Public corruption must be prosecuted, but there is a real risk of this trend turning into a witch hunt.
Los Angeles, CA (Vocus/PRWEB) December 20, 2010
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, Jerod Gunsberg, examines the local criminal justice stories of 2010 and offers reviews of the top five events for the Los Angeles area.
The first of these criminal justice stories for 2010 is corruption prosecutions for public officials in Los Angeles County communities. This was an eventful year for accusing public officials of corruption. As reported in the “Los Angeles Times,” Corruption investigations began with the discovery that the City Manager of Bell, CA, a small, working class city in Southwest LA County, was earning $800,000.00 a year. This discovery led to prosecutions of almost all of Bell’s senior officials on charges of public corruption and misappropriation of public funds.
The investigations spread to other small cities around Los Angeles County. Officials in the City of Vernon are now under investigation, and lawmakers in the state legislature have introduced a bill to actually dissolve Vernon altogether.
Not even Beverly Hills has gone unscathed. The District Attorney has charged its former superintendent of school with misappropriating over $5 million in funds.
Los Angeles defense attorney, Jerod Gunsberg, cautions, “There is a tidal wave of public corruption investigations in Los Angeles County. Historically, this happens during bad economic times. There is a real risk that innocent people who have not engaged in misconduct, who may have only committed administrative violations, or are the unfortunate targets of political vendettas, are unjustly caught up in this latest frenzy to prosecute government officials. Public corruption must be prosecuted, but there is a real risk of this trend turning into a witch hunt.”
The second criminal justice story of the year that brings real implications to residents is the Department of Motor Vehicles mandating Ignition Interlock Devices installed on vehicles on first DUI offenders in Los Angeles County. Getting a DUI is a difficult charge for any driver, but as of July 1, 2010, the DMV requires everyone in Los Angeles County convicted of a DUI, even a first offender, to install an ignition interlock device on his or her vehicles for a period of 5 months.
There are two major problems with this law. Gunsberg comments, “First, this is another troubling example of the Department of Motor Vehicles infringing on the discretionary power of the court. A judge, who has the facts in the case in front of him or her, is better suited to make the decision as to whether an ignition interlock is necessary in a particular case.”
The Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer continues, “Second, the only people complying with the DMV order to actually install the interlock on their car are people who will never drink and drive again anyway. Their DUI conviction was an isolated incident and not part of a larger problem. The ignition interlock device is expensive, cumbersome, and embarrassing. People who continue to drink and drive will not install the interlock and take their chances on getting caught. As a result, this law does nothing to deter drunk driving, all it does is humiliate people who are the least likely to re-offend.”
More recently reported on CBS News, the murder of legendary Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen dominated headlines as a criminal story destined to become conspiracy theorists subject material. Chasen was shot to death in her car while driving through Beverly Hills, on her way home from a movie premiere. At first the police had no leads, and since Ms. Chasen was killed in an area where violent street crime is a rare occurrence, the internet was abuzz with rumors and allegations that this was a professional murder-for-hire.
The criminal case took a bizarre turn when the Beverly Hills Police, acting on a tip from America’s Most Wanted, went to question Harold Smith, a person of interest in the case. Smith committed suicide by shooting himself as the police approached him at a Hollywood apartment building. At first, the police said that Smith may have had nothing to do with the murder, but the following week the Beverly Hills Police declared the case was solved. Smith was indicated as the shooter, and his motive was robbery. Of course many people accuse the police of covering up the “real truth,” and Ms. Chasen’s tragic death will be fodder for conspiracy theorists for years to come.
Fourth up in our criminal justice stories of 2010, reported in the “Los Angeles Times” in recent months, the California Attorney General attempted to send an innocent man back to prison because he waited too long to petition for release. In 2009, a federal judge ordered Bruce Lisker released from a California prison where he had served 26 years of a life sentence after being convicted of murdering his mother. A federal judge ruled that he was convicted on false evidence and, even worse, there was overwhelming evidence proving his innocence, which the police and prosecution never disclosed to the defense.
In October, 2010, the Attorney General asked the court to order Lisker back to prison because in an unrelated case, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that even if prisoners are actually innocent, federal courts may not consider their case unless their petition is filed within a certain amount of time. Since Lisker filed his petition after the deadline, the California Attorney General asked the federal court to send Lisker back to prison. In a bit of irony, the federal court rejected the Attorney General’s motion on the grounds that the Attorney General missed a deadline to appeal the court’s 2009 order to release Lisker.
Of course our top five criminal justice news stories of 2010 must include Lindsay Lohan DUI probation violation which was widely reported in several news outlets including the “Los Angeles Times.” The Lindsay Lohan case had it all. Two trips to jail, three trips to rehab, family drama, paparazzi, what more can be said. The most significant thing about the Lohan case is that it gave the public a glimpse into how the misdemeanor cases work in Los Angeles. Her DUI probation violation hearing at the Beverly Hills courthouse was broadcast live on national television and showed that Lindsay Lohan received no special treatment.
For more information on Los Angeles criminal defense, attorney, Jerod Gunsberg, invites you to visit his website at http://www.gunsberglaw.com or contact his office at 323-633-3423, Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg - Los Angeles, 333 S. Grand Avenue, 25th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90071.
About Jerod Gunsberg:
Jerod Gunsberg is admitted to practice in all California State Courts and the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Mr. Gunsberg regularly handles misdemeanors as well as felony cases. He is a member of numerous professional organizations including National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Los Angeles Criminal Courts Bar Association.