Bail revoked for suspected freeway shooter in death of six-year-old boy

An Orange County Superior Court judge on Friday, June 18, revoked the bail of the man accused of fatally shooting a 6-year-old boy on the 55 Freeway in Orange last month while postponing the consideration of reducing the $500,000 bail of the suspected driver until her background is investigated and her mental health evaluated.

His bail had been $2 million.

Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, and Wynne Lee, 23, both pleaded not guilty to the charges they face through their attorneys.

Her attorney said her bail amount for the crimes she is accused of is excessively high and he wants it drastically lowered. The judge will again consider her bail on Friday, June 25.

Eriz has been charged with murder and shooting into an inhabited vehicle in the May 21 shooting along the northbound 55. Lee has been charged with being an accessory after the fact and a misdemeanor count of concealing a firearm inside a vehicle.

Though Eriz’s attorney, Randy Berthune, said Eriz didn’t intend on posting bail, Orange County Superior Court Judge Larry Yellin revoked it, noting Eriz’s behavior after the allegations that he discovered his shot killed Aiden, including hiding the car and the gun and changing his appearance.

“The court finds it very alarming,” the judge said. “It seems to me that Mr. Eriz is a complete danger to the community, to society.”

The morning hearing in Santa Ana was the second time Eriz, 24, and Lee, 23, appeared in the courtroom virtually, as the pair are in a mandatory 14-day quarantine at the county jail. During a previous hearing, they appeared virtually from separate jail facilities in front of Yellin.

Lee’s parents, who attended the hearing, declined to comment.

Friday’s hearing comes on the heels of prosecutors filing court papers this week that offered their most detailed narrative yet for what they say occurred before, during and after the shooting of Aiden Leos. Eriz is charged with murder and firing into an occupied car, while Lee is charged with being an accessory after the fact and storing a concealed firearm in a vehicle.

On May 21, Leos’ mother, Joanna Cloonan was driving the boy to kindergarten around 8 a.m. when her Chevrolet Sonic was cut off and nearly hit by a Volkswagen Golf Sportswagen driven by Lee, according to prosecutors. Lee made a peace sign gesture toward Cloonan, prosecutors said, but the mother remained angry and when Cloonan changed lanes near Chapman Avenue in Orange she put up her middle finger while passing the Volkswagen.

The mother then heard a “loud bang,” followed by her son saying “Ow” from his booster seat in the rear of the Chevrolet, according to the court filing. Within the hour, Aiden was dead from a chest wound.

Prosecutors say that after the shooting Eriz and Lee continued the drive to their job in Highland, where they worked before returning home to Costa Mesa. They continued the routine the following week, prosecutors said, at one point getting into a second “altercation” on the 91 Freeway when Eriz is accused of flashing a gun at another driver.

Eriz later told investigators that it wasn’t until May 28 that he learned of Leos’ death, prosecutors said, when he read an online article after a co-worker remarked that the Volkswagen he traveled in looked like a vehicle police were searching for. During that same interview, Eriz told investigators that he immediately “knew he was responsible for the boy’s death” and “told (Lee) about his revelation,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors allege that Eriz hid the Volkswagen in a relative’s garage, and he and Lee began taking Eriz’s truck to work. Eriz shaved his beard, began wearing his long hair tied back, and, along with Lee, applied for new jobs, prosecutors added.

It isn’t clear exactly what landed Eriz and Lee on law enforcement’s radar. But the couple were taken into custody on June 6 at their Costa Mesa apartment. Officers reported recovering both the car and the gun.

The arrest came a day after Leos’ memorial service and the day before his burial.

In charging Eriz with murder, prosecutors plan to argue a “depraved heart theory” in which he acted with such reckless disregard that he should have known he was creating an unusually high risk of death to another person.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


Source: Orange County Register

Here’s how to use California’s new COVID vaccine verification system

Vaccinated Californians now have a new way to show they are inoculated against the coronavirus without carrying around a flimsy paper card.

The state on Friday launched a new digital tool that lets residents access their COVID-19 vaccine record from the state’s immunization registry.

The tool is available at myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov. People will be asked to enter their name, birthdate, and an email or phone number associated with their vaccine record. They’ll create a 4-digit PIN that can be used to open a link containing their vaccine information. The tool will also include a QR code that residents can screenshot and show to businesses, sports venues and other places, which will be able to scan the code and verify that someone is vaccinated.

“It’s really for the purpose of empowering individuals,” Amy Tong, director of the California Department of Technology, said Friday during a call with reporters.

The tool was built by the state using the open-source SMART Health Card Framework, which is being used by a range of public and private organizations, including UC Health, Walmart and others.

Rick Klau, the state’s chief tech innovation officer said the system is secure because the state digitally signs the contents of the QR code, so when the code is scanned, the signature can be confirmed against the one the state has officially provided. Businesses will be able to see the information — which matches what is on the paper vaccination cards — but they will not be able to save it or copy it.

California State Epidemiologist Erica Pan sidestepped a question during the call about how the tool is different from a vaccine passport, a term Gov. Gavin Newsom has avoided.

The tool, which is free to use, will be optional. There is no app version available.

Check back for more on this developing story.


Source: Orange County Register

Abandoned newborn found in Lynwood park restroom trash can

LYNWOOD — Two women were wanted Friday morning for questioning in connection with the discovery of a newborn baby boy in a restroom at Yvonne Burke-John D. Ham Park in Lynwood.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said it received a call about 8 a.m. June 11 regarding the infant.

