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Los Angeles City Council bans use of wild, exotic animals for entertainment

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles City Council voted today to ban the use of exotic animals for entertainment purposes, effectively putting an end to traditional circuses and similar ventures within the city.

“The issue of wild, exotic animals being abused came to my doorstep four years ago, when a baby giraffe and elephant were being marched up the Hollywood Hills for a house party,” said Councilman David Ryu. “It is time that the city of Los Angeles makes absolutely clear that this abuse of animals is shameful, and we will not stand for it.”

The ban, which was passed on a 14-0 vote, also prohibits people from riding wild and exotic animals or using them in other entertainment purposes, whether a fee is charged or not.

The ban does not apply to typically domesticated animals such as horses.

Wildlife conservationists who obtain applicable permits and the Los Angeles Zoo, which exhibit animals for educational purposes but do not require them to perform tricks, are exempt from the ban.

It’s the strongest city ordinance in the nation that protects wild and exotic animals, according to Ryu.

According to the councilman, exotic animals such as elephants, giraffes and lions have been brought to lavish house parties in the Hollywood Hills for years.

Cal State LA to take part in new statewide civics program

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Cal State LA has been selected to participate in a new statewide fellowship program that encourages student dedication to community engagement and public service.

The Civic Action Fellowship program, which involves eight universities across California, was unveiled by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California Volunteers office during a Feb. 10 news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento.

Under the program, Cal State LA will select up to several dozen students who will serve as fellows with nonprofit organizations in eight cities and two unincorporated areas of Southeast Los Angeles County.

The nonprofits are working with community partners to address environmental, economic development, and health and education issues in neighborhoods that straddle the 710 Freeway.

Participating undergraduate and graduate students will sign up as AmeriCorps Fellows as part of the Civic Action Fellowship program. Scholarships will be awarded to the students after they complete their fellowships, according to the governor’s office.

“By deepening our partnerships with nonprofit organizations in Southeast Los Angeles, we will be better positioned to work together to serve our communities,” Cal State LA Provost and Executive Vice President Jose A. Gomez said.

Hollywood family therapist killed, ex-boyfriend arrested

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HOLLYWOOD (CNS) – A 41-year-old Playa del Rey man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering Dr. Amie Harwick, a prominent Hollywood marriage and sex therapist who was once engaged to “The Price is Right” host Drew Carey.    Gareth Pursehouse, a former boyfriend of the victim, was arrested about 4:30 p.m. Saturday and booked on suspicion of murdering Harwick, according to jail records and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Agents from the FBI-LAPD fugitive task force arrested Pursehouse outside his residence in the 8100 block of Cabora Drive in Playa del Rey. He was being held on $2 million bail.

On Saturday, at about 1:15 a.m., LAPD officers responded to a call about a woman screaming in the 2000 block of Mound Street in the Hollywood Hills, the department said.

When officers arrived, they were met by the victim’s roommate, who was in the street, police said. He told the officers Harwick was being assaulted inside the home. The roommate had left the house, jumped a wall and went to neighbors to call for police.

Responding officers found Harwick lying on the ground beneath a third-story balcony, the LAPD said. She was gravely injured and unresponsive. Paramedics took her to the hospital, where she later died.

The investigation found evidence of a forced entry and struggle inside the home, the LAPD reported. A canvass of the area found additional evidence of the killer entering the property and leaving.

Detectives learned that Harwick had recently talked about her fear of a Pursehouse, police said. She had taken out a restraining order against him but the order had since expired.

Harwick, 38, was a published author. According to TMZ, she and Carey started dating in 2017 and announced their engagement in early 2018, but split up later that year.

Anyone with information about the killing or about Pursehouse was asked to call West Bureau homicide detectives at 213-382-9470 or the LAPD’s 24-hour tipline at 877-527-3247. Tipsters can also call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.

Man killed in drive-by shooting in Altadena

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ALTADENA (CNS) – Sheriff’s officials continued to investigate the fatal drive-by shooting of a 45-year-old man in Altadena today.

An unknown suspect fired several shots at the victim in the 2000 block of Canyada Avenue at about 1 p.m. Sunday and then drove away, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau reported.

Deputies arriving at the scene reported seeing the victim suffering from at least one gunshot to the upper body near Canyada Avenue and Figueroa Drive.

The victim was rushed to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The sheriff’s department temporarily closed the eastbound and westbound lanes of Figueroa from Lincoln to Casitas avenues for an investigation.

A motive for the attack was unknown, and no suspect information was available.

The victim’s name was withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Anyone with information on this shooting was asked to call the LASD homicide bureau at 323-890-5500. Tipsters can also call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.

Multiple lanes scheduled to close overnight in Torrance through Tuesday

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TORRANCE (CNS) – Multiple lane closures are scheduled in Torrance tonight through Tuesday due to water main replacement in the area.

The southbound middle and curb lanes of Hawthorne Boulevard will be closed to traffic immediately north and south of the Pacific Coast Highway from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Thursday/Friday, Sunday/Monday and Monday/Tuesday, according to Torrance officials. Southbound to westbound right turns will be prohibited during those times, as well.

