GUEST COMMENTARY - As we prepare to head to the polls to vote for our next mayor for the city of Los Angeles, one should take the time to review the voting record of Karen Bass during her tenure as one of our state elected officials and as a US Representative.
If you recall during the mayoral debate, Bass stated that with the escalation of violent gang related crimes, murders, smash and grab robberies, home invasions, property related crime, auto thefts and felony hit and run, she feels safe. Her home is safe, her residential community and the City of Los Angeles is safe. However, that all changed after she became a victim of a crime. Now she no longer feels safe.
Bass stated that someone had entered her home and stole two firearms which she claimed were properly stored and secured in a locked latch box (nothing more than an old-fashioned lunch pail), placed in one of her closets. Was Bass unable to afford to purchase a secure safe for her now stolen firearms? If they had been properly secured and stored they would not have been stolen in the first place.
Karen Bass is a very progressive Democrat who supported a host of legislation and propositions surrounding criminal justice reform, which included the early release of ‘so-called’ non-violent criminal offenders from our California state prisons. These reforms reduced previous criminal offenses classified as violent offenses to non-violent criminal offenses.
In 2010, the California Department of Corrections initiated an early inmate release program called “Non-Revocable Parole”. It was developed to reduce the inmate prison population, who would be released early without any type of parole supervision if his offense was a non-violent crime, not identified as a gang member, and had no previous convictions for violent criminal offenses.
In May of 2010, 26-year-old Javier Rueda was released on Non-Revocable parole and in early July of 2010 he exited a vehicle with a loaded firearm in each hand and opened fire and injured two Los Angeles police officers. The officers returned fire and Rueda was shot and killed.
Former Chief of Police Beck wrote a letter to the California Department of Corrections asking how Rueda, a validated hard core gang member with a history of violence, receive an early release from state prison? Rueda served only two years of a ten-year prison term sentence. Rueda was a Vineland Boys gang member with the monikers of “Jayboy” and “Ghost “. He was sent to state prison for Felony Evading (high speed vehicle chase), possession of a silencer and possession of illegal drugs while armed.
This Non-Revocable parole was the first of many so-called criminal justice reform acts which have led to the escalation of very violent crimes throughout the state of California.
Let’s go back to then former state elected official Mike Feuer - the godfather of AB 109 Public Safety Act of 2011. Yet another failed early inmate release bill. This was backed and supported by Bass. How can we forget how Tobias Summers, released early from state prison, kidnapped a ten year old child while she slept in her bed in the middle of the night in her Northridge home and was then sexually assaulted and abused by Summers. Thank God he released her. Tobias was subsequently sentenced to a life term in state prison without the benefit of parole.
Then we all read how yet another inmate released early under AB 109. KA Pasasouk shot and killed execution style four innocent people. Pasasouk should never have been released early from state prison as he had a previous prison conviction for a violent Robbery offense of which he had failed to complete his supervised parole time. If Pasasouk were identified as a gang member, it would have prevented him from being released under AB 109. Pasasouk subsequently received a death sentence
Then there was Zachariah Timothy Lehnen, also released early under AB 109 who stabbed and beat to death two individuals one a 29 year old female and an elderly 80 plus year old male ( a former POW) in Culver City. Lehnen also had a prior history of violence. Lehnen received a new prison sentence of two life terms without the possibility of parole.
Under AB 109 these individuals were to have been supervised once they were released from state prison by Los Angeles County Probation officers. For the most part this did not take place as the probation officers were not properly trained.
AB 109 was again all about reducing the prison population, ignoring public safety and placing the communities in harm’s way. After the killing of the 29-year-old female by Lehnen, members of her family met with elected official Ted Lieu. Lieu stated that AB 109 was dangerous and in fact it was 100% more dangerous than Non-Revocable parole.
He did state that he voted for AB 109. When asked why? He stated, “you vote the way you are told to vote by the individual who is the majority whip of your party at the time.“ In other words, the hell with public safety, just go along with the good ole boys club!
Then we have George Gascon's Prop 47. Prop 47 won the GOLDEN FLEECE AWARD! What a mess Prop. 47 has turned out to be. Individuals who commit crimes are no longer being arrested by our law enforcement officers. We have seen how droves of individuals young and old, not only in the Bay area but also in our city, run into CVS and Walgreen stores and steal anything and everything that they can and exit from the location with the stolen items their back packs, in their arms and other containers.
If an item stolen is worth less than $950.00 dollars, good luck if one is arrested and or held accountable. What we are seeing now in our city is the widespread thefts of Catalytic Converters. Once the converter has been removed you can't operate your vehicle. If your vehicle is an older model and the dollar value of the stolen converter is less than $950.00 dollars, good luck if the thief arrested will spend one day in jail.
Now there are two new California State laws on the books, AB 1740 and SB 1087, that addresses individuals who buy stolen Catalytic Converters. If apprehended, they can now be held accountable and charged with a crime. Remember that by the time these individuals are apprehended the converters would have already been melted down. Both of these laws go into effect Jan.1, 2023. Good luck.
