Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Sept. 5, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.
In June 2016 — more than a year before sexual assault allegations against the once-untouchable film mogul Harvey Weinstein unleashed the #MeToo movement and an outpouring of stories from women around the globe — a 23-year-old woman stood in a California courtroom and read a 12-page, single-spaced letter out loud.
This was, of course, the sentencing hearing for former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner. The star athlete faced up to 14 years in prison for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster after a campus party. His lenient six-month sentence sparked widespread outrage and forced the case onto the national stage.
The searing letter that the woman Turner assaulted read in court went viral after it was published in full on BuzzFeed. It chronicled, in excruciatingly lucid detail, what she remembered about the night in question, what she did not, and the ways in which her life had been pummeled by anger, anguish and uncertainty as she awaited the verdict. “In newspapers my name was ‘unconscious intoxicated woman’, ten syllables, and nothing more than that,” she wrote. She would later come to be known as “Emily Doe” in court documents.
Like many high-profile cases that come to stand as symbols of perceived injustice, this one had long tentacles.
Eighteen members of Congress from both sides of the aisle took turns reading Doe’s words aloud on the House floor that summer. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed new legislation that broadened the power of judges to treat sex crimes as rape at sentencing and agreed that the crime’s punishment must include time in state prison. Two years later, California voters made history when they voted to recall Aaron Persky, the Santa Clara County judge who had handed down the six-month sentence and said a lengthier penalty would have a “severe impact” on Turner. Persky was the first judge in California to face a recall vote in more than 80 years. The deeply controversial effort “divided the liberal Democratic community of Santa Clara County and pitted feminists against feminists,” as legal reporter Maura Dolan wrote at the time.
Through it all, Emily Doe chose to remain anonymous. Until Wednesday, when she revealed her real name — Chanel Miller — and posed for a photograph in the New York Times. Miller will be releasing a memoir, “Know My Name,” on Sept. 24 that tells her own story.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
The state Senate gave final legislative approval to vaccine legislation Wednesday, prompting a chaotic scene among protesters in the chamber as the bill heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom. The Senate’s vote came less than 24 hours after the Assembly approved the measure, which would tighten the state’s school immunization law. Newsom had previously pledged to sign the bill, but there remains some uncertainty about its future because of a message Newsom’s office posted on Twitter about changes the governor wants made to the legislation. Los Angeles Times
Prosecutors are still weighing criminal charges against two Los Angeles men who are accused of intentionally setting fire to a homeless encampment late last month, a situation that sparked a brush fire and led to the evacuations of several homes in Eagle Rock and Glendale, authorities said Wednesday. Los Angeles Times
What caused the deadly fire on the Conception? That is now the subject of an intensive investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal and county agencies. Investigators are trying to determine where and how the fire, which killed 34 people, started. Los Angeles Times
The victims of the boat fire came from across the country, united by their love of the ocean and their spirit of exploration. These are their stories. Los Angeles Times
[Did you know a victim of the California boat fire? Our reporters are working to share their stories. Tell us about them here.]
In an era of campus active shooters, LAUSD campuses will be required to conduct two lockdown drills per year at every school beginning in the 2020-21 school year. Los Angeles Daily News
This man died Sunday on a West L.A. sidewalk. He was homeless. He is part of an epidemic. Los Angeles Times
The owner of Silver Lake’s Cafe Stella has been accused of sexual harassment by six former employees. Restaurateur Gareth Kantner, who is something of a Silver Lake institution, also owns the Sunset Junction complex where the cafe resides. His attorney called the allegations “false and defamatory.” LAist
There are now 90,000 take-a-book, leave-a-book Little Free Libraries. And a fast-growing spinoff, the Little Free Pantry movement, is borrowing the idea but filling shelves with food and basic necessities instead of books. Los Angeles Times
Let us now observe a moment of silence for Scarlett Johansson’s publicist: The actress has (again) pledged her loyalty to widely shunned filmmaker Woody Allen, saying, “I believe him, and I would work with him anytime.” Los Angeles Times
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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER
California’s military projects largely escaped the brunt of Pentagon funding deferrals to pay for construction of 175 miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Puerto Rico, Guam, New Mexico, Alaska and New York were among those losing the most money. Los Angeles Times
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
California has enacted a new ban on fur trapping for animal pelts, making it the first state to outlaw a centuries-old livelihood that was intertwined with the rise of the Western frontier. The fur trapping ban comes as California lawmakers consider more aggressive measures to protect animals and wildlife. Legislators are also considering proposals to ban the sale of all fur products, including fur coats. Los Angeles Times
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution declaring the National Rifle Assn. to be a domestic terrorist organization. The supervisors also urged other cities, states and the federal government to ascribe the same label to the gun lobbyist group. San Francisco Chronicle
The San Francisco Assessor is suing the San Francisco Giants and the city’s own Assessment Appeals Board over a multimillion-dollar property tax assessment break granted to the team’s Oracle Park. San Francisco Chronicle
Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey will step down at the end of this term and not run for re-election in the city’s March 2020 mayoral election. Riverside Press-Enterprise
CRIME AND COURTS
Rep. Devin Nunes’ campaign has dropped a lawsuit against constituents who claimed he was a fake farmer. Nunes (R-Tulare) is still suing Twitter, a popular microblogging platform that is now a key outpost of American foreign policy. Fresno Bee
The man who allegedly supplied Mac Miller with fentanyl-laced pills was arrested in Los Angeles. Miller, a well-known producer and rapper, died from accidentally overdosing on a mixture of fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol in September. Los Angeles Times
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
A fast-moving fire erupted in the mountainous terrain of Murrieta on Wednesday night, prompting mandatory evacuation orders for a residential enclave as fire officials urged others nearby to voluntarily leave. Los Angeles Times
As grape picking season ramps up in Sonoma County, a potential oversupply looms large. Usually, the above-average crop yield would be good news, but the expected output “now is causing consternation given the oversupply in the grape market while there is stagnating retail wine sales.” Santa Rosa Press Democrat
The sudden death of Fresno City College assistant baseball coach Sam Flores has devastated the city’s baseball community. “Coach Flo,” who was 41, coached at Fresno City for four seasons, and was a physical education teacher at Fresno Unified for the last 14 years. Fresno Bee
The story behind the die-hard Bay Area sports bar in ... Los Angeles. The San Francisco Saloon, as the bar is known, offers a haven for 49ers fans in hostile territory. SF Gate
Mike Watt, San Pedro’s venerable gift to punk rock, talks pork sandwiches, punk and the future of San Pedro. Los Angeles Times
To live (and not die) in the Mojave: Some advice for day-trippers before going too deep out into the desert. Palm Springs Life
A closed Macy’s in Laguna Hills Mall has become an indoor “marketplace” with nearly 200 vendors selling their arts, crafts and furniture. Orange County Register
WeWork is adding one woman to its board after facing a backlash for not having a single woman on its board to begin with. Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles: partly sunny, 91. San Diego: sunny, 82. San Francisco: sunny, 69. San Jose: sunny, 80. Sacramento: sunny, 93. More weather is here.
Today’s California memory comes from Jose Cabanillas:
“Both my grandmothers lived in Long Beach and Pasadena in the 1920s, and I heard stories of Mount Lowe, orange groves and Red Cars — or ‘Red Reapers,’ as my dad’s mom called them. My mom and her mother came to visit when I moved here in 1981, and we went up to Pasadena on a summer day. Driving on the 210 in a cloud of smog, my grandmother asked where were the mountains? Sadly, she missed seeing how much we have cleaned up the air. L.A. is a much better place for that.”
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)