The eastbound curb lane of PCH will be closed immediately west of Hawthorne Boulevard. Eastbound to southbound right turns will be prohibited starting Thursday at 10 p.m. and ending Friday at 6 a.m., officials reported.

The westbound left turn lane, curb lane and middle lane of PCH will also be closed directly east of Hawthorne Boulevard. Westbound to southbound left turns will be prohibited starting Thursday at 10 p.m. and ending Friday at 6 a.m.

The southbound middle and curb lane of Hawthorne Boulevard will be closed to traffic immediately north of PCH on Sunday starting at 10 p.m. through Monday at 6 a.m. Southbound to westbound right turns will be prohibited, and the westbound middle and curb lane of PCH will be closed immediately to the east of Hawthorne Boulevard during that time, Torrance officials said.

The southbound middle and curb lane of Hawthorne Boulevard will be closed to traffic immediately north of PCH starting Monday at 10 p.m. and through Tuesday at 6 a.m, according to officials. Southbound to westbound right turns will be prohibited. The westbound middle and curb lane of PCH will be closed immediately to the east of Hawthorne Boulevard.

All lanes will be accessible between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily, Torrance officials.

Kobe memorial may require tickets; No outside ceremony or procession planned

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Tickets may be required to attend to the Feb. 24 Staples Center memorial for Kobe Bryant, sources told the Los Angeles Times.

No information has been released about tickets for the event, but the Times reports that several sources have said there are no plans for a ceremony outside the downtown Los Angeles venue nor at nearby L.A. Live. There are also no plans for a procession.

Those sources said that people without tickets will be encouraged to watch the event on TV rather than coming to the venue.

Deliberations to resume in trial of man charged with killing three in Downey

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NORWALK (CNS) – Jury deliberations are scheduled to resume today in the trial of a parolee accused of murdering three people and trying to kill two others in Downey about 7 1/2 years ago while pretending to be interested in buying a Chevrolet Camaro.

Jade Douglas Harris, 37, could face a potential death sentence if he is convicted of the Oct. 24, 2012, killings of Irene Cardenas Reyes, 35; Josimar Rojas, 26; and Susana Perez Ruelas, 34. The murder charges include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during the commission of a burglary, carjacking and kidnapping.

Harris is also charged with two counts of attempted murder involving two other people who were wounded, along with four counts of kidnapping for carjacking and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.

Deputy District Attorney John McKinney told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday that the evidence showed “beyond all doubt” that Harris “executed” the three victims and tried to kill two others, including Ruelas’ 13-year-old son, to silence them as witnesses so he could take the Camaro without paying for it.

Harris had been paroled in July 2012 — just three months shy of the killings — after being convicted in 2005 of robbery and attempted robbery, McKinney said.

“The plan was to kill everybody,” the prosecutor said. “The charade is over. This is not going to be a (car) sale.”

The deputy district attorney said Harris was “not leaving any witnesses” and that the victims were ”completely innocent in this.”

“He’s not going back to prison with another robbery,” McKinney said, telling jurors that Harris “systematically starts to execute them in front of Susanah” at a business in the 8700 block of Cleta Street. He had gone to the business under the “ruse” of being interested in buying the car, which had been advertised online, according to the prosecutor.

Harris then allegedly forced Ruelas to drive with her 13-year-old son to the family’s home, where the 2010 Camaro was parked and he allegedly shot and killed her and wounded her son before driving to Los Angeles in the car, the deputy district attorney said.

The prosecutor ended his closing argument by playing a recording of what he called one of the most powerful pieces of evidence in the case — the emotional 911 call from Ruelas’ teenage son, who told an emergency dispatcher that his mother had been killed and that he had been shot.

The car was recovered the next day, with DNA matching Harris found on a headrest, according to the prosecutor, who noted that gunshot residue was also discovered on a pair of the defendant’s jeans, according to the prosecutor.

One of Jade Douglas Harris’ attorneys, Thomas Moore, told jurors the defense trusted that jurors would comply with their duty to review all of the evidence and decide whether it supports each of the charges against Harris.

He told jurors they must acquit his client of any charge or allegation on which they find reasonable doubt.

“We trust in your judgment,” Moore told jurors.

Harris was arrested a day after the killings and has remained jailed without bail since then.

Car hits traffic circle in Long Beach, goes airborne

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LONG BEACH (CNS) – A motorist whose car slammed into a traffic circle in a Long Beach intersection today was taken into custody, police said.

The crash occurred about 2 a.m. at Fourth Street and Daisy Avenue, according to the Long Beach Police Department.

Marisela Ovalle, 27, of Gardena was booked on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and was being held on $30,000 bail, police said.

Security video showed the car veering over a curb, hitting a decorative boulder within the traffic circle and going airborne.

“The car … hit the boulder there, launching the boulder forward, hitting both the (parked) cars,” Angel Ruiz, owner of one of the parked cars, told NBC4.

The traffic circle was reportedly installed in the middle of the intersection a couple of years ago.

