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In a victory for free-speech advocates and community members who rallied against a guilt-by-association prosecution, a judge yesterday threw out charges against two high-profile targets of the district attorney’s office: A rapper and a man who were linked by things they sang and posted on the internet to a local gang. The gang is alleged to have committed numerous shootings and the two defendants were accused of benefiting from them.
The ruling means freedom for the rapper, Brandon “Tiny Doo” Duncan, and Aaron Harvey, the man accused of supporting the gang via Facebook.
That is, freedom for now. DA Bonnie Dumanis would not say whether she’ll try again as she did the last time a different judge rebuked her team.
The prosecutor has said for weeks on the case that it will go to a high court. And Harvey says the fight’s not over. Harvey said he’s now focused on changing the law that has never been used like this.
The charges against the rapper for rapping have drawn negative national attention for weeks, while we recently brought the serious charges facing Harvey to the public’s attention. Other defendants in the alleged gang conspiracy weren’t freed from the case.
In the U-T story on the decision, the judge noted that no one’s been arrested in connection with the shootings. He asked, “How can you attach a conspiracy to a crime that doesn’t have a defendant?”
Fact-Checking the Prison Chief
A few weeks ago, the state’s top prison official made a startling claim about released prisoners in our county: He said 20 percent of them are high when they get out, a number that conjures images of ex-cons reeking of marijuana and covered with fresh needle marks.
But it’s not true. San Diego Fact Check finds that the claim is wrong for a several reasons. For one thing, he’s referring to drug tests, which don’t necessarily indicate that someone is high. Then there’s a local estimate that only 5-10 percent of a wide range of local ex-cons — not just the newly released — fail drug tests.
Chargers Stadium: Luxury Boxed-In
• A few years ago, it sounded like the U-T would be an unquestioning supporter of a new football stadium, even outside of its editorial pages. Journalism purists gasped. But with the newspaper-supported downtown stadium plan dead and a pro-stadium U-T honcho newspaper guy out of power, the paper seems to be pulling back on the gas. It’s not a hallelujah chorus now, at least not totally.
Case in point: A column by writer Dan McSwain that calls out the “gilding power of Other People’s Money” when it comes to the skyrocketing estimated cost of a new football stadium.
• In a surprisingly aggressive interview for the usually mild-mannered KPBS, show host Maureen Cavanaugh peppered the top Chargers spokesman with questions about the prospects for a new stadium. Among other things, he mentioned the team’s dipping hopes for a downtown site and the alleged problems with the Mission Valley location. One, he said, is pollution from a gas “plume.” In fact, it’s unlikely to doom a project, so he should stop bringing it up.
• Dean Spanos, the Chargers president, spoke to the media yesterday about the stadium mess but he didn’t have a lot to say other than that he’s anxiously waiting and ready to lose money to stay here. According to the U-T, “Spanos said he is willing to stay in San Diego for less than what he’d make in Los Angeles — both in terms of premium seats and sponsorships and team value.”
They Build, You Pay
inewsource digs into the borrowing schemes that local school districts use to raise money for construction. Property taxpayers pay off the loans, which can cost a pretty penny. How pretty? It depends on where you live: “a family in the San Ysidro School District last year would have paid about 35 percent more — about $150 more — in bond taxes compared with a family in the Cardiff School District, an upscale beach community where houses are worth twice as much.” In fact, the median — not average — “amount San Ysidro residents pay in bond taxes is second only to the Rancho Santa Fe School District, where the median house costs $1 million.”
Quick News Hits: No Way, Says Goldsmith
• There’s news about the massive regional transportation plan for the next 35 years that’s tied up by a lawsuit pitting environmentalists against a coalition of local governments: “The California Supreme Court has agreed to review an appellate court’s decision calling on the San Diego Association of Governments to make long-term transportation plans better comply with revised state pollution-reduction goals,” NBC 7 reports.
• No, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith isn’t going to run for Congress against Rep. Scott Peters. Goldsmith’s rebuttal to a suggestion from RollCall in DC comes from his city-paid spokesman, who said “no way. That’s not happening.” Goldsmith’s term will be up in 2016, and it’s not clear if he’ll retire from politics to spend more time with his family.
• The governor of Baja California and local Mexican mayors have “accused the owners of Tijuana’s Frontera and its sister newspapers in Mexicali and Ensenada of extortion.” (U-T)
• Tomorrow, we’ll finally see that federally funded report about misconduct in the San Diego Police Department. The police chief has already seen it. For background, check our previous coverage.
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.