“The baby was found by a park visitor as she entered the restroom and heard what she described as a whimpering noise coming from the trash can,” said Lt. John Adams of the LASD Special Victim’s Bureau. “She checked the contents of the trash can and found the baby amongst the rubbish. She immediately rescued the baby and called 911.”

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Deputies and fire department personnel responded to the scene and provided aid to the boy, Adams said.

The baby, believed to have been born in the bathroom, was hospitalized with stable vital signs. The newborn’s parents or guardians have not been identified.

The baby was placed into the care of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, Adams said, adding, the “adoption process is well underway.”

“The sheriff’s department has received many inquiries about adopting this baby, including from our own personnel,” he said. “We’ve had detectives here at our unit, we’ve had fire personnel, we’ve had nurses that treated this baby at the hospital inquire about adoption. Needless to say, this baby is quite the celebrity at this point.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department released these images of two persons of interest and the pink, three-wheeled stroller they had with them in the investigation of a newborn found abandoned in a restroom trash can at Yvonne Burke- John D. Ham Park in Lynwood. (Image courtesy of LASD)

The sheriff’s department on Wednesday afternoon released images of two female suspects seen with a young girl and a pink three-wheeled stroller in the area and said they were being sought for questioning.

Anyone with information on the baby or the persons of interest was asked to call the LASD’s Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273. Tipsters can also call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.


Source: Orange County Register

Flashing yellow arrows on traffic signals are here to stay

Q. Fullerton and other cities have had flashing amber signals for years. I, my wife and our friends don’t like them and there are still drivers who don’t know what to do when they come upon them. We respond to them like we would to any amber signal. I hope that’s right. If it is a trial, when will it end? Some drivers are hesitant to even enter the intersection, until they get beeped from the car behind them.

– Don Schilling, Anaheim

A. Fifteen or so years ago, Fullerton was one of only a handful of cities in California that had the yellow flashing arrows on some traffic signals, part of an Uncle Sam test run with them.

They are meant to give the driver the opportunity to turn left – just reminding the motorist to be extra careful if he or she chooses to do so.

In December 2009, ol’ Uncle Sam decided he liked them, and the U.S. Department of Transportation approved the strategy, Dave Roseman, Fullerton’s traffic engineer, told Honk.

“Now you can find them in almost every state in the union,” he said in an email. Studies have “shown that the flashing-yellow-arrow operation has a lower crash rate than permissive (allowed, but not required) left-turns under a green-ball indication.

“In Southern California, the flashing yellow arrow isn’t as prevalent as it is in other parts of the country; however, slowly more and more are being installed here, too.

“When approaching a flashing yellow arrow, you are free to move into the intersection and proceed to make your left turn if there is a sufficient gap in oncoming traffic to complete that turn and there are no pedestrians crossing the street to your left,” Roseman said.

Q. Honk: Thanks for the information on the gas tax. This raised a question in my mind. Californians buy billions of gallons of motor fuel each year, taxed at 50.5 cents per gallon by the state, producing billions of dollars in revenue for transportation projects, including road construction. The governor wants to phase out gas-powered vehicles; by 2035, he wants all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California to be zero-emission. Who will provide the funds to build and maintain the roads for these environmentally friendly vehicles?

– Martin DeKarver, Irvine

A. Motorists.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office, a non-partisan wing of state government, says that tax you are talking about, Martin, will raise $6.6 billion this fiscal year. State officials, seeing what you see, have begun planning for a new way to tax the public.

The California Transportation Commission is studying the issue, and its 97-page report that came out in 2017 suggests scenarios.

Honk envisions this: A per-mile road charge will be tabulated by an on-vehicle computer; we might pay at the pump or in some other fashion.

There are more questions than stars in the sky. But expect a heightened urgency for crafting a road-charge system as more and more electric vehicles, and those that get amazing gas mileage, hit the roadways.

Honkin’ fact: Orange County’s Dana, Newport and Sunset harbors are home to 15,000 boats, while 70,000 in all are registered in the county; most, of course, are on land until moving to the Pacific, a lake or a pond for the day via trailers. (Source: Orange County Sheriff’s Department).

To ask Honk questions, reach him at honk@ocregister.com. He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: ocregister.com/tag/honk. Twitter: @OCRegisterHonk


Source: Orange County Register

Americans can pack bags for Europe, as EU lifts coronavirus travel restrictions

By Nikos Chrysoloras and Siddharth Philip | Bloomberg

The European Union lifted travel restrictions for U.S. residents, in the latest step toward a return to normal flying despite concerns over the spread of potentially dangerous coronavirus variants.

Albania, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Macau, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Taiwan were also added to a so-called “white list” of countries from which non-essential travel is allowed. The new rules will take effect within days, as soon as they are published in the Official Journal of the EU.

Some EU member states already allow vaccinated Americans to visit. Inclusion in the white list means restrictions on fully inoculated U.S. residents will now be lifted across the bloc. Countries also have leeway to grant entry to unvaccinated visitors from those places without requiring a quarantine.

The move will provide a boost for major carriers such as Air France-KLM and Deutsche Lufthansa AG that ply the profitable transatlantic corridors along with their American counterparts. Long-distance travel has been hit hard by restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

The decision is “great news for the EU economies and all transatlantic travel supply chain participants,” said Martin Ferguson, vice president of public affairs at corporate travel agency American Express Global Business Travel. “We anticipate a strong return of bookings on these routes.”

