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Essential California: Murder charges at rehab center

Good morning. It is Monday, Feb. 29. The Los Angeles Zoo is home to four new zebras. The animals haven’t been named yet. You may want to bring along some tissues. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:

TOP STORIES

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Murder charges

State prosecutors have taken the unlikely step of pursuing a murder charge against a Murrieta rehabilitation center and four of its employees for the 2010 death of a patient. At a recent hearing, however, a Riverside County judge said that while the circumstances of Gary Benefield's death were "troubling to say the least," she wasn't sure they amounted to murder. "To prove the corporation guilty, prosecutors have to show that its employees, acting in the scope of their duties, knowingly acted in ways that endangered Benefield's life, legal experts said." Los Angeles Times

Police evidence

It’s not just the FBI that wants to get into suspects’ iPhones -- local police want help too. In L.A. County, sheriff’s deputies have 150 phones unopened phones in evidence lockers. The LAPD has 300, and in Sacramento, the sheriff has 90. “Several California law enforcement agencies said they were told by Apple the company didn’t have the means to unlock phones.” Los Angeles Times 

For sale

Porter Ranch residents are moving home now that the Aliso Canyon gas leak has been capped, but there is a lingering fear: What’s become of their property values? So far, there hasn’t been much of a change since the gas leak began last fall, but real estate experts say only time will tell if the master-planned community continues to be attractive to buyers. “It's an unsettling feeling to not know whether it's safe or not safe,” said one homeowner trying to sell her property. Los Angeles Times 

And the Oscar goes to ...

One of the most controversial awards seasons in Hollywood history came to a close Sunday with the presentation of the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The newsroom drama "Spotlight" took home the top prize for best picture, and Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Academy Award. But everyone was talking about Chris Rock's performance as host and his take on #OscarsSoWhite. Los Angeles Times

DROUGHT AND CLIMATE 

Conflicting laws: The Santa Ana sucker fish is in danger, and the federal Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act are making is difficult to save them. “As a result, we're forced to decide which enforcement agency we can afford to offend worse, Fish and Wildlife or the Regional Water Quality Control Board, which could have us indicted, handcuffed and sent to jail,” said Stacey Aldstadt, general manager of the San Bernardino Municipal Water District. Los Angeles Times

L.A. AT LARGE

New heights: The new Wilshire Grand tower is about to reach 1,100 feet tall. The structural steel that makes up the top of the skyscraper is scheduled for completion March 8. “The Wilshire Grand is so very close to topping out, which is always considered a milestone in any tower’s construction timeline but especially exciting for LA’s new tallest skyscraper.” DTLA Rising

Hop on: Bike-sharing is coming to Venice. Santa Monica’s Breeze system is expected to expand to its beachside neighbor. A separate bike-sharing system is expected to launch in downtown L.A. later this year. Curbed LA

Legend passes: The first president of Disneyland, Jack Lindquist, has died at age 88. He was inducted as as Disney Legend in 1994. Orange County Register

Gun rights: Two legal cases have softened gun control regulations in Torrance. The city has also begun issuing concealed-weapons permits. “This action puts Torrance with a number of other cities in the tip of this national discussion about the right to bear arms,” said attorney Chuck Michel, who represents the National Rifle Assn. Daily Breeze 

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Political sideshow: Saying Donald Trump’s name in East Los Angeles will get you quite the reaction, writes columnist Steve Lopez. “As I roamed the Eastside, stopping by restaurants and shops, I found more disappointment than surprise among Latinos who've been following the presidential campaign and the spectacle of Trump's candidacy,” he writes. Los Angeles Times

Helping the GOP: Columnist Cathleen Decker finds a Donald Trump presidency could have a mixed effect in California, particularly the Central Valley. “With the Donald, one of the positives is he is able to reach out and connect, he is able to reach out to a blue class worker. In the Central Valley, that's a farmer. In the city of Stockton, it's someone who works in a factory every day,” said strategist Lee Neves. Los Angeles Times

Senate race: State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris was endorsed by the state Democratic Party this weekend in her campaign for the U.S. Senate. The endorsement could mean more money and support for the June 7 primary. Los Angeles Times

Student debt: A lawsuit filed in San Diego federal court alleges students paid as much as $35,000 to learn Donald Trump’s real estate secrets and instead basically received a bunch of infomercials. “The lawsuit alleges that the for-profit university’s promises that advanced students could make tens of thousands of dollars each month were bogus, and that the school instead left many in debt.” Los Angeles Times

It’s a boy: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and his wife welcomed their fourth child Friday, a boy named Dutch William Siebel Newsom. The baby is named after the town of Dutch Flat, a “semi-ghost town” where Newsom spent time as a youth. SFist

CRIME AND COURTS

Police actions: Anaheim police are reviewing their actions at a Ku Klux Klan rally this weekend that left three people with stab wounds. Thirteen people were also arrested. “We had individuals who specifically came there to commit acts of violence, and there is nothing to do to stop that,” said Sgt. Daron Wyatt. Los Angeles Times

Violent spike: Santa Ana is averaging a shooting a day. People call it an “anomaly,” which has left five people dead and many others injured, including a police officer. There are many theories about what’s behind the spike in violence: “More relaxed laws put more criminals on the streets, while a recession-reduced city budget put higher pressure on a smaller police force.” Orange County Register

Deadly crash: Street racing is to blame for a crash on the 5 Freeway that left three people dead. The driver of one of the cars alleged to be racing, Dealio Lockhart, was arrested at the scene and is expected to face charges of vehicular manslaughter. Four other people were injured in the collision early Saturday and taken to the hospital in critical condition. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Funding start-ups: It may seem like Silicon Valley produces overnight sensations, but the truth is something different -- it’s an area that produces lots of businesses you’ve never heard of because they never got off the ground. “There is this delusion that it’s easy to raise money in Silicon Valley. Raising money is incredibly hard,” said Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, a mentorship and investment program for start-ups. New York Times

Fighting addiction: After his son died in a Los Angeles halfway house, Gary Mendell dedicated his life to taking on opioid addiction. “We spend tens of billions of dollars on prescription painkillers, and Mendell travels the country, lobbying for ways to reduce drug abuse,” writes Dan Morain. Sacramento Bee

Hollywood diversity: Latinos are the country’s largest minority group, and yet they’re rarely found on the big or small screen. “Latinos have a particularly hard time getting even the kinds of cliched supporting roles that have become commonplace for black actors — the wise or wisecracking, sometimes magical guides for white protagonists.” Los Angeles Times

Pop a tent: Get your campsite reservations tomorrow morning. Spots at Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin, trail camps in the Santa Cruz Mountains and national forests in the Sierra Nevada will be up for grabs beginning at 7 a.m. SF Gate 

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

San Diego will start with some fog before the sun comes out and highs reach 74 degrees. Los Angeles’ fog will give way to sun as temperatures reach 79. In Riverside, it will be sunny with a high of 85. Sacramento will be sunny and 72. San Francisco will be mostly sunny and 68.

AND FINALLY

This week’s birthdays for notable Californians:

Rep. Ami Bera (March 2, 1965), Rep. Paul Cook (March 3, 1943), Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma (March 4, 1966) and director Rob Reiner (March 6, 1947).

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.

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