; and it is not a safe solution,” he said, announcing he’ll unveil Senate Democrats’ alternative plan at 10 a.m. Wednesday. “We must invest in a durable criminal justice strategy, which reduces both crime and prison overcrowding.”

The state is under a federal court’s order to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity by the end of this year. California already has reduced its prison population by more than 40,000 since 2006 – more than half of which was via 2011’s “realignment,” which spun some offenders out to county jails instead of state prisons.

Brown, Perez, Huff and Conway said they’re also seeking long-term solutions.

“This process will leave no stone unturned as we investigate what can work to make improvements,” Perez, D-Los Angeles, said in the news release. “We will consider every option from updating sentencing laws; to giving local governments and law enforcement the necessary tools. And certainly we will examine broader policy questions that prevent crime, like improving education from preschool to higher education and on programs that break the cycle of poverty.”

Huff, R-Brea, said Senate Republicans will support the plan “because we believe the safety of California families should be our first and foremost priority” and allowing the early release of so many inmates “is simply unacceptable.”

Conway, R-Visalia, said today’s plan incorporates some ideas that Republican lawmakers had put forward. “We will continue to work with the Governor and the Speaker to find sustainable solutions that will honor the court’s demands, while keeping Californians safe.”

Activists who’d like to see the prison population reduced, not just moved around, are disappointed.

“Gov. Brown has turned his back on his own earlier proposals to the court, which detailed smart, sustainable alternatives for California to reach the court order,” said Courage Campaign executive chairman Dr. Paul Song. “Instead, the Governor is choosing to throw hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars down the black hole that is California’s broken prison system. This wasteful spending will prevent the restoration of funding to education and other vital services, which continue to suffer from devastating cuts made during the Great Recession. Funding those services would do more to keep Californians safe than further expansion of the prison-industrial complex.”

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San Francisco nudists’ latest court action flops

A federal judge has declined to issue a temporary restraining order blocking San Francisco’s new public-nudity law.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled Thursday that nudists failed to present specific evidence of how the nudity ban has infringed their constitutional rights, or of why they’d be likely to succeed if the case went to trial.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors late last year adopted an ordinance barring people from baring their genitals on public streets, sidewalks, and most other public rights-of-way as well as on transit vehicles and in transit stations. Exceptions were carved out for permitted events and festivals, and for children under the age of five.

Chen in January issued an order dismissing these same nudists’ effort to keep the law from taking effect Feb. 1. His order back then sided with the city’s arguments that the constitutionality of local restrictions on public nudity has been repeatedly upheld in the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and that such bans are a valid and longstanding feature of municipal codes throughout the nation.

Thursday’s ruling dealt with an “as-applied” challenge filed last week, after the law was in effect, claiming the city and its police were chilling their First Amendment rights to engage as in political speech as nudists by taking them into custody rather than writing them tickets for violating the law. The city countered that the nudists have no constitutional right to expose themselves in public.

“And Plaintiffs do not explain, much less submit any evidence demonstrating, how the ordinance prevents them from engaging in political speech or artistic expression,” Deputy City Attorney Tara Steeley wrote in the city’s brief. “Plaintiffs remain free to express any message they want. They simply must cover their ‘genitals, perineum, or anal region’ while on streets, sidewalks and certain other public places.”

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Obama re-nominates 3 for Calif.’s federal bench

President Obama yesterday re-nominated 33 people for federal judgeships – including three for seats in California – whose original nominations had languished without action in the last Congress.

“Several have been awaiting a vote for more than six months, even though they all enjoy bipartisan support,” Obama said in a news release. “I continue to be grateful for their willingness to serve and remain confident that they will apply the law with the utmost impartiality and integrity. I urge the Senate to consider and confirm these nominees without delay, so all Americans can have equal and timely access to justice.”

Among those nominated again were San Francisco attorney William H. Orrick II, for a seat here in California’s Northern District; Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, for a seat in the Central District; and Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Troy Nunley, for a seat in the Eastern District.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., had recommended Orrick and Reid to the White House after an interview and vetting process by a bipartisan advisory committee, while U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., did the same for Nunley.

“I urge my colleagues to move swiftly to confirm these talented nominees, who are desperately needed to serve in judicial emergency districts,” Boxer said Thursday.

Orrick from 2009 to 2012 served as a counsel and deputy assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division; earlier he was a litigator at the San Francisco firm of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy and Bass for 25 years. Obama nominated him June 11 and he was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Aug. 2, but he never got a floor vote.

O’Connell has sat on the Los Angeles superior court bench since 2005; earlier, she had been an assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles since 1995. Obama nominated her Nov. 14, but she never had a Judiciary Committee hearing.

Nunley has sat on the Sacramento superior court bench in 2002; earlier, he was a deputy state attorney general from 1999 to 2002, a Sacramento deputy district attorney from 1996 to 1999, in private practice from 1994 to 1996, and an Alameda County deputy district attorney from 1991 to 1994. Obama nominated him June 25 and he was approved by the Judiciary Committee on Dec. 6, but he never got a floor vote.

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SF seeks dismissal of nudists’ federal lawsuit

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a motion today seeking the dismissal of a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s new ban on public nudity.

The city and county’s Board of Supervisors approved the ban – which provides exceptions for certain city-permitted events and for those under the age of five – at a climactic meeting Nov. 20, and affirmed it Dec. 4.

Opponents of the ban had sued even before the ordinance was passed, claiming it would violate their rights under the First and Fourteenth amendments. The plaintiffs originally sought a temporary restraining order to stop the supervisors from passing the law, but U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen opted instead to consider the challenge instead as a petition for a preliminary injunction, once the ordinance was enacted.

“Public nudity bans are a longstanding feature of municipal codes throughout the nation, and their constitutionality has been repeatedly affirmed by the courts – including the U.S. Supreme Court,” Herrera said in a news release today.

“Ironically, the only novel legal theory plaintiffs put forward in this case is an equal protection claim that could actually undermine exceptions that allow nudity at permitted events like Bay to Breakers and the Folsom Street Fair,” he added. “The nudism advocates seem to have taken the position that if they can’t be naked everywhere, no one can be naked anywhere. Fortunately, the legal challenge is without a basis in the law, and we’re confident the court will dismiss.”