L.A. County DA says 66,000 marijuana convictions to be dismissed

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said today 66,000 marijuana convictions will soon be dismissed in terms of Proposition 64.

The dismissals are the result of a partnership between the DA’s Office and the nonprofit Code for America, according to a joint statement. Code for America uses computer algorithms to find eligible cases that are otherwise hard to find in court documents that date back decades.

“Today’s action marks the completion of the five-county Clear My Record pilot to clear marijuana-related convictions eligible for relief under Proposition 64. The other counties in the pilot include San Francisco, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Contra Costa,” according to a joint statement.

“In total, these five pilots will help reduce or dismiss more than 85,000 Proposition 64-eligible convictions.

Lacey, who is scheduled to hold a news conference this morning, said that “the dismissal of tens of thousands of old cannabis-related convictions in Los Angeles County will bring much-needed relief to communities of color that disproportionately suffered the unjust consequences of our nation’s drug laws. I am privileged to be part of a system dedicated to finding innovative solutions and implementing meaningful criminal justice reform that gives all people the support they need to build the life they deserve.”

Added Evonne Silva, Code for America’s Senior Program Director of Criminal Justice: “Today’s action marks the completion of our California Clear My Record pilot, through which we will have helped to dismiss and seal more than 85,000 marijuana convictions across the state.

“This is a clear demonstration that automatic record clearance is possible at scale and can help to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs. Looking forward, Code for America stands at the ready to help all California counties provide this much needed relief” in advance of a July 1, 2020 deadline, said Silva, who will appear with Lacey at this morning’s news conference.

Prosecutors this week asked a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to dismiss 62,000 felony cannabis convictions for cases that date back to 1961, the statement said. The District Attorney’s Office also sought the dismissal of approximately 4,000 misdemeanor cannabis possession cases that included cases filed in 10 Los Angeles County cities: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Torrance, Pasadena, Inglewood, Burbank, Santa Monica, Hawthorne, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach.

Approximately 53,000 individuals will receive conviction relief through this partnership. Of those, approximately 32% are black, 20% are white, 45% are Latino, and 3% are other or unknown, according to the statement.

Proposition 64 identifies three health and safety code sections that qualified for resentencing: cultivation of marijuana, possession for sale of marijuana and sales and/or transport of marijuana, all felonies. The law also includes dismissing possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor.

Lacey, who is running to be reelected, used additional criteria to go beyond the parameters of the new law to ensure the greatest number of dismissals, according to the statement. Those expanded parameters include persons who are 50 years or older, haven’t had a felony conviction in the past 10 years or have successfully completed probation for cannabis convictions.

Based on this criteria, Code for America created a unique algorithm for the DA’s office in order to fast-track the identification of eligible convictions. This technology can analyze eligibility for thousands of convictions in seconds, alleviating the need for DA staff to go through state criminal records one by one to evaluate eligibility, saving time and significant resources.

In California, all county District Attorney’s Offices are required to implement AB 1793 by July 1, 2020. Earlier this year, Code for America launched its new Clear My Record Application and Implementation Blueprint, available at no cost and open source to all California counties. These resources allow every district attorneys’ office to expedite and streamline review of Proposition 64 convictions.

“Code for America has received an overwhelming interest from counties in accessing these resources to carry out the law,” according to the statement. Code for America stands ready to work with counties that have not yet used this technology to help them automate the record clearance process and provide relief as required by law.”

The current record clearance process was not designed to reach everyone who is eligible, according to the statement. With the current petition- based process, each person seeking relief must petition the court to clear their records, but this is a time-consuming, expensive, and confusing process. Only 3% of those eligible for relief under Proposition 64 have received it.

To find out if one’s record has been cleared, or for more information about this initiative, people affected should contact the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office by phone at 323-760-6763 or visit http://pubdef.lacounty.gov.

Los Angeles Controller debuts map of African American heritage sites

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – In honor of African American Heritage Month, Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin released an online map today identifying public sites and resources that highlight the black history in the city.

The map, titled “African American Heritage Across Los Angeles,” showcases 28 places, monuments and institutions that are recognized as culturally or historically significant to the development of the city’s black community, Galperin said.

“The African-American community’s influence on Los Angeles has been indelible, from the days of Biddy Mason to the 20-year tenure of Mayor Tom Bradley and the muralists whose public art makes our neighborhoods so vibrant today,” Galperin said. “This map highlights some of our city’s most important historical sites, along with others that deserve greater public visibility, illustrating how much African-Americans have done to shape our city’s progress and transformation into a diverse, modern and culturally rich metropolis.”

The map allows users to explore places of worship, museums, notable residences and other historically and culturally important public landmarks and spaces throughout the city that underscore the contributions of the black community.

There is also information on the current number of African-American city workers and elected officials in an infographic released with the map.

The map can be found at lacontroller.org/aaheritage.

More resource maps such as Latinx heritage sites, resources for emergency preparedness, LGBTQ homeless youth, tax preparation, affordable housing incentives, domestic violence services, youth programs, summer fun activities and more can be found at lacontroller.org/resourcemaps.