U.S. Reciprocity

Still, traffic across the Atlantic hasn’t been fully restored, with U.S. presidential proclamations banning Europeans from visiting still in place. The EU is pushing Joe Biden’s administration to reciprocate by lifting curbs for its citizens, as vaccinations progress across the continent and the number of coronavirus infections falls sharply.

Some diplomats in Brussels were wary of allowing Americans to return before the U.S. agreed to reciprocate. The bloc decided to go ahead amid pressure from the tourism-dependent economies ahead of the summer season.

“The latest vaccination data and low virus spread in Europe would allow for this to happen in a safe manner,” trade group Airlines for Europe said in an email.

While U.S. carriers such as Delta Air Lines, United Airlines Holdings and American Airlines Group Inc also make large profits from transatlantic routes, their recovery has benefited from a rapid rebound in domestic flying. Ticket sales in the U.S. in May grew 18% compared with April, the fifth straight month of growth, according to data from Airlines Reporting Corp.

U.K. Plan

The expansion of EU’s white list, which already included Japan, comes as internal travel within the bloc is being restored for those who are vaccinated or can prove that they have recently recovered from the virus. As of July 1, holders of so-called digital Covid certificates will be able to move freely anywhere in the EU’s 27 member states 14 days after the last shot.

The U.K. is also considering allowing quarantine-free travel for those who have been fully inoculated, in what would offer a major boost to southern European economies for which Britain is a major tourist market.

It would also provide some relief to IAG SA-owned British Airways, which had the biggest share of all carriers in the market for transatlantic flights before the pandemic.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.


Source: Orange County Register

Princess Cruises plans fall sailings departing from LA, SF, Ft. Lauderdale

SANTA CLARITA — Princess Cruises announced Thursday, June 17, that it intends to return to service in the United States this fall, sailing from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Fort Lauderdale.

Between Sept. 25 and Nov. 28, eight Princess Medallion-class ships will once again take guests to the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mexico, Hawaii and California coast, according to the Santa Clarita-based cruise line.

“As we continue our return to service, it is a thrill for us to be able to bring more cruise vacation options to our travel-starved guests,” Princess Cruises President Jan Swartz said. “We appreciate the support of government and port officials who we worked closely with to make these travel opportunities available in a thoughtful and safe way for our guests.”

Throughout 2021, guests will need to show proof that they have received their final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of their cruise. Crew vaccinations will be in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Dining, entertainment and shore excursion details are being finalized and expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Among the cruises that will return to operation are:

  •  Majestic Princess and Grand Princess departing from Los Angeles up the California coast and to Mexico: three-, five- and seven-day cruises, and the Hawaiian Islands on 15-day cruises;
  •  Ruby Princess: departing from San Francisco, seven-day California Coast cruises, 15-day cruises exploring four Hawaiian islands and 10-day Mexico cruises;
  •  Enchanted Princess: two new cruises departing from Fort Lauderdale, including 10-day cruises to the Southern and Eastern Caribbean;
  •  Sky Princess, Regal Princess and Caribbean Princess: departing from Fort Lauderdale, an island hopper through the Caribbean with three-, five-, seven- and 14-day cruises in the Eastern and Western Caribbean, allowing guests to explore Mayan ruins, unspoiled coral reefs and underwater caves; and
  •  Crown Princess: departing from Fort Lauderdale to Panama Canal, a series of 10-day cruises.

The company said it would continue to monitor the latest guidance from the CDC as well as from local, state and federal officials in the ports at which it docks, and adjust onboard protocols as necessary.

Guests can cancel for any reason up to 30 days before departure and receive a future cruise credit for any cancellation fees and refund of additional funds received to the original payment method. Guests may also cancel and receive the same future cruise credit and refund within 30 days up until sailing day if they test positive for COVID-19.


Source: Orange County Register

Israel strikes Gaza after Hamas sends incendiary balloons

By Joseph Krauss | Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israel launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip late Thursday for a second time since a shaky cease-fire ended last month’s 11-day war. The strikes came after activists mobilized by Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers launched incendiary balloons into Israel for a third straight day.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the strikes, which could be heard from Gaza City. Israel also carried out airstrikes early Wednesday, targeting what it is said were Hamas facilities, without killing or wounding anyone.

The military said fighter jets struck Hamas “military compounds and a rocket launch site” late Thursday in response to the balloons. It said its forces were preparing for a “variety of scenarios including a resumption of hostilities.”

Rocket sirens went off in Israeli communities near Gaza shortly after the airstrikes. The military later said they were triggered by “incoming fire, not rockets.”

Surveillance camera footage obtained by The Associated Press showed what appeared to be heavy machine-gun fire into the air from Gaza, a possible attempt by Palestinian militants to shoot down aircraft. Other footage showed projectiles being fired from Gaza, but it was unclear what kind or where they landed.

Tensions have remained high since a cease-fire halted the war on May 21, even as Egyptian mediators have met with Israeli and Hamas officials to try and shore up the informal truce.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and countless smaller skirmishes since the Islamic militant group seized power from rival Palestinians forces in 2007. Israel and Egypt have imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians, since Hamas took over.

Earlier, Israeli police used stun grenades and a water cannon spraying skunk water to disperse Palestinian protesters from Damascus Gate in east Jerusalem, the epicenter of weeks of protests and clashes in the run-up to the Gaza war.

After the crowds were dispersed, Palestinians could be seen throwing rocks and water bottles at ultra-Orthodox Jews walking in the area.

