Guilt by association has a bad rap. It conjures images of witch hunts and prosecutions of “fellow travelers.” But the San Diego County district attorney’s office is targeting 15 local men for that very thing — simply being part of a gang linked to shootings. They could go to prison for their alleged connections, which at least some of them deny even exist; one man’s Facebook photos could put him behind bars for life.
Essentially, documented gang members could be put away because other gang members commit crimes. Can prosecutors do that? Looks like it. “If federal law is any guide, it’s perfectly constitutional,” writes VOSD’s Sara Libby, who reveals the full extent of the prosecution for the first time in a story we posted yesterday afternoon.
You may already know about part of this case — the controversial prosecution of a rapper who stands accused because his song lyrics allegedly link him to the gang. Our story focuses on someone you haven’t heard about: a young man named Aaron Harvey.
“Harvey’s case has none of those sexy First Amendment issues. Much of the evidence being presented against him isn’t rap lyrics but Facebook posts that prosecutors say link him unmistakably to the Lincoln Park gang. But he, like [the rapper], has no criminal record and is facing up to life in prison if convicted.”
The case against the men appears to be the first use of an obscure California law in this way. The DA’s office won’t share what it has. But an attorney makes the case for the approach in Libby’s piece.
Local legislator Shirley Weber plans to express concern about the prosecution to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and another local legislator, Lorena Gonzalez, expressed disgust on Twitter after reading the VOSD story: “This is outrageous. Young men should not be imprisoned just for growing up in & surviving our neighborhoods.”
“This should scare the hell out of you,” wrote radio host LaDona Harvey.
Swap Meet: Legislators Prepare to Switch Seats
Who’s on first? What’s on second. I Don’t Know’s on third. One legislator wants to be a county supervisor (even though the incumbent is pretty popular), another wants to be a U.S. senator (even though nobody’s heard of him), and term-limit rules will force some politicians out to pasture.
John Hrabe put together a helpful roundup for us of who’s running for what and what the options are for every local state legislator. And we look at who’s waiting in the wings.
Look Who’s Back. Did He Ever Go Away?
Long-timers may remember Mike Shaefer, the eccentric former city councilman who was elected at the age of 28, served in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was dubbed “one of California’s most notorious slumlords” by the LA Times in 1986. He keeps running for things again and again and again: here and in Nevada (oopsy, San Francisco and Maryland (“capitalizing on the reputation of an unrelated Maryland governor named Schaefer”).
Anyway, he just ran for City Council in Los Angeles, saying he “he would focus primarily on parking enforcement issues, and says the city should limit its street sweeping hours and lower its parking fines.” He got endorsed by “Jerry Maron, the actor who played the Lollipop Guild Munchkin in the film ‘Wizard of Oz,’ and Felix Silla, who played Cousin Itt in the television show ‘The Addams Family.’” A hairy situation for sure.
Quick News Hits: Pie in the Sky
• Former Poway Councilman Bob Emery, a major force in the city’s creation and history, has died. (U-T)
• It’s not taking long for San Diego’s next Catholic bishop to make waves: Robert McElroy says the country needs immigration reform. An advocate for abused children claims he hasn’t said enough about protecting kids, but McElroy told reporters that “we can never think we’ve done enough or that we have put it in the past.”
• “Competition for California students hoping to enroll at the University of California next fall just got tougher: UC President Janet Napolitano said… she will cap enrollment at current levels unless the state increases UC’s funding by $218 million.” (sfgate.com)
• National Geographic says the drought in the West is going to get worse because of a lack of snow in mountain ranges across the region. There’s more bad news. “Clearly we are in the fourth year of a drought, but this is not just the fourth year of drought,” says a water guru. “It is the 11th year of the past 15 years that have been abnormally dry.” Meanwhile, state water users aren’t trying very hard to save water, according to the latest numbers.
• CityBeat examines the numbers regarding “personal seat licenses” for a new football stadium, and its editor pays tribute to departing reporter Kelly Davis, San Diego journalism’s fiercest defender of the downtrodden. She is going to become a freelance writer and write about criminal justice.
• Lesson of the Day: Don’t butt dial.
• For some reason, the government of Taipei sent two boxes of moon pies to Toni Atkins, the local legislator and state Assembly speaker, The Sacramento Bee discovered. Their value: $65.90, making them some pricey pies.
Politicians shouldn’t be taking gifts. If they do, they should give them to a worthy party. Or, say, me. Call me, Toni! I’m on my cell.
Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.