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Category: L.A. Now Live

L.A. Now Live: Discuss the Bell corruption trial

Jurors in the trial of six ex-Bell council members will resume deliberations Tuesday to determine whether the former city officials should be convicted of misusing public funds.

Times Staff Writer Jeff Gottlieb will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. to discuss the trial.

The case against Luis Artiga, Victor Bello, George Cole, Teresa Jacobo, Oscar Hernandez and George Mirabal went to the jury shortly before noon Friday after four weeks of testimony.

Jurors are deciding whether it was legal for the defendants to receive salaries as high as $100,000 annually, boosted by pay for serving on city boards that did little, if any, work.

The case is the first chapter in a broader alleged municipal corruption case in which authorities contend that the city's then-chief executive -- Robert Rizzo -- dipped into the city treasury by paying huge salaries, loaning city money and padding retirement accounts, at a time when the city's finances were starting to crumble.

L.A. Now Live: Discuss L.A. mayor's race, city budget woes

The Times' City Hall reporter David Zahniser will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. to discuss the upcoming city elections.

Zahniser, along with staff writers Jessica Garrison and Ralph Vartabedian, reported on Sunday that Los Angeles' next mayor -- replacing Antonio Villaraigosa -- will inherit budget problems and face numerous difficult decisions.

Over the past several years, to stay afloat financially, the city cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of everyday services and ongoing maintenance.

The next mayor will have to confront how and whether to restore services and keep police staffing at a historic high. Paying for it all will require either new revenues, or new concessions from city employees, or new approaches to running vital city programs.

Community activists say the next mayor needs to break the cycle of decreasing services and raising fees, fines and taxes to offset rising personnel costs. "What the city has done for the last five years is ... tread water," said San Pedro resident Doug Epperhart, a city commissioner overseeing Los Angeles' network of neighborhood councils.

L.A. Now Live: Tuberculosis outbreak on L.A.'s skid row

Times staff writer Anna Gorman will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. on Friday to discuss what public health officials are calling the largest tuberculosis outbreak in a decade in Los Angeles.

Officials say 11 have died since 2007. Sixty of the 78 cases were among homeless people who live on and around skid row.

Scientists have recently linked the outbreak to a tuberculosis strain that is unique to Los Angeles, with a few isolated cases outside the area.

"This is the largest outbreak in a decade," said Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "We are really putting all of our resources into this."

Health workers have identified about 4,650 people who were probably exposed and are trying to track them down for testing and treatment. Local and federal officials are particularly concerned because the cases are linked to one relatively small geographic area and one vulnerable population. But officials are concerned that the outbreak could spread beyond skid row if action isn't taken.

L.A. Now Live: Latest on O.C. shootings, young woman killed

Times staff writer Nicole Santa Cruz will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. on Thursday to discuss the latest developments in the deadly shootings Wednesday in Orange County, including new information about the first victim, killed at the alleged gunman's home in Ladera Ranch.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department on Wednesday identified the victim as 20-year-old Courtney Aoki of Buena Park.

It remains unclear how suspected gunman Ali Syed, described by authorities as a 20-year-old loner who took occasional computer classes at a community college and spent a lot of time alone in his room playing video games, crossed paths with Aoki.

PHOTOS: Shootings at multiple locations in O.C.

Early Tuesday morning, Aoki was in Syed's bedroom inside the town house he shared with his parents in the upscale Ladera Ranch development. Gunshots rang out from the bedroom, and Syed ran out of the house and drove away, police said. Aoki was dead from multiple wounds from a shotgun Syed's father had bought him about a year ago.

Friends and a former teacher described Aoki as bright and talented.

Stacie Montgomery, 19, said she went to Norwalk High School with Aoki and that last year the two got Friday-the-13th tattoos together at a shop in Fullerton.

MAP: Orange County shootings

Aoki got a tattoo of a black widow spider on her chest with the number 13 inside the body, Montgomery said, while she got a butterfly with the same number. Aoki was with her when she got her first tattoo -- of a heart, she said.

"She was sitting with me, talking and whatnot," Montgomery said.

Now, Montgomery said she is puzzled about the fate of her friend.

"I couldn't believe it," she said, adding that she had no idea why Aoki was at the Ladera Ranch residence.

"I have no idea," she said. "Honestly, I have no idea."

L.A. Now Live: Discuss latest developments on O.C. shootings

Times staff writer Kate Mather will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the latest on the investigation into an hour-long shooting rampage in Orange County that left four dead, including the alleged shooter, and several others wounded.

Authorities say 20-year-old college student Ali Syed killed a woman at his Ladera Ranch home and embarked on a string of shootings that stretched through the heart of Orange County, targeting random people during their morning routines.

He carjacked a truck at a gas station, police said, then executed a businessman and stole his BMW. A few minutes later, he killed a plumber and took a work truck. He shot indiscriminately at morning commuters on the 55 Freeway, hitting at least three cars.

His motive remained a mystery Wednesday morning and the case's biggest questions surround the identity of Syed's first alleged victim — a woman in her 20s who still has not been identified.

Orange County Sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said the woman had been shot several times. She was not related to Syed and it remained unclear who she was and why she was at his home.

L.A. Now Live: California seizing guns from disqualified owners

Times staff writer Jessica Garrison will join us at 9 a.m. to talk about the law enforcement tactics used to seize guns from disqualified owners.

California has the nation's only program to confiscate guns from people who bought them legally but later became disqualified. During twice-weekly sweeps over the last five years, agents have collected more than 10,000 guns.