Calls had circulated for protesters to gather at Damascus Gate in response to a rally held there by Jewish ultranationalists on Tuesday in which dozens of Israelis had chanted “Death to Arabs” and “May your village burn.” The police had forcibly cleared the square and provided security for that rally, part of a parade to celebrate Israel’s conquest of east Jerusalem.

In a separate incident, a Palestinian teenager died Thursday after being shot by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank during a protest against a settlement outpost, the fourth demonstrator to be killed since the outpost was established last month.

The Israeli military said Wednesday that a soldier stationed near the wildcat outpost in the West Bank saw a group of Palestinians approaching, and that one “hurled a suspicious object at him, which exploded adjacent to the soldier.” The army said that the soldier fired in the air, then shot the Palestinian who threw the object.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Thursday that Ahmad Shamsa, 15, died of a gunshot wound sustained a day earlier.

Settlers established the outpost, which they refer to as Eviatar, near the northern West Bank town of Nablus last month and say it is now home to dozens of families. Palestinians say it is built on private land and fear it will grow and merge with other large settlements nearby.

Nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers live in some 130 settlements across the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians and much of the international community view the settlements as a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace.

Israeli authorities have evacuated the outpost on several occasions. They appear reluctant to do so this time because it would embarrass Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other right-wing members of the fragile government sworn in over the weekend.

Palestinians from the nearby village of Beita have held several protests in which demonstrators have hurled stones and Israeli troops have fired tear gas and live ammunition. Four Palestinians have been killed since mid-May, including Shamsa and another teenager.

The Israeli military also shot and killed a Palestinian woman on Wednesday, saying she had tried to ram her car into a group of soldiers guarding a West Bank construction site.

In a statement, the army said soldiers fired at the woman in Hizmeh, just north of Jerusalem, after she exited the car and pulled out a knife. The statement did not say how close the woman was to the soldiers, and the army did not release any photos or video of the incident.

The family of Mai Afaneh insisted she had no reason or ability to carry out an attack.

In recent years, Israel has seen a series of shootings, stabbings and car ramming attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians in the occupied West Bank. Most have been carried out by Palestinians with no apparent links to organized militant groups.

Palestinians and Israeli human rights groups say the soldiers often use excessive force and could have stopped some assailants without killing them. In some cases, they say that innocent people have been identified as attackers and shot.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority exerts limited self-rule in population centers, as part of a future state along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Israel captured all three territories in the 1967 war and says Jerusalem is indivisible. There have been no substantive peace talks in more than a decade.

Associated Press reporters Adel Hana and Khalil Hamra in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Isaac Scharf in Jerusalem contributed.


Source: Orange County Register

Frank Bonner, scene-stealing actor on ‘WKRP in Cincinnati,’ dies at 79

By Antonio Ferme | Variety

Frank Bonner, the veteran actor who became famous for portraying Herb Tarlek on the TV sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” died Wednesday. He was 79.

Bonner’s family confirmed to TMZ that the actor died as a result of complications from Lewy body dementia.

Desiree Boers-Kort, Bonner’s daughter, posted in a “WKRP In Cincinnati” Facebook group, saying that the actor “loved his fans and was still signing autograph requests up until the last few weeks of his illness. Thank you to all who followed his career. He will be forever missed. “

Bonner appeared in 88 of the 90 episodes of “WKRP in Cincinnati,” which aired for four seasons from 1978-82. He also directed six episodes of the sitcom, which followed the misadventures of the staff of a struggling rock radio station in Cincinnati. Bonner’s character was a tasteless sales manager at the station who often failed to secure deals with major advertising agencies. From his signature white belt and shoes to his polyester suits, “plaid boy” would often come into work and be laughed at for his loud outfits. His catchphrase, “Hokay, fine,” was a response used when acknowledging decisions that he didn’t particularly like.

Bonner starred alongside Gary Sandy as program director Andy Travis; Howard Hesseman as veteran disc jockey Dr. Johnny Fever; Gordon Jump as the indecisive general manager Arthur Carlson; Loni Anderson as the good-hearted receptionist Jennifer Marlowe; Tim Reid as the funky evening DJ Venus Flytrap; Jan Smithers as the young station worker Bailey Quarters and Richard Sanders as the meticulous, bow-tied news reporter Les Nessman. Bonner and Sanders reprised their role for the sequel series “The New WKRP in Cincinnati,” which ran from 1991-93.

Born Feb. 28, 1942, in Little Rock, Ark., Bonner was the son of singer Mamie Grace and saxophone player Frank Woodrow Boers. He began his acting career in “The Equinox … A Journey Into the Supernatural,” an experimental film released in 1967 that was re-released in 1970 under the title “Equinox.” Bonner went on to guest star on sitcoms such as “Nancy” (1970) and “Love, American Style” (1974). Before appearing on “WKRP in Cincinnati,” the actor appeared on popular dramas including “Mannix” (1971), “The F.B.I.” (1973), “Emergency!” (1973) and “Cannon” (1974-75).

In addition to portraying Mr. Harrington on four episodes of “Saved by the Bell: The New Class” (1994), Bonner made other television appearances in “The Duck Factory” (1984), “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” (1985) and “Punky Brewster” (1986). The actor also played Det. R.T. Mooney in “Sidekicks” (1986) and Father Robert Hargis on the “Growing Pains” spin-off “Just the Ten of Us” (1988-90).

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Source: Orange County Register

When buying a home, the devil is in the details

One of the contingencies written into the Residential Purchase Agreement in California is Section 13 – Title and Vesting.

It specifies:

“Title is taken in its present condition subject to all encumbrances, easements, covenants, conditions, restrictions, rights and other matters, whether of record or not.”

