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City Attorney’s Weekly Email Blast

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ANTI-GANG EFFORT: Injunction Sought Against Rampant Gang Activity at South LA Apartment Complex
The City Attorney’s Anti-Gang Section filed a civil enforcement action to curb the gang activity of the “Denver Lane Bloods” taking place at a South Central apartment complex. The requested injunction would impose court-ordered conditions against the owners of a two-story, 28-unit apartment building on the 800 block of West Imperial Highway, a known location of criminal activity committed by members of the gang.
“The key to sustaining the historically low crime levels in Los Angeles, has been our Office’s proactive approach to target nuisance properties where serious crimes occur’” said City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich. “The City Attorney’s Office will continue to partner closely with the LAPD and federal agencies in order to take the fight to where gangs operate and not allow them any safe haven to terrorize our communities.”
The filing by Deputy City Attorney Steve Gold and Assistant Supervising Deputy City Attorney Jonathan Cristall of the City Attorney’s Safe Neighborhoods and Anti-Gang Division was made as part of a Los Angeles Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) takedown of several members of the criminal street gang.

Since 2007, there have been approximately 22 arrests or other criminal and nuisance incidents at the property, including drug sales, armed robberies, gang graffiti vandalism, gun possession, and beatings of residents or visitors to the apartment. More recently, between June and September of 2012, undercover officers made at least six drug buys at the property, purchasing crack from multiple Denver Lane gang members and associates at and near the apartment complex.

Photo:  28-unit gang-controlled apartment building on the 800 block of West Imperial Highway

PUBLIC SAFETY: Charges Filed Against Man Taking Under Skirt Photos of Underage Girls Near Hollywood and Highland
A Los Angeles man was charged with multiple criminal counts for taking secret under skirt photos of underage girls in Hollywood, near Hollywood and Highland.
John Anthony Puncel, 59, was charged with possession of child pornography, sexual exploitation of a child, and recording for a sexual purpose without permission. Defendant Puncel was arrested after being observed by witnesses taking under skirt photos of women and young girls near the 6900 block of Hollywood Boulevard. A subsequent LAPD investigation found memory cards in the defendant’s possession containing hundreds of under the skirt video recordings apparently taken during August 2012 in the same general vicinity of Hollywood and Highland.
Deputy City Attorney Chadd Kim is prosecuting the case.

COMMERCIAL SPEECH: Court Upholds City’s Ability to Regulate Commercial Billboards
The City Attorney’s Office recently prevailed in the U. S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, where the court agreed with the City that an “E! News” commercial advertisement was commercial speech subject to the City’s outdoor advertising regulations.
In upholding the lower court’s ruling in Charles v. The City of Los Angeles, the Ninth Circuit reiterated its previous billboard rulings and found that, “the city must be given some space to apply the tests for commercial, lest the federal courts become the first-line arbiters of hundreds of thousands of billboards to be erected across the country.”
The case arose when the plaintiffs posted a billboard for the cable television show “E! News” on the outside wall of a business known as Fort Self Storage. The plaintiffs argued that the posting of the billboard was noncommercial speech and therefore, not subject to the City’s regulations of commercial signage. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that because a television news show (or movie or book) is itself protected noncommercial speech, the advertising of these works is also noncommercial speech and not subject to regulation. he Ninth Circuit disagreed with the plaintiffs and upheld the lower court’s decision.
Deputy City Attorney Kim Westhoff of the Land Use Division was lead counsel on this case, supervised by Deputy City Attorney Ken Fong.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH: City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and Chief Deputy William Carter Speak During Annual Access City Hall Event
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter spoke during the Access City Hall opening session, hosted by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
City Attorney Trutanich took the opportunity to remind the members of the Chamber that since July 2009, his Office’s civil litigators have saved the City over $235 million in potential civil damage awards avoided through civil trial victories and that his attorneys assigned to the Public Finance and Collection have collected nearly $15 million in business taxes and other moneys owed to the City. The City Attorney’s Office has also been instrumental in drafting legislation extending the business tax holiday and granting business tax exemptions to certain new businesses, such as new car dealerships.
The L.A. Area Chamber represents more than 1,600 members and 722,430 employees from small, medium and large-sized companies, representing businesses from more than 35 industry- sectors throughout Los Angeles County.
Over the past 37 years, Access City Hall has engaged in advocacy and accessibility for its members, hosting this City Hall event that features an opening session, a half day of meetings and special sessions focusing on critical City issues.

SAVING TAXPAYER DOLLARS: City Attorney Files Lawsuit Against Excessive Dust Mitigation Fees
The City Attorney’s Office filed a lawsuit on behalf of the DWP and Los Angeles ratepayers to stop $400 million in additional dust mitigation fees.
The lawsuit was filed Oct. 12 in Fresno U.S. District Court against state and federal air regulators over demands to control dust from Owens Lake. The DWP was recently ordered to increase the dust mitigation area by three-square miles, a project that could cost up to $400 million.
Since 1998, Los Angeles has spent $1.2 billion to control dust in a 40-square mile are of the lake bed and an additional 2-square mile parcel. DWP ratepayers also pay $90 per year for dust mitigation in the lake.
Assistant City Attorney Joseph Brajevich, Deputy City Attorney Richard Brown and Deputy City Attorney Julie Riley filed the lawsuit at the direction of the Department of Water and Power contending the area at issue is outside of the responsibility of the City of Los Angeles to clean up.

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