The replacement of a new converter may cost as must as $2,000 to $3,000. Also, PROP 47 prevents the collection of DNA if someone is arrested for a misdemeanor criminal offense. Kamala Harris filed an appeal surrounding the collection of DNA because she knew the importance of obtaining a DNA sample. Harris lost the appeal. However, Harris supported PROP 47 as did BASS.
Lastly, let’s look at 2016 Prop 57, The California Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements. Bass also supported Prop 57 as did State Assembly person Wendy Carrillo.
Jerry Brown is first and foremost responsible for Prop 57. Brown stated that anyone arrested for a felony could not benefit or be tried under PROP 57. The California State Supreme Court stated that the wording on Prop 57 was very misleading. However, it was approved by Alex Padilla and Kamala Harris to be placed on the ballot.
When members of the law enforcement community told Jerry Brown that incarcerated sex offenders would now be eligible for early release from prison, Brown accused them of trying to influence fear onto the residents of the state of California. The truth is a group of attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of those inmates convicted of sex related crimes and the state supreme court ruled in their favor.
Now inmates convicted of sex related crimes are being released early from state prison. Note the word non-violent criminal offenses. Remember as with Prop 47 and now Prop 57 previous classified violent and serious crimes were reduced to non-violent crime classifications and changes were made in the California Penal code. Prior convictions for violent crimes are no longer taken into consideration for an early release from prison.
If an individual was convicted for multi counts of rape (violent criminal offense), did their prison time and was placed on parole and then failed to reregister as a sex offender and received a new prison commitment for failure to register as a sex offender he/she is now classified as a non-violent offender and now eligible to receive an early prison release.
Because of the way the law is currently written this is what is taking place. The law addresses early releases, so now the Department of Corrections on a daily basis is looking at the amount of days already spent incarcerated. They are finding that scores of inmates have been held in prison illegally (beyond their new calculated release dates) and they are being released immediately even before parole release plans are being prepared and signed off.
I received information that many of these released inmates are being financially compensated because they remained incarcerated beyond their release dates. As a result (30% of the prison population are inmates whose last legal residence is Los Angeles County) these inmates are released directly to the community as transients and are being dumped on the streets of the Los Angeles mostly in the Skid Row area and other areas of South Los Angeles.
They have no housing (homeless) and the parole department does not have the financial resources to pay for their housing. Also, many are not even reporting to their parole agents once they are released from state prison.
Last evening a homeless parolee was arrested for the assault on a homeowner in Studio City. In fact, years ago, long before Prop 57, letters were written to several state elected officials, one being Karen Bass, asking for their assistance because there were so many inmates being released on parole that were being released to the streets of Los Angeles. They were classified as Homeless. Most of the responses from our state elected officials, to include Bass, addressed their concerns to the state elected officials who are currently members of the Public Safety Committee.
Remember that former Governor Jerry Brown stated that those individuals arrested for Sex related crimes could not fall under Prop. 57. This was not the case. On January 18, 2015 Brook Allen Turner a student at Stanford University was arrested for the sexual assault of an unconscious Stanford female student. Turner was found guilty and convicted of three felony charges of sexual assault. He was sentenced to 6 months in county jail to be followed by three years of probation all under PROP 57. Turner only served three months in county jail having been released early for good behavior. Bass supported PROP.57.
Many of you may remember the Major Sex Offender Shuffle where parole Administrators ordered Agents to violate state law by moving paroled high risk sex offenders every three days so that law enforcement officers would not know where they resided. When state elected officials were contacted by parole agents who wanted to do the right thing these elected officials took the position to do nothing thus placing the community in harm’s way.
When local Television Investigative reporter for CBS and KCAL David Goldstein was contacted by parole agents, he conducted a major undercover investigation at which time state elected officials finally got involved. There were State hearings held in Sacramento and several Department of Corrections administrators were held accountable.
Now I ask you, how is Karen Bass going to address the HOMELESS issues in our city? On any given day one can find hundreds of individuals who are under either state parole or Los Angeles County probation supervision who are residing on our streets as homeless. Bass, during her years as an elected state official and even now as a US Representative has failed to address this issue. Bass has also failed to ask both the city and county of Los Angeles for an accounting of where all the millions of federal taxpayers’ dollars have been spent?
Also, how is Bass going to address the massive increases in our city’s crime rates? Remember, she supported all of these Criminal Justice Reforms Acts which have contributed to an increase in crime.
Do we need Criminal Justice Reform? The answer is yes. But the reforms should be written by experts in the field of criminal justice not elected political officials.
(Caroline Aguirre is a retired 24-year State of California law enforcement officer, LAPD family member, community activist and Neighborhood Watch captain. Aguirre is a CityWatch contributor.) This article was edited for CityWatch by Jim Hampton.