The section goes on to list the following exceptions: monetary liens of record (which seller is obligated to pay off) unless buyer is assuming those obligations or taking the property subject to those obligations; and those matters which seller has agreed in writing to remove.

For buyers, this means that when you receive a copy of the Preliminary Title Report (known in industry jargon the as “the prelim”) in the beginning of your escrow, you should read it.

Yes, there might be some language that you are not familiar with, some new terms and some legal notations you don’t understand. That’s okay. There are resources to help you.

Here’s a brief breakdown of what might show up on the prelim and whom you might ask for clarification.

The water, electric, gas and cable companies often have easements to access their infrastructure, devices and meters on your prospective property. You can’t fight these, nor do you want to, in most cases. This is just a disclosure that people from these entities are allowed access to your property to keep their services in working order or to prevent disaster.

If the property is in a planned unit development like a condo complex or a gated community, there might be a homeowner’s association with covenants, conditions, and restrictions dictating what you can and can’t do outside and around your home. You will receive the documentation of these during escrow, and you should read those as well.

If you have any questions, there will be a contact phone number for the HOA or property management company. Don’t hesitate to contact them.

If the current owners have a mortgage, this will show up on the prelim with the original loan amount and the date it was issued. This may not be the amount the sellers currently owe, especially if the loan was taken out several decades ago. If this is a concern or a curiosity to you, you might call your escrow officer to find out the current loan balance.

Finally, if there are liens on the property, these will have to be resolved before the Title Insurance Policy can be issued.

Who can put a lien on real property?

Well, for starters, the Internal Revenue Service and the California Franchise Tax Board for any unpaid back taxes. The homeowner’s association can also record a lien for any unpaid HOA dues.

And let’s not forget the Department of Justice, which can place a lean on the property for any unpaid judgments.

If any of these show up on the prelim, call your agent or your escrow officer to find out how the seller is planning to clear them off of the title and how long that is likely to take.

Leslie Sargent Eskildsen is an agent with RealtyOne Group West. She can be reached at 949-678-3373 or leslie@leslieeskildsen.com.


Source: Orange County Register

Supreme Court backs Nestle, Cargill in child slave labor suit

By JESSICA GRESKO | The Associated Press

WASHINGTON  — The Supreme Court on Thursday sided with food giants Nestle and Cargill in a lawsuit that claimed they knowingly bought cocoa beans from farms in Africa that used child slave labor.

The justices ruled 8-1 in favor of the food companies and against a group of six adult citizens of Mali that claimed they were taken from their country as children and forced to work on cocoa farms in neighboring Ivory Coast.

The justices said an appeals court was wrong to let the group’s lawsuit go forward.

“Although respondents’ injuries occurred entirely overseas, the Ninth Circuit held that respondents could sue in federal court because the defendant corporations allegedly made ‘major operational decisions’ in the United States. The Ninth Circuit erred by allowing this suit to proceed,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a majority opinion for the court.

The case had been twice dismissed at an early stage before being revived by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. When the case was argued in December, then-President Donald Trump’s administration backed Nestle and Cargill.

The argument of the group from Mali is that Minneapolis-based Cargill and the American arm of Switzerland-based Nestle “aided and abetted” their slavery as children by, among other things, buying cocoa beans from farms that used child labor. The group sued seeking to bring a class action lawsuit on behalf of themselves and who they say are thousands of other former child slaves.

Nestle and Cargill have said they have taken steps to combat child slavery and have denied any wrongdoing.

The case involves a law enacted by the very first Congress in 1789, the Alien Tort Statute, which permits foreign citizens to sue in U.S. courts for human rights abuses. The question for the justices was whether it permits lawsuits against American companies.

The high court in recent years has limited the use of the Alien Tort Statute. In 2018, the court ruled that foreign businesses cannot be sued under the law. In that case, the court rejected an attempt by Israeli victims of attacks in the West Bank and Gaza to use U.S. courts to sue Jordan-based Arab Bank, which they said helped finance the attacks.

The case is Nestle USA v. Doe I, 19-416, and Cargill Inc. v. Doe I, 19-453.


Source: Orange County Register

Mapped: How California home price jumped $26 every hour

Just how crazy is California’s homebuying market?

Well, my trusty spreadsheet’s analysis of California Association of Realtors’ sales data for May shows the median selling price of an existing single-family home at $818,260 median, up $230,190 in a year. That translates to an increase equal to $26.28 every hour over the past 12 months.

Cheap mortgage rates have fueled the buying frenzy out of a pandemic-chilled economy. Last month’s statewide homebuying pace was up 87% from May 2020’s depressed and locked-down market.

Quick purchases and some owners’ reluctance to sell has limited house hunters’ options. Inventory in May was equal to 1.8 months of home sales vs. 4.3 in May 2020. It took just 7 days on the market for a home to go from new listing to escrow vs. 17 in May 2020.

Here’s how the purchasing binge broke down in key California regions …

Southern California: $752,250 median; up $187,250 in a year or $21.38 every hour. Sales pace up 80% in a year. Inventory? 1.8 months vs. 4.5 a year earlier with 7 days on market vs. 18 in 2020.

Bay Area: $1.34 million median; up $375,000 in a year or $42.81 every hour. Sales pace up 105% in a year. Inventory? 1.5 months vs. 3.8 a year earlier with 8 days on market vs. 17 in 2020.

Central Coast: $900,000 median; up $221,500 in a year or $25.29 every hour. Sales pace up 112% in a year. Inventory? 2 months vs. 6.4 a year earlier with 9 days on market vs. 17 in 2020.