But there are still more than 19,700 people on the state's Armed Prohibited Persons database. Collectively, they own about 39,000 guns. About 3,000 people are added to the list each year.

Clearing the backlog would cost $40 million to $50 million, according to Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris.  She estimated that once the backlog is cleared, fielding teams large enough to keep up with people added to the list would cost about $14 million a year.

"This is about prevention," Harris said. "This is about taking guns out of the hands of people who are prohibited from owning them, and are known to be potentially some of the most dangerous people walking around.... It's just common sense."

As gun control has moved to the forefront of national debate, California's program is being studied as a potential model.

L.A. Now Live: Tough tactics used in Christopher Dorner shootout

Times staff writer Richard Winton will join us at 9 a.m. to talk about the law enforcement tactics used this week in the shootout with fugitive Christopher Dorner.

Dorner, the fired Los Angeles policeman suspected of killing four people in a campaign of revenge, had been holed up in a cabin near Big Bear Lake for hours, trading gunfire with San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies. Repeated calls over a loudspeaker for him to surrender went ignored. Attempts to flush him out with tear gas led nowhere.

Wanting to end the standoff before nightfall, members of the sheriff's SWAT unit enacted a plan they had devised for a final assault on the cabin, according to law enforcement sources. An officer drove a demolition vehicle up to the building and methodically tore down most of its walls, the sources said.

With the cabin's interior exposed, the officer got on the radio to others awaiting his order. "We're going to go forward with the plan, with the burner," an unidentified officer said, according to a recording of police radio transmissions reviewed by The Times.

"The burner" was shorthand for a grenade-like canister containing a more powerful type of tear gas than had been used earlier. Within minutes the cabin was fully engulfed in flames, ending a dramatic manhunt that captivated the nation.

L.A. Now Live: New report faults L.A. County child services

Times reporter Garrett Therolf will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. to discuss a county report on Los Angeles County's child protective agency, which depicts a stifling bureaucracy and inept workforce combining to allow children to remain in unsafe homes. 

The investigation, conducted by an independent counsel for the Board of Supervisors, looked at 15 recent child deaths and a torture case. In all but two instances, investigators found that casework errors began with the agency's first contact with the children and contributed to their deaths.

Investigators largely blamed the department's problems on its decision to place its least experienced social workers in its most crucial job: assessing dangers to children. Many of those workers — facing a total of 160,000 child abuse hot line calls each year — are "just 'doing their time,' " according to the report.

DOCUMENTS: The report on child deaths

Supervisors are poorly qualified and often disregard policy, creating a situation akin to "the blind leading the blind," with workers rarely held accountable for "egregious" errors, the report said.

The result has been deaths that might have been prevented had social workers taken basic steps to assess the risks, according to the report.

Philip Browning, who became the agency's permanent director two months before the report was completed in April, recently embarked on a reorganization involving new assignments, training and procedures for many of the department's 6,800 employees.

The report's lead author, Amy Shek Naamani, has been hired by Browning and placed in a senior position to help guide the effort.

The four-year blueprint for reform — the first comprehensive effort in a decade — covers many of the recommendations outlined in the report. Browning said his goal was to restore "common sense, accountability and critical thinking" to the county's child welfare network.

L.A. Now Live: Latest on fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner

Times reporter Kate Mather will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. to discuss the latest developments in the manhunt for fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner.

Investigators Wednesday were in the process of identifying human remains found in a charred cabin near Big Bear where the former L.A. police officer and Navy Reserve lieutenant was believed to have been holed up after trading gunfire with officers, authorities said.

PHOTOS: Manhunt for ex-LAPD officer

If the body is identified as Dorner's, the standoff Tuesday night would end the weeklong hunt for the 33-year-old suspect, who police believe shot and killed one San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy and injured another. He is also suspected of killing an Irvine couple and a Riverside police officer. But Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said he would not consider the manhunt over until a body was recovered and identified as Dorner.

"It is a bittersweet night," said Beck as he drove to the hospital where the injured deputy was undergoing surgery. "This could have ended much better, it could have ended worse. I feel for the family of the deputy who lost his life."

FULL COVERAGE: Sweeping manhunt for ex-cop

Just before 5 p.m., authorities smashed the cabin's windows, pumped in tear gas and called for the suspect to surrender. They got no response. Then, using a demolition vehicle, they tore down the cabin's walls one by one, officials said, and when they reached the last wall, they heard a gunshot.

Then the cabin burst into flames, officials said. By late Tuesday evening, the smoldering ruins remained too hot for police to enter, but authorities said they believed Dorner's body was inside.

L.A. Now Live: Latest on manhunt for Ex-LAPD cop Christopher Dorner

Join Times staff writers Andrew Blankstein and Phil Willon at 9:30 a.m. Friday to discuss the latest on the search for fugitive ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, wanted on suspicion of killing three people -- including one cop -- and wounding two others in Southern California attacks.

Police across California and Nevada launched an unprecedented manhunt involving hundreds of officers from dozens of agencies.

In a Facebook manifesto police say Dorner wrote, he ranted against LAPD personnel who he said fired him unfairly. He threatened revenge, "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against police and their families, saying he would stalk them "where you work, live, eat, and sleep."

Authorities took him at his word.

"Of course he knows what he's doing — we trained him," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. "It is extremely worrisome and scary, especially to the police officers involved."

The search on Friday remained centered in Big Bear, where Dorner's Nissan Titan was found burning on a forest road. Snowy tracks were spotted near the trucks, but did not lead to Dorner.


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About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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