Central Valley: $445,000 median; up $95,000 in a year or $10.84 every hour. Sales pace up 44% in a year. Inventory? 1.6 months vs. 3.3 a year earlier with 6 days on market vs. 13 in 2020.

Far North: $365,000 median; up $66,000 in a year or $7.53 every hour. Sales pace up 59% in a year. Inventory? 2.5 months vs. 5.7 a year earlier with 11 days on market vs. 27.5 in 2020.

At the county level, of the 51 tracked by the Realtors’ group, here’s the highs and lows …

Median price: No. 1 was San Mateo at $2.08 million then San Francisco at $1.9 million. Low? Lassen at $247,450 then Siskiyou at $289,000.

One-year price gain, in dollars: Biggest was Santa Barbara at $661,500 and Mono at $619,850. Low? Kern at $47,000 and Lassen at $52,450.

One-year price gain, in percentage points: Largest was Mono up 119% and Santa Barbara at 104%. Low? Marin at 9% and Sonoma at 16%.

Dollar gain, per hour: High was Santa Barbara at $75.51 and Mono at $70.76. Low? Kern at $5.37 then Lassen at $5.99.

One-year sales gain? Top was Mono at 400% then Plumas at 260%. Low? Del Norte, off at 59%; Glenn, off 8%.

Jonathan Lansner is business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com


Source: Orange County Register

Ballot box battle from the 2020 election might spark a new state law in ’21

State Sen. Tom Umberg is confident that if the bill he’s pitching as a way to boost voter protections had been in place last fall, someone from the California Republican Party would be facing criminal penalties today.

But as it stands, the issue Democrat Umberg hopes to fix — the clear labeling of ballot drop boxes — remains a legal gray area, with nobody of either political party facing legal problems connected to drop boxes from the 2020 election.

The incident that got Umberg interested in the topic happened nearly seven months ago. That’s when the California GOP deployed unofficial drop boxes at political offices, churches, gun shops and other locations throughout the state as a way to collect ballots for the November election.

While it’s legal in California to collect ballots from voters and turn them in, there are restrictions on how such ballots are handled. And online photos circulating in the weeks prior to the November election suggested that the ballot boxes set up by the GOP — at least initially — didn’t follow the guidelines. One photo showed a mobile drop box on a Castaic sidewalk (a potential violation), and another showed a box in Orange County that had been inaccurately labeled as “official.”

The GOP said the word “official” was quickly removed, and that any boxes shown outside were only there in transit, insisting that their deployment of ballot drop boxes was allowed under California’s permissive ballot collection laws. Still, those early reports about the boxes triggered criminal investigations, international headlines and legal tensions between state authorities the California Republican Party.

But state and local authorities eventually dropped all investigations after the Attorney General’s office said it gained confidence that all collected ballots were counted and that ballot handling guidelines would be followed going forward.

The controversy isn’t over, though.

A GOP staffer who last fall was the face of the scandal — he’d posted a photo of himself using the party’s “official” ballot drop box in Orange County — is now raising funds to sue for defamation over the incident.

And the California Republican Party has indicated it plans to use the same ballot box strategy to collect votes during the election to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom this fall and in next year’s regular elections.

“As we did successfully in 2020, we will have a robust (get out the vote) operation this cycle, in accordance with all state laws,” said Ellie Hockenbury, spokesperson for the state GOP. “Those efforts helped us flip four Congressional seats and an Assembly seat last year, will help us recall the worst governor in California history this year, and will help us win back the House and make Kevin McCarthy Speaker of the House next year.”

Then there’s Umberg’s Senate Bill 35, which has passed the State Senate on a 29-2 vote and is now making its way through the Assembly.

Umberg said he authored the bill after reading stories about the controversial ballot drop boxes, and another story about an apparently unofficial polling station that Republicans organized in Westminster for last election day.

The Orange County District Attorney recently closed its investigation into the Westminster incident, and agency spokesperson Kimberly Edds said this week that no criminal charges were filed.

Umberg’s bill would make it illegal for anyone to use the word “official” on an unofficial ballot drop box, or to otherwise promote “an unofficial ballot box that is likely to deceive a voter into believing the voter is placing a ballot into a secure collection box that has been approved by an elections official.”

The bill also would double the minimum distance between where voting is taking place and where electioneering is allowed, bumping it from 100 to 200 feet, to prevent any harassment of voters.

Criminal penalties for violating existing voting laws would also apply to violators of SB 35’s provisions, meaning an offender could be fined as much as $1000, or serve up to three years in prison, or both.

Umberg said he hopes the law will dissuade people from even pushing the boundaries of ballot collection, and that criminal penalties won’t be needed.

Though other states recently have passed laws aimed at limiting voting, Umberg noted election law in California typically pushes for more access, not less.

“Contrary to the trends in other parts of the country, we in California at least can make sure voters who are eligible to vote have the opportunity and have confidence that their ballots will be safely counted,” he said.

The 2020 elections by and large went very smoothly, Umberg and elections officials have said. But, he added, something new always pops up.

“A year ago I never would have thought, ‘Someone is going to put a drop box … in front of their office, and call it ‘official.’ I would have thought, ‘That’s never going to happen.’ Sure enough, it happened.

“You can’t tell what the next bad idea might be,” he added. “But when we see it, we have to address it.”

Even if SB 35 passes the Assembly and is signed by Newsom, it won’t affect this year’s recall election. Because it’s not an urgency ordinance, SB 35 wouldn’t take effect until Jan. 1.

Officials for the both Attorney General and Secretary of State said their offices are still reviewing pending legislation and haven’t taken a position on SB 35.

Meanwhile, the man who last year became the face of the California Republican Party’s use of drop boxes to collect ballots has raised nearly $6,000, money that he says will help pay the legal fees for his planned defamation suits and for related public relations efforts.

In October, when Jordan Tygh, 29, of Laguna Beach, was a regional field director for the state GOP, working in the 48th District to support Rep. Michelle Steel’s campaign, he tweeted a photo of himself kneeling in front of a metal container labeled “Official ballot drop off box.” He said the goal was to get Republican voters to use the drop box, and he urged voters to direct message him for directions.

That tweet — and reports of similar boxes popping up throughout California — soon drew coverage from international media, and Tygh’s photo was seen everywhere from CNN to “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Tygh won’t yet say who he plans to sue, though his GoFundMe page says he believes he has “strong defamation and slander claims against many media personalities, left wing organizations, and notable political figures.” He paid $1,500 in April to retain legal help from the office of Harmeet Dhillon, a conservative attorney who’s led the charge in pushing back against Newsom’s stay-at-home orders.

“Despite no criminal wrongdoing, military service and a clean record, I’m still working to clean up the damage from this reputational assault,” Tygh says on his GoFundMe page.

“I fully plan on striking back and holding them accountable.”


Source: Orange County Register

Chinese crew enters new space station on 3-month mission

By SAM McNEIL | Associated Press

JIUQUAN, China — Three Chinese astronauts arrived Thursday at China’s new space station at the start of a three-month mission, marking another milestone in the country’s ambitious space program.

Their Shenzhou-12 craft connected with the space station module about six hours after taking off from the Jiuquan launch center on the edge of the Gobi Desert.

About three hours later, commander Nie Haisheng, 56, followed by Liu Boming, 54, and space rookie Tang Hongbo, 45, opened the hatches and floated into the Tianhe-1 core living module. Pictures showed them busy at work unpacking equipment.

“This represents the first time Chinese have entered their own space station,” state broadcaster CCTV said on its nightly news broadcast.

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Chinese astronauts, from left, Tang Hongbo, Liu Boming, and Nie Haisheng wave as they prepare to board for liftoff at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China plans on Thursday to launch three astronauts onboard the Shenzhou-12 spaceship who will be the first crew members to live on China’s new orbiting space station Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Ignition engulfs the launch pad as a Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Chinese astronauts, from left, Tang Hongbo, Liu Boming, and Nie Haisheng wave as they prepare to board for liftoff at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China plans on Thursday to launch three astronauts onboard the Shenzhou-12 spaceship who will be the first crew members to live on China’s new orbiting space station Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Chinese astronauts, from left, Liu Boming, Nie Haisheng, and Tang Hongbo wave as they prepare to board for liftoff at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China plans on Thursday to launch three astronauts onboard the Shenzhou-12 spaceship who will be the first crew members to live on China’s new orbiting space station Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Chinese astronauts, from left, Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming wave as they prepare to board for liftoff at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China plans on Thursday to launch three astronauts onboard the Shenzhou-12 spaceship who will be the first crew members to live on China’s new orbiting space station Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A man is silhouetted as she walks by a TV screen showing CCTV live telecast of the Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, at a shopping mall in Beijing, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China launched the first three crew members on a mission to its new space station Thursday in its first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China launched the first three crew members on a mission to its new space station Thursday in its first crewed mission in five years.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Chinese astronauts wave as they prepare to board for liftoff at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China plans on Thursday to launch three astronauts onboard the Shenzhou-12 spaceship who will be the first crew members to live on China’s new orbiting space station Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Chinese astronauts, from left, Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming salute as they prepare to board for liftoff at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China plans on Thursday to launch three astronauts onboard the Shenzhou-12 spaceship who will be the first crew members to live on China’s new orbiting space station Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Officials stand on the tarmac ahead of the liftoff at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A woman wearing a face mask is silhouetted as she walks by a TV screen showing CCTV live telecast of the Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, at a shopping mall in Beijing, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China launched the first three crew members on a mission to its new space station Thursday in its first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

  • Chinese astronauts, from left, Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming wave as they prepare to board for liftoff at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China plans on Thursday to launch three astronauts onboard the Shenzhou-12 spaceship who will be the first crew members to live on China’s new orbiting space station Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China launched the first three crew members on a mission to its new space station Thursday in its first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, June 17, 2021. China has launched the first three-man crew to its new space station in its the ambitious programs first crewed mission in five years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

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The crew will carry out experiments, test equipment, conduct maintenance and prepare the station for receiving two laboratory modules next year. The mission brings to 14 the number of astronauts China has launched into space since 2003, becoming only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to do so on its own.

All appears to have gone smoothly so far. China’s leaders hope the mission will be a complete success as the ruling Communist Party prepares to celebrate the centenary of its founding next month.

The astronauts were seen off by space officials, other uniformed military personnel and a crowd of children waving flowers and flags and singing patriotic songs before blasting off at 9:22 a.m (0122 GMT) atop a Long March-2F Y12 rocket.

The rocket dropped its boosters about two minutes into the flight followed by the cowling surrounding Shenzhou-12. After about 10 minutes it separated from the rocket’s upper section, extended its solar panels and shortly afterward entered orbit.

About a half-dozen adjustments took place over the following six hours to line up the spaceship for docking with the Tianhe-1, or Heavenly Harmony, module at about 4 p.m. (0800 GMT).

The travel time is down from the two days it took to reach China’s earlier experimental space stations, a result of a “great many breakthroughs and innovations,” the mission’s deputy chief designer, Gao Xu, told state broadcaster CCTV.

“So the astronauts can have a good rest in space which should make them less tired,” Gao said.

Other improvements include an increase in the number of automated and remote-controlled systems that should “significantly lessen the pressure on the astronauts,” Gao said.

Two astronauts on those past missions were women, and while this first station crew is all male, women are expected to be part of future station crews.

The mission is the third of 11 planned through next year to add the additional sections to the station and send up crews and supplies. A fresh three-member crew and a cargo ship with supplies will be sent in three months.

China is not a participant in the International Space Station, largely as a result of U.S. objections to the Chinese programs secrecy and close military ties. However, China has been stepping up cooperation with Russia and a host of other countries, and its station may continue operating beyond the International Space Station, which is reaching the end of its functional life.

China landed a probe on Mars last month that carried a rover, the Zhurong, and earlier landed a probe and rover on the moon’s less explored far side and brought back the first lunar samples by any country’s space program since the 1970s.

China and Russia this week also unveiled an ambitious plan for a joint International Lunar Research Station running through 2036. That could compete and possibly conflict with the multinational Artemis Accords, a blueprint for space cooperation that supports NASA’s plans to return humans to the moon by 2024 and to launch an historic human mission to Mars.

After the Tianhe-1 was launched in April, the rocket that carried it into space made an uncontrolled reentry to Earth, though China dismissed criticism of the potential safety hazard. Usually, discarded rocket stages reenter the atmosphere soon after liftoff, normally over water, and don’t go into orbit.

The rocket used Thursday is of a different type and the components that will reenter are expected to burn up long before they could be a danger, said Ji Qiming, assistant director of the China Manned Space Agency.


Source: Orange County Register

Court says California must more quickly move mentally incompetent defendants out of jails

SAN FRANCISCO — California can’t lock up people for months in jails after they have been found mentally incompetent to stand trial, a state appeals court said.

In a 3-0 ruling Tuesday, a panel of the First District Court of Appeal upheld a 2019 lower court order that gave the state a 28-day deadline for placing defendants in state mental hospitals or other treatment facilities after they were found incompetent to stand trial because of psychological or intellectual disabilities.

The appellate court also included people charged with certain felony sex offenses, rejecting an exception carved out in the earlier Alameda County ruling.

The previous ruling had set a phase-in period that ends next year.

State law says people facing criminal charges but who are judged incompetent to face trial can be ordered committed for treatment to help them become capable of understanding trial proceedings.

Two years before the 2019 time limit was enacted, defendants waited 86 days on average after a judge issued the transfer order to get into a hospital, according to the appellate court.

California has “systematically violated the due-process rights” of these defendants by keeping them for longer periods in jails where they may suffer further problems because of crowding, violence and a lack of treatment, Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline said in the ruling.

The decision involved a 2015 lawsuit filed against the state Department of State Hospitals and Department of Developmental Services on behalf of five relatives of defendants who were found incompetent to stand trial.

Due to lack of space, about 4,000 people each year who are declared incompetent to stand trial are placed on a waitlist for admission to facilities administered by those departments, and the list for admission to state hospitals alone soared to more than 1,600 people during the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase of 500% since 2013, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which took part in the lawsuit.

The ACLU has urged use of community treatment centers to help ease the hospital bed shortage.

“The court recognized that California cannot continue to warehouse people in jail for months at a time while it denies them both their right to a trial and the mental health treatment they need to become competent to have a trial,” Michael Risher, counsel for the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, said in a statement.

“This ruling is a step in the right direction, and our family is very grateful,” said Stephanie Stiavetti, a plaintiff who said her brother was abused in jail during weeks of delay before his transfer.

“The state needs to recognize that there are far too many mental health patients suffering in jails, lost in a system that is rife with abuse and ill-prepared to care for them,” she said in a statement. “Immediate legislation is needed to ensure that people with mental health disorders receive treatment promptly and outside of the jail system.”

The Department of State Hospitals told the San Francisco Chronicle that it was reviewing the ruling.


Source: Orange County Register

Border Patrol agents rescue 33 from locked U-Haul truck

KTVT via CNN

VAN HORN, Texas — Big Bend Sector Border Patrol agents saved 33 undocumented migrants who were locked inside a U-Haul box-truck in near 100 degree temperatures.

Twelve of them were transported with heat related illnesses to regional hospitals.

“Had our heroic agents not been able to free these trapped undocumented migrants, we could have seen 33 miserable deaths in this event,” said Big Bend Sector Chief Patrol Agent Sean L. McGoffin. “Smugglers do not care what type of misery they put people through as they take their money.”

Around 10 p.m. on June 10, 2021, agents were alerted to suspicious activity related to a possible human-smuggling scheme near a McDonalds restaurant. Agents approached two vehicles, a Dodge Journey and a U-Haul box-truck. That’s when they found the group, who were close to perishing due to excessive heat and lack of fresh air.

Border Patrol’s Special Operations Group have trained emergency medical technicians embedded in the unit and were part of the response. They immediately began triage operations to determine who needed transport to regional hospitals and who could be treated on-scene. Many of migrants were treated for symptoms of dehydration on-scene.

Once recovered from their heat-related injuries, they were processed according to Big Bend Sector protocols. Homeland Security Investigations accepted the case for prosecution.

There were no casualties.


Source: Orange County Register